Strong winds along the coast kicking waves up onto a snowy shore.
Strong winds along the coast kicking waves up onto a snowy shore.
WASHINGTON — It's a club Donald Trump was never really interested in joining and certainly not so soon: the cadre of former commanders in chief who revere the presidency enough to put aside often bitter political differences and even join together in common cause. Members of the ex-presidents club pose together for pictures. They smile and pat each other on the back while milling around historic events, or sit somberly side by side at VIP funerals. They take on special projects together. They rarely criticize one another and tend to offer even fewer harsh words about their White House successors. Like so many other presidential traditions, however, this is one Trump seems likely to flout. Now that he's left office, it's hard to see him embracing the stately, exclusive club of living former presidents. “He kind of laughed at the very notion that he would be accepted in the presidents club,” said Kate Andersen Brower, who interviewed Trump in 2019 for her book “Team of Five: The Presidents’ Club in the Age of Trump." “He was like, ‘I don’t think I’ll be accepted.'” It's equally clear that the club's other members don't much want him — at least for now. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton recorded a three-minute video from Arlington National Cemetery after President Joe Biden's inauguration this week, praising peaceful presidential succession as a core of American democracy. The segment included no mention of Trump by name, but stood as a stark rebuke of his behaviour since losing November's election. “I think the fact that the three of us are standing here, talking about a peaceful transfer of power, speaks to the institutional integrity of our country,” Bush said. Obama called inaugurations “a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity, and that, as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us." Trump spent months making baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him through fraud and eventually helped incite a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He left the White House without attending Biden’s swearing-in, the first president to skip his successor's inauguration in 152 years. Obama, Bush and Clinton recorded their video after accompanying Biden to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider following the inauguration. They also taped a video urging Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Only 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, who has limited his public events because of the pandemic, and Trump, who had already flown to post-presidential life in Florida, weren't there. Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Trump isn't a good fit for the ex-presidents club "because he’s temperamentally different.” “People within the club historically have been respected by ensuing presidents. Even Richard Nixon was respected by Bill Clinton and by Ronald Reagan and so on, for his foreign policy," Engel said. "I’m not sure I see a whole lot of people calling up Trump for his strategic advice.” Former presidents are occasionally called upon for big tasks. George H.W. Bush and Clinton teamed up in 2005 to launch a campaign urging Americans to help the victims of the devastating Southeast Asia tsunami. When Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast, Bush, father of the then-current president George W. Bush, called on Clinton to boost Katrina fundraising relief efforts. When the elder Bush died in 2018, Clinton wrote, “His friendship has been one of the great gifts of my life," high praise considering this was the man he ousted from the White House after a bruising 1992 campaign — making Bush the only one-term president of the last three decades except for Trump. Obama tapped Clinton and the younger President Bush to boost fundraising efforts for Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake. George W. Bush also became good friends with former first lady Michelle Obama, and cameras caught him slipping a cough drop to her as they sat together at Arizona Sen. John McCain’s funeral. Usually presidents extend the same respect to their predecessors while still in office, regardless of party. In 1971, three years before he resigned in disgrace, Richard Nixon went to Texas to participate in the dedication of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidential library. When Nixon’s library was completed in 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush attended with former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. Trump's break with tradition began even before his presidency did. After his election win in November 2016, Obama hosted Trump at the White House promising to “do everything we can to help you succeed.” Trump responded, “I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future” — but that never happened. Instead, Trump falsely accused Obama of having wiretapped him and spent four years savaging his predecessor's record. Current and former presidents sometimes loathed each other, and criticizing their successors isn’t unheard of. Carter criticized the policies of the Republican administrations that followed his, Obama chided Trump while campaigning for Biden and also criticized George W. Bush’s policies — though Obama was usually careful not to name his predecessor. Theodore Roosevelt tried to unseat his successor, fellow Republican William Howard Taft, by founding his own “Bull Moose” party and running for president again against him. Still, presidential reverence for former presidents dates back even further. The nation’s second president, John Adams, was concerned enough about tarnishing the legacy of his predecessor that he retained George Washington’s Cabinet appointments. Trump may have time to build his relationship with his predecessors. He told Brower that he “could see himself becoming friendly with Bill Clinton again," noting that the pair used to golf together. But the odds of becoming the traditional president in retirement that he never was while in office remain long. “I think Trump has taken it too far," Brower said. "I don’t think that these former presidents will welcome him at any point.” Will Weissert And Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan will start to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses, as supplies run short. Second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine will be administered up to 42 days after the first dose. Official guidelines say the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is meant to be given as two doses, 21 days apart, while Moderna recommends spacing doses 28 days apart. The National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI), a body made up of scientists and vaccine experts, say provinces should follow the dosing schedule as closely as possible, but the panel is now offering some wiggle room. WATCH | Canada's COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee approves delaying 2nd dose NACI recommends spacing out the doses up to 42 days when necessary. The recommendation is also supported by the World Health Organization and Canada's chief medical health officer. "The flexibility provided by a reasonable extension of the dose interval to 42 days where operationally necessary, combined with increasing predictability of vaccine supply, support our public health objective to protect high-risk groups as quickly as possible," reads a statement released Thursday from Dr. Theresa Tam, as well as the provincial and territorial chief medical officers of health. The same day, Saskatchewan announced it would further space out its doses. "Saskatchewan will be implementing these recommendations of up to 42 days where operationally necessary in order to deliver more first doses to eligible people," the government of Saskatchewan said in a news release. WATCH | Dr. Howard Njoo addresses questions on taking first and second dose of vaccine 42 days apart: Saskatchewan's supply runs short As of Friday, 96 per cent of the province's vaccines have been administered, and new supplies coming in are not enough to replenish what has been used. Pfizer has said it will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium, to boost capacity. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, says it's very reassuring to have the length between doses extended to 42 days. "When there's a sudden, further disruption that does present challenges," Shahab said during a news conference on Tuesday. "Most provinces are able to give the second dose of both Pfizer and Moderna within 42 days ... and that becomes very important with the disruption of shipment." Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, agreed. "It does mitigate some of the decreased doses coming in. We also know through contact with the federal government that once the Pfizer plant is back online, they'll be increasing our shipment," Livingstone said during Tuesday's news conference. Livingstone said the new shipments coming in will be allocated for an individual's first and second shot. WATCH | Canada facing delays in vaccine rollout More vaccines on the way Another shipment of vaccines will arrive in Saskatchewan on Feb. 1, says the government. The province is expecting 5,850 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine and 6,500 doses of Moderna's vaccine. The government says they will be distributed to the Far North West, Far North East, North East and Central West. A second shipment of 7,100 doses from Moderna will arrive on Feb. 22, and will be distributed to the Far North East, North East and Central East. "Our immunization team is trying to be as nimble as possible knowing that we could at any time through the pandemic receive more vaccines, but also then having to readjust our targets and still focusing on the most needy in this Phase 1, and we will continue to do that as vaccine supply keeps coming back up," Livingstone said.
Trees may add aesthetics and environmental benefits, but if they are planted too close to power lines they can cause power outages and fires, a SaskPower delegation told the Town of White City at its Jan. 11 council meeting. The Crown corporation is assessing whether trees are impacting power lines in White City, and SaskPower arborist Blake Neufeld said while cutting down trees is a last resort, it is sometimes a necessity when they get too close to overhead power lines. Sometimes pre-emptive pruning can prevent the total loss of a tree. “Trees and power lines don’t mix,” Neufeld said. “Tree contacts with power lines in storms cause 15 percent of our power outages province-wide. We are trying to do preventative maintenance on our easements. In the Town of White City, there are a lot of poplars and that requires a lot of cleanup.” The tree maintenance is part of a provincial program which looks after more than 115,000 kilometres of power line right-of-ways. Within White City itself, Sask Power has two circuits it monitors, serving 2,600 homes and businesses. Approximately 500 trees are slated for removal in White City — 400 of them are on private property while the other 100 are on municipal land — though not all of those trees will fully disappear. “These town removals are not all big trees,” Neufeld said. “We have 10 larger ones while the rest of them are smaller. The way we identify a removal is sometimes we have ... a multi-stem tree, and if we take three stems off, that counts as three trees and we leave the rest of the tree.” Overall in White City 24,000 square metres of removal will be done to ensure the SaskPower lines are kept to safety standards. Neufeld said land owners are notified by SaskPower if work has to be done to prune or remove trees on their property. The assessor has already told affected landowners of the issue, and about 48-hours before the tree work is done, the contractor doing the work will also contact the landowner or resident advising of what is to take place. The goal is to have all tree work in White City completed by the end of March, when restrictions affecting elm trees come into force. For those looking at planting trees or shrubs to define their properties, Neufeld said power lines should be considered as well as the type of tree used in the area. Trees need to be three to six metres away from a power line to prevent future problems, depending on how high a tree is projected to grow. Taller trees should be at least six metres away, with trees growing more than 12 metres in height being at least 15 metres away from the power line. Neufeld said by taking note of those guidelines, both trees and power lines can co-exist safely. Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
The Ontario government is kicking off a new social media campaign with actors, singers, athletes, and business owners who are all asking you to remain at home. Meanwhile, data tracking mobility in the city continues to show progress. Matthew Bingley reports.
This is no laughing matter to some fans.
Ottawa's police force has received nearly three dozen complaints from its members since launching a strategy last spring to tackle sexual violence and harassment, according to a report going before the city's police board next week. The 33 complaints reported to the Ottawa Police Service's (OPS) respect, ethics and values directorate since May 2020 cover a wide range of topics, from harassment — both sexual and otherwise — to abuses of authority, discrimination and ethical breaches. Just over half of the complainants were women, notes the report, which goes to the Ottawa Police Services Board on Monday. Roughly 70 per cent of the complaints came from sworn members of the force, while the remainder were made by civilian employees, the report said. Two of the complaints have been forwarded to the Rubin Thomlinson law firm, which the OPS hired in September to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and violence within its ranks.
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his piece with U.S. President Joe Biden. The two leaders spoke by phone for about 30 minutes late Friday — Biden's first conversation with a foreign leader since Wednesday's inauguration. It was also Trudeau's first chance to express Canada's official dismay at the decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, and Biden's first to explain it. One of Biden's first actions in the White House was to rescind predecessor Donald Trump's approval for the US$8-billion cross-border expansion project. Trudeau, however, is urging Canadians to look past the decision and focus instead on all the areas of mutual agreement the two countries can look forward to. In particular, Trudeau says Biden and Canada share a vision of tackling climate change while fuelling economic growth at the same time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
For the second straight day COVID-19 was connected to a school in Prince Albert after classes returned on Monday, Jan. 18. On Friday morning the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division notified the public that a case of COVID-19 had been connected to two classrooms at Riverside Public School in Prince Albert. “Affected students and staff will be isolating until end of Feb. 1 while the rest of the school remains learning in-person,” the division stated in an email. The division was informed recently of the positive COVID-19 test results and communication is being shared with the classrooms/cohorts, the connected staff, as well as with the school communities. The learning program will continue remotely only for those students and staff affected while in-person learning will continue for the rest of the school. As is the circumstance in all reports of COVID-19 in the division due to privacy concerns, further details of the case will not be shared. They added that schools remain safe places to learn. Both the Local Medical Health Officer and the provincial Chief Medical Health officer continue to indicate that because of the protocols in place, schools are safe and are not significant source of transmission. The division explained that we all share responsibility to minimize the risk of COVID transmission. “The division deeply appreciates the support that students, parents and community members have demonstrated, especially as the number of cases in our region climbs.” The SHA’s local public health team continues to provide expert advice and strong support for our dedicated staff as we manage the pandemic in our communities. “The division is thankful to have such a cohesive team of administration and staff supported by our partners in Health.” On Thursday a case of COVID-19 was connected to Ecole St. Anne School. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Calgary's intensive care units remain under intense pressure, even as overall COVID-19 case counts, transmission rates and hospitalization numbers drop. This week, the city's four adult intensive care units are filled with more COVID patients than they've seen since the start of the pandemic. According to Alberta Health Services, that number peaked at 55 on Wednesday. As of Friday afternoon, there were 50 COVID patients in Calgary ICUs. "Every night that I've been on call, we are barely squeaking by with enough beds," said Dr. Selena Au, intensive care specialist working at the Peter Lougheed Centre, South Health Campus and Rockyview General Hospital. According to Au, they're coping by sending the most stable ICU patients to other city hospitals to make room when there are no beds left. "So even though the numbers look lower from a daily COVID case rate, I think the hospital as well as the ICUs in particular — we're still running full steam right now and just barely getting by." Patients are also routinely being double bunked in in ICU rooms that have the proper space and equipment. And those who would have previously been deemed sick enough to be admitted to intensive care are being kept on the wards longer. "Patients have to be sicker before they get an ICU bed.… So it's a lot of heavy lifting from our ward hospital doctors as well." Long stays in ICU The pressure on Calgary's ICUs is driven in part by an unusually long length of stay in the ICU for COVID-19 patients, according to Au, who says some patients require critical care for two to three weeks. "Some of the patients that we have right now are actually fairly young and without any previous medical history. And we really want to make sure that we give any possible chance for survival," she said. "Many of those patients are very sick and just hanging on. It's a long stay and journey for these patients that get admitted. And so there's many admissions and they're frequent, but there's very few discharges … to balance it out." According to Alberta Health Services, Calgary's intensive care units have been operating at between 86 and 90 per cent capacity all week, including 30 ICU beds that were added in late November and early December to address the surging COVID-19 cases. "No additional critical care spaces have been added — or required — since then, and no additional ICU surge beds are planned to open this week," an AHS spokesperson said in a statement emailed to CBC News. "Clinicians continue to monitor and evaluate the situation." When it comes to overall capacity, AHS says Calgary's hospitals are operating at between 101 per cent and 108 per cent. Dr. Daniel Niven, an intensive care specialist at Peter Lougheed Centre, says the ICU there is close to full nearly every day but care teams are managing for now. "We're pushing our limits, for sure," said Niven who notes Calgary's intensive care units were running close to capacity before the pandemic. He said extra staff continue to be on the unit to manage the extra patients. "We're still seeing a fairly steady pressure with regard to COVID admissions on a daily basis. So it remains very busy and at a … high capacity, still stretched compared to what we would normally be." What Niven is watching for now is the potential impact of the more highly transmissible coronavirus variants. Twelve cases of the variant first discovered in the U.K. and three of the variant first identified in South Africa have now been found in the province. Health officials have said all are travel-related and there is no evidence of community transmission. "If those variants were to take hold and start to transmit within the community — especially to a great degree like what we're seeing in the U.K. — then that would be very concerning, just because of how efficient they do transmit and the fact that we're already functioning at a very stretched capacity. "So it would make it additionally challenging to manage what could be a much larger patient load."
A Komoka resident and lifelong environmentalist is building Middlesex Centre’s first net-zero energy house, hoping to spark a trend in the region. A net-zero home minimizes energy use for heating and cooling, while producing its own energy through solar panels. “It’s been a personal mission and passion of mine to try to educate, not to preach, and to live by example,” said Terry Keep. “Even a guy who is not a builder can do this with the right people around them.” Keep has been building his new carbon-neutral family home amid the pandemic and expects to be finished by April. He spent years researching the process before breaking ground last fall. The 2,300-square-foot (214-square-metre) home will feature solar panels on its steel roof, along with thicker walls for better insulation and triple-pane windows to reduce energy use. The lumber used is all Forest Stewardship Council certified. The driveway will use permeable pavers so stormwater can drain through into the ground. “It’s a nicer, quieter, dryer, tighter home,” Keep said. It’s also one of few homes to feature an electric furnace — the home uses no natural gas — and a heat pump. The house is divided into three zones, each heated only when necessary. Though net-zero homes are available in the London region — Sifton’s West Five development, for example, is geared toward sustainable living — Keep said building one independently in other neighbourhoods isn’t common. He’s documenting the building process — he calls it a “labour of love” — on YouTube, aiming to show carbon-neutral homes can be accessible and affordable for everyday consumers, not just environmentalists. He also wanted to prove you don’t have to move to a new neighbourhood to get a carbon-neutral house. “It’s the desire to show people it’s a regular neighbourhood, my home will stand beside a regular, code-built home,” Keep said. “I want people to see it can be done.” Walk through Keep’s house in progress, and it looks like any other mid-century modern home — with hints of Frank Lloyd Wright — not something out of The Jetsons. About 20 per cent of the average home's carbon footprint comes from household energy consumption. It takes about seven years for a solar-powered house to recoup the investment costs. But Keep has faced many hurdles getting his environmentally sustainable house off the ground, even without pandemic hiccups, such as labour and supply shortages. Finding architects, builders and tradespeople with knowledge and experience in developing net-zero houses was a challenge, Keep said, and getting them to commit to a single house even harder. “It’s been a really interesting ride,” said the home's builder, Frank Oosterhoff, who owns Great Lakes Construction. Keep said Middlesex Centre is a progressive area in terms of sustainability, citing the newly built net-zero firehall, and the community centre’s solar panels. Once his own house is finished, Keep plans to pursue building a row of affordable, net-zero townhouses. “The next generation is starting to realize there's value in that,” he said. “If everyone can afford one, they’ll buy it — if they can’t afford one, they won’t.” Keep drives a plug-in hybrid vehicle and is also a vegetarian. He was a founding member of EnviroWestern, a group at Western University that promotes sustainability. “We make small steps to get to a big impact over our life,” Keep said. “It doesn’t happen over a short period.” firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Nicola Mining, the company who owns the old Craigmont Mine site on Aberdeen Rd., has announced its 2021 Exploration Objectives at the New Craigmont Copper Project. Last year, the company applied for a multi-year area-based (MYAB) exploration permit that would facilitate a five-year exploration plan. The 2021 program includes five new trenches, the reactivation of six historic trenches and up to 21 drill holes. Trenching is aimed at developing three target areas where copper occurrences have been observed but have not been drill tested. The 2021 season has been divided into two phases, with the second phase contingent on results from phase one. A complete explanation of both phase one and phase two of the 2021 program is available in a report by Yahoo Finance found here. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
The federal government is mulling a mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers as the country's top doctor warns that easing COVID-19 restrictions too quickly could cause case numbers to shoot up again. Monday will mark a year since the first recorded appearance of the novel coronavirus in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is understandable that Canadians are tired and fed up, but they must remain cautious. “We need to hang on and hold tight for the next few months,” he said Friday. “We must get through to the spring and mass vaccinations in the best shape possible.” The federal government is looking at options that would make it harder for people to return from foreign trips. But Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the tools already in place must also be fully utilized. That includes more police enforcement of two-week quarantine rules for arriving travellers. "Compliance with that order is critical for keeping Canadians safe," he said. Public Health Agency of Canada figures show 153 flights have arrived from outside Canada over the last two weeks on which at least one passenger later tested positive for COVID-19. Transport Canada now requires people flying into the country present a negative test result conducted within 72 hours of boarding a plane. Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday 50,000 tickets for international travel have been cancelled since the new rule was announced on Dec. 31. Trudeau said these requirements are starting to convince Canadians to stay put. Union leaders and the National Airlines Council of Canada, the country's largest airline industry association, have signed a letter urging Ottawa to collaborate with industry on any further changes to reduce travel. The prime minister added that the next few weeks will be challenging for vaccine supply as Pfizer-BioNTech slows deliveries to Canada and other countries while the company retools its plant in Belgium. Trudeau said Pfizer-BioNTech has committed to ensuring Canada will receive four million vaccine doses by the end of March. Provinces have reported a total of 738,864 vaccine doses used so far. That's about 80 per cent of the available supply. In British Columbia on Friday, plans were announced to allow the province's oldest residents to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccinations starting in March after the most vulnerable groups have been immunized. The province's mass immunization plan aims to administer vaccines to 4.3 million eligible residents by September. COVID-19 cases began to spike across the country in December and January, which put a strain on hospitals. Quebec and Ontario were particularly hard hit and officials responded with restrictions. Quebec instituted a curfew, while Ontario brought in an order for people to stay at home except for essential purposes such as work, food shopping or health care. Daily case numbers have slightly decreased in Ontario in the last week. There were 2,662 new cases Friday and 87 more deaths. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 2,703, down from a high of 3,555 on Jan. 11. There were 1,512 people in hospital on Friday, a decrease of 21 from the previous day. COVID-19 continued to pressure some local hospitals, so Ottawa said it would send two federal mobile health units to the Greater Toronto Area, adding an additional 200 hospital beds. Quebec has been under its provincewide curfew for nearly two weeks. Health officials reported 1,631 new cases and 88 deaths Friday. Hospitalizations decreased by 27 people to 1,426. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said bringing down the second wave of COVID-19 has been a "trickier path" than the first wave last spring. Daily case counts are higher than they were then and have increased demands on the health-care system. "If we ease up too soon or too quickly, resurgence will be swift," she said. She also expressed concern that 31 cases of the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant, and three of the South African variant have been found in Canada. It's believed that both are more contagious. The cases were identified through screening smaller batches of tests. Tam said more needs to be done to understand the level at which new variants are circulating in communities. Nova Scotia reported four new COVID-19 infections on Friday, two of which were variant cases. Health officials said both cases were related to international travel. The New Brunswick government announced a full lockdown in the Edmundston region beginning Saturday. The number of active cases in the northwestern area of the province ballooned from seven infections two weeks ago to 129 on Friday. There were 731,450 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada and 18,622 deaths as of Thursday. Over the past seven days, there were a total of 42,555 new cases. The seven-day rolling average was 6,079. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. — With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa and Camille Bains in Vancouver. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — The federal economic development minister says business leaders in British Columbia want to work with a new development agency aiming to help them endure the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for the future. Melanie Joly said she's heard from entrepreneurs and business owners across B.C. about the support for a home-based economic development agency, including during an online forum Friday with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. Joly said the promised B.C.-based agency will provide targeted economic support and relief in the form of loans, subsidies and advice about federal programs. "People want to be able to have access to levers to survive the economic crisis and the pandemic, but at the same time people want to talk about the future and want to be optimistic as the vaccinations roll out," she said in a phone interview. Joly said she's heard in panel discussions with business leaders that they're concerned about the distance between Ottawa and B.C. as entrepreneurs argue for an agency that is closer to home. "There's a feeling of disconnection towards the federal government," she said. "That has created sometimes frustration on the part of people in B.C. We need to increase our impact, our footprint. We need to make sure that people trust the fact that the federal government is there for them." Joly, who is also the minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada, said B.C. entrepreneurs have told her the province's economy was growing before the COVID-19 pandemic and they need help now to get them through. Last December's federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year, she said, adding the budget for the new B.C. agency has not been set and there's no date yet for an opening date. "I always have a sense of urgency in life," Joly said after her meeting with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. "I'm a very impatient person, so the team and I are working extremely hard to make sure we can launch this new B.C. agency but we need to make sure we do things right." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
PHOENIX -- Health officials say the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arizona are declining despite the state having the worst infection rate in the country. Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said Friday that the number of patients and even the positivity test rate have dipped slightly in the last few weeks. It was the one bright spot of news as Arizona reached a grim milestone with a pandemic death toll of more than 12,000. That puts COVID-19 on track to eclipse heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death in the state. The Department of Health Services on Friday reported 8,099 additional known cases and 229 additional deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 708,041 cases and 12,001 deaths. One person in every 141 Arizona residents was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past week. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: Dr. Fauci says a lack of candour about the coronavirus under President Donald Trump “very likely” cost lives. Japan is publicly adamant it will stage the postponed Olympics, but faces vaccine roadblocks. Germany passes 50,000 deaths from coronavirus. Lucky few get COVID-19 vaccine because of rare extra doses in U.S. New Chinese film praises Wuhan ahead of lockdown anniversary. Brazil awaits vaccine cargo from India amid supply concerns. ___ 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: BOISE, Idaho -- Limited coronavirus vaccine availability, confusion over which Idaho residents should be vaccinated first and rumours of line-jumpers are all complicating the state’s vaccine rollout. Members of Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee met Friday to help clarify exactly who should have first dibs on the state’s doses. Sarah Leeds with the Idaho Immunization Program says the demand is far higher than the doses available. So far, the federal government has distributed more than 178,000 doses to Idaho. That’s a rate of about 9,970 doses for every 100,000 residents, putting Idaho near the bottom compared to the allotment given other states. Currently, front-line health care workers, nursing home staffers, dentists, pharmacists and other medical-field staffers are eligible to be vaccinated in Idaho, as can child care workers, teachers and staffers at primary and secondary schools and correctional centre staffers. But the people who are charged with giving out the vaccine — local health departments, pharmacies and medical care providers — have different interpretations of exactly who is included in each category. ___ RALEIGH — North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services said on Friday that the state has seen 1,280 of its coronavirus vaccine doses get discarded. “Only 0.1% (or 1,280) of the 1.1 million doses which have entered the state thus far have become unusable for any reason and we have not received reports of significant batches being lost,” the department said in a statement to The Associated Press. In a Thursday afternoon news conference, the state’s top public health official, Dr. Mandy Cohen, estimated the waste to be “in the tens of doses.” Doses being administered at county health departments, clinics, hospitals and other places could be tossed out due to a vaccine being stored too long in a freezer or not being administered in a timely manner once it has been taken out of a freezer. There are currently 136 different vaccine providers in the state. The health department said providers are using low dead-volume syringes are designed to maximize the amount of doses it can get out one multi-dose vial. “In some cases, providers have been able to extract an extra dose out of the Pfizer supply, and we appreciate the hard work of providers to maximize the use of this supply,” the department said. North Carolina expects to continue getting about 120,000 new first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each week. ___ SEATTLE -- A suburban Seattle man who advertised a supposed COVID-19 “vaccine” he said he created in his personal lab, has been arrested. KUOW reports Johnny T. Stine faces a misdemeanour charge of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Stine advertised injections of the supposed vaccine for $400 on his personal Facebook page in March 2020. At that time, there was no authorized COVID-19 vaccine on the market. It wasn’t immediately known if Stine has a lawyer to comment on his case. He could face up to one year in prison if convicted. ___ BURLINGTON, Vt. -- A state health inspector has found that some residents of a long-term care and skilled nursing facility in Burlington, Vermont, failed to get doses of required medication and proper wound care and were left to sit in their urine amid a coronavirus outbreak at the facility last month. The Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services did the inspection at Elderwood at Burlington on Dec. 9 and 10, the Burlington Free Press reported. The survey was done following recent anonymous complaints about the facility. A subsequent report did not find any instances of infection control failing to stop the spread of COVID-19, the newspaper reported. The facility said in a statement Friday that it is committed to working with regulatory authorities to ensure it maintains high standards of care and appropriately complies with all guidance. “Elderwood at Burlington is and always has been committed to high quality, safe resident care. Throughout the pandemic, which has stretched the resources of healthcare providers across the country, our staff have worked with diligence and dedication to care for residents,” the statement said. The report states that the facility continues to hire, train and schedule enough competent staff to meet the needs of residents and surpass state minimum staffing requirements. ___ MISSION, Kan. — Online sign-ups for the coronavirus vaccine are filling up almost as quickly as they are posted as health officials in Kansas begin moving beyond immunizing just health care workers and long-term care residents. Saline County had to shut its down within 30 minutes after residents 65 and older nabbed all 900 available slots. That’s about how long Douglas County had its signup open before its 500 slots were filled. The rush comes after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced Thursday that the state was moving into the second vaccination phase, which includes about 1 million people. It includes not just those 65 and older but also people in congregate settings such as prisons and homeless shelters, and critical workers such as firefighters, police officers, teachers and meat packing plant employees. The state also will continue vaccinating people from the first phase, some of whom wanted to watch the rollout to see if there were problems before getting vaccinated themselves. The challenge is that the state doesn’t have nearly enough doses for all of them — at least not yet. So the state is leaving it up to counties to decide how to prioritize who gets vaccinated next. ___ SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is reporting a one-day record of 764 COVID-19 deaths but the rate of new infections is falling. The deaths reported Friday by the California Department of Public Health top the previous mark of 708 set on Jan. 8. In the last two days California has recorded 1,335 deaths. Hospitalizations and newly confirmed cases have been falling, however, and health officials are growing more optimistic that the worst of the latest surge is over. The 23,024 new cases reported Friday are less than half the mid-December peak of nearly 54,000. Hospitalizations have fallen below 20,000, a drop of more than 10% in two weeks. ___ PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown on Friday defended her decision to reject federal guidelines and prioritize teachers for the COVID-19 vaccine before the elderly, stating that if all of Oregon’s seniors were vaccinated first teachers would likely not be vaccinated before the school year and many students would not return to in-person learning. In addition, during a news conference, officials from the Oregon Health Authority presented a new vaccination timeline that delays the eligibility for seniors 65 to 69 years old to be vaccinated until March 7 and those 70 to 74 pushed back to Feb. 28. Last week, Oregon officials announced a change to the vaccine distribution — instead of vaccinating teachers and seniors at the same time, teachers would be vaccinated beginning Jan. 25 and people 80 or older beginning Feb. 8. ___ SAO PAULO — Sao Paulo state, which has posted the greatest number of COVID-19 deaths of any Brazilian state, has tightened its restrictions on activity until Feb. 7 with the 8 p.m. closure of non-essential businesses. The reopening of schools, previously planned for Feb. 1, was postponed by a week. Health authorities also announced local hospitals could run out of intensive-care beds in 28 days, which forced them to reassign 1,000 beds for COVID-19 patients. Sao Paulo state is home to 46 million people, and has recorded almost 51,000 deaths from the virus —almost one fourth of the total in Brazil, where cases and deaths of coronavirus are surging again. Also on Friday, Brazil’s health regulator authorized the emergency use of 4.8 million CoronaVac vaccines bottled locally by Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute. Six million shots were previously made available by Butantan, and another 2 million AstraZeneca shots are expected to arrive from India later on Friday. Brazil has a population of about 210 million. ___ MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama's state health officer said a low supply of vaccine is the largest hindrance to getting people vaccinated for COVID-19. Alabama health officials were expecting to get more than 112,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses a week based on conversations with federal officials when Operation Ward Speed began last year. Instead, officials said, the state is getting about 50,000 to 60,000 doses a week. Dr. Scott Harris said federal officials later said the 112,000 figure was not a promise but a figure that the state should use in its planning. Alabama has approved more than 883 pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other providers to do vaccinations but only 364 have received any vaccine. He said only about 117 providers will get vaccine this week because of the available supply. The state of nearly 5 million people has received 502,950 vaccine doses and 223,887 of those have been administered, according to state numbers. Harris said many of the unused doses are designated for patients in upcoming appointments for their second or first dose. ___ WASHINGTON — White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about a potential pause in vaccinations in New York, where the state is reporting a shortage in vaccines available for first doses. Psaki says the White House has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “look into what is possible” to address the situation in New York. But she stressed the administration will defer to the judgment of medical experts. “Clearly we don’t want any states to run out of access to vaccines,” Psaki says, adding the Biden administration aims to avoid supply crunches going forward. ___ LONDON — AstraZeneca says it will ship fewer doses of its coronavirus vaccine to the European Union than anticipated due to supply chain problems. The company is waiting for the European Medicines Agency to approve its vaccine, which could happen when the EU regulator meets on Jan. 29. AstraZeneca’s statement said, “initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.” It adds: “We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes.” Regulators in Britain and several other countries have already given the vaccine the green light. ___ BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana has released some demographic details on who’s received the coronavirus vaccine. However, the data provided Friday lacks key information to determine if Louisiana’s doses are equitably distributed. Few vaccine providers are identifying race in the data submitted. That undermines Gov. John Bel Edwards’ efforts to ensure minority groups have adequate access to vaccination. The information shows at least 33% of Louisiana’s nearly 273,000 vaccine recipients are white and at least 10% are black. But another 56% of those who have received the shots were listed as “unknown” or “other.” Edwards is calling on hospitals, clinics and pharmacies vaccinating people in Louisiana to start providing more complete data. ___ WASHINGTON — New research finds full doses of blood thinners such as heparin can help moderately ill hospitalized COVID-19 patients avoid the need for breathing machines or other organ support. The preliminary results come from three large, international studies testing various coronavirus treatments and haven’t yet been published. The U.S. National Institutes of Health and other sponsors released the results Friday to help doctors decide on appropriate care. Nearly all hospitalized COVID-19 patients currently get low doses of a blood thinner to try to prevent clots from forming. The new results show that “when we give higher doses of blood thinners to patients who are not already critically ill, there is a significant benefit in preventing them from getting sicker,” said Dr. Matthew Neal, a trauma surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and one study leader. However, the researchers say these drugs don’t help and may harm people who are more seriously ill. The study highlights how timing and degree of illness matter for coronavirus treatments. Steroid drugs can help severely ill patients but not ones who are only mildly ill. Some antibody drugs seem to help when given soon after or before symptoms appear but not for sicker, hospitalized patients. ___ HAVANA — A possibly more contagious variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Cuba. Dr. María Guadalupe Guzmán of the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine says the variant, originally detected in South Africa, was found in an asymptomatic traveller during a check at ports and airports. While that case was imported, she says authorities can’t rule out the possibility it is also circulating locally. But the institute’s director of epidemiology, Francisco Duran, said it’s not the reason for a recent upsurge in cases on the island. The nation of some 11 million people has recorded more than 20,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 530 on Thursday, and 188 deaths. ___ PHOENIX — Arizona’s death toll surpassed 12,000 on Friday after reporting 229 more deaths. The Department of Health Services reported 8,099 confirmed cases, increasing total cases to more than 700,000. The surge has crowded hospitals statewide. Arizona is ramping up vaccinations by opening an additional site. But like other states, Arizona has had difficulty getting enough doses to administer. ___ WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation is extending its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew and lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more coronavirus vaccinations. Tribal officials announced the measures will take effect Monday and run through at least Feb. 15. Officials say the daily curfew will run daily from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The tribe has reported a total of 26,782 cases and 940 known deaths on the reservation. ___ RABAT, Morocco — Morocco has received its first doses of vaccine against the coronavirus and plans to start injections next week. The Health Ministry sats the AstraZeneca vaccine, delivered from India, will be followed by another delivery next week of a second vaccine, from China’s Sinopharm. The vaccine rollout will start next week. Priority will be given to health workers age 40 and above, police and army officers, teachers 45 and above and those over 75. The Associated Press
An afternoon of drumming and song was devoted to raising Secwepemc Nation members’ spirits during a time of stress and significant loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Today, the prayers we do and the songs that we do are prayers for our people,” Splats’in Chief Wayne Christian said in a virtual ceremony hosted Friday, Jan. 22 by the Secwepemc Health Caucus. “It’s really important for boosting our heart and our spirit to raise it up, especially for those that have lost loved ones because we can’t gather in our tradition, our custom and our culture to help the family,” he added. Tsq’escen’emc (Canim Lake Band) is mourning the loss of language speaker and knowledge keeper Ella Gilbert, the community’s first death due to COVID-19. Christian said it was essential to know and understand that their ancestors would be standing with them as they sang. “They’re watching and helping as much as they can, and I think it’s up to us to ask for the help that we need not only for the people as a whole but also ourselves because many times in ceremony we forget to ask for help for ourselves,” he said, calling everyone a leader in their own way. “So much of what we need to do is within us, within our mind and our heart.” Among those performing was T’exelcemc (William Lake First Nation) cultural co-ordinator David Archie, who sang Amazing Grace for Gilbert and recently passed T’exelcemc members Byron Louie and Michelle Wycotte. While the song was dedicated to anyone facing loss and dealing with COVID-19, Archie said it was primarily for Louie and his family. Mike Archie from Tsq’escen’emc participated by singing the Honour Song. “I know that my community is hit pretty hard by COVID and there’s a lot of people that are asking for prayers,” he said. From their home at Cemetem’ (Deep Creek) north of Williams Lake, Cheryl Chapman said while it was good to virtually see everyone, it was hard not to reach out and be able to physically hug them. Before Chapman joined her partner, Mike Retasket, in singing Remember Me, Retasket said his daughter in Wisconsin was experiencing headaches, fever, chills and body pains that would likely last 24 hours after receiving her second Pfizer vaccine shot. “There are so many people in our nation to help hold up today and I’m really happy to be able to help out with that work,” Retasket said. Prior to singing the Horse Song with his son, Tk’emlups (Kamloops), member Garry Gottfriedson explained how the song he sang during his childhood, about family coming together for strength, originated. “It’s’ really important that we understand that, and we must acknowledge where these songs come from so that we don’t make mistakes in our nation and have to pay the price for it,” he said. “I think so many times I see how we make a mistake and then we suffer for it, but now is the time to sing this song to bring us all together, so we remember for this little child for his future, for the future of our nation — the Secwepemc Nation.” Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) elder Fred Johnson led a peace song and closing prayer in Secwepemctsin, which Mary Harry wrote they need to hear more often as it is how they learn to speak in their traditional language. Skeetchestn Chief Ron Ignace advised communities heavily impacted by COVID-19 and needing supplies such as Tsq’escen’emc and T’exelcemc to reach out to other communities who would see how they could help. Chief Christian reminded Secwepemc Nation members to continue following COVID-19 protocols and be cautious with their interactions. “COVID doesn’t travel,” he said. “It’s the people that travel.” Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune
The daughter of a man killed Sunday says her father could make friends with anyone — even whoever took his life. Dion William McCallum, 49, was shot in his home in west Edmonton early Sunday morning. Police say they do not believe McCallum was the intended target. His death has left daughter Jaye Campiou and her family heartbroken. "He didn't deserve that, he was too nice of a guy," she said Thursday from her home on Alexander First Nation. "He really would have made his way and made himself friends with that person. And I just want them to know that my dad's probably not even mad at you. I mean, he probably already forgives you. "And he just — he just wants you to do right." McCallum — better known to friends and family as Sonny — moved to Edmonton several years ago from his home at Île-à-la-Crosse, Sask., to be closer to his children. Campiou said even before the move he would make every effort to be there for her and her three siblings. 'Every single year he would make it to every one of our graduations, every one of our school plays, every one of our birthdays," she said. "Even if he didn't have the money for it. He would hitchhike, he was that kind of guy who would make it happen." Campiou said her father loved children and was always excited to see new babies and play with kids. He had a six-year-old son, Campiou's half-brother, and had welcomed his first grandson a little under three years ago. "He was just a really big people person and kids were his soft spot." McCallum worked as a bush firefighter when he was younger. He would be gone for months at a time but came back to share stories of his adventures, Campiou said. A stroke two years ago diminished his ability to work. He took to odd jobs like fixing up vehicles. "He could fix the vehicle just by listening to it," Campiou said. "He was very big into cars." Campiou, who works in health care, limited visits with her father, who had diabetes, during the pandemic. But true to his sociable nature, McCallum stayed in contact with her, as well as friends and family, through virtual meets. "It really hurts because I really, really miss him," Campiou said. "And I told him that the safest place for him during this pandemic would be inside." The family is hoping to bring his body back to Saskatchewan, a task made more difficult by COVID-19. "We're trying our best to make it work with the limited amount of resources that we have and the family that we have," Campiou said. A GoFundMe has been set up to help raise money for funeral costs. Trend in firearms crime Police found McCallum inside a home after being called to an address near 105th Avenue and 157th Street around 6:15 a.m on Sunday. He died in hospital. An autopsy determined he died from a gunshot wound. McCallum was not known to police. Police are asking anyone with surveillance video, such as doorbell cameras or dashcam video, to contact investigators. Edmonton police Staff Sgt. Brenda Dalziel said Wednesday McCallum's death is part of a concerning trend in firearms crime. She said Edmonton police investigated 158 shooting events in 2020, 10 of which were fatal. In July, Coun. Sarah Hamilton asked city officials to take a closer look at the root causes behind the consistent high rate of crime. "I don't want to say gun crime is new to the city but we have definitely seen an increase in it this year," she said Friday, adding that police would likely say the causes are complex. "But helping us understand what's going on can maybe help us understand how we could affect it."
Snowmobiles and walking paths rarely mix well, especially if the sleds run at high speeds through an urban-like area in Emerald Park. However, enforcing the bylaws intended to keep the public safe can be easier said than done, said RM of Edenwold community safety officer Ron Roteliuk. “The problem is the same as with the ATVs,” Roteliuk told RM council at its Jan. 12 meeting. “We go to stop them, they take off. As far as private lands go, unless someone has a plate number, a good description and can provide a statement, that’s what we are restricted to unless we see it ourselves and can talk to the snowmobile rider.” Under terms of the RM’s bylaw, fines for the unsafe or illegal use of a snowmobile can range from $250-$1,000. However, Roteliuk said the onus is on those reporting the incidents and complaints to have as much information about the situation as possible to ensure that community safety officers or RCMP can do anything about it. “I heard you say you’ve had numerous complaints — well we have only received one and that was yesterday,” Roteliuk told council. Coun. Tim Brodt said when there are snowmobiles riding at higher speeds in Emerald Park than vehicles in a 30 km/h zone, those are the ones who need to be stopped. “But those guys aren’t going to stop for you,” Brodt said. “You have to get the public to report more of these so you can open up a file and the RCMP can open up a file.” Under the RM’s snowmobile bylaw, speed limits for snowmobiles inside hamlets are 30 km/h during times where snowmobile use is permitted. The RM bans snowmobile use in hamlet limits between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Snowmobile riders also must have a driver’s license and be riding a registered machine. Streets may be used as a snowmobile path only as the most direct path out of town. Highway ditches may also be used as snowmobile trails and riders can cross highways or bridges if that is the most direct path out of a hamlet to where they are going. However, no snowmobile traffic is allowed in playgrounds, parks, public reserves, on boulevards, or on any other land owned by the municipality. Snowmobiles are also not to be operated on any property inside a hamlet, “in such a manner that is dangerous to other persons and properties.” Other issues include snowmobile use on the Aspen Links Country Club, where there are no trespassing signs in place, Coun. Rod Tuchscherer said. “During the weekends, it’s crazy,” Tuchscherer said. “They are going right beside pathways. I don’t know how fast they are going, but that’s really dangerous. We need to get this out to the public.” Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
WASHINGTON — Newly confirmed Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will have to contend not only with a world of security threats and a massive military bureaucracy, but also with a challenge that hits closer to home: rooting out racism and extremism in the ranks. Austin took office Friday as the first Black defence chief, in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where retired and current military members were among the rioters touting far-right conspiracies. The retired four-star Army general told senators this week that the Pentagon’s job is to “keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.” Ridding the military of racists isn’t his only priority. Austin, who was confirmed in a 93-2 vote, has made clear that accelerating delivery of coronavirus vaccines will get his early attention. But the racism issue is personal. At Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, he explained why. In 1995, when then-Lt. Col. Austin was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, three white soldiers, described as self-styled skinheads, were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who was walking down the street. Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race. The killing triggered an internal investigation, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinhead and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views. They included 17 who were considered white supremacists or separatists. “We woke up one day and discovered that we had extremist elements in our ranks,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And they did bad things that we certainly held them accountable for. But we discovered that the signs for that activity were there all along. We just didn’t know what to look for or what to pay attention to.” Austin is not the first secretary to grapple with the problem. Racism has long been an undercurrent in the military. While leaders insist only a small minority hold extremist views, there have been persistent incidents of racial hatred and, more subtly, a history of implicit bias in what is a predominantly white institution. A recent Air Force inspector general report found that Black service members in the Air Force are far more likely to be investigated, arrested, face disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct. Based on 2018 data, roughly two-thirds of the military’s enlisted corps is white and about 17% is Black, but the minority percentage declines as rank increases. The U.S. population overall is about three-quarters white and 13% Black, according to Census Bureau statistics. Over the past year, Pentagon leaders have struggled to make changes, hampered by opposition from then-President Donald Trump. It took months for the department to effectively ban the Confederate flag last year, and Pentagon officials left to Congress the matter of renaming military bases that honour Confederate leaders. Trump rejected renaming the bases and defended flying the flag. Senators peppered Austin with questions about extremism in the ranks and his plans to deal with it. The hearing was held two weeks after lawmakers fled the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, in which many of the rioters espoused separatist or extremist views. “It’s clear that we are at a crisis point,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., saying leaders must root out extremism and reaffirm core military values. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., pressed Austin on the actions he will take. “Disunity is probably the most destructive force in terms of our ability to defend ourselves," Kaine said. "If we’re divided against one another, how can we defend the nation?” Austin, who broke racial barriers throughout his four decades in the Army, said military leaders must set the right example to discourage and eliminate extremist behaviour. They must get to know their troops, and look for signs of extremism or other problems, he said. But Austin — the first Black to serve as head of U.S. Central Command and the first to be the Army's vice chief of staff — also knows that much of the solution must come from within the military services and lower-ranking commanders. They must ensure their troops are trained and aware of the prohibitions. “Most of us were embarrassed that we didn’t know what to look for and we didn’t really understand that by being engaged more with your people on these types of issues can pay big dividends,” he said, recalling the 82nd Airborne problems. “I don’t think that you can ever take your hand off the steering wheel here.” But he also cautioned that there won't be an easy solution, adding, “I don’t think that this is a thing that you can put a Band-Aid on and fix and leave alone. I think that training needs to go on, routinely." Austin gained confirmation after clearing a legal hurdle prohibiting anyone from serving as defence chief until they have been out of the military for seven years. Austin retired less than five years ago, but the House and Senate quickly approved the needed waiver, and President Joe Biden signed it Friday. Soon afterward, Austin strode into the Pentagon, his afternoon already filled with calls and briefings, including a meeting with Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He held a broader video conference on COVID-19 with all top defence and military leaders, and his first call to an international leader was with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Austin, 67, is a 1975 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He helped lead the invasion into Iraq in 2003, and eight years later was the top U.S. commander there, overseeing the full American troop withdrawal. After serving as vice chief of the Army, Austin headed Central Command, where he oversaw the reinsertion of U.S. troops to Iraq to beat back Islamic State militants. He describes himself as the son of a postal worker and a homemaker from Thomasville, Georgia, who will speak his mind to Congress and to Biden. Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A group of large businesses in Banff National Park is proposing a rapid COVID-19 testing project meant to help reopen the economy safely. Yannis Karlos, the head of the group, said rapid testing can guarantee the safety of the community while allowing the return to a semblance of normality in a place heavily dependent on tourism. "We're just looking for options to take a different approach to ensure that our community remains safe," said Karlos, who owns a distillery and restaurant in Banff, Alta. "Back in March, our community basically fully shut down and we had an extremely high level of unemployment," he said. Karlos said the group of businesses that represent 5,300 employees would cover the costs of deploying COVID-19 rapid tests if the Alberta government will supply them. "The way we envision it is becoming a public-private partnership, so we're looking for some assistance from the municipality as well as from the province," he said. Town of Banff spokesman Jason Darrah said the municipality will support the project. "We want to support however possible, such as offering facilities for doing it," he said. Sandy White, the co-founder of a coalition of academics, medical professionals and business leaders called Rapid Test and Trace Canada, which is working with the businesses in Banff, said millions of rapid tests already bought and distributed by the federal government are sitting in warehouses across Canada because provincial governments are either unable or unwilling to deploy them. "The overall mismanagement of this file in particular, to say nothing of vaccines and everything else, has been depressingly indicative of Canada's response to this thing," he said. White, who himself owns two inns in Banff, said other countries have responded to the pandemic more efficiently than Canada using rapid tests and other measures to reopened their economies safely. "We are drowning in this situation and we've had a year to get all these wonderful things in place and we could be Taiwan or South Korea or Australia or New Zealand but we're not," he said. "That's very frustrating." White said the 90-day rapid-testing project proposed for Banff would aim to test as many of the town's roughly 8,800 residents as possible within the first two days. After that, the program would test between five and 10 per cent of residents every day. "We are quite confident that with a strategy like that, we can eradicate COVID within the community," he said. Banff had close to 200 active cases of COVID-19 at the end of November, when the economy had reopened and tourists were in town. "The goal really is to be able to safely reopen the economy and encourage tourists to come back to town," he said, noting local jobs depend on tourism. He said the program could also be used as a "test case" to prove that a rapid-testing strategy can work to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. White said his organization is speaking with several groups across the country, including universities and Indigenous communities, to prepare rapid-testing project proposals. "It would be us advising and assisting in setting up pilots and executing on them with the government really just providing testing services in the form of the tests and maybe some basic guidance," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Canadian scientists say blood thinners appear to prevent some COVID-19 patients with moderate illness from deteriorating further, offering a "massive" advance in treatment they expect will ease suffering and lesson strain on hospital ICUs. University Health Network scientist Ewan Goligher said Friday that blood thinners could soon be part of standard care after the interim results of global trials showed Heparin reduced the probability of requiring life support by about a third. The news comes on the heels of promising early data for another COVID-19 drug targeting seniors, as health systems across the country wrestle with the impact of a recent surge in cases and long-term care homes battle devastating outbreaks. Considering how many people around the world end up in intensive care because of COVID-19, Goligher said this finding is "massive." "They're very, very ill, they're often in the ICU for a long time. It's a devastating life event," Goligher, a critical care physician at Toronto General Hospital, said of the patients he sees. "Even if they do survive, it means immense suffering, and to prevent people from becoming critically ill is huge." Interim results of clinical trials spanning five continents in more than 300 hospitals suggest full-dose blood thinners could significantly reduce the number of severe cases that are now straining health-care systems. The study involved more than 1,300 moderately ill patients admitted to hospital, including hundreds of people admitted to hospitals across Canada. Researchers found the full dose was more effective than the lower dose typically administered to prevent blood clots in hospitalized patients. Goligher, co-chair of the therapeutic anticoagulation domain of the trial, said he expected patients at his downtown hospital would be on routine blood thinners "imminently," and "fully expected" hospitals around the world would, too. "Before people change their practice they're going to want to see the full paper published so we're working very hard now to write up the results and get them published in a high impact journal," he said. "One of the exciting things about this treatment is that Heparin is already cheap, widely available, and available in low and middle-income countries, as well as countries like Canada and the United States. So this is a cheap therapy that can make a significant impact on outcomes for patients." Goligher said researchers still needs to look into other questions surrounding blood thinners, such as whether to continue treatment if a moderately ill patient develops severe COVID-19, and whether adding an antiplatelet agent would help. Doctors noticed early in the pandemic that COVID-19 patients suffered an increased rate of blood clots and inflammation. This led to complications including lung failure, heart attack and stroke. Back in December, investigators found that giving full-dose blood thinners to critically ill ICU patients did not help, and was actually harmful. However, Goligher noted there have been other drugs that appear to ease mortality in severe cases, expecting more trials to release promising data soon. Goligher was heartened by the news that blood thinners could soon ease a devastating winter surge of infections. "I personally find the thought that this treatment will prevent (patients) from getting to this state incredibly gratifying. It's even better than if it was an effective treatment for severe COVID-19, to be able to prevent people from becoming severe is huge." The trials are supported by international funding organizations including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the NIH National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute in the United States, the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom, and the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. Meanwhile, U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly said this week that early trial data reveals its antibody drug bamlanivimab – developed in partnership with Vancouver’s AbCellera Biologics – can prevent some COVID-19 illness in nursing home residents and staff. Early data from a Phase 3 trial found that in addition to offering therapeutic value, bamlanivimab "significantly" reduced the risk of contracting symptomatic COVID-19 among 965 residents and staff of long-term care facilities in the U.S. Health Canada has approved its use as a therapy for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, but not to prevent infection. A spokesman for Eli Lilly Canada said the company expected to present the new data to Health Canada, but noted their findings were still early. In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada had purchased 26,000 doses of the drug, with shipments to arrive between December 2020 and February 2021. But Lauren Fischer, VP of corporate affairs for Eli Lilly Canada, says the drug is not being used on patients here yet. Fischer said the provinces have raised "some implementation concerns" about bamlanivimab, which involves an hour-long intravenous infusion. "The provinces are still considering their approach to making it available but we haven't seen a lot of progress on that," Fischer said. "The provinces have really moved with commendable speed on vaccinations, they've shown that they can overcome implementation difficulties to make needed solutions available.... We stand ready to partner with provincial governments as they try to make those solutions happen." The drug is meant for patients over the age of 65 with underlying conditions. Dr. Doron Sagman, Eli Lilly's VP of research and development and medical affairs, said the early data suggests some level of protection for older Canadians waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine, or if their immune response to a vaccine is not as robust as others. "The intent again is to provide a therapeutic bridge to those vaccines and fill a gap in those individuals who have been affected by the illness and have not yet been vaccinated," said Sagman. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that Health Canada relies on clinical experts "on the ground" treating patients "to decide what's best for them." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press