This adorable little girl in Canada gets so frustrated when dad scores a goal on her that she throws her stick in frustration. Priceless!
This adorable little girl in Canada gets so frustrated when dad scores a goal on her that she throws her stick in frustration. Priceless!
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan is looking to follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says information from that province as well as from Quebec and the United Kingdom suggests that a first shot effectively protects against the novel coronavirus. He says he hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. Shahab says if that were to happen, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. He says all adults in the province could be vaccinated with a first dose by June. Premier Scott Moe says such a shift would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions would stay in place. "What that (would) look like over the course of the next number of weeks as opposed to having that conversation over the course of the next number of months," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday. The province said when it first outlined its vaccine rollout that it would wait between 21 and 28 days between shots as recommended by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The province says about 80,000 vaccinations have been given across the province. It says at least one of the approved vaccines to fight COVID-19 has made its way into every long-term care home. Health officials say 91 per cent of residents opted to get their first shot of the two-dose vaccination. Second doses have gone into the arms of long-term residents in about 53 per cent of facilities. The province says it expects to receive about 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot approved by Canada last week. Shahab says Saskatchewan will follow advice from a national panel of vaccine experts that it be used on people under 65. The vaccine's effectiveness in people older than that hasn't been sufficiently determined because there were not enough seniors in clinical trials. Another 134 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday as well as two deaths. Shahab and Moe say daily case numbers and hospitalizations have stabilized and continue to decrease — signs they say could lead to some public-health measures being relaxed. Moe said he would like to see some way for people to have visitors in their homes. That hasn't been allowed under public-health orders since before Christmas. The current health order is to expire March 19. Moe said his government could provide details as soon as next week on what restrictions might be eased. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 2, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
A proposal to revamp Bayfield's downtown is dividing residents and business owners over the future of the Lake Huron village. The debate over the Bayfield Main Street revitalization project is set to come to a head Wednesday at a virtual public meeting, with some locals saying the plan could strip the quaint village of its heritage charm. “There’s a lot at stake for a lot of people here,” Bluewater Coun. Bill Whetstone said. “Our downtown is a reason why a lot of people come here or live here.” A revitalization project has been on the Municipality of Bluewater’s books since the early 2000s, initially developed to address water pooling on Main Street sidewalks. The existing gravel sidewalks present accessibility issues and create hazards including water ponding, mud and ice, a staff report says. The proposed $2.3 million Main Street revitalization would see the gravel sidewalks switched to exposed aggregate concrete. The plan also proposes drive-over curbs to access parking, a narrower roadway and wider boulevards, planting of more trees, unique “welcome mat” surface treatments in front of businesses, additional seating and lighting, along with greenspace “infiltration basins” to help collect storm runoff. Whetstone said the municipality has received an outpouring of community feedback ahead of Wednesday’s meeting and will have to find a “compromise” and tweak the plan. “We have to play with it to make sure we’re not getting too far away from what Bayfield is known for,” he said. “We don’t want it to look the same as any other downtown revitalization plan.” Whetstone added common requests from locals have been to bury utility lines underground, something for which the current plan doesn’t budget, and to increase trees. One major concern is that a construction project could be devastating for small businesses looking to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. But Whetstone promised construction wouldn't take place during peak summer months, adding “minimal work” could only begin this fall. “We have to reach this balance in which we solve the problem of drainage and dirt, but yet not disrupt the charm,” said Stephen Baker, principal of the Virtual High School on Main Street and a Bayfield resident. But defining charm is “nebulous,” he said, adding some locals want to keep the village’s “quiet, subdued nature,” while others see foot traffic and tourists as a necessity for businesses. He said Bayfield doesn’t want to become a “cookie-cutter rendition” of other beach towns for the sake of added curbs and gutters. “A lot of people are saying we’re going a little bit too far to solve our problems and we’re doing more than what’s required,” to fix the drainage issues, Baker said. Lifelong Bayfield resident Tara Hessel said locals are “cut right down the middle” for and against the plan, with the sidewalk appearance a hot button issue. “The hardest problem is some people aren’t accepting of change, and change is going to happen,” she said. “What some people are trying to do is stop it and keep Bayfield a secret … (but) the businesses need tourists to succeed.” She said though some want to keep the gravel sidewalks for heritage, others feel it’s too messy, particularly when it rains and water pools. Hessel said a plan that provides safe, accessible walkways but still preserves some heritage — she’s suggesting cobblestone, like in the village park — is needed. “This a great opportunity for us to choose our change, make it a positive experience and make it better for the community.” email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
TOPEKA, Kan. — Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents' home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case. The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner. “I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully co-operated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday. Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported. Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins' prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September. The Associated Press
For two communities that share so much, the dividing line between Collingwood and the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) has never felt more defined. Alar Soever, mayor for TBM says the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the political separation between Collingwood and TBM. “Now, it's unfortunate that Collingwood is in the grey zone. But, that just shows you that the county boundary is kind of an artificial construct,” Soever said. Collingwood sits in Simcoe County under the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. While TBM sits in Grey County and falls under the Grey Bruce Health Unit. Earlier this week the two regions moved in opposite directions under the provincial COVID-19 reopening framework. Grey County moved forward into the green zone and Collingwood moving backwards into the grey zone. The vast difference in restrictions between the grey and green zones has created waves in the community, even pushing Collingwood town council to demand the health unit change the designation. But according to Soever, the issue goes far beyond the pandemic restrictions. He explained that county and public health borders are a serious problem that should be examined once the pandemic is behind us. “It's one of the issues that we bring up all the time. Collingwood is in Simcoe County and we are in Grey County, even though we really do have a lot in common,” Soever continued. “As Mayor Brian Saunderson has pointed out, we are tied economically and we are tied to the ski hills.” Soever said the two communities have more commonalities than differences and that it would be beneficial to have both communities residing in the same county and the same public health unit. “You really have to look at these political boundaries that are kind of artificial and are from years and years ago, and say do they still make sense? Because in terms of community character, if you look at Collingwood, TBM and Wasaga Beach, we have far more in common then Collingwood has the urbanized communities in southern Simcoe County.” He said its an issue that is constantly coming up at council table through various initiatives, including transportation, community safety plans, social service initiatives and housing. “There's an interesting discussion to be had. People claim that they are in the wrong colour zone? Well, maybe it's far more than that. Maybe, you're in the wrong political subdivision,” Soever said. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
WASHINGTON — Last year's confluence of COVID-19 and Donald Trump exposed the urgent need to reinvent North America, experts across the continent agreed Tuesday as they explored how best to fortify its trilateral ties. The Washington-based Wilson Center convened a virtual gathering of 13 different academics, ambassadors and diplomats from all three countries to flesh out the idea of renewing the North American relationship. The prospect has been much discussed in recent days, thanks to a flurry of high-profile political meetings between American leaders and their Canadian or Mexican counterparts aimed at signalling U.S. President Joe Biden's post-Trump commitment to multilateral diplomacy. But there's a risk that the movement never rises beyond the level of well-crafted political rhetoric, said Alan Bersin, former chief diplomatic officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To work, he said, the endeavour will need buy-in at the grassroots level in all three countries, as well as from the business community. Trump "did create an impetus for business, for the first time, to recognize that they better defend the shared production platform that has arisen in the last 25 years in North America," Bersin said. "We can do it much better together than we can do it alone." That will be more easily said than done, he added — noting the fact that each of the three countries has a different name for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced NAFTA last year. Each country puts its own name first. "We've got to actually start to create an atmosphere and an understanding broadly that it's better for us to face the world together in the next generation than to concentrate on our separate paths." Perhaps the starkest illustration of the fragility of North American supply chains, even in the age of the USMCA, came last April when Trump ordered Minnesota-based 3M to stop exporting American-made N95 respirators outside the country. The company itself, which pushed back on humanitarian grounds, eventually defused the crisis by promising to meet demand in the U.S. by importing masks from its overseas facilities. Trump's protectionist instincts have lingered, however: the Biden administration has so far shown no interest in reversing the former president's insistence that U.S.-made vaccines be reserved for American arms. Canada needs to take stock now about how to inoculate itself from similar problems before the next pandemic hits, said Michael Grant, assistant deputy minister for the Americas with Global Affairs Canada. "We need to be prepared for something like this happening again," said Grant, calling for a "Fortress North America" approach that would prioritize supply lines within the continent itself. "There are some fragilities there that I think we need to work on." For 20 years, businesses and ordinary citizens alike have embraced the idea of North America as a single, unified region, said Bill Crosbie, formerly director general of the North America Bureau, which oversees Canadian embassies and consulates across the continent. Only at the political level have relations between the three seen ups and downs, he said. "The government, top-down side of things, it waxes and wanes, and it has waned over the past few years," Crosbie said. "But if we can bring back to the table ... the areas where we have joined up, where we've been successful — either as governments or as the private sector or as civil societies — we can build on those successes to demonstrate that this collaboration is delivering real benefits for people in all three countries. Tuesday's virtual conference kicked off the Wilson Center's "North America 2.0" project aimed at floating policy recommendations for a more unified trilateral relationship. But it also followed nearly a solid week of earnest bilateral conversations between high-level leaders in all three countries, beginning with Biden's virtual meeting Feb. 23 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The centrepiece of that meeting — a "Road Map for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership" — detailed a "whole-of-government" effort to co-operate in a number of areas of mutual interest. Those included beating back COVID-19 and resurrecting the pandemic-battered North American economy, a united front against climate change, addressing income inequality and social injustice on both sides of the border and restoring global faith in multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside says six new rapid response teams will help schools in B.C. identify gaps in COVID-19 safety plans to help reduce exposure risk. The government says in a statement the teams will work with staff at schools, school districts and health authorities to review significant exposures to the virus. They will review school or district safety plans and policies, assist in their implementation and make recommendations for improvements when needed. The teams will also help schools and districts with communication plans. The provincial government is spending $900,000 in federal funding to support one team for each health authority and a separate team to help independent schools. Whiteside says gaps in safety plans and their implementation in some cases have been identified through reviews in cases of exposure, including classroom configuration problems and the sharing of supplies. "We know that when our safety plans in schools are in place and being adhered to and we don't have any gaps in those safety plans, we know that is when our schools are safest," she said on Tuesday. Funding for the teams was first announced Feb. 4. A lead school district has been selected for each health region and in Fraser Health, where outbreaks have been concentrated, the Education Ministry says there has also been additional support. Lead school districts include Surrey for the Fraser Health region, Nanaimo-Ladysmith for Island Health, Central Okanagan for Interior Health, Peace River North for Northern Health and Vancouver for Vancouver Coastal Health. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
While many things were shut down due to the pandemic, Tabitha McLoughlin and her team responded to increased demand in their community for fresh food by opening another farmers market. McLoughlin is the executive director of Grow Local Tricities, which manages the Port Moody and Coquitlam farmers markets. In June, the organization started its Port Moody summer market as an emergency response for farmers in their area. “We did it in response to knowing that we had farmer vendors who were losing contracts to restaurants and losing contracts to food suppliers, because those guys were shutting down or being closed down, and they had crops in the ground,” she said. “And it was well enough attended that we’ll continue to do it again this year.” McLoughlin has worked with Grow Local for 15 years and said she wasn’t surprised the new market was so well-received. She has seen a steady interest in farmers markets over the past five to eight years, and COVID-19 has only fast-tracked it. “I think the media really started to push ‘buy local’ ... because, as much as we have preached it for years, the importance of the economic impact that is generated by buying from places within your own community is now being seen on such a massive scale,” she said. McLoughlin said it was interesting seeing farmers markets being used in such a utilitarian manner during the pandemic, after trying on so many different hats to appeal to consumers. “What we saw was people coming specifically to buy at the market ... We have spent years building the farmers markets to be these destinations where you and your kids can do a craft, watch a food demonstration,” she said. “We had to throw all that out the window and be like, 'OK, we need you to come in and shop as fast as you possibly can.'” Jen Candela, communications manager with Vancouver Farmers Markets (VFM) since 2007, said the last decade has seen a lot of growth on their end. The VFM has operated markets since 1995 and now supports 280 small farms and businesses. “I think people are a lot more concerned about where their food comes from than they were 20 years ago,” she said. “Vancouver is also a health-conscious city, so people want the freshest, healthiest food they can find. Unless you grow your own food, farmers markets are the best place to find that.” There is little data on farmers markets in Canada. The last nationwide survey was done in 2009 by Farmers Markets Canada, a now-defunct organization. Even then, total direct sales from farmers markets across Canada was estimated to be $1.03 billion. Although the markets may be expanding and growing, McLoughlin said the sentiment behind them remains the same. “I think (people’s reasons) for putting these things together was always greater than just simply bringing the food into the community,” she said. “Now as it's become more and more common, it's not just like the hippies in the parking lots anymore. It's way more mainstream, to the point where it's almost become trendy.” Cloe Logan / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Another mass vaccination clinic will take place in Sudbury this week as Public Health Sudbury and District (PHSD) continues to provide COVID-19 vaccines to as many residents as possible. PHSD held its first mass vaccination clinic last week for roughly 2,500 health-care workers and essential caregivers connected with long-term care homes and retirement homes. It took place at the Carmichael Arena on Bancroft Drive on Thursday and Friday. As we turned the corner on March 1 this week, it was revealed that PHSD will be holding another mass vaccination event; this time for urban Indigenous people in Sudbury, aged 55 and older on March 5 and March 6, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will also take place at Carmichael Arena. The event is jointly hosted by the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in partnership with Public Health Sudbury & Districts (PHSD) and the City of Greater Sudbury, along with the support of the Ngo Dwe Waanzizjik – The Urban Indigenous Sacred Circle and the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council. The Indigenous population has been identified as a priority in the first round of vaccination allocations said a news release from Shkagamik-Kwe. PHSD has published a COVID-19 Vaccination Program Playbook that outlines when Sudbury area residents can expect to receive vaccinations. The playbook was published in January and PHSD said the information in it is evolving and changing. Ontario is still in Phase 1 on the vaccine rollout and the PHSD book indicates the first week of March is the time to provide vaccines to on-reserve Indigenous people aged 16 and older (estimated 835) and to urban Indigenous aged 16 and older (estimated 1,000). Also this week, PHSD is scheduled to continue providing vaccines to health-care workers and to adult chronic home-care recipients. The total would be 5,400 people for the first week. Based on the playbook numbers, the vaccinations for the on-reserve and urban Indigenous populations are scheduled to continue next week, for an estimated 5,400 people. Based on the PHSD statement, that schedule could change. But the schedule does show ramping up the vaccine schedule, again for urban Indigenous populations in the Sudbury area for the weeks of March 15, March 22, April 5 and again on April 12 — in all cases the target is 5,400 vaccinations for each week. When Sudbury.com asked PHSD to confirm the schedule. The reply was that the schedule could change. "The information you are inquiring about is currently being reviewed and updated," said PHSD. Another factor to be considered is that PHSD will need to provide second doses for the COVID-19 vaccines. Both Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are double-dose medications. Even the new AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for two doses. The first vaccines administered in the PHSD jurisdiction were on Jan. 13. Once the Indigenous population is looked after, Ontario will be into Phase 2 of the vaccination plan. At that point, toward the third week of April, the plan is to provide vaccines for individuals identified as essential workers. This issue has not yet been fully defined as many worker organizations across Ontario have reported they have not yet been advised if they are essential. Officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada spoke out in news reports in Toronto this week to say they believe frontline grocery workers for example should be included because they are exposed to so many members of the public. That essential worker campaign is expected to last until the end of May. Next in line on the PHSD schedule are adults 75 years and older. The plan is to provide those vaccinations from the week of May 31 to the week of July 5. Following that, the PHSD schedule said adults aged 60 to 74 years will get vaccines. This will be for the week of June 14, and then picked up again on the week of July 5 to the week of Aug. 23. Finally, beginning the week of September 6, vaccines will be offered to the general population aged 16 to 59 years. That campaign will continue on and off in the weeks of Sept. 27, Oct. 4 and Oct. 25. Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com, covering health care in Northern Ontario. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the federal government. Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
LOS ANGELES — Catherine Zeta-Jones was already a fan of “Prodigal Son,” so when the chance came to join the show, she jumped, lured by the prospect of working alongside Michael Sheen. The Welsh actors were born in cities about an hour apart and moved in similar circles during their youth without ever knowing each other. She was born in Swansea and Sheen was born in Newport seven months apart. “We have all these mutual friends, but we’ve never crossed. My mom and dad know his dad,” she said Tuesday in a virtual Television Critics Association panel. “It’s bizarre. That was, of course, a huge pull for me.” Zeta-Jones joins Fox’s “Prodigal Son” in Tuesday's episode, directed by co-star Lou Diamond Phillips. Previously, the Oscar winner had done guest episodes and appeared in TV movies and miniseries, but never a regular series role. She plays Dr. Vivian Capshaw and Alan Cumming appears in two episodes as a cocky Europol agent. “It’s a family drama with a twist of danger and it’s a dark family,” Zeta-Jones said. “I gravitate to kind of dark material.” Sheen’s presence increased the comfort level for Zeta-Jones to come onto a set where the cast and crew had already been together for a season. He plays an incarcerated serial killer surgeon. “As soon as Lou shouted, ‘Cut,’ Michael and I went into inside jokes, Tommy Cooper impressions,” she said, referring to the British comedian. Phillips said, “She came like a team player, she came to play. It was seamless.” Zeta-Jones told her agent she wanted to join the show on the same day she was watching “The View” talk show. “Whoopi Goldberg just randomly gives it this incredible kind of thumbs up and I’m like, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m talking about,’” she said. “That was like a stamp of approval that came from nowhere.” The show’s second season is currently airing on Fox, and the first season began streaming Tuesday on HBO Max. Beth Harris, The Associated Press
Australia's economy expanded at a much faster-than-expected pace in the final quarter of last year and all signs are that 2021 has started on a firm footing too helped by massive monetary and fiscal stimulus. The economy accelerated 3.1% in the three months to December, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed on Wednesday, higher than forecasts for a 2.5% rise and follows an upwardly revised 3.4% gain in the third quarter. The Australian dollar rose about 10 pips to a day's high of $0.7836 after the data while bond futures nudged lower with the three-year contract implying an yield of around 0.3% compared with the official cash rate of 0.1%.
Two and a half years ago, longtime safe drug supply advocate Dr. Mark Tyndall imagined an ATM-like machine that could dispense opioids. Now these machines are operating in four cities to help address the overdose crisis. The federal government announced nearly $3.5 million in funding for the MySafe project, an initiative that provides people medical-grade opioids through a biometric vending machine. This comes on the heels of the BC Coroners Service reporting 165 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in January — the largest-ever number of lives lost due to illicit drugs that month, accounting for an average of 5.3 lives each day. This is a jump from the 4.7 deaths per day recorded in B.C. last year, which saw the most people ever die due to overdose in that province. “We need to meet people where they’re at and that’s what harm reduction is all about,” said parliamentary secretary Darren Fisher, who made the funding announcement Tuesday on behalf of Health Minister Patty Hajdu. “Creative solutions like this one will help us change the course of the overdose crisis.” In order to access the MySafe machines, people must undergo a medical assessment and have a physician prescribe them the hydromorphone pills that the machine supplies. The machines are programmed to only provide the amount prescribed by the physician. They are also tamper-proof, bolted to the floor, and can only be accessed after a person scans their palm. While the machines mean no human contact, people are supervised by a health practitioner and can be connected to treatment and other health and social services. So far, more than 5,000 packets have been dispensed, according to the MySafe Society. The new funding will go towards operating and evaluating the existing five sites that were launched in late 2020. Two machines are in Vancouver, with one each in Victoria, London, Ont., and Dartmouth, N.S. Each machine can provide medication to up to 48 people, totalling about 240 people nationwide, according to Health Canada. This funding is part of the $66 million the federal government pledged in the 2020 fall economic statement to support community-based organizations responding to substance use issues. Tyndall, a University of British Columbia professor who specializes in public health, says the best way to alleviate the problem is through preventative measures. “We really need to step back and not just wait for people to overdose and intervene, but to try to offer them an alternative to prevent overdoses in the first place,” Tyndall said. While Tyndall says the five machines aren’t enough to curb the spiking overdose deaths, he notes they’re able to quickly get a safe supply to those who need it. “We’re going to continue to lose people if we’re just waiting for everybody to get into recovery or drug treatment,” Tyndall said. “All these things need to happen, but it’s just too slow.” There are 15 other machines awaiting deployment, which Tyndall hopes can be put to use in the next few years in other parts of the country. Yasmine Ghania, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
HOLTVILLE, Calif. — An SUV packed with 25 people pulled in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer on a two-lane highway cutting through farmland near the Mexican border early Tuesday, killing 13 and leaving bodies strewn across the roadway. When police arrived some of the passengers were trying to crawl out of the crumpled 1997 Ford Expedition, the front end of the rig still pushing into its left side and two empty trailers jackknifed behind it. Other victims were wandering around the fields. Twelve people were found dead when first responders reached the highway, which winds through fields in the agricultural southeastern corner of California about 125 miles (201 kilometres) east of San Diego. Another person died at a hospital, California Highway Patrol Chief Omar Watson said. “It was a pretty chaotic scene,” Watson said, who also described it as “a very sad situation.” The injuries ranged from minor to severe and included fractures and head trauma. Six people were being treated at El Centro Regional Medical Center. Four were flown to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where one person is in critical condition and the others were stable, spokesman Todd Burke said. The 22-year-old driver of the Ford Expedition was from Mexicali, Mexico, and was killed. The 69-year-old driver of the big rig, who is from nearby El Centro, was hospitalized with moderate injuries. The crash occurred around 6:15 a.m. at an intersection just outside the agricultural community of Holtville, which dubs itself the world’s carrot capital. Authorities said the tractor-trailer and its two empty containers were northbound on State Highway 115 when the SUV pulled in front of it from Norrish Road. It's not clear if the SUV ran a stop sign or had stopped before entering the highway. It's not yet known how fast the tractor-trailer was travelling. The deceased ranged in age from 20 to to 55. Among the injured, the youngest is 16 years old. The investigation will look into why so many people were crammed into the 1997 Ford Expedition, a vehicle built to hold only about eight people safely. “Obviously, that vehicle is not meant for that many people,” Watson said. “It’s unfortunate that that many people were put into that vehicle because there’s not enough safety constraints to safely keep those people in that vehicle.” The speed limit for tractor-trailers on the highway is 55 mph (88.5 kph), according to CHP Officer Jake Sanchez. The other road is also 55 mph for vehicles. A 1997 Ford Expedition can carry a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. If it had 25 people inside, that would exceed the payload limit — which would tax the brakes and make it tougher to steer, said Frank Borris, former head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation. “You’re going to have extended stopping distances, delayed reactions to steering inputs and potential over-reaction to any type of high-speed lane change,” said Borris, who now runs a safety consulting business. SUVs of that age tended to be top-heavy even without carrying a lot of weight, Borris said. “With all of that payload above the vehicle’s centre of gravity, it’s going to make it even more unstable,” he said. Officials were still working on identifying the dead and said they did not know if the SUV was carrying farm workers or migrants crossing into the country illegally. The Mexican consulate was assisting since so many people in the region live and work on both sides of the border. The harvest of lettuce and other winter vegetable crops runs from November until March, when buses and SUV carrying farmworkers are often rumbling down the rural roads to the fields in the early morning hours. The area has also seen smugglers carrying in migrants in trucks and vehicles. Hundreds of migrants who died after crossing the border are buried in unmarked graves in Holtville’s cemetery on the edge of town. The crash occurred amid verdant farms that grow a wide variety of vegetables and alfalfa used for cattle feed. Hours after the accident, a crew of a few dozen worked the fields near the scene. Macario Mora, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection in Yuma and El Centro, said the Border Patrol was helping other law enforcement with the crash. He said the immigration status of those in the SUV was unknown and being investigated. “It was an unusual number of people in an SUV, but we don’t know who they were,” Mora said, adding that they could have been farmworkers. ___ Associated Press reporters Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Julie Watson in San Diego and Anita Snow in Phoenix contributed. Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
McMurray Métis elder Anne Michalko said she felt like she was on her way to freedom when she learned she would be getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Michalko, 83, spent much of the past year in quarantine. On Thursday, she made a rare venture outside her home for her first vaccine shot. Her second shot comes one month before her birthday in May. She hopes she can celebrate turning 84 with family. “Can you imagine feeling excited to go out and get a needle?” she said. “I’m looking forward to sitting around the fire pit and enjoying each other’s company. Maybe I’ll take my great grandson for a walk.” Alberta’s vaccine rollout plan entered Phase 1B on Feb. 7, allowing anyone born before 1946 to get a vaccine. Anyone living in retirement centres, senior citizen lodges and other supportive living homes can also get vaccinated. There have been 546 people in Fort Chipewyan that have had their first vaccine dose. The community has been prioritized because of its remote location and limited health care services. The rollout has given some relief to a community with a long memory that includes the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which wiped out three-quarters of the community. One victim was Chief Alexandre Lavoilette, the first chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Chief Allan Adam of ACFN remembers stories of the Spanish Flu from his late grandmother. She was 18-years-old when the pandemic hit the community, he said. “She said people were lost because they had also lost their chief,” said Adam. “Nobody knew where to go.” Adam is thankful Fort Chipewyan has not experienced anything like the Spanish Flu over the past year. He said he is proud of the work the work the community is doing to keep people safe. “A lot of history was lost from the older people at that time,” he said. “We were lucky and we dodged a bullet this time.” Chief Peter Powder of Mikisew Cree First Nation said stories of the Spanish Flu made some people anxious to get vaccinated. “That’s where people’s heads were at, just hearing about that and how bad it was back in the day,” said Powder. Powder said encouraging young people to get vaccinated has been a priority, since they are more likely to travel outside the community. Some people have been excited to get vaccinated, but Angela Conner, a nurse with Nunee Health, said she has seen some hesitancy in the community. Nunee Health is promoting vaccination and trying to fight false information shared online. The hamlet received a second shipment of vaccines on Feb. 28. “Everything that we use is evidence-based,” said Conner. “We’ve been opening up our facility here for any questions. Quite a few people have called and we did have our nurse practitioner open for any kind of consults.” Other Métis leaders feel they have been left out of Alberta’s vaccination program. Since the first vaccines arrived in Alberta, elders on First Nations or Métis settlements have been getting vaccinated if they are between 65 and 74. Some communities that are mostly Métis are not considered settlements, meaning those elders must wait until the general public can be vaccinated in the fall. A community like Conklin, for instance, is mostly Métis and has seen 11 per cent of its population get COVID-19. But the community is considered a rural hamlet under the responsibility of the municipality. Fort McKay’s Métis community is also on municipal land and not considered a settlement. McMurray Métis has 45 elders between 65 and 74 who will be left out of Phase 1B because the Local is based in Fort McMurray. “In Alberta, it is recognized that Indigenous elders are part of a first priority,” said Bryan Fayant, McMurray Métis’ disaster and recovery strategist. “Our elders are a part of the regular rollout and I just don’t think that’s enough.” firstname.lastname@example.org Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
Washington targeted seven mid-level and senior Russian officials along with more than a dozen government entities.View on euronews
L'Agence spatiale canadienne et la NASA travaillent déjà sur les missions Artemis qui visent un retour sur la Lune d'ici 2024. Un premier pas vers une exploration plus profonde de l'espace grâce à une nouvelle station internationale. Mais avant de rêver de marcher sur Mars, il faut régler un problème majeur: comment fournir assez de nourriture aux astronautes pour des missions devant durer plusieurs années? Dans l’espoir de solliciter des milliers de cerveaux à travers le monde pour cogiter sur ce casse-tête, les agences spatiales canadienne (ASC) et américaine (NASA) ont lancé en début d’année un grand concours appelé «Défi de l'alimentation dans l'espace lointain» (Deep Space Food Challenge). Mardi midi, des experts des deux agences ainsi que des astronautes, dont le Canadien Jeremy Hansen, ont participé à une discussion virtuelle au cours de laquelle on a abordé divers aspects de l’alimentation dans l’espace. Il a notamment été question de l’importance de fournir des aliments appétissants et savoureux pour que les astronautes aient envie de manger. Un enjeu crucial pour qu’ils ne réduisent pas leur consommation de nourriture et qu’ils maintiennent une bonne santé. En bref, le principal problème demeure que si l’on part en mission d’exploration spatiale, il faut tout apporter avec soi depuis la Terre. Actuellement, il est facile d’approvisionner la Station spatiale internationale (SSI), puisqu’elle se trouve en orbite autour de la Terre, à quelques heures de vol. Dans le cas d’une mission vers Mars, par exemple, il faudrait prévoir des quantités de nourriture suffisantes pour plusieurs années. De plus, il faut tenir compte qu’il n’y a pas de réfrigérateur dans les navettes en raison du coût énergétique nécessaire au fonctionnement de tels appareils. Actuellement, on utilise des aliments déshydratés qui sont hydratés à nouveau par les astronautes dans l’espace. On utilise aussi des aliments préparés mis en conserve ou en sachets, mais leur durée de conservation poserait problème selon les experts de la NASA. Voilà pourquoi on recherche de nouvelles méthodes permettant de fournir des aliments sains et savoureux aux astronautes. On aimerait, par ailleurs, développer des moyens de produire des aliments dans un environnement hostile, comme sur la Lune ou sur Mars. Des techniques qui seraient également applicables sur Terre, comme l’a souligné l’astronaute Jeremy Hansen en parlant du concours. «C'est une opportunité incroyable pour l'humanité! D'abord pour nous donner la chance d'explorer l'espace. Ensuite, parce que c'est essentiel pour nourrir les populations en régions isolées. La sécurité alimentaire est un enjeu majeur au Canada et le transport d'aliment demeure difficile et très coûteux dans le Grand Nord notamment», a-t-il fait valoir. Il faut donc tenir compte du fait que les astronautes sont confinés à un espace limité, avec des ressources limitées et des contraintes liées à l’énergie ou au poids des équipements. Des aliments frais et variés Le principal défi que cherchent à relever les agences spatiales consiste à trouver un moyen de fournir des aliments frais aux astronautes. Comme le mentionne la scientifique en chef du programme de technologie alimentaire de la NASA, Grace Douglas, ce sont les produits frais qui sont les plus appétissants et les plus réconfortants pour les astronautes. Car au-delà de fournir uniquement des nutriments aux membres de l’équipage, il faut leur offrir des plats savoureux et variés qui leur donnent envie de s’alimenter convenablement. Chaque aliment contient une multitude de micronutriments qui sont essentiels au corps humain. «Pour être nutritif, un aliment doit être consommé!», a résumé simplement son collègue Scott M. Smith, chercheur principal au laboratoire de biochimie du Centre spatial Johnson de la NASA. Celui-ci ajoute que les données prouvent qu’une bonne alimentation limite la perte de poids des astronautes et favorise la récupération au retour sur Terre. Tous s’entendent sur le fait que le principal reproche formulé par les astronautes est le manque de variété dans le choix des aliments. En ce qui concerne l’expérience gustative, l’ex-astronaute américain Donald Thomas, qui a passé plus de 1000 heures dans l’espace en quatre missions, a déclaré que ce n’était pas si mal, mais qu’il ne mangerait jamais dans un restaurant où l’on sert ce genre de plats! Pour renchérir, Jeremy Hansen, qui attend toujours sa première assignation, a rappelé que l’absence de gravité a pour effet de faire enfler légèrement la tête et de boucher les sinus. Les aliments deviennent donc plus fades. «Il faut prévoir des mets épicés ou bien assaisonnés», a-t-il conseillé aux éventuels participants du concours. Le défi est ouvert à tous les résidants du Canada. Les entreprises, organismes à but non lucratif ou les institutions d’enseignement sont aussi admissibles. Le volet canadien du concours est coordonné par l’Agence spatiale canadienne, située à Longueuil. Des bourses sont offertes en prix à chacune des trois étapes du concours. Les équipes intéressées doivent déposer leur candidature avant le 30 juillet. Ugo Giguère, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
WASHINGTON — Domestic extremist groups pose a serious threat to the military by seeking to recruit service members into their ranks and, in some cases, joining the military to acquire combat experience, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday. The report, prepared last year at the request of Congress, did not assess whether the problem of extremism in the military is growing, but it cited a number of examples of service members with extremist affiliations. It said the number of current and former military members who ascribe to white supremacist ideology is unknown. “Military members are highly prized by these groups as they bring legitimacy to their causes and enhance their ability to carry out attacks,” the report said. “In addition to potential violence, white supremacy and white nationalism pose a threat to the good order and discipline within the military.” For example, the report noted that a Marine was discharged in 2018 for having ties to a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division, and it said the group’s co-founder served in the Army National Guard in Florida. Another Marine was determined to be the founder of a different white supremacist group, called AIM, which stands for American Identity Movement. The group spread propaganda through an operation it called “Project Siege” and as of March 2019 had about 500 members. The group’s founder was a former Marine sergeant and a former leader was an Army veteran. Several other members of the military and the Reserves were identified as being associated with the group, and the report noted that some were either demoted or discharged. The report described a social media post, reported by a service member, who claimed to “see plenty of our kind” in combat arms. The message recommended ways to identify fellow group members, saying “simply wear a shirt with some obscure fascist logo.” The military has long been aware of small numbers of white supremacists and other extremists in its ranks, but the problem burst into public awareness after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where an outsized number of military veterans and some current military members were present. It quickly fell to a new Pentagon chief, Lloyd Austin, to determine the scale of the problem and try to fix it. On Feb. 5, Austin directed all commanders and supervisors at every level of the military to conduct a one-day “stand down” — a pause in normal business — by early April to discuss extremism in the ranks. At his first Pentagon news conference two weeks later, Austin said extremism is a threat to the bonds of trust between service members, who count on cohesion to make them effective on the battlefield. “I really and truly believe that 99.9 per cent of our service men and women believe in” the oath they swear when entering the military, Austin said, adding that the actual number of extremists in the military is unknown. “I expect for the numbers to be small, but quite frankly, they’ll probably be a little bit larger than most of us would guess,” he said. “But I would just say that, you know, small numbers in this case can have an outsized impact.” Austin often mentions that he has personally witnessed the damage that racism and extremism can inflict. In 1995, when then-Lt. Col. Austin was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, three white soldiers described as self-styled skinheads were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who were walking down the street. Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race. The killing triggered an internal investigation, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinhead and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views. Robert Burns And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Naval Academy is developing plans to begin vaccinating midshipmen this month so students can deploy to ships and with Navy teams as part of their training this summer, Vice Adm. Sean Buck told Congress Tuesday. If the vaccines are available, the midshipmen would be the first military academy students to receive the COVID-19 shots. The plans come as the Naval Academy wrestles with a new uptick in positive coronavirus cases, and has locked down the campus in Annapolis, Maryland, for 10 days. Students have been restricted to their rooms for classes and meals, and can go outside for a maximum of two hours a day, with only one roommate. The lockdown was announced on Sunday, and includes the suspension of sports events and practices, other than the men's varsity basketball team, which will participate in post-season play because the athletes have been isolated since last week. Speaking to the House Defence Appropriations subcommittee, Buck said that he's given Navy leaders a timeline for when he'd like to begin giving vaccines to midshipmen who will be deploying out to the fleet. Generally, students go out on fleet cruises in the summer after their freshman year, do a four-week training stint in the fleet after their sophomore year and go on a higher-level fleet cruise after their junior year. Often the training is part of the process to determine what service job interests them. “Our Navy has prioritized the operational forces first. They’re getting vaccinated. They have a very safe and healthy bubble,” Buck told lawmakers. “And for them to be willing to accept our midshipmen from the academy as well as midshipmen from NROTC universities around the country, we need to vaccinate them prior to the summer training.” The Navy has had several small outbreaks on ships, both deployed and at home ports, and leaders have been trying to get crews vaccinated in order to avoid upticks in the virus. The USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier, had a massive outbreak early last year while at sea, and was sidelined in Guam for weeks while the crew went through a methodical quarantine process. To meet the training timelines, Buck said a small initial group of students would have to start getting vaccines by the last week of March, in order to get out to their deployments in mid-May. That would give them time to get both shots, and have two weeks to ensure their immunity was in full effect. Buck and the superintendents for the Army and Air Force academies told lawmakers that they have all started providing vaccines to their faculty and staff, based on the priorities set by the CDC and the Defence Department. But the Air Force and Army academies haven't yet begun preparations to give shots to students. Army Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., said about 4,000 staff and faculty have gotten the vaccine so far, which is about half. At the Naval Academy, more than 900 of the roughly 2,300 staff and faculty have gotten shots, including some who got vaccines in the local community based on their eligibility. The military leaders said first responders and vulnerable people are prioritized, as noted in the CDC and Pentagon guidelines. Williams added that he's confident students will want to get the vaccine once it's available. Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado, noted that the cadets are “the most healthy of our population and they fall into the lower level” of the priorities. Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
A second COVID-19 variant has been confirmed in a northern Ontario region that’s battling a deadly outbreak of cases driven by another infectious variant. The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit says two people in the area have tested positive for the variant that first originated in the U.K.The health unit says the two people in the district of Parry Sound, Ont., do not know where they caught the virus.More than 500 cases of that variant have been detected across the province since December. The region’s top doctor says the confirmation of a second variant is concerning especially because it was caught through community spread. Dr. Jim Chirico says it's essential to follow public health measures to save lives and eventually reopen the economy. On Monday the health unit reported a third death related to an outbreak of 42 cases at an apartment building in North Bay, Ont.Fifteen cases in that outbreak have been linked to a more infectious virus variant that was first detected in South Africa.North Bay has remained under strict public health orders as restrictions loosened on businesses elsewhere in the province, due to the high number of variant cases detected last month. Ontario's government will decide Friday whether to move the North Bay area, as well as Toronto and Peel Region, back into the provincial COVID-19 response framework. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month-long decline, giving urgency to the question of who should receive doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive in Canada Wednesday. The "moderate increase" at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless stricter public health measures are imposed to combat more contagious strains of the virus. “The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends," Tam said Tuesday. Canada saw 2,933 new cases on average over the past week, a figure similar to last Friday's numbers that revealed week-over-week increases of between eight and 14 per cent in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. The uptick comes as provinces figure out how to allocate their various vaccines, especially as Canada receives 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. About 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also arriving this week, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand. Guidance on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has caused some confusion. Health Canada authorized its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends it not be administered to people 65 and over. The advisory committee cites concern over limited data from clinical trials for older patients. Health Canada also acknowledges that issue. But the advisory panel, which recommends how vaccines should be used, says the limitation means seniors should take priority for the two greenlighted mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — where dearth of data is not an issue. Alberta's health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses, though details on who will get those jabs is not always clear. "With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible," the B.C. health ministry said in an email. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. will use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to target younger people who have more social interactions and who would have to wait much longer for the other vaccines. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott characterized Oxford-AstraZeneca as "very versatile " because it lacks the same cold-storage requirements as the two other vaccines in use in Canada. It won't go to seniors, but she said shots might be administered in correctional facilities for that reason. P.E.I. will target AstraZeneca at "healthy younger individuals who are working in certain front-line, essential services," said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief medical officer of health. Health officials in Quebec and New Brunswick say they await further advice from health authorities and are taking time to examine how to deploy the latest vaccine. Nova Scotia's chief medical health officer Dr. Robert Strang said the province has yet to give an answer to Ottawa "about whether we actually want to take the vaccine." All provinces must provide a response by midday Thursday, he said. Two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses. Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent. But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada. "If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that's still a win for you," Colijn said. "I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner." No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions. Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada projected a steep surge in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren't tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons. But Tam said Canada is gaining ground on "the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon" every day. "Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track," she said. Provinces have now reported 1,257 cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, 99 cases of the B. 184.108.40.206 strain first identified in South Africa, and three of the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil. There have been 870,033 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 22,017 deaths as of Monday night. There were 30,430 active cases across Canada, with an average of 42 deaths reported daily over the past week. Provinces are also figuring out whether to stick to the original injection schedules or extend the interval between doses beyond three or four weeks. The national advisory committee is expected to update its recommendations this week. Ontario is waiting for that guidance, while B.C. is pushing ahead with its plan to prolong the interval to four months. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said Monday the decision was based on local and international evidence that shows the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provides "miraculous" 90 per cent protection from the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. — With files from Camille Bains, Kevin Bissett, Laura Dhillon Kane and Holly McKenzie-Sutter. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press