A gaggle of lazy geeze relax on chunks of ice that flows down the river
A gaggle of lazy geeze relax on chunks of ice that flows down the river
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 began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. 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 The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- 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 on 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. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- 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. --- 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. --- 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 also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- 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 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Prior to the pandemic, the Gurudwara temple in Saskatoon was used as a venue to vaccinate hundreds of people against the flu. Religious leaders at the Sikh temple found it was a good way to build trust within their community while advocating for equal access to health care. "They come to the golden hour for their religious prayer anyway," said Jaswant Singh, a faith leader within the Sikh Society of Saskatchewan. It made getting vaccinated easier than going to a pharmacy. Those who didn't have a vehicle were driven in from as far as 150 kilometres to get the shot. Helping with vaccinations isn't new for religious leaders, but their efforts have become even more important due to a lack of racial data on the people getting immunizations in Saskatchewan. The lack of data means the province doesn't know if members of any particular groups have been hesitant to be inoculated. This means it doesn't know if education efforts should be targeted at specific groups. Religious leaders are often strong voices in their communities, meaning they can help combat vaccine reluctance. At the Sikh temple, vaccination clinics fulfil their religious beliefs of building community, protecting humanity and eliminating discrimination between different castes. In-person congregations at the temple have now been reduced to 30 people, so all advocacy efforts have moved online. However, with Saskatchewan now distributing COVID-19 vaccines throughout the province, religious leaders say they can help eliminate ethnic disparities during the rollout, just like they do with the flu shot. "We need to be involving diverse groups of people, and that includes religious groups so that nobody is left behind," Singh said. "Particularly, we need to pay close attention to disadvantaged people who are marginalized, who may not have usual media reach." Lack of racial data in Saskatchewan In the U.K., the government has worked closely with mosques, temples and churches to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Suresh Tikoo, director of vaccinology and immunotherapeutics program at the University of Saskatchewan, says the same should be done in this province as it helps eliminate inequalities associated with language or technological barriers. "Vaccine access has to be equal to everyone," Tikoo said. "If [the government] can involve ethnic groups and their leaders and places of worship, it would really help to get the vaccination done properly, particularly in those groups." Volunteers welcome those with appointments to a vaccination centre at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury in North London, where they are aiming to give 1,300 vaccinations a day. Faith leaders in Saskatchewan would like to see similar centres set up here. The Ministry of Health says Panorama, the vaccine tracking system used by the majority of the provinces including Saskatchewan, does not gather information about race or ethnicity, so it's unknown if any groups are being left behind. Tikoo said racial and ethnic data is important to have, and will become useful for developing future vaccines for future pandemics. "The data will help to see whether there is any disparity between different ethnic groups," Tikoo said. "Secondly, it will help to determine if any particular age group or ethnicity or sex — if any of those groups have or have not responded to a particular vaccine. "If that data is available it can very quickly be analyzed and another vaccine can be given. If that data is not available, it will take a lot of time to figure out what is the reason that the vaccine is not working in one individual or individuals." The federal government does not have its own vaccine tracking system. With gaps in the data, religious leaders are taking it upon themselves to ensure access to the vaccine and information is equally distributed. WATCH | How the U.K. is handling vaccine hesitancy in racialized communities Faith leaders take on vaccine hesitancy Since the pandemic began, faith leaders have played a central role in addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and debunking misinformation. "In many cases, people trust more of their religious leaders than politicians," said Rabbi Claudio Jodorkovsky. Pastors in the Mennonite Church have been responsible for delivering information to communal living settings and those who live remotely, said Ryan Siemens, executive minister at Mennonite Church Saskatchewan. COVID-19 news is often the topic in weekly sermons and a vaccine endorsement by a faith leader can lead to acceptance by the congregation. "There's a tremendous opportunity to disseminate information that is related to public health, related to vaccination and other things that are needed for the pandemic response," said Mateen Razi of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan. As new vaccines continue to be approved by Health Canada, faith leaders have taken on the role of debunking misinformation, and educating their congregation on the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine. Others lean on their religious leaders to understand public health orders, or to feel comfortable asking questions. "People believe you when you speak their language, and many times people have questions they're unable to express. It'd be OK to speak in English, but you're not able to express at the same level," Singh said. Religious leaders also help congregations understand what's in the vaccine. For example, members of the Muslim and Orthodox Jewish communities might have concerns about it having any sort of connection to pigs or pork. "Health and the preservation of life goes first," said Jodorkovsky. "The opposition of vaccines can not be supported by religion." Setting up clinics in places of worship Some faith leaders feel they are being underutilized during the province's vaccine rollout. "I think there's a lot of missed opportunities," Jodorkovsky said. "We are totally left out of the most important things to educate." In December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a video conference with faith leaders that was geared specifically toward the vaccine rollout. But faith leaders say they haven't heard much else from the provincial or federal governments since. Saskatchewan will offer three types of clinics to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine: mass vaccination clinics, drive-thru clinics and mobile clinics. The province does have regular conversations with an interfaith group, but vaccine rollout has not been a main part of the conversation, Siemens said. "It has been very, very messy and not organized. We can be real partners with the government," Jodorkovsky said. In addition to the province opening up clinics across the province, faith leaders say places of worship could also be used to reach ethnic minorities and ensuring the vaccine is equally available to all. The Saskatchewan government says there will be additional clinics set up in community based-settings. "When the time comes, that would be good," Siemens said. "But I think all of us are sort of in the wait and see when delivery actually gets here."
NEW YORK — The Tony Awards could bring Cynthia Erivo another Emmy. Days after the British performer belted Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” during a red carpet interview at the 2019 Tonys — explaining that it's her guilty pleasure song — she got a call from the producers of the National Geographic series “Genius: Aretha.” “I was like, ‘I beg your pardon,’” she continued. “In my head I’m like, ‘There is another film happening and I’m excited to see that, so what is this?’” NatGeo had already completed series on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, and wanted to focus on the life of Franklin, who died 2018 and was arguably the greatest singer of all time. When Erivo went to meet with the producers, she had a bit of an epiphany. “Nothing else was playing in the hotel, it was just mood music,” she said. “All of a sudden ‘Day Dreaming’ comes on as I go to sit down. I’m like, ‘Am I the only one that noticed that?’” Laughing with a huge smile on her face, she continued: “I was like, ‘Either you planned that or someone’s trying to tell me something.’’” Fast forward two years and Erivo is playing the Queen of Soul in the eight-episode series debuting March 21. “Respect,” a film about Franklin starring Jennifer Hudson, will be released in August. Erivo’s exceptional performance in Broadway’s revival of “The Color Purple” won her a Tony, Emmy and Grammy, and she was a double Oscar nominee last year for “Harriet.” In an interview with The Associated Press, edited for clarity and brevity, the 34-year-old talked about meeting Franklin, playing icons on-screen and more. AP: What does Aretha mean to you? ERIVO: She means the world to me. As a singer, I truly believe that my job is to communicate and tell the stories that sometimes are difficult for people to tell for themselves ... Aretha did that with her eyes closed. She had a wonderful way of communicating the things that she had been through, through song. AP: She has this thing by which she can take someone else’s song and make it her own. ERIVO: Totally and it’s such a special thing. Not only does she take the song and make it her own, she takes the song and you forget it was someone else’s. That to me, it’s a really special thing that she was able to do. I don’t know that people realize that “Respect” wasn’t her song first. She finds messaging in songs, in music that you didn’t realize were there in the first place. I don’t know how, but she always managed to find a way into a song that you didn’t know existed. I know that this might not be a popular opinion but when she did her version of (Adele's) “Rolling in the Deep,” I was like, “Huh, never heard this song like this before. Didn’t think about this song like this before.” At that point because she was an older woman singing this song, you’re like, all the experience that this person must have gone through to get to this point, I didn’t hear this before. Now I’m hearing it with her voice. She was one of a kind, truly. AP: Did you get a chance to meet her? ERIVO: I met her the first time when she’d come to a performance of “The Color Purple.” I didn’t know she was there. When I saw her, I felt like an idiot because I was just in shock. There is Miss Aretha Franklin standing in front of me and I’ve just finished singing a show in her presence, oh my goodness. How do I do this? She was funny and lovely. She sang the last line of “I’m Here” back to me. That was a moment I had to put my heart back together. I was like, “This is happening for real.” She was wonderful. When you meet someone like that, you don’t think they’ll remember your face. I met her again at the Kennedy Center Honors. I was singing the very first time I did it. She remembered me. She said, “You’re the girl who was in that play. You can sing. You can sing.” I was like, “Yes that’s me. Thank you very much.” I remember she was wearing red. My favourite thing about that day was when I saw the recording of it, when it finally aired, during my performance they pan to Aretha and she’s singing along with her eyes closed. AP: Were you hesitant to play her? ERIVO: It’s about wanting to make sure you do her justice (and) put as much truth in it as you possibly can. There is only one Aretha Franklin so no one can be Aretha Franklin, but you can put as much grace and truth into the re-enacting of her, the realization of her so you can tell the story in the right way. I guess if I wasn’t nervous, I wouldn’t care. AP: How do you feel about the people who say, “Cynthia doesn’t really look like Aretha?” ERIVO: No, in the same way that Diana Ross didn’t really look like Billie Holiday, but she did an incredible, incredible job when she did “Lady Sings the Blues.” ... I don’t think anyone does look like Aretha. If you found someone who looks like Aretha who couldn’t do the work, who can’t sing the songs, then that’s where you have a problem. I’d rather someone that doesn’t look like her but can give me the essence. AP: Are you excited to see the Jennifer Hudson version? ERIVO: I am. I know that they were close, and I know that they had a conversation. This is something she had been dreaming of doing. I am excited to see it. AP: How’s it been playing real-life icons on-screen? ERIVO: It’s a huge honour and it’s part of what I want for my lifetime — to be able to tell these stories of women whose stories wouldn’t get the chance to be told, whose stories deserve to be told. The more I can do that whether it be Harriet, Aretha or a woman you don’t know about who I’ve done the research to find out about, I want to keep bringing these stories to the forefront because they deserve to be told. AP: The roles you’ve played reminds me of Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall on-screen. ERIVO: When (he died) I really did have that thought. I thought to myself, “What a wonderful legacy to leave behind. To be the person we could look to who was telling the stories of these incredible men who wouldn’t have had their stories told if he didn’t exist.” I guess it was like a wakeup call. This is the job at hand. Maybe this is part of your calling — to be able to tell these stories when others are finding it hard to let them come to the forefront. Maybe it’s my job to be me in it or me creating it, making sure someone is in it. That’s also the task at hand for me. AP: There’s been so much conservation about Black British actors taking roles away from Black American actors. What are your thoughts on that? ERIVO: I hope we get to a place where we understand that my telling a story doesn’t mean the story can’t be told again. I think the way I tell a story is one version and this just should serve as the introduction to someone else going, “Oh I’m going to tell the story again.” We have many stories, many versions of the Marilyn Monroe story ... we have many versions of Abe Lincoln. There are so many versions of these stories, but our stories aren’t told over and over again. We don’t have that. I hope that this only serves as fire. We’ve had it told once, let’s tell that again. Let’s tell this part of the story. Harriet’s story isn’t done yet. She lived until she was 91. I think my story ended when she was 40-something, 45. We have another 45 years of life to tell because she did keep going. I haven’t seen that story yet. I hope someone tells that story. I hope someone goes back and tells just the specific story about the war. I hope someone goes back and tells the specific story about her suffrage life. There’s so much scope. She was a spy. We don’t know that yet. I think our story on Aretha goes to the late 80’s, early ’90s. We have another 20 years of story left to tell. As a British actress, before I am that I’m a Black woman. My job is just to tell the story just as truthfully as I possibly can. That doesn’t have to be the only story that gets told. My version shouldn’t be the only version to get told. I hope many versions get told. I think we always think this is the only and the last and it shouldn’t be. Hopefully outside of being the actress I can create a space where the stories that we want to be told again get told again. Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
Prince Edward Islanders are being advised to stay off the roads if possible Tuesday, with RCMP and plow dispatchers saying surfaces are slippery and whiteout conditions are making visibility poor in some areas. There have been at least four collisions Tuesday afternoon in the East Prince area alone — in Grand River, Summerside, Bedeque and Norboro. At least three involved multiple vehicles at intersections. "Across the Island, road conditions are slippery and snow covered," said RCMP Sgt. Chris Gunn. There's no word yet on whether there were injuries. Gunn said if you have to drive, take extra time and reduce speeds according to the conditions. The snow and wind storm began Monday afternoon and was followed in many regions by hours of rain before a deep freeze set in early Tuesday. Winds are expected to stay strong well into Wednesday. Plows were bust trying to keep the roads clear Tuesday.(Danny Arsenault/CBC) Maritime Electric has restored power to almost 1,000 customers in western P.E.I., mostly in the area around Borden-Carleton. Some COVID-19 testing clinics cancelled Health PEI first delayed and then cancelled COVID-19 testing clinics planned for Slemon Park and Three Oaks high school in Summerside and for Bordon-Carleton. Closures or cancellations due to weather can be reported to CBC's Storm Centre at 1-877-236-9350. More from CBC P.E.I.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — After more than a decade in power and a year spent battling the virus, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's popularity — boosted by his handling of the pandemic — remains high two weeks before a general election. But amid a tough COVID-19 lockdown, that support is showing signs of eroding as the Dutch grow weary of pandemic restrictions. The election is being held over three days, starting with a limited number of polling booths opening on March 15 and 16 for people who are extra vulnerable to the coronavirus before the main voting day on March 17. Some 2.4 million people aged over 70 are entitled to vote by mail. It's shaping up as a referendum on the government's handling of the unprecedented health crisis and political parties' differing plans for the country's economic and social recovery when it finally ends. Rutte's conservative People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, is currently projected to win about twice as many seats as its nearest rival in the 150-seat lower house of parliament. Political science professor Tom van der Meer of Amsterdam University says the VVD's huge lead in the polls is partly a result of the pandemic. “The popularity of Mark Rutte ... got a big boost last year due to the COVID-19 crisis,” Van der Meer said. Rutte’s regular TV appearances — to explain new lockdown measures, relax some restrictions or announce multibillion state support packages for ailing businesses —have cast him as a strong, dependable leader working tirelessly to protect his nation from the worst of the pandemic. But with the election approaching, support for the virus lockdown is fading and many Dutch businesses are growing increasingly angry at being shuttered for months. The Netherlands has seen over 15,700 deaths in the pandemic and officials fear the impact of the highly transmissible and more deadly U.K. virus variant. “We see that this rally-around-the-flag effect has diminished,” Van der Meer said. “But at the same time, voters for the VVD haven’t really yet had this clear reason to move away.” If the VVD emerges as the largest party in parliament, the 54-year-old Rutte will be first in line to form the country's next governing coalition and begin a fourth term in office. That would make him the longest-serving Dutch prime minister, overtaking the 12-year tenure of Ruud Lubbers. Opposition parties, however, are keen to stress their differences with Rutte, even though they have largely supported his government's efforts to rein in the pandemic. Parties on the left accuse him of running the country's health service down with years of market-driven reforms. Rutte's ongoing popularity is all the more striking because his government resigned in January over a scandal involving tax office attempts to root out fraud among parents claiming child benefit payments, leaving Rutte as a caretaker leader. A parliamentary inquiry concluded last year that tax office policies that included racial profiling violated “fundamental principles of the rule of law.” In the campaign's first major televised debate on Sunday, Rutte was confronted by one of the parents, Kristie Rongen, who told him: “You have failed me.” “Why do you think that you can stay on as the person who is ultimately responsible in the benefit scandal?” she asked. “I asked myself the same question,” Rutte replied. “This is such a stain, such a debacle, but I weighed up that so many things have gone well in the last 10 years and that I’m proud of and I decided in the end to keep going." The largest Dutch opposition party is the Party for Freedom led by populist, anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has harshly criticized the government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis, from the slow start of its vaccination program to its imposing a curfew. But most mainstream parties reject the idea of working in a coalition with Wilders because of his strident anti-Islam rhetoric, effectively putting his party out of the running to join a new government. The right-wing populist Forum For Democracy, which performed strongly two years ago during a provincial election, has imploded over the last year amid reports of anti-Semitism in its ranks. Some key members have left and set up a rival party that is fielding candidates in the March election. That new party is among a record 37 groups registered to take part in the election, a further fragmentation of the Dutch political landscape that could make forming a new ruling coalition tricky. After the last election in March 2017, it took a post-World War II record 225 days to form Rutte's third Cabinet. Labor Party leader Lilianne Ploumen has appealed to left-leaning parties to work together, saying “if we don't, the only one laughing will be the VVD.” ___ Follow all AP developments on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic. Mike Corder, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — Essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine now that a national panel is not recommending it for seniors, two experts say. Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeler and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horatio 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 contender to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended that the Oxford-AstraZeneca not be used for people 65 and over due to concern about limited data on how it will work in older populations, even after Health Canada authorized its use last week for all adults. Oxford-AstraZeneca reported about 62 per cent effectiveness at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent. Colijn and Bach say the fact that there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those using Oxford-AstraZeneca 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." The national committee made its recommendation against vaccinating seniors with Oxford-AstraZeneca after several provinces announced their plans Monday to ramp up vaccination programs. However, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said after the vaccine was approved last Friday more information is forthcoming showing efficacy may be higher for Oxford-AstraZeneca. Canada has ordered 24 million doses of the vaccine, with most of them expected to arrive from the United States between April and September. British Columbia's provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said essential workers including first responders, teachers and those who work in poultry factories where outbreaks have occurred may be offered the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine sooner, depending on availability. She said that while people will have limited choice on whether they could wait for the other two vaccines they should take the first vaccine that is offered. Colijn said that's all the more important if the wait for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines is several weeks or even months off, meaning fewer people would be protected from the virus. She suggested giving people a choice isn't the way to go when it comes to distributing the valuable resource of vaccines. "Maybe it's political, but from a public health standpoint it feels like vaccination is a huge collective benefit," she said. "The more vaccines that we can get out, the more robust we're going to be, the more reopenings we're going to have, the more social and economic activity we're going to enjoy and the less pandemic we're going to have." However, Bach said it would be unethical to not offer people a choice of vaccines in the same way they can make their own decisions on other aspects of their health care, though everyone should take the first vaccine they can get. "I think the way we can attract more people is to tell them that is the reality. And repeat, repeat, repeat that more than likely you're not going to be hospitalized with disease." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Asmaa Ali says slurs about her hijab and the colour of her skin have become so frequent she doesn't report them to police anymore. Whether she's running errands or on her way to work as a nurse at an Edmonton hospital, the 23-year-old Somali-Canadian says she's always looking over her shoulder. She and several other Black and Muslim women in her life are feeling more frightened in public, she says, because of an increasing number of assaults. Five Somali-Canadian women, all wearing hijabs, have been attacked or threatened in Edmonton in the last 10 weeks. "I've always been hyper-vigilant in public spaces because of my identity. But hearing about these attacks has made me more anxious and aware of my surroundings." Ali says she also has been assaulted in the past, but is too traumatized to reveal details. Avoiding public transit, not running errands alone and self-defence classes are all things she says she and her female friends and family are considering. Edmonton's Al-Rashid Mosque began offering Muslim women self-defence lessons following the recent attacks. The classes are full. Ali says the number of hate crimes reported to Alberta's police forces are not reflective of the increasing number of people approaching her with their stories of assaults. "It makes me enraged," she says. "Most of my visibly Muslim friends and family members have a story of some kind of Islamophobia. The general public hears about this through the media, while our reality is that these are our sisters and our mothers." Trent Daley is a member of Edmonton's Anti-Racism Advisory Committee. He says someone approaches him or his network on a weekly basis about an assault. Most victims are Black and Muslim women. "There's been a notable marked increase (in assaults) following the pandemic. It's so pervasive right now," Daley says. "It's full of racial epithets, full of disgusting language targeting them based off the scarf that they wear and the identity they presumed that this person has. It's dehumanizing." Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. Cheryl Voordenhout with the Edmonton Police Service says it received 60 reports of hate crimes last year. So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women. On Dec. 8, a mother and daughter were violently attacked in the Southgate mall parking lot. A week later, near the same mall, another woman was subject to racial slurs as someone tried to hit her head with a shopping bag. In February, a man made racial comments and became aggressive toward a woman at the University of Alberta transit centre. The same day, a man came up behind a woman walking in a popular neighbourhood, pushed her to the ground and made threats to kill her and tear off her burqa. The latest attack happened Feb. 17. The National Council of Canadian Muslims said a man approached a Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab at the Century Park transit station, swore at her and threatened to kill her. Political leaders, including Premier Jason Kenney, have spoken out against the attacks. But the CEO of the national Muslims council says condemnation is not enough. Mustafa Farooq says Alberta's government is turning a blind eye to an environment in which the region's racialized communities are being cast out. "Anti-Black racism is a real problem in Alberta," he says. "Black-Muslim women tend to face greater challenges than almost anyone else, because racism and gendered Islamophobia are real problems. "We can look, for example, at street harassment bylaws. We can look at ways in which anti-racism initiatives are being funded. We can look at hate crime units and their advocacy in dealing with these challenges," Farooq says. "So much can be done immediately, but it's not happening." Daley adds that recent rallies and marches in Edmonton and Calgary in opposition to COVID-19 measures are examples of how the pandemic has exacerbated racism in Alberta. Some participants were seen carrying tiki torches, which many say are a symbol used by white supremacists. Ali says the Muslim community needs support from leaders and neighbours. "It's widely researched that repeatedly experiencing racism ... causes worse health outcomes for communities of colour. In a pandemic that's brought so many of our inequalities to the forefront, these (attacks) are only making it worse," she says. "Every single time we hear that yet another woman has been attacked, we hold our breath and call our family and friends." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
It is a March break unlike any other and, with the entire province in the orange phase of recovery, activities for kids who are home all week are still happening, albeit with a few more rules. Jenna Morton, mom to twin 8-year-old sons and a 9-year-old daughter, runs Pickle Planet Moncton, a parenting resource website. She says this week, everything will require an extra layer of thought for parents. "Parents have had to get really creative over the past year in figuring out how to get out and do things without going far and without going into crowds," she said. Her top pieces of advice are to make an effort to go out early, when it isn't as busy, and to always call ahead. Wendy Hudson, CEO of Broadleaf Ranch in Hopewell Hill, said all of their overnight accommodations, which includes cabins and glamping sites are booked solid for the week. "We're busier than normal for spring break because people aren't going to Florida and they have to stay at home." Wendy Hudson of Broadleaf Ranch said all of their accommodations are booked solid for March break. Tourism operators are looking forward to a boost in business during a "busier than normal" spring break since families are staying closer to home. With contactless check-in, she said guests can drive straight to their cabins without coming into contact with anyone. "They literally can drive to their cabin in the woods and it's unlocked and the keys on the table and the fireplace is on. Enjoy yourself, enjoy the view, enjoy the hiking trails, enjoy the nature — we're lucky to be able to offer that." Families sticking close to home Morton and her family will be sticking close to home this March break. She says with young children she is lucky that unexpected treats, such as a "double-movie night," are just as exciting as a more ambitious activity that requires packing everyone into the car. "Watching two movies in a row is not something they're used to doing," she said. "So when they said, 'Can we watch a second movie tonight?' And I said, 'Yes,' that was a huge event…so really finding those fun little moments — saying yes to little things that maybe you don't usually do." She said that's also less stressful for her. Jenna Morton advises that sites for outdoor activities, such as sledding or skating, are less busy in the mornings so families may want to make the effort to get out early to avoid the crowds. Morton warns that if you are hoping to venture out, make sure you call ahead rather than depending on websites, avoid the most popular spots everyone is posting about on social media, and be realistic. "If it's not something that's booking ahead of time, you're not guaranteed you're going to get in so how well do your kids deal with disappointment? How well do you deal with disappointment?" Always have a back-up plan April Morton, vice president of child and youth programs at the Greater Moncton YMCA, advises parents to be ready to pivot. The newly opened north end Y has an outdoor skating rink and sliding hill along with an indoor splash pad and walking track. The two locations are also offering themed day-camps, open gym times and youth drop-ins. All of the activities are first-come, first-serve with no pre-booking, so if one activity is at its limit, it is a good idea for parents and children to be prepared. "Maybe families want to bring their snow gear, and if the splash pad is too busy maybe they want to take in some activities outside at our skating rink or outside on the sliding hill or outside on the playground structure as well." Zane Korytko, the CEO of the YMCA of Greater Moncton, shows off the indoor splash pad at the new Y in the city's north end. The splash pad is open during March break but there is a limit on how many people can be inside because of COVID-19 rules. Silver-linings of pandemic March break Jenna Morton said there are some up-sides to COVID-19 regulations. With regular cleaning and smaller crowds, many experiences are more fun for kids, and parents, who find busy spots overwhelming. "Taking my three kids to a place like Hop, Skip, Jump used to be a lot of work. Now it's like, oh, well, they're only open certain times and for a certain number of people. And so it's a much different experience," she said. "It can be really a fun time to take in some of those things." Horseback riding and family sleigh rides are the ideal pandemic activity because it is easy to maintain physical distancing, said Wendy Hudson of Broadleaf Ranch. Adventure activities have been in high demand for the past year. Hudson said Broadleaf Ranch, which has struggled this past year, is looking forward to a boost in business during the March break, and is still taking reservations for horseback riding and sleigh rides. She said the worst part has been the uncertainty, although she has her fingers crossed that New Brunswick will make it through March break without an outbreak. "Things can change so fast, so that unknown is very worrisome and it's stressful especially with the new variants," she said. "When COVID is under control and people can get out and move around and go on their mini staycations — then yes, business is good. People are wanting to do it, people are wanting what we offer. But it's just a matter of whether they can do it or not." Jenna Morton encourages families to get creative during the March break. She has heard from many parents who are having theme days at home. Jenna Morton says theme days are an easy way to have fun at home during March break. Her family wore a different colour of the rainbow each day of the week last year. I know one family is doing a really cool challenge among themselves," she said. "Each person picked a day of the week and had a different theme and that person had to come up with a recipe that went with somewhere they'd like to travel." It may take a bit more planning and work for parents, but Jenna says, "that's kind of what the pandemic has been about for us right?"
OTTAWA — A majority of Canadians believe Ottawa will follow through on its plan to provide enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for everyone who wants a shot by the fall, a new poll suggests. Fifty-six per cent of respondents are confident the federal government can buy enough vaccine to ensure inoculation for those who seek it by September, according to an online survey by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies. Canadians on both coasts and in Quebec were optimistic about their provinces' rollout plans as well as that of the feds. Respondents in Ontario and the Prairies were more skeptical, with just one in three Albertans expressing faith in their government's delivery scheme. The poll also found that most residents are in no rush to lift anti-pandemic lockdowns, with two-thirds saying restrictions should remain at least until half the population is immunized. Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says the ramp-up in vaccine shipments last week likely brightened Canadians' views of federal distribution efforts. Only two weeks ago, 69 per cent of respondents blamed Ottawa rather than provincial governments for delays in vaccine delivery, Léger found. "There’s been a bit of a change over the past couple of weeks," Bourque said in an interview. "The news we got about the doses coming in from Pfizer and the new doses acquired from (Moderna) plus the fact that we approved AstraZeneca … all of these elements together have actually had some positive influence on Canadians’ confidence that we will get vaccinated before the deadline that the federal government set for itself." Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly promised to secure enough doses to immunize all willing Canadians by the end of September. The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently expecting delivery of about 445,000 doses of various vaccines this week, following last week’s record high of 640,000 doses in a seven-day period. It's unclear when the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — approved by the public-health agency on Friday — will arrive in the country, but a senior government official told The Canadian Press on background the first doses could land as early as mid-week, boosting the total. Now, attention turns to the provinces as shipments start to pour in and provincial administration is put to the test. Despite the challenges of ongoing public health restrictions, the more prudent strain of Canada's national character is visible behind the responses to the Léger survey, Bourque suggested. "The majority of Canadians are extremely careful about what should happen and when, depending on the pace at which we vaccinate," he said, referring to lockdown lifts. "Basically, there’s no rush." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
Officials with the B.C. government are investigating alleged logging at a registered archeological site near the Sunshine Coast community of Sechelt, believed to be an ancient shíshálh Nation burial site with about 200 cairns, or stone mounds. Robert Joe, a former shíshálh Nation band councillor, and his partner discovered the logging last week during a visit to the site. Joe filed a complaint with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations on Thursday. He occasionally visits the site on the east side of Sechelt Inlet to show summer camp students the burial mounds, and teach them about the nation's culture and history, but Joe hadn't paid a visit in about a year and a half. Last Monday he and his partner went to do some reconnaissance, before bringing some Capilano University students to the site. "Lo and behold when we got up there, everything was logged over and the skidder marks — the skidder machine — skidded over everything, cut down all the trees all the way around," said Joe. "It's complete devastation, and somebody's got to be responsible for this," he said. The area in question is private property adjacent to shíshálh Nation land around the Sechelt Indian Band Salmon Hatchery. Joe said he knew there were plans log there, but he understood there would be a buffer zone around the cairns. Some of the little mounds of moss-covered stones could be easy to miss, but according to Joe, it's a registered archeological site, DJRW-37, after exploration confirmed the burial site in 2015. The 200 cairns in a roughly two-hectare area are about 2,000 years old, much older than the big cedar trees that have been cut down around them. A spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations did not confirm the logged area is in fact the registered archeological site, but he said the province is actively investigating the alleged incident. "Archaeological sites in B.C. are protected by the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA), whether they are known or unknown, or located on private or Crown land," said the spokesperson in a written statement. "Archaeological sites cannot be damaged or altered without a permit issued by the Archaeology Branch." Chief Henry Warren Paull with shíshálh Nation said he had heard about the alleged logging, but added that the Nation wouldn't comment on the situation. For Joe, the logged area has a profoundly spiritual significance — it gave him a feeling of belonging. "It's heartbreaking," he said of the logging. "This is our history, and this is our culture." "It's a complete desecration of a sacred site of our First Nation," said Joe. A discovery at another shíshálh burial site further up the inlet led to an exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History in 2017. That site, believed to be about 4,000 years old, contained human remains along with hundreds of thousands of stone and shell disc beads.
Two Nigerian nurses were attacked by the family of a deceased COVID-19 patient. One nurse had her hair ripped out and suffered a fracture. The second was beaten into a coma. Following the assaults, nurses at Federal Medical Centre in the Southwestern city of Owo stopped treating patients, demanding the hospital improve security. Almost two weeks passed before they returned to work with armed guards posted around the clock. “We don’t give life. It is God that gives life. We only care or we manage,” said Francis Ajibola, a local leader with the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives. The attack in Nigeria early last month was just one of many on health workers globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report by the Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and facilities last year. Researchers found that about 400 of those attacks were related to COVID-19, many motivated by fear or frustration, underscoring the dangers surrounding health care workers at a time when they are needed most. Insecurity Insight defines a health care attack as any physical violence against or intimidation of health care workers or settings, and uses online news agencies, humanitarian groups and social media posts to track incidents around the world. “Our jobs in the emergency department and in hospitals have gotten exponentially more stressful and harder, and that’s at baseline even when people are super supportive,” said Rohini Haar, an emergency physician in Oakland, California, and Human Rights Center research fellow. “To do that work and to do it with commitment while being attacked or with the fear of being attacked is heartbreaking to me.” Medical professionals from surgeons to paramedics have long confronted injury or intimidation on the job, especially in conflict zones. Experts say many attacks are rooted in fear or mistrust, as family members react to a relative’s death or a community responds to uncertainty around a disease. The coronavirus has amplified those tensions. Ligia Kantún has worked as a nurse for 40 years in Mexico and never felt threatened until last spring. As she was leaving a hospital in Merida in April, she heard someone shout the word “Infected!” She was drenched in hot coffee before she could turn around. “When I got home 10 minutes later my daughter was waiting for me and I hugged her crying, all scared, thinking, ‘How is it possible that they have done this to me?’” she told The Associated Press. Kantún said many people in Mexico at the time thought health workers wore the same uniforms in public that they wore when treating coronavirus patients. “That ignorance was what made them act that way,” she said. Researchers saw the most attacks last spring and summer as the coronavirus swept across the globe. Yet recent events from Nigeria to the Netherlands, where in January rioters set fire to a coronavirus testing centre, prove the threat remains. Haar said she expected health care workers to be widely celebrated for their lifesaving work during the pandemic, just as Italians sang tributes to doctors during the lockdown. “But actually that didn’t happen in many, many places,” she said. “There’s actually more fear, more distrust, and attacks grew rather than decreased.” Many attacks may have gone undetected because they are never reported to police or in the media. Insecurity Insight scrambled to expand its monitoring as a flood of attacks were detected in countries that have traditionally been safe for health workers, said director Christina Wille. In the United States, for example, researchers counted about a dozen threats to health care workers last year. Several incidents involved the injury or arrest of street medics during Black Lives Matter protests. “I think in the U.S. the culture has been more of trusting health workers,” Haar, the emergency physician, said. “There hasn’t been a longstanding conflict where there’s been a dissonance between health workers and the community.” Yet health workers in the U.S. are still subject to great risk. Hospital employees in the U.S. are nearly six times as likely as the average worker to be the victim of an intentional injury, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and last month a Minnesota medical assistant was killed during a shooting at a clinic by a former patient unhappy with his treatment. Misinformation has spurred violence in some cases. Wille said her team looked closely at social media postings in April after three Ebola treatment centres were ransacked in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “We could actually see that there was a build-up over several days of misinformation about what they call the ‘Ebola business,’ that this was all related to people inventing the disease,” she said. Experts say that even though health workers are in many cases the target of attacks, entire communities suffer when they lose access to medical care after a clinic or medical facility is forced to close due to threats. “You’re robbing the community of the service they would have provided,” said Nyka Alexander, who leads the World Health Organization’s communications on health emergencies. With or without a pandemic, the most dangerous places for health workers are often areas of conflict and political upheaval. Last year, hundreds of threats and acts of violence were tracked in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Naser Almhawish, surveillance co-ordinator for Syria’s Early Warning Alert and Response Network, said he faced threats several times while working as a doctor in the city of Raqqa. He recalled the day in 2012 at Ar-Raqqa National Hospital when armed men confronted him in the middle of an operation, saying they’d kill him if the patient died. “You just freeze and you know that you are working and you are trying to save this guy,” he said. “This is our duty. I didn’t ask if this guy was a military, civilian or anything. He’s a human being who needed an operation.” Almhawish said such attacks on health care settings in Syria had waned in the last year. Researchers said declining violence in the country was the reason they didn't see a greater surge in total health care attacks in 2020. Kantún, the nurse in Mexico, said she went almost eight months after the attack last April without wearing her nursing scrubs in public. Now, one year into the pandemic, she feels health workers are more respected. But she still worries. “I’ve had that fear of going out and finding my car scratched, or my car window broken,” she said. “I do have that fear, since I lived it.” ___ Helen Wieffering is a Roy W. Howard Fellow. Joshua Housing is an investigative fellow on the global investigative team. ___ Contributing to this report are AP video journalist Federica Narancio and Anne Daugherty and Devon Lum at the University of California, Berkeley Human Rights Center Investigations Lab. Helen Wieffering And Joshua Housing, The Associated Press
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, was set to throw a Zoom party in quarantine to celebrate his 90th birthday on Tuesday, as President Vladimir Putin hailed him as an "outstanding statesman" who influenced the course of history. Gorbachev, who championed arms control and democracy-oriented reforms as Soviet leader in the 1980s, is widely credited with helping end the Cold War. His critics in Russia blame him for what they regard as the unnecessary and painful breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
TOKYO — Two Americans suspected of helping former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn skip bail and escape to Lebanon in December 2019 have been extradited to Japan. Michael Taylor and his son Peter had been held in a suburban Boston jail since May. They were handed over to Japanese custody on Monday and were due to arrive in Tokyo on Tuesday. Ghosn, who led Nissan Motor Co. for more than two decades, was arrested in 2018, and charged with under-reporting his future compensation and breach of trust in diverting Nissan money for personal gain. He says he is innocent. WHAT ARE THE FATHER AND SON ACCUSED OF DOING? Michael Taylor, with the help of another man, George-Antoine Zayek, hid Ghosn in a large black box supposedly containing audio equipment, according to the authorities. The box passed through airport security in Osaka, central Japan, and was loaded onto a private jet that flew Ghosn to Turkey. Peter Taylor is accused of meeting with Ghosn and helping his father carry out the escape. Authorities say the Taylors were paid at least $1.3 million. WHERE WILL THEY BE TAKEN AND WHAT HAPPENS THERE? The Taylors, like other suspects, can be held up to 23 days without any formal charges at the Tokyo Detention Center on the outskirts of the capital and questioned for hours almost daily by prosecutors, without a lawyer present. Their lawyer can visit and they can receive snacks and books. The detention can be extended with “rearrests,” if more charges are tagged on. Ghosn spent more than 100 days at the centre before gaining his release on bail. The solitary cells are simple, with Japanese-style futon mattresses. The centre, which is different from prisons for people who have been convicted, also has an exercise area and clinic. IS THIS THE ROUTINE TREATMENT OF SUSPECTS IN JAPAN? The Japanese treatment of suspects has been widely criticized as “hostage justice,” designed to coerce suspects to confess and often resulting in false confessions. The Taylors’ lawyers in the U.S. say they worry they may be treated unfairly in Japan and subjected to “mental and physical torture.” They also argue that jumping bail is not a crime under Japanese law. That is technically accurate, but most people who escape are easily caught in Japan. Japanese prosecutors say they have enough evidence to convict the Taylors. WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED IF THEY GO ON TRIAL? Even after formal charges are filed, closed-door pre-trial sessions by the prosecutors and defendants before a judge generally go on for months. The media have no access to such sessions. Jury trials exist in Japan, but only for murders and other heinous crimes. A panel of three judges will hear the Taylors' case in a trial that could last months or even years. English translation will be provided during the trial. Media coverage is allowed, but no filming or recording. If convicted, the Taylors face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,900). They could get a suspended sentence and not serve time. In principle, just as in the U.S., people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But 99% of criminal trials end in convictions. WHERE IS CARLOS GHOSN AND CAN HE BE TRIED? Japan has put Ghosn on Interpol's wanted list, but Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan. Extradition from the U.S. isn’t common, so the extradition of the Taylors for an alleged nonviolent crime reflects the determination of Japanese prosecutors to pursue the case against Ghosn. Ghosn is almost certain to be extradited if he sets foot in the U.S. Former Nissan senior executive Greg Kelly is on trial in Tokyo on charges he helped under-report Ghosn’s compensation. Kelly, an American, says he is innocent. ___ Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. There are 870,033 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 870,033 confirmed cases (30,430 active, 817,586 resolved, 22,017 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,559 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 80.07 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,525 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,932. There were 23 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 295 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 42. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.93 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,545,470 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 989 confirmed cases (240 active, 743 resolved, six deaths). There were two new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 45.97 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 50 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is seven. There were zero new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.05 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 197,997 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 132 confirmed cases (18 active, 114 resolved, zero deaths). There were no new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 11.28 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 17 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 103,458 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,642 confirmed cases (35 active, 1,542 resolved, 65 deaths). There was one new case Monday. The rate of active cases is 3.57 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 32 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 334,183 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,431 confirmed cases (37 active, 1,367 resolved, 27 deaths). There was one new case Monday. The rate of active cases is 4.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been seven new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There were no new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.46 per 100,000 people. There have been 237,242 tests completed. _ Quebec: 288,353 confirmed cases (7,590 active, 270,364 resolved, 10,399 deaths). There were 613 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 88.52 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,426 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 775. There were six new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 82 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,302,949 tests completed. _ Ontario: 301,839 confirmed cases (10,570 active, 284,283 resolved, 6,986 deaths). There were 1,023 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 71.74 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,695 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,099. There were six new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 114 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 16. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.41 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,898,699 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 31,894 confirmed cases (1,171 active, 29,827 resolved, 896 deaths). There were 35 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 84.9 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 419 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 60. There was one new reported death Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 532,555 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 28,801 confirmed cases (1,551 active, 26,865 resolved, 385 deaths). There were 154 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 131.59 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,004 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 143. There were zero new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 13 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.66 per 100,000 people. There have been 575,410 tests completed. _ Alberta: 133,795 confirmed cases (4,674 active, 127,233 resolved, 1,888 deaths). There were 291 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 105.7 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,459 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 351. There were two new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 45 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is six. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.15 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 42.7 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,403,106 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 80,672 confirmed cases (4,533 active, 74,776 resolved, 1,363 deaths). There were 438 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 88.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,409 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 487. There were eight new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.48 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,928,448 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death). There were no new cases Monday. There have been no new cases over the past seven days. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,168 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (three active, 39 resolved, zero deaths). There were no new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been no new cases over the past seven days. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,519 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 358 confirmed cases (eight active, 349 resolved, one death). There was one new case Monday. The rate of active cases is 20.33 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been seven new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,660 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
HONG KONG — A court hearing for 47 democracy activists charged under Hong Kong's national security law resumed Tuesday, following a marathon session that was adjourned well past midnight after one defendant appeared to collapse and was taken away in an ambulance. The court is weighing whether to grant bail to the activists, who were detained and charged Sunday over their involvement in an unofficial primary election last year that authorities say was part of a plot to paralyze Hong Kong's government. Less than half of the bail proceedings were heard on Monday when the court adjourned the session at about 2 a.m. The hearing resumed later Tuesday morning, although at least four defendants who were taken to the hospital in the early hours of Tuesday were not present in the morning session. The national security law, which China imposed on Hong Kong last June in response to months of anti-government protests, makes it a crime to overthrow, seriously interfere in, disrupt or undermine Hong Kong's government. The law, which also criminalizes acts that incite Hong Kong's secession from China, collusion with foreign powers and terrorism, has largely silenced protest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The 47 activists, who include prominent leaders such as Joshua Wong and Benny Tai, were among 55 arrested in January on suspicion of subversion in what was by far the biggest sweep by police since the security law's enactment. The 47 were formally charged Sunday. Authorities have not said whether the other eight will be charged. Defence lawyers are fighting against a bid by the prosecution to remand the activists in custody for three months while police conduct investigations, arguing that the activists should not have been charged if the case against them was not ready. A clause under the national security law specifies that bail will not be granted to suspects unless the judge has sufficient grounds to believe that defendants “will not continue to commit acts endangering national security." Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the courthouse Monday, displaying slogans in favour of the 2019 pro-democracy protests advocating greater local autonomy. Some chanted protest slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" — which the Hong Kong government has said has secessionist connotations and thus could contravene the national security law. China has cracked down hard on such calls, demanding changes to the legal and educational systems to inculcate loyalty to the ruling Communist Party. Hong Kong's security secretary, John Lee, defended the national security law at a webinar Monday during a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting. “The effect of the law is obvious and direct,” he said, according to a transcript. “Violence has dropped significantly. Advocacy of ‘Hong Kong independence' subsided." The 47 charged this week were involved in primaries held by the pro-democracy camp last year to determine the best candidates to field to try to win a majority in the legislature. If the pro-democracy camp had won a majority, at least some members of the camp had plans to vote down major bills that would eventually force Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign. Authorities said the activists’ participation in the primary was part of a plan to paralyze the city’s legislature and subvert state power. Human Rights Watch said Hong Kong should drop the charges against the activists. “The Hong Kong authorities are using the Beijing-imposed National Security Law to wrongfully charge 47 people who sought peaceful change through the democratic process,” Maya Wang, senior China researcher at the New York-based organization, said in a statement. Nearly 100 people have been arrested under the national security law. Serious offenders could face life imprisonment. Zen Soo, The Associated Press
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The province's COVID-related death toll has risen to 28. Public Health announced Tuesday that a person aged 80 to 89 has died as a result of underlying complications, including COVID-19. The person was a resident of the Manoir Belle Vue home in Edmundston. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell both extended condolences to the family, with Russell noting the death is "a sad reminder that this virus is not done with our province." There are currently 36 active cases, with four zones reporting no active cases.(CBC News) Four new cases, presumptive variant case identified Public Health also announced four new cases on Tuesday, all of them in the Miramichi region, Zone 7, and a presumptive variant case. The presumptive case, a recent confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Miramichi region, will be sent to Winnipeg's National Microbiology Laboratory for confirmation, the department said. The new cases announced Tuesday break down in this way: an individual 20 to 29 two people 50 to 59 an individual 60 to 69 The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 1,435. Since Monday, three people have recovered for a total of 1,370 recoveries. There have been 28 deaths, and the number of active cases is 36, with four of seven zones reporting no active cases. Three patients are in hospital, and all are in intensive care. A total of 229,787 tests have been conducted, including 550 since Monday's report. Prince Edward Island's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Heather Morrison, said Tuesday that every adult would receive one dose of the vaccine by the end of June.(Kirk Pennell/CBC News file photo) P.E.I.'s ramped-up rollout: Every adult gets one dose by July Prince Edward Island's chief public health officer announced a new vaccination schedule Tuesday, based on a plan to delay providing second doses of vaccines in order to get first doses out to more people sooner. P.E.I. is expecting delivery of 100,000 doses between April 1 and the end of June, Dr. Heather Morrison said. Based on those deliveries, and the anticipated change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, Morrison said every Islander over 16 will be offered a single dose by the end of June. The previous schedule had vaccinations for the general public only beginning in July. The province also announced four new cases on Tuesday, and said two past cases have been confirmed as the B117 variant, in two women who had travelled off island. P.E.I. is currently in a three-day lockdown, announced Monday, after 12 cases were reported and the number of active cases rose to 18 over the weekend, the most since the spring. The Anglophone North School District announced a case of COVID-19 at Miramichi Valley High School on Monday.(Miramichi Valley High School archive) Case confirmed at Miramichi high school The Anglophone North School District announced a positive case of COVID-19 at Miramichi Valley High School. In a tweet Monday night, the school district said it's working with Public Health officials to identify any students and school personnel who might have been in contact with the case. "It is natural to want to know if your child may have been exposed to the virus," said Mark Donovan, superintendent of Anglophone North School District in a message to parents. "Public Health officials will inform those who are at risk of the next steps, but to protect the privacy of students and school personnel, other details including names, will not be released." What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: A fever above 38 C. A new cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.
Unlike many teenagers, Abdoulaye Diakhaby was petrified to turn 18. He had spent the previous four years in the child-welfare system living first in a foster home, then a group home. But at 18, he was forced to be on his own. Diakhaby, who is now 21, says he didn't feel ready; he was still perfecting his English, he didn't know how to cook and needed help with homework. "I was thinking, 'How am I going to be able to do my groceries? How to cook? How to go to school? How to pay my rent? How to get a job?'" he told CBC Toronto. Days after moving into his own place, Diakhaby returned to the group home for a couple of nights to sleep. He was lonely and isolated. Diakhaby says if he could, he'd still be living there, instead of having to make the transition away. "Everything was tough for me," he said. Diakhaby says prior to leaving care at 18, he worried about how he'd buy groceries, cook, get to school, pay rent and find a job.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the province placed a moratorium on youth aging out of care and has extended it to Sept. 30, 2022. Just under 12,000 children and youth in care CBC News has learned the Ontario government will use the time to redesign how young people leave the system by doing away with the current age cut-off. Instead, provincial officials say they plan to ensure youths feel confident and prepared. According to the province, just under 12,000 children and youth are in the child-welfare system. About half of youths who experience homelessness in Ontario were involved in that system, more than half drop out of high school and 57 per cent rely on social assistance, according to a 2017 report by the now-closed Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. Jill Dunlop, the associate minister of children and women's issues, says the government wants children to meet key milestones before they leave care. "We're building a model that's going to work for them," Dunlop said in an interview. "Young people take different paths, but we want to ensure that the supports are there." Under the current system, some young people who leave care are eligible for financial assistance until age 21 and other supports until 24. Still, advocates who have been calling for a readiness-based model say those supports haven't been close to enough. "The system itself was traumatizing and it retraumatized them," said Irwin Elman, Ontario's former — and only — child and youth advocate. "When they left the system, they felt dumped out and as one young person said, 'shoved off the edge of a cliff, alone, with nothing and expected to do well.'" The Ford government cut Elman's position and closed the office in 2018 and moved his responsibilities to the Ombudsman's office. What the new system will look like and how it will work is still being determined. The ministry says it's working with former children in care, advocates and others to design the program. More than 2,500 young people expected to age out by 2022 will be protected by the moratorium, according to Dunlop. New system must give youth a voice, advocates say When Cheyanne Ratnam aged out of care at 18, she took a blanket with her that symbolized a piece of family she knew she was losing. She survived childhood sexual abuse and other trauma before entering the child-welfare system, and says although it was the "lowest low," she was relieved to finally have a safe place to sleep. "I was just so happy to be away from abuse and not really having stability," she said. Ratnam is now the co-founder and president of Ontario Children's Advancement Coalition, which is partnering with the ministry to help develop the new model. She calls it an "ethical system reset" and says the decision on when a youth leaves should include input from designated support people. Ultimately, she says, the people in care should decide when it's time to be on their own. Cheyanne Ratnam was in the child-welfare system and is now the co-founder and president of Ontario Children’s Advancement Coalition, which is partnering with the government to help develop the new model. (Children's Aid Foundation of Canada ) "It should be in a way where young people are supported to make those decisions and not have decisions made for them so they can take ownership of their lives," she said. She also says the new model shouldn't include any sort of age cut-off and young people should be able to return to care if they choose to after leaving. "When you're alone in the community, a lot of trauma gets relived," she said. Ratnam says the child-welfare system funnels young people into homelessness, mental health issues and the justice system, and that the new model should help avoid that and set young people up for success. Conner Lowes, the president and Ontario director of Youth in Care, co-authored a letter to the province calling for a new system to be designed.(Honour Stahl) Ratnam and Conner Lowes, the president and Ontario director of Youth in Care Canada, co-authored a letter in June to the ministry calling for a new system to be designed. Lowes is also working with the province on the new model and says it's imperative it listen to those who experienced the current system. "It sets the precedent for that to be the standard, that the people [the system] is being designed for should be helping to create it," he said. "Because how else can we know what a system should look like if you're not asking the people that you're making the system for?" Support networks vital Shomari Mabayeke was placed in five different foster homes in five years. "It's kind of hard to trust people," he told CBC Toronto. "I'd move again and then it was kind of numbing after that because then I didn't make any new friends." Mabayeke first entered the system at 13 and says some homes were better than others. He aged out five years ago. "My process of coming out of care was more like, 'I just want to be gone. I don't care. Like, this is the worst thing ever,'" he said. Mabayeke says while he felt ready to be on his own at the time, he realizes now he wasn't taught certain skills, such as cooking or financial planning. Shomari Mabayeke looks through a basket of groceries delivered to him by StepsStones for Youth, a charity that helps young people transition out of the child-welfare system.(Angelina King/CBC) "They didn't do anything to prepare us for reality," he said. "You don't really get all the skills that growing up with an actual family and interacting with a loving family would give you." Mabayeke says he received some government assistance while transitioning out of care, but still relies on StepStones for Youth, a charitable organization in Toronto. "I feel like there would have been a really disastrous, chaotic moment if I didn't … use resources," he said. StepsStones helps youths who leave care secure housing, complete education and build support networks based on their interests. Heather O’Keefe, who runs StepStones for Youth, says the biggest challenge young people face when they leave the child-welfare system is not having a support network.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) "They deserve what other young people deserve," executive director Heather O'Keefe said. "They need to have people that care about them and guide them through life choices. And not only people who are paid to care for them, but people who actually genuinely care for them." Diakhaby also receives support from StepStones. He's unemployed right now and says it's been hard finding a job during the pandemic, but would like to be a plumber one day. He recently turned 21 and will soon lose his government financial assistance, but says he'll continue to rely on help and guidance from StepsStones. "They care about me," he said.
Although difficult months remain ahead — especially for poorer countries lacking the resources to buy vaccines — the end of the coronavirus pandemic in the developed world is now in sight. Virus variants remain an unpredictable element but trendlines suggest that the great majority of deaths anticipated in developed countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic have occurred already. The range of impacts on different countries can be seen in the statistics as the first full year of the pandemic draws to a close. These statistics show how Canada has fared compared to the five other Western members of the G7: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy. The numbers do not explain why one country did better than another — whether it was the policies of the national government, the actions of local governments, the foresight of its health authorities or the nature of its society and the behaviour of its people. When historians look back on this pandemic, the first yardstick they'll apply to measure its severity is, of course, the number of people it killed. How bad did it get? The United States is now coming down from its third wave of COVID infections. Canada has only had two so far. The peak came at different times in different places — but each of the six countries in this comparison experienced one week that was worse than any other. In France and Italy, the pandemic peaked in November 2020, but in North America and the U.K. the first two weeks of 2021 were the worst. On January 8, Canada reported a single-day record of 9,214 new cases. The following day, the U.S. reported a single-day record of 315,106 new cases. A health care worker walks through the post-vaccine waiting area at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Peel Region in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, March 1, 2021. The peak of intensity is measured here by the highest recorded daily caseload, per capita. At the pandemic's height in the U.K., U.S. and France, COVID-19 was infecting almost one person in a thousand every day. In Canada, that number never reached one in 4,000. Canada had the least intense pandemic of the six. Immunizations vs infections Vaccinations are the magic bullet that will end this pandemic. Some countries have done far better than others in administering them. The U.K.'s vaccination effort started strong and stayed that way. Germany and the U.S. showed steady increases week over week. France was slow to start but soon caught up. Italy and Canada faltered and lost ground. But vaccinations don't tell the whole story. Vaccines entered the picture as much of the western world was racing to get ahead of a new wave of infections. Canada placed last among this group of nations in terms of doses per capita. But it also has posted the lowest per capita caseloads through 2021. The U.K. was the undisputed winner of the vaccine race but posted the worst per capita caseloads and death rates of the six. And the nation with the second-best record on vaccinations — the U.S. — had the second-worst caseloads. If this analysis had included the one non-Western member of the G7, Japan, that inversion would be even more extreme. Japan has only one-eighth the death rate of Canada, but Canada has vaccinated about 300 times as many people as Japan on a per capita basis. Given this strange inversion, how should we measure each nation's overall performance? The next graph attempts to do that by dividing each nation's total number of vaccines administered, week over week, by the number of new cases it recorded in the same week, to give an overall score — call it the "O Factor" — that may offer a clearer picture of how much progress each country has made so far in 2021. The O Factor penalizes countries for failing to control infections in the present, but gives credit for the future caseload reductions they can expect to achieve by getting needles in arms now. The damage to economies Historians will one day study the pandemic's social and economic effects. Some of those effects aren't clear yet. By killing a vast number of European peasants, the Black Death transformed the labour market, allowing workers to demand more for their work and ultimately helping to free them from feudalism. Perhaps this (far less apocalyptic) pandemic will free workers from the bondage of commuting and cubicles. Whatever changes it leaves in its wake, it's clear the economic blow of the pandemic has not fallen evenly on all nations. The six countries we're comparing here have taken different approaches to pandemic-related shutdowns and layoffs. Some (such as Canada) went big on public spending, while others held back. And some countries will struggle more than others with the debts they have accumulated. Some countries' measures, such as Canada's, were directed more toward items that appear in the budget (tax forgiveness or direct expenditures such as the Canada emergency response benefit) while others such as Italy kept most of their interventions off their budget bottom line (through measures such as loans to industry, or the purchase of an equity share in Alitalia). All six of the nations measured here saw nearly unprecedented spikes in the number of unemployment claims as the pandemic took hold. But some were hit harder than others and some bounced back faster than others. The graphs shown here only offer snapshots of a pandemic that isn't over yet. Although immunization appears to offer a path out of this global disaster, new mutations and new variants have the potential to delay that. Unless Canada can improve its vaccination performance, other countries probably will be quicker to bend their rates of death and hospitalizations downward, closing a gap that currently favours Canada. But the numbers suggest that one thing won't change: when compared with its peers in Europe and North America, Canada's pandemic experience has been less intense — and less deadly.
Islanders eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can now book appointments online through Skip the Waiting Room. The P.E.I.-based company said it has secured a contract with the province to help provide more efficient access during the pandemic. "We saw reports of people waiting in a car for 8 hours to get testing done," said CEO and co-founder Mark Richardson. "COVID seemed like a great fit for me, so I started rattling the chains that I could rattle and said: 'As an Islander and a business, we'd love to help out with this.'" The company was born five years ago after Richardson found himself sitting in the waiting room at a walk-in clinic — for four and a half hours. "I thought to myself: 'There's got to be a better way to do this.'" 'I had seen some of the frustration and seen some of the lineups at the testing centres,' says Mark Richardson, the CEO and co-founder of Skip the Waiting Room. From there, the online site and app were created, giving others the option of pre-booking appointments to reduce time spent lingering in clinics. So far, Richardson said around 60,000 people have used the service for walk-in care on the Island. "I think every Canadian understands the frustration and wasted time of sitting in a waiting room or trying to get through a phone line." Now, in addition to becoming available to other provinces, Richardson said the company has expanded on P.E.I. to areas like internal medicine, MRI appointments and mammography appointments. Meeting an urgent timeline For those looking to book online before heading into a walk-in clinic, there is a fee of $5. But because of the terms of his contract with the P.E.I government, Richardson says it's free to schedule provincial services such as COVID-19 vaccines. I'm sure it will get a little bit more hectic when we get to the general announcement or the general population. - Mark Richardson, Skip the Waiting Room A statement from Health P.E.I said it entered into a short-term agreement with Skip the Waiting Room after it was identified as the only option available to "meet the urgent timelines to launch an online scheduling system to support COVID vaccine delivery." According to the statement, all safeguards outlined under the P.E.I Health Information Act are being maintained. "We had to jump through a lot of privacy hoops and some threat-risk assessments and all those things," said Richardson. "It was an extensive process but I'm glad to be on the other side of it." 'Going to do our best' Richardson said he doesn't know the exact number of people who have used the company to book vaccines so far — but he said he does expect it to increase. "I'm sure it will get a little bit more hectic when we get to the general announcement or the general population," he said. "I know people will be very eager to get their vaccine, as I am." For now, Richardson said, the company is spending time making improvements so that when Islanders do reach out to book virtually, Skip the Waiting Room is ready. "We might be able to book, you know, thousands of people a day, 24/7," he said. "We're working our best to make sure that there will be no hiccups. "No promises, but we're certainly going to do our best." More from CBC P.E.I.