First snowstorm of the year as a plow and jogger go past.
First snowstorm of the year as a plow and jogger go past.
For a man obsessed with winning, President Donald Trump is losing a lot.He’s managed to lose not just once to Democrat Joe Biden at the ballot box but over and over again in courts across the country in a futile attempt to stay in power. The Republican president and his allies continue to mount new cases, recycling the same baseless claims, even after Trump’s own attorney general declared the Justice Department had uncovered no widespread fraud."This will continue to be a losing strategy, and in a way it's even bad for him: He gets to re-lose the election numerous times," said Kent Greenfield, a professor at Boston College Law School. “The depths of his petulance and narcissism continues to surprise me.”In an Associated Press tally of roughly 50 cases brought by Trump's campaign and his allies, more than 30 have been rejected or dropped. About a dozen are awaiting action. Trump has notched just one small victory, a case challenging a decision to move the deadline to provide missing proof of identification for certain absentee ballots and mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.Trump has refused to admit he lost, and this week posted a 46-minute speech to Facebook filled with conspiracies, misstatements and vows to keep up his fight to subvert the election.Five more losses came Friday. The Trump campaign lost its bid to overturn the results of the election in Nevada and the Michigan appeals court rejected a case from his campaign. The Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed a challenge brought by GOP lawmakers. And in Arizona, a judge threw out thrown out a bid to undo Biden’s victory there, concluding that the state’s Republican Party chairwoman failed to prove fraud or misconduct and that the evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s loss. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a conservative group over Trump’s loss.Thursday dealt another blow in Wisconsin, where a split state Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s lawsuit seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. The case echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes. Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court late Wednesday.Judges in battleground states have repeatedly swatted down legal challenges brought by the president and his allies. Trump's legal team has vowed to take one Pennsylvania case to the U.S. Supreme Court even though it was rejected in a scathing ruling by a federal judge as well as an appeals court.After recently being kicked off Trump's legal team, conservative attorney Sidney Powell filed new lawsuits in Arizona and Wisconsin this week riddled with errors and wild conspiracies about election rigging. One of the plaintiffs named in the Wisconsin case said he never agreed to participate in the case and found out through social media that he had been included. The same lawsuit asks for 48 hours of security footage from the “TCF Center,” which is in Detroit.The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have raised are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postmarks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost. Election officials from both parties have said the election went well, and Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the election's outcome.Trump's lawyers responded by criticizing Barr, who has been one of the president's biggest allies.Greenfield says their criticism speaks volumes. “It goes to show how vehement their ability to overlook reality is," he said.Failing to gain any traction in court, Trump and his allies are now turning to events with Republican lawmakers and rallies in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan where they can use unfounded claims of fraud to incite the president’s loyal base.At a rally in Georgia on Wednesday, Powell and another pro-Trump attorney, Lin Wood, suggested that Republican voters sit out of the two January runoff elections that will decide control of the Senate because of the potential for fraud. And in Michigan, Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, urged Republican activists to pressure, even threaten, the GOP-controlled Legislature to award the state’s 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Biden’s 154,000-vote victory.In his video posted Wednesday, Trump said there were facts and evidence of a mass conspiracy created by Democrats to steal the election, a similar argument made by Giuliani and others before judges that has been largely unsuccessful. Most of their claims are rooted in conspiracy theories about voting machines that are not true, and affidavits by partisan poll watchers who claimed they didn't get close enough to see ballots being tallied because of safety precautions in the coronavirus pandemic. Because they couldn't see, they argued, something untoward must have happened.“No, I didn’t hear any facts or evidence," tweeted Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, after watching the video Wednesday night. “What I did hear was a sad Facebook rant from a man who lost an election."___Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
BURLINGTON, Vt. — By late morning on Oct. 28, staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center noticed the hospital’s phone system wasn’t working. Then the internet went down, and the Burlington-based centre's technical infrastructure with it. Employees lost access to databases, digital health records, scheduling systems and other online tools they rely on for patient care. Administrators scrambled to keep the hospital operational — cancelling non-urgent appointments, reverting to pen-and-paper record keeping and rerouting some critical care patients to nearby hospitals. In its main laboratory, which runs about 8,000 tests a day, employees printed or hand-wrote results and carried them across facilities to specialists. Outdated, internet-free technologies experienced a revival. “We went around and got every fax machine that we could,” said UVM Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Al Gobeille. The Vermont hospital had fallen prey to a cyberattack, becoming one of the most recent and visible examples of a wave of digital assaults taking U.S. health care providers hostage as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide. The same day as UVM's attack, the FBI and two federal agencies warned cybercriminals were ramping up efforts to steal data and disrupt services across the health care sector. By targeting providers with attacks that scramble and lock up data until victims pay a ransom, hackers can demand thousands or millions of dollars and wreak havoc until they’re paid. In September, for example, a ransomware attack paralyzed a chain of more than 250 U.S. hospitals and clinics. The resulting outages delayed emergency room care and forced staff to restore critical heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level monitors with ethernet cabling. A few weeks earlier, in Germany, a woman’s death became the first fatality believed to result from a ransomware attack. Earlier in October, facilities in Oregon, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin and California also fell prey to suspected ransomware attacks. Ransomware is also partly to blame for some of the nearly 700 private health information breaches, affecting about 46.6 million people and currently being investigated by the federal government. In the hands of a criminal, a single patient record — rich with details about a person’s finances, insurance and medical history — can sell for upward of $1,000 on the black market, experts say. Over the course of 2020, many hospitals postponed technology upgrades or cybersecurity training that would help protect them from the newest wave of attacks, said health care security expert Nick Culbertson. “The amount of chaos that’s just coming to a head here is a real threat,” he said. With COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations climbing nationwide, experts say health care providers are dangerously vulnerable to attacks on their ability to function efficiently and manage limited resources. Even a small technical disruption can quickly ripple out into patient care when a centre's capacity is stretched thin, said Vanderbilt University's Eric Johnson, who studies the health impacts of cyberattacks. “November has been a month of escalating demands on hospitals," he said. "There’s no room for error. From a hacker’s perspective, it’s perfect.” A 'CALL TO ARMS’ FOR HOSPITALS The day after the Oct. 28 cyberattack, 53-year-old Joel Bedard, of Jericho, arrived for a scheduled appointment at the Burlington hospital. He was able to get in, he said, because his fluid-draining treatment is not high-tech, and is something he's gotten regularly as he waits for a liver transplant. “I got through, they took care of me, but man, everything is down,” Bedard said. He said he saw no other patients that day. Much of the medical staff idled, doing crossword puzzles and explaining they were forced to document everything by hand. "All the students and interns are, like, ‘How did this work back in the day?’” he said. Since the attack, the Burlington-based hospital network has referred all questions about its technical details to the FBI, which has refused to release any additional information, citing an ongoing criminal investigation. Officials don’t believe any patient suffered immediate harm, or that any personal patient information was compromised. But more than a month later, the hospital is still recovering. Some employees were furloughed for weeks before returning to their regular duties. Oncologists could not access older patient scans which could help them, for example, compare tumour size over time. And, until recently, emergency department clinicians could take X-rays of broken bones but couldn't electronically send the images to radiologists at other sites in the health network. “We didn't even have internet,” said Dr. Kristen DeStigter, chair of UVM Medical Center's radiology department. Soldiers with the state's National Guard cyber unit have helped hospital IT workers scour the programming code in hundreds of computers and other devices, line-by-line, to wipe any remaining malicious code that could re-infect the system. Many have been brought back online, but others were replaced entirely. Col. Christopher Evans said it’s the first time the unit, which was founded about 20 years ago, has been called upon to perform what the guard calls “a real-world" mission. “We have been training for this day for a very long time," he said. It could be several more weeks before all the related damage is repaired and the systems are operating normally again, Gobeille said. “I don’t want to get peoples’ hopes up and be wrong,” he said. “Our folks have been working 24/7. They are getting closer and closer every day.” It will be a scramble for other health care providers to protect themselves against the growing threat of cyberattacks if they haven't already, said data security expert Larry Ponemon. “It’s not like hospital systems need to do something new," he said. “They just need to do what they should be doing anyway.” Current industry reports indicate health systems spend only 4% to 7% of their IT budget on cybersecurity, whereas other industries like banking or insurance spend three times as much. Research by Ponemon's consulting firm shows only about 15% of health care organizations have adopted the technology, training and procedures necessary to manage and thwart the stream of cyberattacks they face on a regular basis. “The rest are out there flying with their head down. That number is unacceptable,” Ponemon said. “It’s a pitiful rate.” And it's part of why cybercriminals have focused their attention on health care organizations — especially now, as hospitals across the country are coping with a surge of COVID-19 patients, he said. “We’re seeing true clinical impact,” said health care cybersecurity consultant Dan L. Dodson. “This is a call to arms.” ___ Renault reported from New York. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marion Renault And Wilson Ring, The Associated Press
Woodcliff United Church in southwest Calgary is known for its life-size, interactive advent calendar during the holiday season. Usually, it's in the form of drawers containing gifts, or doors that can be opened. This year, however, the committee had to get COVID-creative."Well, 2020 forced all of the pivoting in our church community — of course we can't meet in the sanctuary," said Sheri Bolitho, Woodcliff's faith formation minister, on the Calgary Eyeopener. "And it didn't make sense to us to have 100 or 200 people touching each drawer each day — we don't have enough sanitizing elves for that at all. "So we've had to make it a lot different. So this year, we've created a calendar that allows for social distancing."Bolitho said each of the stations or "days" is between six feet and 12 feet apart. The entire calendar is built as a labyrinth that runs across the front lawn of the property.The first few days of December have already been unveiled. The rest of the days are all laid out by climbing rope, linked together in a maze."Each day has a sign and activity, and they're individually wrapped like gifts, though we have special, wonderful elves who come out early in the morning and unwrap gifts for you," Bolitho said.Bolitho said the long-running tradition started as a way to connect with the community outside the walls of the church."We just really wanted to be able to spread the meaning of Christmas to us, which is the four elements — faith, joy, hope and love — into the community," she said."And our church loves to be outside of the building. This is the perfect opportunity to let everyone know where we are and what Christmas is all about and the season of gifting and how we connect all of the wonderful things back to those elements."The advent calendar is full of tactile elements, crafts, projects and things people can do with their hands. And it is always full of surprises.Yesterday was a Christmas star, for example. The day before that was a heart craft made out of a hanger and yarn. "We know people have a lot more time at home," Bolitho said. "They can take the activity and go home and make it as a family, and then they can maybe gift it, or they can use it as an ornament on their tree."Bolitho said there are elements of the Christmas story to be found along the way, such as the star, symbolizing the star that the shepherds followed to the stable in Bethlehem.But the calendar has many non-religious references as well."There's also a whole bunch of more secular elements, so there's the candy cane, and then there's the story of the candy cane, how it's really shaped like a shepherd's crook," Bolitho said. Charity outreachSince COVID hit, the church has been offering virtual services and online recordings of sermons.Meanwhile, the church has an outreach committee that is focused on ways to give back to the community, and the advent calendar is always a big highlight. This year, the church is collecting for both the food bank and the Calgary Drop-In Centre.The food bank collection week starts today and goes until Dec. 10, at which point the focus shifts over to the Drop-In Centre for the longest night of the year, Dec. 21. The church is collecting donations of mittens, hats, underwear and socks for the Drop-In Centre.There are some crafts that Bolitho said she's particularly looking forward to on the advent calendar."I have a couple of wonderful ones. The first one is the word 'joy.' It's a beautiful paper craft," she said. "Our wonderful elves that made all of these have taken strips of coloured paper and rolled them up into the word 'joy' and it's gorgeous. You have to come see."And then another one of my favourites is the Santa gnome — he's a little Christmas ornament covered in yarn. And he's got a beautiful felt hat. He's wonderful."Woodcliff United Church is located at 5010 Spruce Drive S.W. For more information go to Woodcliff United Church.With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.
OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says that as soon as she knows when the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada, she will share that information with Canadians.But Anand told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the original contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines had to be vague about delivery dates because nobody knew at the time if the vaccines would be successful.It's only in the last few weeks, when the leading candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported such positive results from their large clinical trials, that the way forward became clear enough for Anand's department to start asking the companies to be more specific about when they can make good on their contracts with Canada."We put these contracts in place in order to place Canadians in the best stead possible, of any country in the world, recognizing that we would need to negotiate additional terms such as precise delivery dates, once a vaccine was discovered, and regulatory approval was obtained," she said. "And that is what's happening now."As Canadians face a pandemic-plagued holiday season and dream that 2021 will not be the anxiety-laden and often tragic disaster that 2020 has proven to be, there is one gleaming hope dangling still just out of reach: a vaccine for COVID-19.Still, the federal government has yet to answer one big question: When will it get here?It is not that she doesn't want to tell Canadians when, said Anand. But the complexities of figuring out a specific date are linked to when Health Canada approves the vaccine, and when the vaccine makers can see that Canada is ready to receive and safely distribute the precious doses, some of which have to be stored at temperatures below -70 C.Those pieces are starting to converge now.Health Canada officials are days, maybe even hours, away from approving the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in Canada.Canadians got some more information on the logistics from a briefing of federal officials this week, including that Pfizer will ship its vaccine directly to 14 identified receiving sites in provinces. FedEx and Innomar Strategies were contracted Friday to oversee the delivery of other vaccines from a national receiving site to provinces.The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued refined guidance Friday for who should get the vaccine first, including long-term care residents and workers, and people over the age of 80. The materials like syringes, gauze pads and bandages needed to vaccinate millions of people are in place. Ultralow temperature freezers have been purchased and nine new ones have already arrived. Provincial governments are lining up their own task forces."We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible," Anand said.Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has been decrying the lack of clarity from the Liberals about the vaccine plan. A week ago he accused the Liberals of only starting to buy vaccines in a panic this summer after a collaboration with China on a vaccine fell apart.The partnership between the National Research Council and China's CanSino Biologics was announced in May to great fanfare. But the doses to be used in a Canadian clinical trial failed to arrive, when the Chinese government — in the midst of political tensions with Canada — refused to issue an export permit for them.“I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said Nov. 29, adding the timeline shows it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Canada "started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options."Anand said that is not the case.She said the CanSino deal fell within Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies.Her marching orders to negotiate deals with other vaccine makers came weeks earlier. A team of procurement officials in her department was assigned to the file in March, at the same time as those negotiating contracts for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and rapid tests.In June, the COVID-19 vaccine task force provided a list of vaccines for Canada to pursue. Anand said talks with manufacturers began in early July. The first deal, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna, was struck July 24. Canada was first to sign with Moderna. It signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech a week later, on Aug. 1. It was the fourth country to do so, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. News of trouble on the CanSino deal first appeared in early July when the doses still hadn't been approved for export by China. Canada walked away from the deal at the end of August when it became clear it would not happen.By then, Canada had deals with four other vaccine companies, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and NovaVax. It added deals with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in September and then with Canada's own Medicago the next month.Anand said Canada approached every contract with a similar goal — to get 20 million doses guaranteed, and options to potentially buy more later on. In all, Canada is paying more than $1 billion to the seven vaccine makers for 194 million doses, even if those vaccines never get beyond the experimental stage.Another 220 million doses are available if Canada asks for them, a decision that will be made for the vaccines that are proving to be the best. Anand announced Friday another 20 million doses will come to Canada in 2021 from Moderna, for a total of 40 million.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020.Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
On the cover of Peter Rukavina's new book is a photo of his late wife, Catherine Miller. She is smiling at the camera, dressed in a colourful knitted poncho with a backpack slung over one shoulder. Although the book, Using Her Marbles: Chronicles of a Family Living with Incurable Cancer, is about Miller living with the metastatic breast cancer that claimed her in January 2020, Rukavina wanted to show that his wife "owned her cancer." In the cover photo, Miller was "two years into her diagnosis, about to head off to a participatory democracy conference in Spain, with no health insurance," Rukavina told Matt Rainnie on P.E.I.'s Mainstreet. "It was the last trip that she was able to take. She did it on her own. Yeah, it was a fantastic thing." Rukavina, a well-known P.E.I. blogger and web developer, wanted to write Using Her Marbles, his first book, to help other families who may be going through a similar experience of cancer diagnosis and treatment. "Every cancer journey is unique, but just a sketch of the terrain that was to come? I would have found that useful," he said. > Trying to, I guess, reach out a hand to those who are going to go down the same path... is what was behind this. \- Peter Rukavina Fear of the unknown is one of the hardest challenges, Rukavina hears from a lot of caregivers in families of people living with cancer. "It's the feeling like 'This is a journey that you're the only one who knows anything about.' And so I think trying to, I guess, reach out a hand to those who are going to go down the same path, I think is what was behind this."Using act of writing to process life The book developed out of an email newsletter Rukavina sent to family and friends over the five years of Miller's illness. "Although it really was a newsletter for friends and family, it was also a way for me to process everything that had happened. To write it down, I think, allowed me to receive some distance from it," said Rukavina. Rukavina has been writing a blog for 20 years, so writing is often a part of how he processes his life. "It was not unusual for me to seek solace in writing." About six months after Miller died, Rukavina began to realize that those email newsletters could take the shape of a book. Going back to reread all of the emails was a challenge, however. "A healing challenge, I would say, but a challenge nonetheless in rereading these words time and time again over the recent weeks." Rereading the emails, he was also struck by how he, Miller, and their son Oliver, now 20, managed to continue in their daily lives through the many challenges of cancer treatments. "It gives me a sense of pride for us as a family, as a household, that we went through all that and that there was as much life in those five years as there was, despite all the hell." Marble metaphor helped Miller deal with cancer The title of the book is taken from a metaphor Miller used to help get her through daily life with cancer. "The metaphor was that you start the day with a certain number of marbles, let's say 100," said Rukavina. All of the actions undertaken during a person's day, from getting up and making breakfast to meeting a friend for coffee or taking a walk, use up a certain number of marbles. "At some point in the day, you're going to run out of marbles. And so the idea was that you ration your marbles," he said. "I think Catherine did effectively use her marbles over those five years. And that metaphor helped her manage. So it seemed like a good metaphor to apply to the whole journey that she was on."Son and dad 'doing OK' these daysNearly a year after Miller's death, Rukavina said he and Oliver are "doing OK". Just a few days after Miller found out her diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, Rukavina said she spoke to the rector at St. Paul's church in Charlottetown about holding her memorial service there, even though she was not a member of the church. "Her rationale being 'It's right across the street from our house, and if Oliver needed to escape, he could escape home.' "And you know for the following five years, her mind was never far from, 'What becomes of my son after I'm gone?'" Rukavina said his son, who was 14 when Miller was diganosed, helped get him through those first few months after her death. "I hope I've helped him a little bit, too." Talking about it helps The other thing that helped Rukavina was talking about the hard things. "At times where my mental health was on edge over this journey, more often than not, it's because I was keeping things bottled up. And when I had the chance to either write about them or talk to someone about them, that was helpful," he said. "When things took a turn for the worse, often our road out of it was either to talk to one another or for us to talk to professional help, sometimes to talk to a pastor. I think that's kind of what the message of the book is underlying."You can find Using Her Marbles: Chronicles of a Family Living with Incurable Cancer at Bookmark on Queen Street in Charlottetown. More from CBC P.E.I.
President Donald Trump's frantic effort in the courts to delegitimize an election he lost has come no closer in a month to reversing any results.Lawyers for Trump and his allies have asked judges in several states to take the drastic and unprecedented step of setting aside President-elect Joe Biden’s wins. They have filed new cases and vowed to press on with appeals.But the quantity of affidavits, lawsuits and claims made by Trump belies that they are spurious or often repetitive of arguments already rejected by judges and elections officials, some of them Republicans.Here is a look at where the legal action stands in several key states:ARIZONAA judge on Friday threw out a Republican bid to undo Biden’s victory in Arizona, concluding the state’s GOP chief failed to prove fraud or misconduct in her challenge of election results in metro Phoenix. The judge also noted the evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s loss in the state.Judge Randall Warner dismissed Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s challenge of ballots in metro Phoenix that were duplicated because voters’ earlier ballots were damaged or could not be run through tabulators. Poll observers called to testify by Ward said they witnessed problems in the processing of duplicated ballots, but the judge said those problems were pointed out to election workers, who then fixed the mistakes.Warner wrote “there is no evidence that the inaccuracies were intentional or part of a fraudulent scheme. They were mistakes. And given both the small number of duplicate ballots and the low error rate, the evidence does not show any impact on the outcome.”Courts there had already dismissed four other cases. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, certified Arizona's results Monday. In a touch of symbolism, he declined a phone call from Trump while signing the certification papers. Lawyer Sidney Powell, who was recently kicked off Trump's legal team and has been pushing wild conspiracy theories about the election, has also filed a lawsuit there.PENNSYLVANIATrump has lost repeatedly in Pennsylvania, collecting a series of stinging rebukes from Republican-appointed judges. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld a district judge's dismissal of a key lawsuit argued in an error-filled performance by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” wrote Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, nominated by Trump.The district judge, Matthew Brann, wrote of the complaint, “One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption." Brann, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, noted that the campaign did not provide that evidence.Trump's lawyers have vowed to ask for review from the U.S. Supreme Court anyway.MICHIGANSix cases brought by Trump and Republican allies in Michigan have either been rejected or dropped. On Wednesday, Giuliani appeared at a public meeting with lawmakers and urged activists to pressure, even threaten, the GOP-controlled Legislature to “step up” and award the state’s 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Biden’s 154,000-vote victory. A Michigan appeals court turned down an appeal Friday from Trump’s campaign in a challenge to how absentee ballots were handled in Detroit and other issues.WISCONSINThe state’s Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear Trump's lawsuit seeking to overturn his loss in the battleground state. In a divided decision, the court didn’t rule on the merits of the claims but said the case must first wind its way through lower courts. Trump wants to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. In urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, Trump’s lawyers said they didn’t have enough time to start in a lower court. Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”Trump's campaign filed a similar lawsuit in federal court Wednesday.The Wisconsin Supreme Court also declined Friday to hear a lawsuit brought by a conservative group over Trump’s loss.____Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix; and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.Nomaan Merchant And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says tougher health restrictions likely to be aimed at Calgary and Edmonton are coming if current public-health orders don’t bend the curve down on COVID-19.Kenney, taking questions on a Facebook town-hall meeting, says it makes sense to target the novel coronavirus where it’s having the most impact.“If you’re in a remote community with a negligible number of COVID cases, where there are no cases in the local hospitals, that is not the issue right now,” Kenney said Thursday night.“The issue is the hot zones in Calgary and Edmonton — and that’s what we’ll be addressing with increasing focus in the days to come.”His comments came just hours after Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical health officer, reported a concerning rise in rates in rural areas. She stressed that even one case can move like wildfire and COVID-19 doesn’t respect geographical boundaries. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem,” Hinshaw said.“Our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn't care where you live or what your postal code is."The province reported 1,828 new cases on Friday. Active cases stood at 18,243. There were 533 people in hospital, 99 of them in intensive care, and a total of 590 Albertans had died.Alberta Health says more than 15 per cent of active infections are in areas outside the Edmonton and Calgary medical zones. About 30 per cent are outside the four largest cities of Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge. Areas with high active case counts per 100,000 population include Banff, the Municipal District of Acadia and Smoky Lake County.Kenney has been lauded and criticized for taking a regional, nuanced approach to try to stem the spread of the pandemic while trying to keep open as many businesses and community centres as possible.It's not going well.Alberta has registered well over 1,000 new cases a day for two weeks and, on some days, has had more new cases than larger provinces such as Ontario. Health officials are reassigning staff, space, and patients to free up more intensive care beds, while dealing with outbreaks at 22 hospitals and health facilities. The government is also exploring bringing in medical field tents from the Red Cross if needed.Last week, Kenney introduced tighter provincewide health restrictions that included a ban on indoor gatherings. But there are looser measures for areas with low infection rates. They don’t have to follow a 25 per cent capacity limit in businesses or a maximum of six people — all from the same household — at one table in restaurants. Nor do they have to abide by a one-third capacity rule for worship services.Most municipalities have made it mandatory to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Kenney has, unlike all other premiers, refused to implement that provincewide. He has said it’s unnecessary in remote areas and some rural folk would refuse to wear masks if it were an order. Cold Lake, a city of almost 15,000 in the province's northeast, has twice voted down a mandatory mask bylaw. Mayor Craig Copeland said Friday masks don't need to be required, because people are following guidelines from Hinshaw."Ninety per cent of the people in Cold Lake now are wearing masks," Copeland said. "Do they really need to be told by a mayor and council to wear a mask?"Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said Kenney’s public-health directives cater to his rural political base and the anti-mask fringe he wants to keep happily ensconced in his United Conservative Party.“(Kenney) is more interested in protecting his political fortunes with a small minority of folks who are going to resist."In Smoky Lake County, northeast of Edmonton, restaurant owner Hong Hu said her Maple Gardens Restaurant is one of the few in the area that is doing takeout only."If it gets worse, of course I (will) worry about it," said Hu, who added she's more worried about the mounting cases in Alberta than the cases in her region.She said the county has a mask bylaw and has put notes up at businesses reminding people to wear face coverings and to sanitize regularly.Back in Cold Lake, resident Cathy Olliffe-Webster, 60, said she is disappointed in the premier and her mayor for not making masks mandatory.Cold Lake is still holding indoor events such as Christmas craft sales, despite the area's first COVID-related death this week and active cases rising to more than 70, she said."I understand that Alberta's economy has been hit harder than most, but I'm really sick of people putting money before people's lives," Olliffe-Webster said.She said she was moved by an emotional speech Thursday by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who begged people to follow COVID-19 rules."I just wish Jason Kenney was a little like him."— With files from Fakiha Baig and Daniela Germano in EdmontonThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
A funeral service for Indigenous hockey pioneer Fred Sasakamoose will be held today at an arena named in his honour.Sasakamoose died of complications from COVID-19 on Nov. 24. He was 86.Sasakamoose played 11 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1953-54, becoming one of the first Indigenous players in the then-six-team league.During his time in Chicago, he faced off against greats like Maurice Richard and Gordie Howe.Due to COVID-19 protocols, a maximum of 30 people will be allowed to pay their respects in person at the Fred Sasakamoose Community Arena, located in Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation north of Saskatoon.However, the funeral will be livestreamed on Facebook (facebook.com/SasakamooseInvitational/) starting at noon CT. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020.The Canadian Press
Two people were found dead in a home in Milton, Ont. Friday afternoon, Halton Regional Police say. Police said in a statement they were called to a residence just after 3 p.m. near Bronte Street South and Louis St. Laurent Avenue in Milton, Ont.Officers found the bodies of a male and a female inside the home, they said. There are no suspects and no threat to public safety, said police.An investigation is ongoing and police say they will be providing no further details at this time.
NASA's commercial cargo provider SpaceX is getting ready to launch its 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) on Saturday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. CRS-21 will supply holiday food to seven astronauts in space. (Dec. 4)
Employees at the LNG Canada work site in Kitimat, B.C., complained multiple times about unsafe working conditions just months before the facility experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, according to WorkSafe BC inspection reports obtained by The Narwhal. The outbreak at LNG Canada started on Nov. 19 and there are now 54 cases. In the months leading up to the outbreak, workers raised concerns about COVID-19 cleaning procedures in common areas, rooms and work spaces, prompting inspections by WorkSafe BC on Aug. 28 and Oct. 19. The documents also reveal that a WorkSafe BC inspection of the Site C work camp’s sewage treatment facility in northeast B.C. on March 19 found the facility did not have a plan to sufficiently protect workers from pathogens, body fluids, human waste, mould and COVID-19. WorkSafe BC didn’t say if or how the issues flagged during the inspection were resolved. The first case of COVID-19 at Site C was in July and there have been 17 cases to date. On Dec. 4, BC Hydro reported five active cases and 18 people in self-isolation. The revelations come as calls grow for B.C. to shut down work camps or risk further community spread with northern hospitals already stretched thin. More than 180 frontline health workers have signed an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that started circulating on Thursday, calling on her to immediately shut down industrial work camps on Indigenous territories. “To put the interests of economy and industry ahead of Indigenous lives is not public health,” the letter says. “To put Indigenous Elders and youth at further risk in the midst of a pandemic is to say quite clearly that Indigenous lives still do not matter in B.C.” On Thursday, the Unist’ot’en Camp said Coastal GasLink confirmed five new cases at its camp 9A on Unist’ot’en territory. Sley’do Molly Wickham, Gidimt’en Camp spokesperson, said at least one Wet’suwet’en worker in a Coastal GasLink work camp recently contracted the virus and is now hospitalized in an induced coma. David Bowering, former chief medical officer for Northern Health, said the time has come for the province to shift gears and take a harder look at what it deems essential. “Is it industry first, or the health and safety of the population in the north first? They need to rethink the essential designation and say it’s not that essential, certainly not at this price.” Coastal GasLink, BC Hydro and the Ministry of Health did not respond to interview requests prior to publication. LNG Canada declined an interview request. Bowering told The Narwhal he’s surprised it took this long for an outbreak in the work camps to occur. In the early days of the pandemic, he wrote an open letter to Henry urging her to shut down the work camps, calling them “land locked cruise ships” and warning that cases related to these industrial sites were inevitable. He knows what he’s talking about — his first job as a doctor was at a mining camp. He called the safety plans prepared by LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink “deluxe” documents but says the best plans in the world don’t mean anything if people aren’t following the rules. “They have luxury-class health and safety plans and luxury-class consultants compared to what the public sector can afford,” he said. “The virus doesn’t respect paper protocols. There’s just too much human nature involved.” Wickham said she has frequently seen workers flouting the rules. “We know that they’re not following even the basic protocols like wearing masks when they’re in vehicles together or when they’re close working closely with one another,” she said. “And they’re certainly not wearing masks when they’re interacting with our people on the territory.” Bowering is concerned that capacity at Northern Health hospitals is already stretched thin. In a statement released yesterday, the health authority said it is “experiencing an increase in COVID-19 activity and hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients requiring critical care.” There 235 active cases in the region including 33 people in hospital. Patients have already been transferred to hospitals outside the region to deal with the increase. “I think we’re in for a rough ride,” Bowering said. “The worry about our local hospitals and our local staff being overwhelmed, burned out and having difficulty coping, that’s becoming a pretty clear reality. Our communities need help.” Bowering isn’t alone in his calls to shut down work camps. The open letter from frontline health workers calls for Henry to take “immediate action” and shut down work camps. “As health professionals, we have a responsibility to uphold the current and future health of these communities, which are now under threat from the continuing of Coastal GasLink (LNG) work and man camps,” the letter says. The frontline health workers’ letter is in support of concerns raised by more than 20 Wet’suwet’en matriarchs, or Ts’ako ze’, in an open letter to Henry dated Nov. 30. In that letter, the matriarchs asked the public health officer to reconsider the essential designation given to the oil and gas industry and close work camps, which have also been shown to increase violence against Indigenous women and children and bring a host of social ills. “Not only have we witnessed an increase in drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence in our communities, we are now faced with a disease that could kill any one of us,” the matriarchs wrote. “In addition to the risk man camps have on our Indigenous women and girls, we are now facing the loss of some of our most sacred elders and chiefs.” At the time of publication, the Ts’ako ze’ said they had not received a response from the public health officer. The calls to shut down work camps come in the wake of a damning independent review that found widespread racism and discrimination against Ingienous people in B.C. health care. The 224-page report released on Nov. 30 found that racism and discrimination negatively affect the treatment and health outcomes of Indigenous people, who are already at higher risk of health issues due to a number of factors realted to systemic racism, such a poverty and intergenerational trauma. “Many Indigenous people have underlying health conditions because of all of the impacts of colonization,” Wickham said. “We have higher rates of diabetes and higher rates of heart disease. Our people are at greater risk of dying.” Wickham said a particularly alarming aspect to the increase in cases in work camps is the potential impact on Indigenous communities. Most industrial operations have a mandate to hire local and Indigenous workers and those people mix with transient workers and, on their days off, with members of their own communities. Bowering said the continued presence of industrial activity is contradictory to the goals of the public health office. “I drive by First Nations [communities] and see the barriers and the closed signs — these people are trying remarkably hard to stay safe,” he said. “But at the same time, there are buses coming and going to many of them, up to the mines and back.” The BC Centre for Disease Control noted in its guidance document for industrial sites that Indigenous people are at higher risk of COVID-19 and recommended that employers limit its workers’ interactions in surrounding towns. But Bowering and Wickham said the presence of out of town workers in the region is both common and on the rise. “We have been concerned about not just the man camps, but the fact that a lot of the workers are living in our communities and hotels,” Wickham said. “They’re going back and forth every day.” Bowering said the B.C. public health office can easily put the brakes on what could quickly become a serious and escalating crisis in high-risk communities. “They have to decide whether having everybody else not travelling, but allowing these workers to travel is a reasonable public health decision? Is it even ethically reasonable?” Meanwhile, activity on Wet’suwet’en territory is increasing. “The whole territory is just crawling with workers,” Wickham said. She lives with her partner and three children in a cabin near the Coastal GasLink work zone. “They have helicopters flying overhead at least two or three times a day, both surveillance helicopters and industry helicopters slinging materials in and out of the territory. It’s a warzone out there.”Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
WASHINGTON — The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local):8:05 p.m.More than a half dozen Democratic congresswomen have sent an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to make Michèle Flournoy the country's first female defence secretary.They say in the letter dated Thursday that the selection of Flournoy would be “a symbolic moment for the United States, and for all women who over the years have aspired to careers in national security.” They call Flournoy “eminently qualified to serve."Biden has been facing escalating pressure from competing factions within his own party over his defence pick. Black leaders have encouraged the incoming president to select an African American to diversify what has so far been a largely white prospective Cabinet, while others are pushing him to appoint a woman to lead the Pentagon for the first time.Meanwhile, some progressive groups are opposing Flournoy, citing concerns about her record and private-sector associations.Among the seven women who signed the letter pushing Flournoy are Reps. Jackie Speier of California, Lois Frankel of Florida and Veronica Escobar from Texas.___HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN'S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE:President-elect Joe Biden is adjusting the scope of his agenda to meet the challenges of governing with a narrowly divided Congress and the complications of legislating during a raging pandemic.Read more:— EXPLAINER: Trump’s failing, monthlong fight against election— Trump loves to win but keeps losing election lawsuits— Dangerously viral: How Trump, supporters spread false claims— Optimism growing for coronavirus relief bill as pressure builds___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:4:05 p.m.President-elect Joe Biden says keeping people safe is his first consideration for his Jan. 20 inauguration, making it “highly unlikely” that a million people will pack the National Mall for his swearing-in during the coronavirus pandemic.Biden was asked about inauguration planning during a news conference Friday in Wilmington, Delaware. He suggested that the festivities could end up looking like the largely virtual convention Democrats held in August, with online activity in the states.Biden says his team is talking with congressional leaders about their plans for the inauguration. The swearing-in ceremony and a lunch for the new president and vice-president are held at the Capitol.Biden says he wants people to be able to celebrate safely. He says, “There will probably not be a gigantic inaugural parade.” He says details are still being worked out.___4 p.m.President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration has diminished confidence in science so much that it will take some time and effort to rebuild it across the board, including convincing people that the coronavirus vaccines are safe.He said Friday that he’s bothered by what he said were “wild assertions” President Donald Trump has made about the virus going away on its own. He noted how Trump once suggested that perhaps scientists could come up with a way that injecting bleach would kill the coronavirus.Biden says that a president’s words matter and that he hopes to especially convince hard-hit Black and Latino communities that the vaccines are safe.Biden took questions about the pandemic in Wilmington, Delaware, after making comments on the virus’s impact on the U.S. economy.___3:50 p.m.President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration’s plan for distributing an approved coronavirus vaccine to the public lacks important detail.Biden said Friday that “there’s no detailed plan that we’ve seen” for how to get vaccines out of a container, into syringes and into people’s arms.He says more equitable distribution is also needed to get the vaccine into underserved communities, not just to drugstores and large retailers. Biden noted that Black people and Latinos are more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people are.Biden says the “equity side” is an important part of the process, too.He says he’s working on an “overall plan” and adds that’s why he asked government infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to be part of Biden’s COVID-19 team and to serve as his chief medical adviser.___3:35 p.m.President-elect Joe Biden says that the most recent jobs report is “dire” and that there is no time to lose as millions of people have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes slashed.With the pandemic accelerating across the country, America’s employers sharply scaled back their hiring last month, adding 245,000 jobs, the fewest since April and the fifth straight monthly slowdown. Biden called on Congress to urgently pass an economic stimulus to help turn the corner on the impact that the coronavirus has had on the U.S. economy.Friday’s report provided the latest evidence that the job market and economy are faltering in the face of a virus that has been shattering daily records for confirmed infections. Economic activity is likely to slow further as the pandemic worsens during the winter months.“It was grim,” Biden said. “It shows an economy that’s stalling,”In the past three months, 2.3 million more people are long-term unemployed and deaths are rising.Biden says, “Americans need help and they need it now.”___8:15 a.m.Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic.Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday.As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. But during President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away.Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House.On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president.“I told him I thought that was a good idea,” Fauci told NBC.___8 a.m.National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe says foreign adversaries are using social media and other platforms to amplify allegations of voter fraud. But he won’t say which countries are using the issue to try to undermine public confidence in the U.S. democratic process.President Donald Trump and his allies continue to mount new legal cases alleging voter fraud in battleground states since he lost the November presidential election to Joe Biden. But they have been losing in court. And Trump’s own attorney general has declared the Justice Department uncovered no widespread fraud.Ratcliffe is a Trump loyalist. He says on CBS that U.S. intelligence agencies have no indication that any foreign adversary or criminal group had the ability to change vote results but that they are still analyzing all the information collected.Ratcliffe told “CBS This Morning” on Friday that he plans to issue a report on foreign election interference in January.The Associated Press
Health Minister Adrian Dix said he expects the Provincial Health Services Authority and its president and CEO "to do better" following allegations of misspending."We're not happy," Dix said in a phone interview. "It's [president and CEO Benoit Morin's] job and PHSA's job to do better and to follow the recommendations. And I expect that they will."A review of spending at the PHSA has made several recommendations, including an independent adviser to look into a "problematic purchase" of personal protective equipment.Dix ordered an immediate review of alleged misspending by the authority after CBC News brought forward concerns raised by multiple sources.The whistleblowers accused the authority of squandering $7 million on the purchase of unusable face masks from China, hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary renovations to executive offices and tens of thousands of dollars on high-end catered meals for executives and their staff."We needed ... to clear these issues up so the PHSA can make improvements and then move on from this," Dix said."It's critical that an agency this important have public credibility."Dix said in the statement he had accepted recommendations from the deputy minister of health, including: * Limits on PHSA internal capital spending, absent the deputy minister's approval. * A "review and refresh" of policies covering internal capital planning to be completed by the Ministry of Health. * Limits on senior executive changes by the authority without the deputy minister's approval. * A review of business meeting expense policies of the authority and each regional health authority.Dix also said a third-party adviser would be hired to probe concerns about how the authority handled the "problematic purchase" of personal protective equipment "to help restore public confidence in the PHSA and its leadership.""We're in a legal process now to seek legal remedies for that purchase," Dix said Friday. "We'll see how that goes."Friday's recommendations also called on the authority to clarify by January Morin's role in all aspects of the transaction involving Luminaire, a health-care product distributor.Dix said PHSA staff, current and former, are "absolutely" assured they can speak freely to Ernst and Young advisor John Bethel, who is overseeing the review, without fear of retaliation. He added this applies even if they believe their severance agreement precludes them from doing so.PHSA respondsThe PHSA, in a statement, said little in reaction to Friday's announcement."We have been and continue to be fully supportive of the review and we now welcome the recommendations as an opportunity to ensure public confidence in PHSA and its leadershipThe authority also said it welcomed the review into the mask purchase but cannot comment further at this time."PHSA is home to extraordinary people, doing remarkable life-changing and life-saving work. We will continue to support them in serving the citizens of British Columbia," the statement continued.Concerns about new CEOThe whistleblowers said the problems began with the hiring of new president and CEO Morin in February.In addition to the misspending allegations, they told CBC several key senior executives who oversaw spending at the authority are no longer employed there. Dix, on Friday, confirmed the direction to the authority not to change senior executive leadership was motivated by the departure of these financial watchdogs.He said it was implied they were let go for raising concerns about what was happening at the authority and there was a need to "clear the air."In addition, Dix ordered the authority to eliminate the position of chief of staff. He said the position is inconsistent with what other health authorities are doing.The chief of staff, he added, is already serving as vice-president of human resources and will continue to hold that position.As for the renovations of executive offices, Dix said they were "clearly poorly timed at the very least."CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WINNIPEG — Manitoba's premier is facing backlash from Indigenous leaders for comments criticizing Ottawa's planning for COVID-19 vaccine distribution among First Nations.“Instead of uniting Manitobans during a health crisis, Brian Pallister is purposefully sowing seeds of division and hate,” Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said Friday.Pallister criticized the federal government's national vaccine rollout strategy during a news conference Thursday.The Progressive Conservative premier said Ottawa has plans to distribute the vaccine on a per-capita basis."They are also telling us that they are going to hold back the portion of our vaccine for Manitoba that they would then allocate to Indigenous and First Nations communities," Pallister said."What that would mean than is Manitobans who do not live in northern Indigenous communities would be the least likely to get a vaccine in the country." Manitoba has the highest percentage of Indigenous people in its population of all the provinces. The premier said the results would be unfair. "This puts Manitobans at the back of the line. This hurts Manitobans, to put it mildly," he said. The premier has since reached out to Indigenous leaders to arrange a meeting to discuss the rollout, Daniels said.The grand chief added that he has "no interest in meeting with a premier who race baits and plays loosely with the inter-governmental relationships."Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew called Pallister's comments unfortunate. "The premier is trying to divide team Manitoba and have it turn in on itself at a time when we are actually asking everyone to do the exact opposite," Kinew said. When asked about vaccine distribution plans Friday, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said there have been conversations with provincial and territorial leaders "to assess what their perspective is.""There is a federal role to play in protecting a certain amount of product — whether we're talking about vaccines or personal protective equipment — for federal populations that we're responsible for, as well as for urgent situations," she said.Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas also criticized Pallister for giving people the false idea that all vaccine doses would be going to people in the north.A significant surge of COVID-19 infections has disproportionately affected First Nations people in Manitoba during the second wave of the pandemic.There were 625 new cases in on- and off- reserve populations in the last seven days, according to data from the First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team in Manitoba. First Nations people make up 30 per cent of all people in hospital and 42 per cent of those in intensive care. The five-day test positivity rate among First Nations people in Manitoba is 20 per cent.Chief Eric Redhead of the Shamattawa First Nation posted online Friday that there were 117 active infections in the northern Manitoba community of about 1,100. Its five-day test positivity rate was more than 50 per cent. "We are literally at a breaking point," Redhead said.Redhead said health professionals with the rapid response team in Shamattawa have also tested positive or are isolating due to exposure. He has called on the federal government to provide military help. Manitoba released new modelling Friday that shows that three people end up in hospital and one person dies for every 48 cases of COVID-19. "We need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities or we will continue to see these harsh effects," said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer.The province recorded nine more deaths from COVID-19 and 320 new infections Friday. There were also 361 people in hospital with 55 in intensive care. The province brought in tighter public health measures last month, with restrictions on public gatherings and business openings.Roussin said that if no measures had been put in place, there would have been up to 1,055 new daily infections by Sunday. Daily cases have recently been tracking between 300 and 500.But Roussin said the test positivity rate remains too high. The five-day test positivity rate was 13.4 per cent provincially and 14.6 per cent in Winnipeg."It’s too early to say we are changing trajectory."The restrictions expire next Friday, and Roussin said he expects the majority will stay in place.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented Canadian Enock Makonzo and upstart Coastal Carolina with their stiffest challenge of the season.The No. 14-ranked Chanticleers (9-0) were scheduled to face No. 25 Liberty (9-1) on Saturday. But that game was cancelled Thursday due to COVID-19 issues within the Flames program.So Coastal Carolina will host No. 8 Brigham Young (9-0) instead. The Chanticleers and Cougars are two of only three 9-0 teams in the NCAA this year, with No. 2 Notre Dame being the other.Coastal Carolina, a 10-point home underdog Saturday, sits atop the Sun Belt Conference and is coming off a 49-14 road win last weekend over Texas State. Earlier this season, BYU defeated Texas State 52-14.Makonzo, a five-foot-11, 195-pound linebacker/defensive back, is enjoying a stellar season at Coastal Carolina, The redshirt junior from Lachine, Que., has recorded 55 tackles (36 solo, eight for a loss), two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.\---MORE COVID-19 ISSUES: Michigan (2-4) has cancelled its game Saturday versus Maryland (2-2) due to COVID-19 issues. The Wolverines cancelled practices this week and aren't scheduled to resume on-field sessions until Monday.Luiji Vilain, a six-foot-four, 253-pound senior defensive lineman from Ottawa, has four tackles (two solo) in five games with Michigan this season.The Wolverines' game versus Maryland won't be rescheduled. They're slated to visit Ohio State (4-0) next weekend, a contest that's important to the No. 4-ranked Buckeyes, who've already had two games cancelled this year and must play at least six contests to qualify for the Big 10 championship game.Ohio State was forced to cancel last weekend's game versus Illinois because of the pandemic. It resumed team activities this week and is slated to visit Michigan State on Saturday before finishing up against Michigan on Dec. 12, needing to play both to keep its CFB playoff hopes alive.This week, the Las Vegas Bowl became the 10th bowl game to be cancelled because of the pandemic. The others include: the Bahamas; Celebration; Fenway; Hawaii; Holiday; Motor City; Pinstripe; Redbox; and Sun bowls.\---SABAN SET TO RETURN: John Metchie III and the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0) should have their head coach back this weekend.Nick Saban missed Alabama's 43-13 win over No. 22 Auburn last weekend following a positive COVID-19 test. Savan said this week he expects to be on the field Saturday when the Crimson Tide face LSU (3-4).Metchie, a six-foot, 195-pound sophomore from Brampton, Ont., had six catches for 55 yards and two TDs versus Auburn. On the season, Metchie has 31 catches for 590 yards and six touchdowns.Alabama, which is a 30-point road favourite Saturday, could have redemption on its mind. Last year, then No. 2-ranked LSU improved to 9-0 with a 46-41 win in Tuscaloosa over No. 3 Alabama, which had won eight straight prior to that contest.\---QUESTION REMAINS: It's still unclear if Canadian running back Chuba Hubbard will play this weekend when the No. 15 Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-2) face TCU (4-4).Hubbard missed Oklahoma State's 50-44 win last weekend over Texas Tech with an unspecified leg injury. Backup LD Brown also didn't play as Dezmon Jackson ran for 235 yards and three TDs in his first career start.Hubbard, a six-foot, 208-pound redshirt junior from Sherwood Park, Alta., has run for 625 yards on 133 carries (4.7-yard average) with five TDs. He led the country with over 2,000 yards in 2019.Calgary's Amen Ogbongbemiga, a six-foot-one, 235-pound redshirt senior linebacker, had 11 tackles (seven solo) against Texas Tech. This season, Ogbongbemiga has recorded a team-high 62 tackles (36 solo, four for a loss) and two sacks, \---BACK TO BACK: It's been a solid couple of weeks for defensive lineman Mohamed Diallo.The six-foot-four, 305-pound Toronto native had six tackles (3.5 for a loss) and two sacks in Central Michigan's 31-23 win last weekend over Eastern Michigan. That came after he recorded six tackles (three solo) and a half-sack in a 53-44 loss Nov. 18 to Western Michigan.This season, Diallo has 17 tackles (eight solo, nine for a loss), 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Central Michigan (3-1) takes on Ball State (3-1) on Saturday.\---BULLS WAIT: The Buffalo Bulls are in a holding pattern.Buffalo (4-0) was to face Ohio (2-1) this weekend but the game was cancelled Friday and declared a no-contest due to COVID-19 issues for the Bobcats. At first glance, that appeared to clinch the Bulls the MAC East Division title — and a berth in the conference final Dec. 18 in Detroit.After all, Ohio was the only team in the East with a shot to win the division heading into weekend action. But it's unclear if the MAC will attempt to make up the game or the Bobcats' Nov. 17 contest against Miami University that was cancelled due to the pandemic.The Associated Press reported Friday night that Buffalo was still awaiting word from Mid-American Conference officials.Buffalo is scheduled to host Akron next week while Ohio is scheduled to face Kent State.Redshirt freshman Kurtis Rourke of Oakville, Ont., completed 10-of-11 passes for 63 yards and a TD in Ohio's 52-10 win last weekend over Bowling Green. He also ran for 43 yards on three carries.Defensive back Jett Elad, a six-foot, 191-pound freshman defensive back from Mississauga, Ont.., had three tackles and an interception for the Bobcats.Rourke has completed 30-of-44 passes (68.2 per cent) for 386 yards and three TDs this season. He took over starting duties from his older brother, Nathan, who was selected in the second round, No. 15 overall, of the 2020 CFL draft by the B.C. Lions.Last weekend, Buffalo made national headlines when Jaret Patterson ran for 409 yards and eight TDs in a 70-41 win over Kent State. He has also rushed for 710 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last two contests.Dominic Johnson, a six-foot-five, 220-pound senior receiver from Windsor, Ont., had five receptions for 43 yards against Kent State. He's one of three Canadians on the Bulls' roster, including tight end Cole Burniston of Grimsby, Ont., and offensive lineman Gabe Wallace of Salmon Arm. B.C., both sophomores.\---BIG PLAY: Calgary's Deane Leonard came up big for Ole Miss in its 31-24 win last weekend over Mississippi State in the annual Egg Bowl game.Leonard, a six-foot-two, 195-pound defensive back who transferred from the Vanier Cup-winning Calgary Dinos this off-season, returned a fumble 84 yards in the contest. It was the fourth-longest fumble return in school history.Leonard, a senior, also had two solo tackles and two pass breakups. The fumble return and pass breakups were his first of the season. Leonard has also registered 10 tackles (six solo).Former Guelph Gryphon Tavius Robinson, who also transferred to Ole Miss this off-season, had a quarterback hit against Mississippi State. This season, the six-foot-seven, 245-pound junior linebacker from Guelph, Ont., has 16 tackles (eight solo, 1.5 for a loss), one sack and three quarterback hits.Ole Miss (4-4) is off this weekend. Makeup dates and times of games with LSU and Texas A&M haven't yet been announced.POINT AFTER: Canadian linebacker D.K. Bonhomme recorded a sack for a safety in Indiana's 27-11 win over Maryland. The six-foot-three, 235-pound sophomore from Ottawa sacked Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa for the safety that put Indiana ahead 9-3. Bonhomme also had four tackles (three solo) in the contest and has recorded 12 tackles (eight solo, two for a loss) and a sack on the season, The No. 11 Hoosiers (5-1) face No. 16 Wisconsin (2-1) on Saturday . . . Jared Wayne, a six-foot-three, sophomore receiver at Pitt, registered five catches for a team-high 62 yards in last weekend's 52-17 loss to Clemson. The Peterborough, Ont., native has 16 receptions for 266 yards (16.6-yard average) and a touchdown this year. The Panthers (5-5) take on Georgia Tech (2-5) on Dec. 10 . . . Penn State (1-5) looks for a second straight win Saturday when it takes on Rutgers (2-4). The Nittany Lions are coming off a 27-17 victory last weekend over Michigan. Junior linebacker Jesse Luketa, a six-foot-three, 242-pound Ottawa native, had four tackles (two solo) and on the season has 35 tackles (20 solo, one for a loss). Junior safety Jonathan Sutherland, also of Ottawa, had an assisted tackle in the contest. This season, the five-foot-11, 202-pound Sutherland has six tackles (three solo, 0.5 for a loss) . . . Sam Emulis, a six-foot-one, 195-pound junior receiver from Montreal, had four catches for 82 yards — both team highs — in the University of Massachusetts' 45-0 loss to Liberty last weekend. Emulis has 17 catches for 168 yards and a TD this season. UMass (0-4) opted to play a limited number of games this season following a review of the program's COVID-19 safety protocols . . . There will be three Canadians in action Saturday when Iowa (4-2) takes on Illinois (2-3). Alaric Jackson, a left tackle from Windsor, Ont., who was on Pro Football Focus's team of the week, suits up for the Hawkeyes while twin brothers Chase and Sydney Brown, of London, Ont., line up at running back and defensive back, respectively, for the Illini.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2000.Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):7:15 pm.Yukon is reporting three more cases of COVID-19.Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, says the new cases bring the territory’s total to 54.Twelve cases are active in Yukon.Hanley says the three new cases are in Whitehorse.\---5:50 p.m.Alberta is reporting 1,828 new cases of COVID-19.And again, the province has surpassed the daily case numbers in Ontario.Alberta has 533 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 99 of them in intensive care.The province says 15 more people have died, bringing that total to 590.\---4:18 p.m.Restaurants and bars in Yukon will soon be required to collect contact information from their patrons.The territory says in a news release that chief medical officer Dr. Brendan Hanley introduced the requirement to assist with COVID-19 contact tracing.It says beginning Monday, one patron from each party will be required to sign in, and the eating and drinking establishments must keep the daily lists for 30 days.The lists will only be shared with Yukon Communicable Disease Control if an exposure has been identified.\---2:43 p.m.Saskatchewan is reporting 283 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death.Health officials say the person who died was in their 80s and the province's death toll from the pandemic sits at 55.There are more than 4,000 active cases of the virus in the province, many of the infections concentrated in and around Regina and Saskatoon.Hospitals are treating 126 COVID-19 patients, with 25 of them in intensive care.The province's seven-day average of daily cases is 262.Premier Scott Moe hopes to see a dip in transmission of the virus so more visitation can be allowed in long-term care homes over the holidays.\---1:40 p.m.Manitoba is announcing nine more deaths from COVID-19 and 320 new infections Friday as health officials released new modelling showing the impact of the pandemic on the province.It shows that three people end up in hospital and one person dies for every 48 cases of COVID-19.Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, says if no public health measures had been put in place, there would have been up to 1,055 new infections a day by this Sunday.Daily cases have been tracking between 300 and 500 recently.\---1:29 p.m.Nunavut will look to get the Moderna vaccine once it is available in Canada.Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says Moderna is preferred because the cold storage and shipping of the Pfizer vaccine is too difficult in Nunavut. Patterson also announced today fewer than five Nunavut residents with COVID-19 were flown to a Winnipeg hospital this week and are in stable condition.Patterson would not comment on exactly how many people were in hospital or what communities they come from.\---1:22 p.m.Ottawa is increasing its order of prospective COVID-19 vaccines.Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada is exercising its option to obtain another 20 million doses of Moderna's two-dose candidate, bringing its total order to 40 million in 2021.That's expected to be enough to vaccinate almost 20 million people.Moderna is one of several manufacturers Ottawa has struck deals with for prospective COVID-19 vaccines, which will be delivered in batches.In early 2021, Canada expects a combined total of six million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, if authorized for distribution.\---1:07 p.m.The group instructing provinces and territories about who should be first in line for COVID-19 vaccines has updated its advice.The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says the first doses of authorized vaccines should go to residents and staff of congregate living settings for seniors.They should also go to older adults starting with people aged 80 and older, then decreasing the age limit to 70 as supply becomes available.Health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences are also on the list.\---12:45Public Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting three new cases of COVID-19. There are now 27 active cases in the province, for a total of 343 cases since the pandemic began. Premier Andrew Fury says he will announce the province's position on the Atlantic travel bubble Monday.Newfoundland and Labrador withdrew from the arrangement on looser travel restrictions within the region last month.\---12:30 p.m.Nova Scotia is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19.Health officials say 11 cases are in the Halifax area, including a case at Citadel High School in Halifax reported late Thursday.Three cases in the northern health zone are close contacts of other cases, and one case in the western zone is related to travel. A case has also been identified at Park West School, a primary to Grade 9 school in the health zone that includes Halifax.\---11:38 a.m.Nunavut is reporting eight new cases of COVID-19.The territory says all the new infections are in Arviat.The community on the western edge of Hudson Bay now has 44 active cases.Nunavut mostly lifted a two-week lockdown earlier this week but restrictions remain in Arviat where numbers are highest.\---11:18 a.m.Public Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting eight new cases of COVID-19.There is one new case in the Moncton region, two in the Saint John region, one in the Fredericton area and four in the Edmunston region.All the individuals are self-isolating and their cases are under investigation.The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick is 528 with 111 currently active. \---11:10 a.m.There are 1,780 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario today and 25 more deaths linked to the virus.Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 633 new cases in Toronto, 433 in Peel and 152 in York Region. She says that the spread of COVID-19 has "hit a critical point."The minister is asking Ontarians to wear masks and remain physically distant from each other.\---11:08 a.m.The Quebec government is reporting 1,345 new COVID-19 cases and 28 additional deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.The Health Department says of the five of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours.The number of hospitalizations has increased by 24 for a total of 761 with 97 people in intensive care.The province has reported a total of 147,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,183 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.\---This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has appointed two close allies of President Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, to a defence advisory board, continuing a post-election purge in the final weeks of the administration.The acting secretary of defence, Christopher Miller, who was installed by Trump on Nov. 9 after he fired then-Defence Secretary Mark Esper, said in a written statement Friday that nine members of the Defence Business Board had been replaced with the appointment of 11 new members.Lewandowski and Bossie are among Trump's most vocal supporters. The nine other appointees are Henry Dreifus, Robert McMahon, Cory Mills, Bill Bruner, Christopher Shank, Joseph Schmidt, Keary Miller, Alan Weh and Earl Matthews.“These individuals have a proven record of achievement within their respective fields and have demonstrated leadership that will serve our department and our nation well,” Miller said.The Miller statement initially said the nine individuals removed from the board had been serving in ”expired positions," implying they were overdue to leave. But later the Pentagon amended the statement to say some board members had been “terminated.” It gave no reason for the firings.The board's charter says members are appointed for terms ranging from one to four years, with annual renewals.The board's charter says members must possess “a proven track record of sound judgment and business acumen in leading or governing large, complex private sector corporations or organizations and a wealth of top-level, global business experience in the areas of executive management, corporate governance, audit and finance, human resources, economics, technology, or healthcare.”The role of the Defence Business Board, which was established in 2002, is to provide the secretary of defence and deputy secretary of defence with independent advice and recommendations on overall Defence Department management, business processes and governance from a private-sector perspective.Lewandowski was Trump’s first of three campaign managers in 2016, and both he and Bossie were regulars on the campaign trail with Trump this year.Bossie was brought on as part of a 2016 campaign team shakeup to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. He briefly fell out of favour with Trump aides over his involvement with political groups that sought to fundraise off Trump’s name but did not benefit his reelection campaign. He found his way back into Trump’s orbit earlier this year thanks to his vigorous advocacy of the president.—Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.Robert Burns, The Associated Press
A request from a long-time Port McNicoll resident could present a winter activities opportunity to people living along 1st Avenue. Joyce Burns is asking that the sidewalk/trail along the entirety of the busy road be plowed for safe winter use. She presented her case through a letter that Coun. Sandy Talbot read to other council members at a recent council meeting. "The mental health benefits of having it plowed is that young families can still walk and run it safely as can all the people that use it,” Burns wrote. “They will be able to use it to teach them how to cross-country ski safely when the conditions are good. “The kids that catch the buses on 1st Avenue will have a safe place to walk to get back and forth and also when they're waiting for their buses,” continued the letter. “With COVID still around this winter, people will be able to get out and enjoy the sidewalk/trail, like they have in spring and summer. They will see wildlife and birds and even a decorated Christmas tree on the sidewalk trail to brighten their day.” Burns also said in her letter that she’d counted eight sidewalks in Port McNicoll that she believes are plowed. “They plow Talbot (Street) to Davidson (Street), a two block section,” she noted in her letter. “Why not all the way down 1st Avenue? I'm hoping there will be a positive outcome to this. I don't expect it to be as wide as it is now. If it is plowed like the rest of the sidewalks, that would be great." Talbot said she had no problem supporting the request considering the cost the township would incur. “I think sometimes we have to think outside the box and there will be an increase in cost if there's an increase in service level,” she said. “It's well-utilized. Other people have trails in other communities and they make skating rinks out of them so they're multi-purpose uses.” Coun. Paul Raymond supported the idea, but also brought forth concerns. “We have a growth of young families down by that area and they are increasingly using the road or the trail in summer time,” he said. "My only concern with cleaning the trail off is that in winter we have motorized vehicles ripping up and down there. What happens if we open it up and see some destruction because of these vehicles? I think we have to put some more thought into the whole thing.” Mayor Ted Walker, who also backed the request, said the snowmobile issue could be mitigated by a 'No Snowmobiles' sign as is done in other areas. “I'd be open for a one-year trial,” he added. Where Talbot had a few peers in her corner, Coun. Barry Norris was at the other of the spectrum on the issue. “Seriously?” he asked. “Why don't we clear the whole trail then? It makes no sense. I'm sorry we're not here to turn around and allow all of this? We're talking about a two-mile sidewalk to allow a couple of pedestrians to walk it. “I don't support it one iota,” continued Norris. “I think there is a policy in place as to what sidewalks we actually do and I doubt this is actually going to be covered under it.” And not to mention the costs of having to maintain it with sand, he said. “There's more to it than just clearing it off,” said Norris. “What's the rough cost on it?” Staff didn’t have an immediate answer as to how much it would cost to clear the two-kilometre pathway and were asked to bring back a report to a December meeting for a final decision. When asked for her reaction to council's decision, Burns wrote in, "I'm hopeful that council will go ahead with plowing 1st Ave., but if not, that will be alright ... I'll try again for next year."Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
OTTAWA — Alain Babineau recalls the discriminatory hurdles he faced trying to join the RCMP in the early 1980s, including a question in his first interview about what he would do if called a word notorious for its overt racism against Black people.Those racist undertones followed him, though, once he became a Mountie. His story isn't unique, he said in an interview Friday, pointing to other federal public servants, past and present, who have faced similar barriers in their careers.This week, he is one of several current and former Black federal workers who are named as plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed against the federal government, alleging systemic discrimination in how it has hired and promoted thousands of public servants for nearly half a century.The lawsuit filed in Federal Court, which has not been certified, alleges that some 30,000 Black civil servants have lost out on "opportunities and benefits afforded to others based on their race" going back to the 1970s.The statement of claim says the $900 million the lawsuit is seeking in damages would compensate Black public servants for the mental and economic hardships they faced. The workers are also asking for a plan to finally diversify the federal labour force, and eliminate barriers that even employment equity laws have been unable to remove.Babineau said some of the positions he was promoted to during his time in the RCMP were set aside for visible minority candidates. Whenever he got a promotion, Babineau said he was labelled as having only moved up because of the colour of his skin.And when he was given a chance to help bring in diverse recruits, Babineau said he was met with a "dog-and-pony show" that didn't address hurdles that could dissuade young Black Canadians from signing up, like being assigned to largely white communities."People that have decision-making authority, they just go about their business, and they (are) just part of it," Babineau said, referring to systemic discrimination."It continues on and … they don't even realize what it is."Many Black public servants over the years have remained relatively silent about their experiences, but that changed over the summer as the Black Lives Matter movement grew internationally, said lawyer Courtney Betty.The Toronto-based lawyer was on a Zoom session with a group of employees over the summer to talk about the issue without any intention of pursuing legal action.That changed, he said, after hearing some of their stories. He pointed to one the plaintiffs, Jennifer Phillips, who works for the Canada Revenue Agency. The statement of claim says she has worked for the agency for about 30 years, faced demeaning comments and lack of career opportunities, pointing to her being promoted only once over three decades."I couldn't say no, and it wasn't an easy decision, to say yes, to take this challenge on," said Betty, himself a former Justice Department lawyer."But I just thought that something had to be done, to at least give them some resolution after all these years."He said the plaintiffs in the case are hoping their legal action ensures others don't have to go through the same pain they did in their careers. Betty also said the government has provided compensation for other groups of employees that suffered similar financial pain, and taken steps to deal with systemic issues like harassment in the RCMP after lawsuits were launched.None of the allegations in the statement of claim has been tested in court. The Treasury Board said it cannot comment on the lawsuit at this time.The secretariat acknowledged in a statement that systemic racism is a "painful lived reality" for Black, racialized and Indigenous people in Canada. A spokeswoman also pointed to the government's throne speech pledge to diversify the top ranks of the public service, and the $12 million over three years in this week's fall economic statement towards that end.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Watching Connor McDavid let a slapshot fly or Fred VanVleet sink a deep three can be a salve to the soul of a sports fan run down by the difficult realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. But while health experts agree that the NHL and NBA saw great success in wrapping up their seasons in "bubbles", some are concerned that the return of professional sports could see the virus spread not only between athletes, but into the larger community. Here’s a look at risks they see with various return-to-play scenarios as the sports calendar attempts to fill up after a quiet November: BUBBLE UPWhen the NBA and NHL announced they were creating sealed-off environments in which to finish their seasons in the summer, some skeptics expected to see COVID outbreaks. Neither league saw a single positive test result in their bubbles. “We didn’t see those massive transmission events that we were concerned about,” said Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba. “The bubble aspect worked. The problem that we get into is how well can you maintain that for an entire season?” While effective from a health perspective, players weren’t enthused about spending months locked down and separated from loved ones. They aren’t eager to repeat the experiment this season, with the NBA having all teams play in home markets (except for the Toronto Raptors, who will call Tampa, Fla., home because of border restrictions). Some sports are trying to repeat the bubble experience, albeit for shorter time periods.The world junior hockey championship is expected to begin in a bubble in Edmonton later this month. Team Canada’s selection camp is already underway in in Red Deer, Alta., though all athletes and staff are currently under quarantine after two players and a staff member tested positive for the virus. Because there are more cases in the community now than earlier this summer, there’s a greater chance of the virus crossing into a protected environment, as anyone with access to the facilities can bring it in, Kindrachuk said. “If there’s high community transmission, you’re hoping that those people stay negative,” he said. “But even if they have a negative test, that doesn’t mean necessarily that the next day they’re not going to become positive and that they’re potentially spreading the virus. So it becomes extremely difficult.”Frequent testing in a walled-off environment allows for positive cases to be identified quickly, but the virus can be passed on before a person is tested, he added, and the number of tests needed over an extended period can take up resources needed elsewhere. “How much extra pressure do we potentially put on to communities that are underneath much larger restrictions in regards to being able to maintain these bubbles?” Kindrachuk asked. Another bubble could add extra pressure to Alberta’s health-care system. Curling Canada announced this week that it is planning to stage events in a protected environment in Calgary. The organization has not yet released details on dates, event specifics or formats.The National Women’s Hockey League, which includes the expansion Toronto Six, will also need to protect its bubble when the league begins play in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Jan. 23. While most leagues with deep pockets have found ways to play during the pandemic, sports like curling and women's hockey face the threat of being replaced if they spend too much time away from fans, said Moshe Lander, a sports economist with Concordia University. “If you’re not even on TV, then you can quickly find yourself irrelevant,” he said. “And that poses an existential threat to those leagues, to those circuits, where you miss a season. And that’s a problem.” PLAY ONSome leagues have opted to return with seasons that look almost normal, albeit with more face masks and less fans. The NFL has gone 12 weeks with teams travelling between cities and some stadiums even allowing a limited number of fans in the stands.But outbreaks among players and staff have climbed recently, forcing the league to postpone games and teams to play without stars. The NFL shows what happens when you combine the lack of bubbles with a high number of community cases, Kindrachuk said. “We’re seeing a lot of players, a lot of coaching staff that are testing positive. All these things start to come down to the question ‘Is it worth the risk?’” he said. After seeing success with a bubble in Florida earlier this year, NBA teams — except the Raptors — are returning to their home arenas for a season set to begin on Dec. 22. The league tested players as they started individual workouts and announced on Wednesday that 48 players — about nine per cent — tested positive. Those athletes are now isolating before they can join group workouts. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League also decided to forge ahead with travelling when it started its season in October. It hasn’t been a smooth journey, though, with five teams having to halt activities due to outbreaks, and provincial restrictions postponing games and practices. The league hosted a temporary bubble in Quebec City last month to help alleviate some of the schedule crunch, then announced last week it will suspend play until at least Jan. 3.When teams are moving between communities, there’s a much higher risk of transmitting COVID-19, said Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto.“(Teams) can do things to reduce it, and they’re trying to, but it’s not perfect,” he said.Junior hockey “absolutely” poses a unique challenge because athletes are together for long bus trips and are integrated with their communities, living with billet families, Morris said. The QMJHL is the only major junior league to have started its season, with the Western Hockey League saying it plans to begin in early January and the Ontario Hockey League setting early February for its return. Lisa MacLeod, the Ontario sport minister, has said OHL players will not be allowed to body check in the 2021 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Morris isn’t convinced that banning body checking is the best way to cut down on transmissions.“I would say that’s ill informed and has no relation to our understanding of the transmission of the disease,” he said. SOMETHING NEWDetails for the 2021 NHL season have yet to be unveiled, but the league has is now targeting mid January for a start date.Several possible scenarios have been floated, including temporarily realigning divisions to reduce travel and deal with border restrictions. The possibility of an all-Canadian division “really would help” because the pandemic is at very different stages in the U.S. and Canada, and each country has different approaches to public health, said Dr. Brian Conway, head of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre. “The Canadian division makes a lot of sense,” he said. Conway also doesn't see huge concern in having players return to Canada from other countries, assuming each man is tested and quarantines upon arrival.Testing athletes as they arrive for training camps allows teams — and the league as a whole — to create a baseline where no one is infected, Conway said. “It’ll start out well, they’ll be reassured by how things go, and then as you move forward, there will be more and more cases,” he said. After the baseline is established, athletes and staff will interact with people in the community. Because numbers in the community are currently so high, each interaction will carry greater risk than it would have earlier this year, Conway said. Those interactions between the community and athletes are what’s driving up numbers in the NFL, he added. Conway said he’s worried about what happens when athletes get time away from the rink. There have already been cases this year of NHL players being caught out at nightclubs despite the pandemic, he noted.“I’m very, very concerned that people who are in a bubble or are in a very, very controlled environment and then are (allowed) to loosen the rules for the next couple of days, that people are going to view this as a licence to do whatever they want, the old normal,” he said. “That’s a big risk.” In order to keep transmission of the virus low, the NHL needs to come up with serious consequences like steep fines or forfeited games for breaking COVID protocols, Conway said. “There needs to be in place a lot of education. Sort of ‘This is what you need to do and this is why,’” he said. WHAT TO DO? As COVID-19 cases climb, questions are being raised about how much longer professional sports will be able to continue. “With the (way) things are going in the U.S., it’s hard to imagine any of the major sports reasonably continuing to have games outside of a bubble,” Morris said. “So they’ll either have to bubble or take a pause. I think that’s the high likelihood.” Even if games can be played, some experts wonder whether they should. The long-term impacts of the virus are still relatively unknown, Kindrachuk said, and leagues should be asking whether returning to play right now is worth the risk. “If we just put this off by the months that we need to be able to get things back in our communities to where we need, get transmission back under control, to me, that is more worthwhile,” he said. Others say society needs to continue to function in order to maintain people’s mental and physical health. “In North America, team professional sports is so much a part of the day-to-day lives of many that it has to exist in some way,” Conway said. “So I think if we were to turn around at this stage, given what’s been done, and shut it down, there would be a very big push back that would affect health.”Sports also need to continue from an economic perspective, with multi-billion dollar TV deals that need to be fulfilled, said Lander. Leagues also need to find a way to keep players safe so competition remains at a high level, he added.“The show has to go on and it has to be legitimate. It can’t just be trotting out a bunch of third stringers or practice squads, or there’s a problem,” Lander said. Getting fans back in the stands is important, too, Lander added, but having people take in a sporting event live can’t risk public health. A super-spreader event or a death linked to a game would be catastrophic, he said. “The public backlash would be so severe that it’s not worth violating for a season or maybe even two seasons to get things done.” Athletes and sports leagues are in a unique position to help others, Morris said, but in order to do so, they’ll need to focus on public health instead of playing games. “If I were in professional sports — every single professional sport — if they want to have the greatest chance of success moving forward with the least risk to their athletes, they would be spending the time right now on mobilizing the public to follow public health measures and to encourage people, when the vaccine comes, to take the vaccine,” he said. “Sports are really influential and they can make a huge difference in the trajectory of the pandemic.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. — With files from The Associated Press.— Follow @gkarstenssmith on TwitterGemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press