Snowy Storm Centre details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
Snowy Storm Centre details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
A Green MLA wants to know if government will reinstate a moratorium on student loan repayments in the province. Lynne Lund raised the issue during question period in the legislature Wednesday. The province put a hold on student loan repayments between March and September last year to help students manage the economic impacts of the pandemic. In February, the student union at UPEI called on the province to bring back its moratorium on student loan payments. The union wants the new moratorium on payments to run from April through September, which Lund said she supports. Lund said she raised the issue with government for the first time last November and is still waiting for an answer. Green MLA Lynne Lund also called on government to forgive $2.8 million in student debt in the upcoming budget. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.) "Students are still waiting for an answer from this government. This is a significant monthly expense of lots of recent graduates and they are asking for help," Lund said. "Does your government intend to reinstate the moratorium on student loan repayments, yes or no?" 'Identified as a priority' Lund told CBC News she has received several letters from recent graduates that say repaying their student debt has been a serious hardship. She said she tabled a petition in the legislature with nearly 300 signatures from students and former students calling on government to put a hold on loan repayments. Responding to Lund's question, Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning Natalie Jameson said there are a number of other financial supports available for students. She said government has invested in non-repayable loan options for students, including the George Coles bursary. Jameson said students don't have to make payments on their provincial loans while they remain full-time students and don't have to start repaying their loan for a year after they are no longer a full-time student. She said students also don't pay interest on their provincial loans. Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning Natalie Jameson did not say whether or not government would reinstate the moratorium on student loan payments but says government has received the request from the UPEI Student Union and is looking into it. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. ) Jameson did not say whether or not government would reinstate the moratorium. Jameson told CBC News that government has received a budget submission recommendation from the student union at UPEI that the moratorium be reinstated and government is considering the request. "It's one that we've discussed and identified as a priority," Jameson said. "We have a number of financial supports available but certainly we're always looking for innovative solutions to reduce financial burdens for students." Lund also called on government to forgive $2.8 million in student debt in the upcoming budget. Jameson said she can provide answers to questions around debt forgiveness once the budget is tabled. More P.E.I. news
RED DEER, Alta. — Some employees of a pork processing plant in central Alberta that shut down after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility are afraid to go back to work, the union president says. Olymel's facility in Red Deer was shut down Feb. 15 because of the COVID-19 outbreak that claimed three lives and infected 515 workers. The company announced late Wednesday it had been given approval to gradually reopen by Alberta Health. Slaughter operations are scheduled to resume today and cutting room operations on Friday. The plant processes about 10,000 hogs per day. UFCW 401 president Thomas Hesse said he received no word from the company that the plant was reopening. "Obviously the bottom line for Olymel is they're just putting pigs ahead of people," Hesse in an interview Wednesday. "What you've got is a frightened workforce. There's this enormous amount of fear and anxiety, and now a layer of grief on top of that, and they expect employees to jump to attention and parade back to work." The union represents about 1,800 workers at the plant. Hesse said the union interviewed between 600 and 700 workers who indicated they were afraid to return to work. He said that wasn't done by Olymel, Alberta Health Services or Occupational Health and Safety. Hesse said he expects some workers will take advantage of their right to refuse unsafe work. "I have no confidence in the safety of the workplace," he said. Olymel said the reopening will come with a number of strict measures. Alberta Health experts will be on site when operations resume and will offer rapid testing. The company said 1,370 employees at the plant have been tested since Jan. 1. The company says it has added more space to the facility to enhance physical distancing. Additional staff have been assigned to monitor and enforce the updated measures, Olymel said. Employee groups have been recalled to take part in training sessions covering all implemented health measures, adjustments and the action plan developed for reopening. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. — By Bill Graveland in Calgary The Canadian Press
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Newfoundland and Labrador announced Wednesday it was extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months. Public health officials said the change will help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey said the decision is a game changer for the province's vaccination prospects. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. Nova Scotia will get 13,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine the week of March 8. Health officials said March 3 the upcoming shipment must be used by April 2 and therefore all 13,000 doses will be administered to residents across the province aged 50 to 64 years starting March 15. The vaccine will be given out at 26 locations in Nova Scotia on a first come, first served basis. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario Ontario has given its first vaccines to people in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, some health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will include a service desk and online portal. It said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. Several regions in Ontario have moved ahead with their plans to vaccinate the general public using their own booking systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. The province has also said it will extend the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months. Toronto began vaccinating police force members who respond to emergency calls on Monday and has also started offering vaccines to people experiencing homelessness. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will go to residents between the ages of 60 and 64, but has not elaborated yet on how it will be distributed except to say it won't be through mass immunization sites. The province has said it will follow the advice of a national panel that has recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older. The health minister said the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot could be used in correctional facilities, but further details haven't been released. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. Like British Columbia, Manitoba has already indicated it would opt for a four-month interval between doses. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The province was also one of several Wednesday to say it would extend second doses of COVID-19 for up to four months, starting March 10. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
The U.S. government has been slow to approve licenses for American companies like Lam Research Corp and Applied Materials Inc to sell chipmaking equipment to China semiconductor giant SMIC, sources said, as the impact of a global chip shortage spreads. Many licenses for U.S. suppliers to ship an estimated $5 billion dollars' worth of equipment and materials have not come through, according to more than half a dozen industry sources, though numerous companies submitted applications soon after the Chinese company was blacklisted in December.
Toronto frontline worker Tim MacFarlane talks about being among the hidden-homeless population and how the pandemic is exacerbating the situation for many.
NEW YORK — When will children be able to get COVID-19 vaccines? It depends on the child's age, but some teenagers could be rolling up their sleeves before too long. The Pfizer vaccine already is cleared for use starting at age 16. That means some high schoolers could get in line for those shots whenever they become eligible in their area, either because of a medical condition or once availability opens up. Pfizer and Moderna both have completed enrolment for studies of children ages 12 and older, and expect to release the data over the summer. If regulators clear the results, younger teens likewise could start getting vaccinated once supply allows. The Moderna vaccine is currently cleared for people 18 and older. Researchers started with older children because they tend to respond to vaccines most similarly to adults. Testing even younger groups is more complex, because they may require a different dose or have differing responses. “Children are not just small adults,” said pediatrician Dr. James Campbell of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “The younger you get, the higher the odds are that things could be different.” Children develop serious illness or die from COVID-19 at much lower rates than adults, but can still spread the virus. “There’s no question: we do want to immunize children,” said Drexel University pediatrics professor Dr. Sarah Long. Pfizer and Moderna expect to start studies in children 11 and younger later this year. “It’s unlikely we could get community protection without immunizing children,” Long added. “This is the lynchpin to getting everything back to some kind of normalcy.” __ The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org. Read previous Viral Questions: How would COVID-19 vaccine makers adapt to variants? How do we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe? How are experts tracking variants of the coronavirus? Marion Renault, The Associated Press
When the hockey season resumes, 13-year-old Matéo Pérusse-Shortte will be taking a shot at a long-standing problem in his sport: racism. The Montreal teen and his mother Moashella Shortte are starting a hockey diversity group in Quebec to make the sport more inclusive by allowing players of colour to share their experiences. Pérusse-Shortte, a right winger, was only eight when he first had to confront racism head-on. As he pursued his hobby into his teens, the discrimination continued. Matéo Pérusse-Shortte first experienced racism while playing hockey at the age of eight.(Kwabena Oduro/CBC) "We were in the semi-finals and I scored the tying goal. I got to celebrate in the stands and there was a family flipping me off and calling me the N-word," he said. "Coaches would look at me differently, maybe [give me] less ice time … I felt it, the ignorance of coaches." A self-described hockey mom, Shortte says being one of the only parents of colour in those stands was an additional barrier to speaking about the prejudice her son faced. Teen hockey player Matéo Pérusse-Shortte says a family in the stands once called him the N-word. He first confronted racism head-on when he was eight years old. (Submitted by Moashella Shortte) "If I start telling people, 'Hey, you know, this happened to my son,' I know exactly what's going to happen: those people are going to talk to me less and less," she said. "People are not comfortable to talk about race, and Black people are not comfortable to put themselves out there because we know that we will be isolated." Plans for the group are still in development, but the first online session is scheduled for September and will be open to players, parents and coaches. "I would love to see coaches seeking out information on how they can support their Black players, how they can learn to identify when racism is taking place and what to do about it," said Shortte. Once the group is launched, Pérusse-Shortte says he hopes to have a greater sense of belonging. "I hope to feel more comfortable in my sport after all of this." (CBC) For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
Canada's recent move to offer permanent residency to more foreigners living and working in the country is a short-term solution to the economic problems spurred by a pandemic-related immigration slowdown, analysts say, while critics argue the strategy excludes too many vulnerable people. With travel restrictions in place, visa offices closed and immigration applications stalled, the Canadian government finds itself on the back foot as it attempts to reach its target of attracting a record 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021. The country, which admitted 184,370 people in that category last year, the lowest number since 1998, is turning its attention to the more than 1 million temporary residents within its borders to boost the numbers, inviting some to apply for permanent residency.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. There are 875,559 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 875,559 confirmed cases (29,930 active, 823,524 resolved, 22,105 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,812 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 78.75 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,365 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,909. There were 60 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 299 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 43. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.16 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,676,396 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 997 confirmed cases (153 active, 838 resolved, six deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 29.3 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 35 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 199,347 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 137 confirmed cases (22 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 13.78 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 20 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 107,377 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,646 confirmed cases (30 active, 1,551 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 3.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 343,260 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,438 confirmed cases (38 active, 1,372 resolved, 28 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 238,399 tests completed. _ Quebec: 289,670 confirmed cases (7,336 active, 271,908 resolved, 10,426 deaths). There were 729 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 85.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,198 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 743. There were 19 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 81 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 303,763 confirmed cases (10,397 active, 286,352 resolved, 7,014 deaths). There were 958 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 70.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,590 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,084. There were 17 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 121 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,964,481 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,000 confirmed cases (1,146 active, 29,953 resolved, 901 deaths). There were 50 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 83.09 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 413 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 59. There were three new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.15 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 535,163 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,059 confirmed cases (1,431 active, 27,239 resolved, 389 deaths). There were 121 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 121.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,079 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 154. There were two new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33 per 100,000 people. There have been 579,326 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,454 confirmed cases (4,649 active, 127,903 resolved, 1,902 deaths). There were 402 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 105.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,421 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 346. There were 12 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 36 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,414,903 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 81,909 confirmed cases (4,718 active, 75,819 resolved, 1,372 deaths). There were 542 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 91.65 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,559 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 508. There were seven new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 34 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,941,589 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Wednesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,183 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (two active, 40 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,664 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 359 confirmed cases (eight active, 350 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 20.33 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of eight new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,718 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
The painstaking detective work of contact tracing usually starts with an infected person and works forward, asking who has that person seen since they became potentially contagious with COVID-19. But that mainstay of public health has a less high-profile cousin that's become instrumental in spotting superspreader events quickly — working in reverse. "Instead of asking who did that person potentially give the virus to, you're asking where did that person get the virus?" said Dr. Trevor Arnason, associate medical officer of health with Ottawa Public Health. "It makes you become better at finding people who have COVID-19 who you might not have known about." COVID-19 tends to spread explosively in situations where the virus can infect a bunch of people all at once, public health experts say, which is where what's known as backward tracing comes in handy. Ottawa Public Health cottoned on to the benefits of backward tracing when emerging evidence from Japan showed how focusing on where a person got COVID-19 and going back to that location helped to find many more who were infected. "We started more systematically asking everybody, 'Where do you think you got it? Or who do you think you got this from? And then we started working back from those places. You start to notice these patterns, which we've put together in infographics that we've shared with the public," Arnason said. Infographics tracing how many were affected from one indoor wedding allowed the public to see how seemingly disparate locations tied together, resulting in 22 people from eight households being affected in two weeks. "Backward contact tracing is used to find the superspreading events. That's the main goal." Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious diseases epidemiologist in Toronto, said most people who are infected don't pass it to others. But the instances where an individual goes on to transmit to many others likely reflect how coronavirus transmission clusters at a particular location or environment. An indoor gym where those working out are unmasked, breathing heavily in what may not be the best ventilated conditions is one example. "It's clear that telling people to wear masks when they move around a gym, but not when they're exercising, which I think has been the protocol in a lot of places, wasn't enough," Tuite said. WATCH | Day in the life of COVID-19 contact tracers [May 2020]: Suppressing variants Backward contact tracing is a lot of work for public-health staff facing down outbreaks, said Tuite, but also potentially high yield. It can be particularly helpful at the early stages an epidemic — which is long-gone for normal coronavirus, but the introduction of more-transmissible variants of concern is like a do-over, said Tuite, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's an effective way of suppressing the growth of the variants of concern amongst this larger epidemic that's happening," she said. "Overall, we have declining case counts and so if we can control sparks that are happening with the variants of concern, there is the potential to really keep it under control and at least keep case counts declining." This May 13, 2020, photo taken with a fisheye lens shows a list of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Salt Lake County. The white board remains in the office as a reminder of how quickly the coronavirus spread. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press) Declining case counts mean hospital and health-care capacity can accommodate more surgeries and preventative care and allow the economy underpinning society to recover, too. For now, Tuite said case counts will only decline if people restrict their interactions. For Dr. Susy Hota, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto's University Health Network, keeping the variants of concern at bay is another goal of vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible. "If we continue to allow transmission to occur, [the variants] will take over a larger and larger proportion of the market, so to speak," said Hota, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Stopping spread fast Regardless of variants, forward contact tracing to identify high-risk contacts and possible cases as aggressively as possible so they know to isolate quickly will always be a key public health tool. For instance, a Manitoba spokesperson said they routinely collect information on where a COVID-positive case may have been exposed. But the focus is on forward contact tracing to stop spread as quickly as possible. WATCH | Workplace physical distancing innovation: Hota cautioned there are even more recall challenges with backward contact tracing than forward, using herself as an example. "Do you think you were more than two metres away when you talked to that person? I think so. But I didn't have a yardstick with me. And how long do you think you were talking? Oh, I'm terrible at that. I'll tell you, like, five minutes. I have no idea." The recall problem gets amplified because to do backward contact tracing effectively means going back the full 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus. Hota does see a role for backward contact tracing in trying to pin down if there's a single source of multiple cases, say at a meat-packing plant. "The truth often doesn't emerge until the epidemic is over," Hota said. (Tim Kindrachuk/CBC)
Apple supplier Foxconn said it expects first-quarter revenue to rise more than 15% from a year earlier, boosted by strong iPhone sales and robust demand for electronics during lockdowns worldwide to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The world's largest contract electronics manufacturer has previously forecast strong demand for the new iPhone 12, saying its business will be supported by "stronger than expected" sales for smartphones and for telecommuting devices amid a coronavirus-induced work-from-home trend. Taiwan-based Foxconn, in a short statement on Thursday, said it expects consumer electronics revenue, which includes smartphones and smart watches, to rise more than 15% in the January-March quarter from a year earlier.
Conservation authorities in the Ottawa area say the weather's not co-operating for people who want to leave their ice fishing huts out until the March 15 deadline. Ice fishers have until a certain date in Ontario to get their huts off the ice or face a fine: locally, it's March 1 along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, March 15 for most of eastern Ontario and March 31 in Renfrew County and Algonquin Park. People who monitor ice and water conditions around Ottawa advise getting gear off sooner rather than later. "The recent fluctuations in weather have not made for good, safe ice over an extended period," said Ryan Robson, a resource technician with South Nation Conservation, in a news release. The authority covering part of Ottawa and communities to the east said last week it was measuring ice just 15 centimetres thick near some huts around Casselman, Ont., which is considered barely safe for walking. Ice thickness around Petrie Island in east Ottawa ranged from 15 to 51 centimetres in the local association's latest report last weekend and the ice is off-limits to larger vehicles. Do you want this to be your hut? Didn't think so.(Giacomo Panico/CBC) The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, west of South Nation's area, echoed its neighbour's message, saying huts, gear and waste will pollute the waters people fish if they're left. You also can't just burn your hut down, added South Nation Conservation: it's both illegal and polluting. Ottawa's forecast calls for sunny daytime highs of between 5 C and 8 C to start next week. If you're new or just want a reminder, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has safety advice and lists of which fish are in season.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch court ruled Thursday that a deeply religious father who kept some of his children isolated from the outside world for years in a remote farmhouse can't stand trial on charges including child sexual abuse because he has been incapacitated by a stroke. The decision came after prosecutors last month asked the court in the northern city of Assen to drop the case because the 68-year-old suspect wasn't fit to stand trial. It brings to an end a case that made headlines around the world after one of the man's sons raised the alarm and authorities discovered the father had been living for years with six of his children in the farmhouse in the eastern Netherlands. At a preliminary hearing in January last year, prosecutors portrayed the father, identified only as Gerrit Jan van D., as a deeply religious man who saw his family as “chosen by God” and did everything in his power — including physical beatings and other punishments — to keep them from succumbing to what he considered malign outside influences. The court ruled Thursday that a 2016 stroke had so badly affected the father's ability to communicate that continuing with the case would breach his fair trial rights. “He doesn't sufficiently understand what is happening in the courtroom,” court spokesman Marcel Wolters said in a video statement. The six children who were kept on the farm are now all young adults. Three older siblings had earlier left the family’s isolated life. Their mother died in 2004. The Associated Press
As vaccination rates rise everyday around the world and economic lockdown measures are gradually eased, leaders in the oil and gas industry aren't shy about their optimism for the rest of the year. They are expecting a bounce back after a brutal 2020. Oil prices hit record lows last year, but are now back above where they were before the pandemic struck. The industry can feel the recovery underway and are excited see demand pick up as economic activity rebounds. Some expect the world's demand for oil to surpass pre-COVID levels by the end of 2021. Yet, that hopefulness is clouded by competing priorities for the sector as it picks itself off the ground and tries to position itself for a world increasingly focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change. It's an ongoing theme at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference, one of the world's largest energy conferences, as industry leaders discuss the juggling act of appeasing investors, environmentalists, and customers, while trying to come up with the critical technologies they believe the world will need to have abundant energy without the heavy emissions. Chevron built a "hydrogen highway" in California about 15 years ago, but it wasn't much of a success. The company's chief executive Michael Wirth says 'as an industry, we can't give the market what it doesn't want.'(CERAWeek by IHS Markit) Balancing act The competing priorities are evident in what Calgary-based oilsands producer Suncor calls its purpose: "To provide trusted energy that enhances people's lives while caring for each other and the earth." That's easier said than done. Chief executive Mark Little said a company can't slash its shareholder returns to invest in cutting emissions, since the industry needs the support of investors. Suncor is allocating about 10 per cent of its capital spending on reducing its emissions and providing cleaner energy. Little said he is trying to figure out the timing of the energy transition and when the world will be ready to rely on low-carbon sources of energy. "We can actually create quite a challenge to the globe in not providing enough energy, driving prices up and countering this economic drive," he said, during the CERAWeek event. "But … we don't want to be the other way and have all these excess emissions and not do the transition." Pre-COVID, many energy companies were spending a lot of money to grow production, but now they're pulling back on that strategy. Little doesn't seem to have the answer on the perfect strategy. That's why the Suncor CEO said he, along with many others, will be watching how the industry balances the business amidst so many often competing forces on the sector. Pressure for profits The forecasts for this year are remarkably better compared to 2020, when companies like BP cut 10,000 jobs and the industry accumulated debt. "Our economists at IHS Markit keep raising their forecast for economic activity in 2021, and certainly that will be reflected in demand in the second half of the year," said Dan Yergin, IHS Markit vice chairman, during the event. Some even predict significant growth for the sector. "We don't think peak oil is around the corner — we see oil demand growing for the next 10 years," said John Hess, the chief executive of Hess Corp., a New York-based oil company. "We're not investing enough to grow oil and gas in the future." The financial outlook will be welcomed by investors, who have put increased pressure on the oilpatch in recent years to produce profits and return that money to shareholders. Previously, investors were content with companies growing operations, but the focus is now on producing cash. "That's what you've got to deliver as a business, first and foremost," said Ryan Lance, chief executive of ConocoPhillips. "Then you have to do it sustainably." Lance describes how investors are demanding more of the industry. Besides profits, companies need to have a credible plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, or else "you don't deserve investors interested in your business." Suncor is committing about 10% of its capital spending toward clean fuels and reducing emissions. (Kyle Bakx/CBC) Climate risk Of course, it's not just investors concerned about carbon emissions. There's mounting pressure from governments, regulators and environmentalists who want to address climate change. ExxonMobil, for instance, has changed its position to support a carbon tax in the U.S. and also embraced carbon capture and storage as a way to reduce emissions. This week, the company added two new board members amidst pressure from some of its largest investors to disclose more about its carbon emissions and to publicize a long-term energy transition plan. Like many in the industry, chief executive Darren Woods said there is a "dual challenge" in providing more energy, with less emissions. At the same time, there's pressure to innovate. That includes finding ways to reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage, hydrogen production, biofuel production, and other low carbon technologies. Exxon says it has spent about $10 billion US on emission reductions research and will invest a further $3 billion by 2025. One area of focus is on reducing methane emissions from its operations. Plenty of work is needed toward developing better technologies in surveillance and mitigation of fugitive methane, he said. "I think the industry, with time, will close [those emission leaks] down and that will be much less of a concern, going forward." Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions were two per cent higher in December 2020 than in the same month a year earlier, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Wednesday, pointing to the economic recovery and a lack of clean energy policies. "Our numbers show we are returning to carbon-intensive business-as-usual. This year is pivotal for international climate action — and it began with high hopes — but these latest numbers are a sharp reminder of the immense challenge we face in rapidly transforming the global energy system," said IEA executive director Fatih Birol, in a statement. Preventing outages Recent electricity outages in Texas and California are being held up as examples of the value of dependable energy and how much the world still relies on fossil fuels. Some environmentalists may want the world to rapidly reduce the production of oil and gas, but those in the industry warn the energy transition can't happen too quickly. "We need to be sure that we've got reliable grid management and reliable power supply to that grid and natural gas should play a very, very important role," said Chevron chief executive Michael Wirth. Society's reliance on oil and gas has been evident during the pandemic. Even with government lockdown measures, travel restrictions and an increased level of people working from home, the global demand for oil and gas only dropped about nine per cent in the last year, Wirth said. "I think it actually, in a way, demonstrates how important our industry is to the world economy," he said. Chevron learned first hand that the sector can't move too quickly. About 15 years ago, the company built a series of hydrogen fuelling stations in California, but found little success, even with the support of the state's government. It serves as a cautionary tale about moving at the right pace during the energy transition. "As an industry, we can't give the market what it doesn't want," said Wirth.
Britain's Prince Philip, the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth, underwent a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition on Wednesday, Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Thursday. Philip was admitted to hospital on Feb. 16 after he felt unwell, to receive treatment for an unspecified, but not COVID-19-related, infection. "The Duke of Edinburgh yesterday underwent a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition at St Bartholomew’s Hospital," the palace said, using Philip's formal title.
Saskatchewan's COVID-19 vaccine clinics have lists of "alternate" recipients in the event extra doses are available after as many of the original priority targets as possible are immunized, according to the province's chief medical health officer. Dr. Saqib Shahab spoke about the little-known practice earlier this week during a news conference. He said it has helped keep Saskatchewan from wasting the limited Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines offered so far. "Out of the 80,000 vaccines given away, our wastage rate has been very low," Shahab said, adding that the vaccines need to be used quickly once they are thawed. Under Phase 1 of Saskatchewan's COVID-19 vaccine program, residents and staff at long-term and personal care homes are among the few priority groups designated for early vaccination, ahead of the general public. Each care home in the province has to provide health officials with a list of residents and staff who have agreed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. There's also an alternate list. Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchenwan's chief medical health officer, said the practice of alternate vaccine recipient lists helps prevent wastage. (CBC) "If, for some reason, the people who are [originally] booked were not able to get the vaccine, all vaccine providers have an alternate list that they can call, and they have been calling sometimes at short notice," Shahab said. Eden Care CEO received early vaccine That's what happened to Alan Stephen in early January. Stephen is the CEO of Eden Care Communities, which operates care homes in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw. He said direct-care providers — residents, nurses, continuing care aides, recreation workers, housekeeping staff and food service providers — at Regina Lutheran Home were given first dibs on doses on Jan. 13. The home was given 90 minutes notice of the clinic and not all staff on the priority list were able to make it to the home, Stephen said. Some elders and workers were not vaccinated because they were COVID-19 positive and, at that time, not eligible for the vaccine, he added. "We vaccinated the priority list and then once they realized there was additional shots in the vials, they started calling people on the other list so we wouldn't waste [doses]," he said. "Because of the time frames involved, you had [as little as] 15 minutes to come in. So they called and I said, yeah, I could come in." Regina Lutheran Home was in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak at the time, as were other Eden Care facilities in Regina. Workers from other locations couldn't go to Regina Lutheran Home to get vaccinated due to "cohorting," the Saskatchewan Health Authority practice of limiting health workers to one home during the pandemic, Stephen said. Red Cross workers helping out at the home were also vaccinated, he said. Alan Stephen, the CEO of Eden Care Communities, says everyone was given the opportunity to receive a vaccine at Regina Lutheran Home. (Eden Care) The alternate list included administrators, human resource staffers, finance people and executives like Stephen, he said, adding that those people have helped with tasks such as screening and overseeing outside visits. "I don't think there are many of our team in home offices that did not work at one of the [care] homes during the pandemic. I don't mean just once. Over weekends, at nights. We all sorta chipped in to help out," Stephen said. Stephen said he normally visits Eden Care homes quite often, although not as much during the pandemic. He had been inside a home within a few days before the Jan. 13 clinic, he said. "It's leadership by wandering," he said. Stephen said he's aware of public sensitives around people who do not provide direct care receiving vaccines early. "I'm pretty sure I was near the end of [the list]," he said. Premier Scott Moe announced Tuesday that 91 per cent of long-term care home residents across the provide had received their first dose. The remaining nine per cent didn't receive vaccines either because they refused them, weren't available to take them or had "a change in health status." The ministry did not provide a breakdown of those categories. The health authority said it does not track its vaccine data to that level of detail.
Veteran Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, who runs a website known for its tough scrutiny of President Rodrigo Duterte, took the witness stand for the first time on Thursday to counter tax evasion charges that she maintains were politically motivated. Ressa, a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for fighting media intimidation, is facing several government lawsuits that have stoked international concern about harassment of journalists in the Philippines, a country once seen as a standard bearer for press freedom in Asia. Speaking to reporters after testifying for two and a half hours in Manila, Ressa asked the government to allow journalists to work freely and independently.
Jim Lowes had never thought about being an organ donor until he read a story about Logan Boulet nearly three years ago. Boulet was one of 16 people who died in April 2018 when a truck driver blew a stop sign and drove into the path of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team's bus in rural Saskatchewan. Thirteen players were injured. Boulet, 21, had signed up to be an organ donor on his birthday, five weeks before the crash. "He had already planned on giving his organs," said Lowes, who lives in Burlington, Ont. "That really struck me. "What a brilliant young man. Most kids at that age are not thinking about donating their organs." Six people across Canada benefited from Boulet's organs and the Logan Boulet Effect soon followed. Nearly 147,000 Canadians registered to be donors in the two months after learning the player had signed his donor card. It also led to Green Shirt Day every April 7, the anniversary of Boulet's death, to promote organ donor awareness and registration across Canada. Canadian Blood Services says more than a million people have registered a decision about organ donation in the years since Boulet's death. There are about 12 million Canadians on provincial registries. Lowes, 61, said he was inspired by Boulet to be a living donor. "I was too old to donate (part of) my liver ... but I checked into the kidney," he said. "I ended up donating one of my kidneys." Canadian Blood Services says the number of living donors increased in 2019 but dropped about 30 per cent to 427 in 2020. Deceased donors also dropped about 21 per cent to 654. Officials say the decline was due to COVID-19. "The impact we've seen has changed over the year," said Dr. Norman Kneteman, a transplant surgeon at University of Alberta Hospital and a member on an expert advisory committee with Canadian Blood Services. During the first wave of COVID-19 last spring, there was fear of the unknown, he said. "Donation really slowed down and very nearly stopped for awhile." Surgeries considered non-essential were delayed. There were fewer trauma patients who might become donors. And there was an early concern about transmission of the novel coronavirus between donor and patient, which he said is extremely rare and can be managed with careful testing. Kneteman, also a director for the division of transplantation at the U of A, said programs were almost back to normal by summer, and surgeons kept up with transplants during the pandemic's second wave. "We did see through the year — 2020 — that we had between 10 and 15 per cent reduction in activity in transplant for all organs," he said. "We have some catch-up to play there." Boulet's father said his family hopes an online campaign, which started this week, reminds people about organ donation. "We just want people to register their intent, what they want to do, whether they want to be an organ donor or don't want to be an organ donor," Toby Boulet said from Lethbridge, Alta. He said it's disappointing organs went unused in the early days of COVID-19. "We lost many, many chances in Canada to have transplants," he said. "There are chances to save lives. There are chances to make people's lives better and, even though COVID has enveloped and consumed all of us ... we can't forget about organ donation and transplantation." Canadian Blood Services said there were some bright spots in 2020. Newfoundland and Labrador brought in a new way last April for residents to register as organ donors. An online registry started in Saskatchewan last September. Nova Scotia recorded higher donation rates as awareness increased before a presumed consent law that requires people to opt out of organ donation. "The law came into effect in January, but we had been working on changing the system in preparation for the law for the past 18 months," said Dr. Stephen Beed, medical adviser for the Nova Scotia organ and tissue donation program. "We've ended up having by far the most successful donation year." Beed, who was working in an intensive care unit in Saskatoon the week of the Broncos crash, has a special connection to the Boulet family. "I was involved in taking care of Logan," he said. "It's quite remarkable to think I am living in Nova Scotia and doing a lot of donation-related work here, and then happened to be involved with one of the most tragic and significant donation-related circumstances we've had." Beed said the crash was noticed around the world. "To be able to find something positive in the middle of such a tragic circumstance — with Logan's gift — is something that really resonated and continues to resonate." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press
Federal Liberal government staffers were worried that a donation of medical-grade masks for Korean War veterans in Canada would send the wrong message as the country grappled with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the outset of the pandemic. The Republic of Korea, commonly known as South Korea, shipped more than one million face masks to veterans around the world last May as a "token of appreciation" for those who fought in the 1950-53 conflict on the Korean peninsula. Some 35,000 KF94 masks, the Korean equivalent of the gold standard N95 respirator, were shipped to Canada to be distributed to the 5,900 surviving veterans of the war. The South Korean government said it wanted to help these elderly Canadian Armed Forces veterans — their average age is 88 years old — at a time when masks were scarce in Canada and the novel coronavirus was claiming the lives of hundreds of seniors in Canada's long-term care homes. "We know how difficult it is to obtain this personal protective gear in Canada at this moment," Ambassador Yun Je Lee, the consul general of the Republic of Korea in Montreal, told CBC News at the time. "This can never match the warm hands you extended to us, but we hope this will help you overcome the current crisis." Behind the scenes, however, federal political staffers worried that helping to facilitate the donation might lead to awkward comparisons with the plight of Canadian health care personnel struggling to acquire PPE to protect themselves at work. The federal government's PPE procurement efforts at the time were beset by problems with shaky supply chains in China and a protectionist push in the U.S. to reduce shipments to other countries. Jake McDonald holds up a package of masks sent to him by the Republic of Korea. McDonald served in the Korean War at the age of 17.(Dave Laughlin/CBC) According to documents tabled at the House of Commons health committee last week, the government staffers urged Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to downplay the South Korean announcement and relegate news of the donation to a social media post to avoid media inquiries. One staffer floated the idea of redeploying the masks to meet other needs. While procurement agents previously had ignored warnings about shortages in the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) and rebuffed an offer from U.S. industrial giant Honeywell to supply Canada with N95 masks, by May it was abundantly clear that the country did not have enough PPE on hand for doctors and nurses working on the front lines. Supplies were stretched so thin that some health care workers were sanitizing their masks in microwaves. "I worry about the optics around the government of Canada facilitating the distribution of N95s in settings where they are not recommended for use when doctors are pulling all the stops to stretch the existing supply that they have," wrote Sabrina Kim, then the issues advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a May 20 email. "I submit for your consideration that some low key social media expressing Canada's thanks (rather than a news release) would invite fewer questions about N95 mask distribution, testing & healthcare priorities. Just my 0.02$!" she added. Kathleen Davis, a senior foreign policy adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, agreed with Kim that a plan to issue a news release thanking the South Korean government should be scrapped to avoid generating what she called "unnecessary controversy." "Agree with this, for what it's worth," she wrote. Andrew MacKendrick, a communications planning staffer in the Prime Minister's Office, asked if Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) raised any red flags about this donation to a relatively small subset of the Canadian population at a time when there were supply demands elsewhere. "Are there any issues with Health/PHAC that these donations are going to specific places vs. to PHAC and then area of greatest need?" Andrew MacKendrick, a communications staffer in the Prime Minister's Office, asked John Embury, the director of communications to Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay. Travis Gordon, a senior policy adviser in Health Minister Patty Hajdu's office, said the federal government couldn't easily intercept the donation to make up for shortfalls elsewhere. "Given that it's a donation, I suppose we can't redirect them to where they are sorely needed (hospitals)," Gordon wrote. "We will just try to avoid this spinning into a story about how some vets in some LTC homes will get N95s while doctors in hospital are limited to one per day," he added. "Please let us know if any interesting media Qs come your way on mask grade/distribution." In total, 35,000 face masks were sent out in bags like this one to Korean War veterans across Canada.(Eddy Kennedy/CBC) John Brassard, the Conservative critic for veterans affairs, said it's "egregious" that the government was even considering "confiscating" masks destined for elderly war veterans. "It tells me just how miserably unprepared the Canadian government was in terms of PPE and providing PPE to front line health care workers, including doctors," Brassard told CBC News. "It was a gift. A gift from the South Korean government to elderly Canadian war veterans who served in the Korean conflict. The fact they were even thinking about confiscating this gift, it's disturbing." After pushback from his colleagues, Embury ultimately dropped plans to release a statement to the media celebrating the donation and the diplomatic gesture. "No problem, we will pull the plug," he wrote on May 20. He also said he would ask the South Korean embassy to hold off on publicizing the donation until after the prime minister's scheduled press conference on May 21 so that Trudeau could avoid questions from the media. "Asked them to delay releasing their NR until after the PM's news conference, but no guarantee on that," he said. "Great thanks," Kim said in response. On May 21, the prime minister announced support for off-reserve Indigenous communities in the morning. A ceremony commemorating the face mask donation was later held at the South Korean embassy in Ottawa. MacAulay did not attend that ceremony but the department's deputy minister, Walt Natynczyk, was on hand. "They were clearly embarrassed by the PPE situation. They were trying to tamp down this news release, and hold off. They didn't want the prime minister to be asked about it because they didn't want him to be embarrassed," Brassard said. Reached by phone, Embury said VAC had planned to send out a news release but the South Korean embassy "jumped out ahead of us" and released one of its own, "and we just rolled with the punches." He said a press release was "only one possible channel" to acknowledge the donation, and MacAulay later had a private Zoom call with the South Korean ambassador to thank him for the donation. "We didn't have any reluctance to publicize the gift of masks," Embury said. The donation ultimately received scant coverage in the mainstream press until CBC News in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador profiled some grateful Korean War veterans at the end of June, nearly a month after the masks had first arrived in Canada. "I feel very proud that they remembered some of the guys that were over there. A lot of the guys never came back," one recipient, Jake McDonald, said of the South Korean donation.
As vaccine rollouts accelerate in Ontario, those in disability communities are still wondering why they have not been prioritized. Windsor disability advocate Kevin McShan says prioritizing disabled people for vaccination is important due to many having more vulnerabliities to COVID-19. "Certainly for people with disabilities they're in a higher risk group, so we would hope that it [vaccination] would be faster than it's been." Currently there is no vaccination timeline by the province for those with disabilities outside congregate settings. McShan has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy which some studies have shown put people with the disability at higher risk for respiratory complications from COVID-19. Over one in five Canadians live with a disability, yet questions remain as to why those with disabilities are still waiting to get vaccinated and waiting to learn where they fit on the priority list. Kevin McShan is a disability advocate and podcast host in Windsor. (CBC News) On Tuesday, Theresa Marentette, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's CEO and chief nursing officer was asked about a potential vaccination timeline for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She said that the supply and delivery of vaccines is an important factor and that the unit is waiting and hoping for more direction. Across the border In Detroit, the vaccination roll-out has garnered the attention of disability groups who are lauding the city's wide eligibility for people with certain disabilities. Dessa Cosma is the executive director of Detroit Disability Power, an organization that led a letter-writing campaign pushing for the city to include people with disabilities in vaccination, which it has as of February 11th. "We started organizing almost a year ago now, to protect our community," says Cosma, describing how she and others in disability communities knew they would have to advocate early on in the pandemic to get better supports. Dessa Cosma is the Executive Director of Detroit Disability Power. (CBC News) When it was announced that Detroit would open vaccination for residents over the age of 18 with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Cosma says it was a relief. "Organizers with disabilities like myself are extremely proud to have had this major win." In some respects, Detroit is leading the U.S. with equitable vaccination which includes disabilities like cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and types of visual and hearing impairments. Dessa Cosma is a Detroit advocate who has been fighting for wider vaccination eligibility for disabled communities. On February 17th, she got her first shot of the Moderna vaccine. (Dessa Cosma ) Phase 2 in Ontario Phase 2 of Ontario's vaccination roll-out is expected to run between April and June. But the prioritization has been received with confusion over who among disabled communities can get vaccinated. In a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Health was not able to provide a timeline for those with disabilities. The province added it is using an approach that will ensure that the vaccine gets to the "most vulnerable first, who have higher risk outcomes from contracting the virus and are at a higher risk of spreading the virus." When further asked if the ministry would begin gathering data related to COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and recoveries of those with disabilities, it responded that data collection has grown throughout the pandemic. But it did not specify whether this data would involve COVID-19 statistics related to the general population of people with disabilities. What is in a definition? Tova Perlmutter is a dual Canadian-U.S.citizen and currently lives in Windsor. With the border closed, she has been unable to cross into Detroit to even have the opportunity to get vaccinated. However, from Windsor, Perlmutter has been contributing heavily as a disability activist to push for Detroit to widen its vaccination roll-out. After seeing some success in the U.S. city, Perlmutter says she still is unsure why Ontario's vaccine roll-out has been sluggish in addition to being confusing. Tova Perlmutter is a Canadian-U.S. dual citizen and disability activist who currently lives in Windsor. (CBC News) "It looks like they're talking about serving a bunch of different groups but it doesn't say what those conditions are or how they would apply — a definition should include people with a wide range of disabilities, developmental, intellectual and others." The defining of disabilities matters given that Perlmutter has general anxiety disorder and ADHD. She sees them as "invisible disabilities" and does not know in what capacity they would ever be considered in vaccination priority. Had Perlmutter been in Detroit, she would have fallen under the eligibility for a vaccine, which clearly includes ADHD as a qualifier. Where is the data and why does it matter? There is little information about the number of people in the province who have disabilities and have contracted or died from COVID-19. In a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services said that since the start of the pandemic, there have been 699 cases and 23 deaths of adults with developmental disabilities diagnosed with COVID-19 at ministry-funded residential settings. The ministry said it is working with a research institute to look at infection trends among those with disabilities. But the lack of information is troubling for experts like Dr.Yona Lunsky who is a senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Dr.Yona Lunsky is a senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and she focuses on developmental disabilities. (camh.ca) Lunsky's expertise is in developmental disabilities where she directs a research partnership that aims to improve the health of people living with developmental disabilities. "If we don't have the data, because we haven't collected it, then we don't have that science right to inform our decision making," One study that has shown how stark the disparity is between disabled and non-disabled people during the pandemic, comes out of the U.K. from the Office for National Statistics. The independent institution found that from January 2020 to November 2020, six in ten COVID-19 deaths were people with disabilities. Putting that into further perspective, over 30,000 disabled people lost their lives to the virus. Yet they only made up 17 per cent of the population. This is a page from the Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities vaccine infographic. The infographic aims to help answer questions people with disabilities might have surrounding the pandemic and vaccination. (hcarddcovid.com) Dr. Zain Chagla an infectious diseases specialist at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton says that disabilities are incredibly nuanced but there are some common risks to be aware of. "Often their disability does give them comorbidities, if people have neurological disabilities, they often have cardiac or respiratory complications from them." Chagla also notes the catch-22 in trying to maintain public health guidelines but still needing outside help to accomplish necessary tasks. "It makes it very difficult for people to follow a stay at home order and unfortunately have to expose themselves for the sake of their own health care maintenance." Deciding vaccination priority can be tricky when the severity and types of disabilities start becoming compared, as Chagla notes, since there will be varied levels of risk of dying from COVID-19. Looking to the future In Canada, certain provinces like B.C. and Saskatchewan have started including specific underlying health conditions or opening vaccination for "adults with very significant developmental disabilities that increase risk."