Checking out the ice jam on the St. Clair river with Mark Robinson.
Checking out the ice jam on the St. Clair river with Mark Robinson.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech - image credit) When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Another type of COVID-19 vaccine was authorized by Health Canada on Friday. The new vaccines are manufactured by AstraZeneca, and developed in partnership with Oxford University. Canada also approved the Serum Institute of India’s version of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Afterwards, Anita Anand, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement announced that Canada has secured two million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through an agreement with Verity Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc./Serum Institute of India. AstraZeneca has licensed the manufacture of its ChAdOx1 vaccine to the Serum Institute. The first 500,000 doses will be delivered to Canada in the coming weeks. The remaining 1.5 million doses are expected to arrive by mid-May. “The Government of Canada continues to do everything possible to protect Canadians from COVID-19. This includes securing a highly diverse and extensive portfolio of vaccines and taking all necessary measures to ready the country to receive them,” Anand said in a release. “We remain fully on track to ensure that there will be a sufficient supply so that every eligible Canadian who wants a vaccine will have access to one by the end of September. I am grateful for the collaboration of our partners in India to finalize this agreement, and I look forward to continuing to work closely together in the weeks ahead.” The two million doses secured through this agreement are in addition to the 20 million doses already secured through an earlier agreement with AstraZeneca. Health Canada’s authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine allows the Government of Canada to advance its work with AstraZeneca to finalize delivery schedules for the 20 million doses. The application for authorization from AstraZeneca was received on Oct. 1, 2020 and from from Verity Pharmaceuticals Inc./Serum Institute of India (in partnership with AstraZeneca Canada Inc.) on January 23, 2021. After thorough, independent reviews of the evidence, the Department has determined that these vaccines meet Canada’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements. These are the first viral vector-based vaccines authorized in Canada. These are also two-dose regiments and can be kept refrigerated for at least six months. Health Canada’s authorization of the Verity Pharmaceuticals Inc./Serum Institute of India product relies on the assessment of its comparability to the AstraZeneca-produced version of the vaccine.. These vaccines were authorized with terms and conditions under Health Canada’s Interim Order on the importation of drugs for COVID-19 The process allowed Health Canada to assess information submitted by the manufacturer as it became available during the product development process, while maintaining Canadian standards. Health Canada has placed terms and conditions on the authorizations requiring the manufacturers to continue providing information to Health Canada on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccines to ensure their benefits continue to be demonstrated through market use. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will closely monitor the safety. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
A seemingly sharp decline of global COVID-19 cases has ignited exuberance among some infectious disease doctors and epidemiologists, even if they're not sure what exactly is causing that downward spike. Charts and graphs depicting the COVID burden among most countries, including Canada and the United States, are showing steep dives from all-time highs just weeks ago.Experts say a combination of factors is likely at play in the virus's apparent decline, including a seasonal aspect to SARS-CoV-2, some level of herd immunity in certain places, and the impact of lockdowns and our own behaviours. That the drop is happening now, amid the threat of more transmissible variants, seems a little confounding though, says Winnipeg-based epidemiologist Cynthia Carr."That is the really interesting part about this," she said. "We know these variants spread much faster and we've seen them becoming more dominant, but the numbers still aren't spiking the way we might have anticipated."Carr says the variants of concern — those first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil — have been found in multiple countries and are quickly overtaking former strains in some places. In Berlin, for example, she notes the variant first detected in the U.K. is accounting for 20 per cent of new cases, up from 6 per cent two weeks ago. Carr suspects part of the reason for a lack of rising cases might be because governments have gotten better at setting public health guidance over the last year, and people have gotten better at adhering to them. But while the situation appears to be improving, Carr warns "we can't rest on our laurels now.""Once (the variants) account for 90, 100 per cent of all infections ... we could really see that escalation," she said.Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician in Mississauga, Ont., agrees people shouldn't assume the pandemic is over because global cases are dropping. But the worldwide decrease is a positive development that shouldn't be overlooked, he added.Chakrabarti says there are likely multiple reasons for the decline, with some countries' situations explained easier than others. Inoculation efforts might be credited in Israel, for example, where 87 per cent of the population has been given at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Countries like Canada meanwhile, which were mostly locked down over the last six weeks, can point to restrictions and limited contacts as a plausible reason for their COVID decline.More than one factor could be working within different regions too, Chakrabarti added. And a possible seasonal aspect to the COVID virus may be an overarching theme.Infections from certain viruses tend to peak once per season before tailing off naturally, Chakrabarti says, like influenza, which usually spikes between November and January. Other coronaviruses have followed a similar pattern."Seasonality means that (viruses) get cycled at some point during the season," he said. "We don't know if that's 100 per cent the case with COVID. But it could be." While the timing of Canada's first COVID wave last spring would seem to go against the notion of seasonality, we weren't exposed to large quantities of the virus until March, so it didn't have a chance to circulate earlier, explains Chakrabarti.Some parts of the world including the U.S. may also be dealing with some level of herd immunity brought on by natural infection, Chakrabarti says, which could simplify, but not fully explain, their recent case drop.While exact numbers of total COVID infections are hard to gauge, Chakrabarti estimates undetected cases could be five to 10 times higher than reported cases, either because people were truly asymptomatic or had such minor symptoms that they never got tested."If you have a significant chunk of people who have been infected and have, maybe not necessarily full immunity but some degree of immunity, at the very least that should slow outbreaks," Chakrabarti said.There are problems with the notion of herd immunity, however.Dr. Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto, says while experts believe people with past COVID infections may have some protection against the variants first detected in the U.K. and South Africa, that may not be the case with the one first found in Brazil.Jha points out that not all countries are experiencing decreases in COVID cases — Brazil is one area seeing either steady rates or possible increases — and he worries that labelling herd immunity as a reason for case decline may be dangerous."We don't know what herd immunity actually means," he said. "It's a theory that at a certain number of people infected, the virus just runs out of customers. But we have very little basis to understand what that level is."Jha says the potential reasons for the global decline are only theoretical right now. "No one really has a clear sense of why the cases are dropping," he said. "So I think one needs to be very cautious when talking about plausible explanations."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
SILVER SPRING, Md. — Spending on U.S. construction projects rose 1.7% in January as new home building continues to lift the sector. Last month's increase followed small revised gains in December and November. Spending on residential construction rose 2.5% in January, with single family home projects up 3%, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Despite an economy that’s been battered for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, historically low interest rates and city dwellers seeking more space in the suburbs and beyond has boosted home sales. Last week, the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes jumped 4.3% in January, and are 19.3% higher than they were last year at this time. In a separate report, the government reported that applications for building permits, which typically signal activity ahead, spiked 10.4% in January. Spending on government projects, which has been constrained by tight state and local budgets in the wake of the pandemic, rose 1.7%. Matt Ott, The Associated Press
ESPN has re-signed Rece Davis to a multiyear contract that will keep him in place as host of the network’s popular Saturday college football pregame show. The network announced the deal Monday. Davis, 55, is entering his seventh year as host of ESPN’s “College GameDay.” He told The Associated Press this new deal will take him through his 10th season leading the show that includes Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso. "I believe I have the best job in sports television, but when you’ve been doing anything for a while there comes a period of evaluation, I guess, to see whether there are things you would like to pursue,” Davis said. “And for me I still very much wanted to host ‘College GameDay’ and to still have the opportunity to host some significant events along with that from time to time. Fortunately for me our place was able to provide all of those things.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the network. Davis will also continue to host ”College GameDay” for basketball, along with the network’s coverage of the NFL draft on ABC and the men’s Final Four. Davis is also set to host ESPN's coverage of the UEFA European Football Championship this summer. He will still to do some play-by-play for college football and basketball games. “The professionalism, energy and knowledge he brings to every show and every assignment is first-class as one of the best in the business," ESPN senior vice-president of production Lee Fitting said in a statement. Davis declined to say if he was pursued by other networks, but he said negotiations with ESPN moved expeditiously. “ESPN, and my long relationship with them, sort of had what I feel like my strong suits are but also opportunities to do some things to continue to grow as well," Davis said. The basketball version of “GameDay” began in 2005 with Davis as the host. He took over as host of the college football road show in 2015, replacing Chris Fowler. Fowler left “GameDay” to concentrate on calling games and become ESPN's lead college football play-by-play announcer. Davis said he enjoys calling games and might consider making a similar transition later in his career. “I feel like I've really built my career on hosting,” Davis said. “I hate the phrase tee-up the analyst. Anybody can do that. A good host is prepared for the conversation and knows where the lines are. He added: “My first priority is ‘GameDay.’ I still get a rush every time. I like being at the command centre of big events." “College GameDay” had a very different vibe last year as the coronavirus pandemic forced the show to be held on location but without fans. The threat of COVID-19 led to Corso, 85, doing the show from his home in Florida. “College GameDay” faced competition for the first time the last two seasons from Fox's “Big Noon Kickoff," but ESPN's show has remained on top in terms of viewership. “The best way to do it is to take care of your business and not be fixated on what someone else does and to be be confident and thorough in the direction you've tried to go into to,” Davis said. “If you start trying to react to someone else, that's more detrimental than helpful in my opinion. ”We still want to be regarded as the ultimate destination and if you turn away from our show, you're going to miss something." ___ Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/ ___ More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press
Peel Public Health says it made a mistake in some of its information sent home to parents regarding advice for asymptomatic children sent home from school. While its website says they can isolate with a caregiver, the flyer did not. Matthew Bingley reports.
With offices closed during the pandemic and many kids kept out of the classroom, families have scrambled to carve out functional remote-learning spaces in homes that weren’t designed for the job. Faced with space constraints, acoustic challenges, and shortages of office furniture, even architects — experts in conceptualizing interior spaces with time and budget constraints — are struggling to keep up with the demands that school closures are putting on their small, open-concept homes.With flexible use of materials, strategic re-arranging, shared workspaces, multi-use surfaces, and purpose-built structures, five Toronto architects show us how they carved out space for their children to feel comfortable, productive, and even inspired as they continue to learn online:FLEXIBLE FURNISHINGWho: Kevin Bridgman, KPMB Architects, with Elke, 7Kevin Bridgman has been working at home since his office closed in March. To accommodate Elke being at home as well, he created two separate work-stations for her — one for school and one for breaks — by substituting Ikea Lisabo coffee tables for desks, which were sold out across the city. He wanted an adaptable longer-term solution — the tables, which are the perfect height to be a child’s desk now, are small, portable, and flexible enough to serve different purposes in the house when Elke no longer needs them. "The space behind me formed because Elke’s been wanting to sit with me and work when her classes are done," says Bridgman. "It used to be a nook for an electric piano, but we reconfigured the dining room and it’s become a LEGO station. Now a lot of days we sit back-to-back, so when I’m on my zoom calls or sketching at the dining room table, she’s behind me in her LEGO world." CUSTOM-BUILT SPACEWho: Lola Sheppard and Mason White, Lateral Office, with Lucas 15, and Zoe 12Lola Sheppard and Mason White added extra space to their small, open concept home with a custom designed garden studio by MacroSPACE. The fully insulated, four-season module, which arrives in pre-fabricated panels to be assembled on site, works as a study space, den, and music room, and gives teenagers a place to hang out, slightly apart from the house. The components of the $39,000 structure take about six to eight weeks to be made in a local workshop and, at under 100 square-foot, the finished structure does not require a permit. “It’s only 50 feet away, but we have to leave the house to walk to it which is really nice,” says Sheppard. RE-ARRANGING MAGICWho: Megan Cassidy, Nakamura Cassidy Design Architects, and Haji Nakamura, SVN, with Miro, 9Megan Cassidy and Haji Nakamura co-parent and share an office on the second floor. To keep up with the evolving demands of the pandemic, they have done some re-arranging magic, moving and re-purposing existing furniture to create completely different spaces. In spring, their sun-drenched dining area was first cleared out for a yoga studio, then it was converted back to a dining room. Now, it's been adapted again to a hybrid working space for Miro and family reading nook, created by rotating the dining table (where the family still eats all their meals and read in the morning sun) 45 degrees, opening up space to bring in an Eames lounger from the living room for the new lounge area."With three people working in the house, we have to make every space work really, really hard," says Cassidy.CREATING COMFORTYusef Frasier, Supergraphiq, and Kristy Almond Frasier, Almond Frasier Architect, with Naomie, 7, and Marcus, 4 With both parents already working in their compact townhome, each had to make room in their existing workspaces to accommodate one of their children. Frasier, an architectural renderer and visualization expert, shares his double-wide workstation (which is large enough to accommodate four monitors for his visually intensive work) made with two side by side CB2 Go-Cart rolling desks and TPS file cabinets. The extra wide desk makes room for Naomie to take over one of the workstations and for Marcus to join them when Almond Frasier is busy with calls downstairs. After pleading that having two screens like Dad would make her more efficient at school, Naomie recently hooked up a second monitor — one for zoom and one for work— and is slowly setting up a customized space for herself with strategically placed items on her desk and a tailored background for her zoom calls."You’re trying to create some level of comfort within an entirely new and abstract setup and each individual is finding their own way to do that," says Yusef Frasier. "Every few days Naomie draws a piece of artwork to put on this ‘wall of happiness’ that we have beside my desk. Her plan is to wrap that around the whole space like a mural." TEMPORARY FIXESAndrew and Jodi Batay-Csorba, Batay-Csorba Architects, with Kingsley, 7 and spaniel Duke Andrew and Jodi Batay-Csorba live with their son Kingsley on the second and third floor above their street-level storefront office. The couple is in the process of building a custom designed plywood platform bed for Kingsley’s room that will incorporate his bed, desk, and climbing wall, above an Ikea dresser and kitchen cabinets for storage. But for now, with the rest of Batay-Csorba’s staff working remotely, Kingsley is able to join his parents downstairs at the big studio table. In place of traditional, compartmentalized workstations, a large, shared table is a fixture of most design practices so adding Kinsgley (and even spaniel, Duke) to the table is a natural solution."Our renovated storefront is east facing with a floor-to-ceiling window so we try to work and have meetings there as much as possible because of the great light," says Andrew Batay-Csorba. "Kingsley is there with us for now trying to do everything but focus on school." — Emily Waugh is a writer and educator in Landscape Architecture and is currently completing the Certificate in Health Impact at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Emily Waugh, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Before a late night rehearsal in December, Terrence Floyd couldn’t remember the last time he squatted on a drum throne, sticks in hand and ready to perform. Surely, he said, it had not happened since his brother, George Floyd, died at the hands of police in Minneapolis last May, sparking a global reckoning over systemic racism and police brutality. Now, Terrence is lending a talent he honed as a youngster in a church band to help produce and promote a forthcoming album of protest anthems inspired by the Black Lives Matter demonstrations prompted in part by his brother's death. “I want to pay my respects to my brother any way I can, whether it’s a march, whether it’s just talking to somebody about him, or whether it’s doing what I do and playing the drums,” Terrence told The Associated Press. “His heartbeat is not beating no more,” he said, “but I can beat for him.” The untitled project, set for release one year after George Floyd’s death, follows a long history of racial justice messages and protest slogans crossing over into American popular music and culture. In particular, music has been a vehicle for building awareness of grassroots movements, often carrying desperate pleas or enraged battle cries across the airwaves. Terrence was recruited for the project by the Rev. Kevin McCall, a New York City activist who said he believes an album of street-inspired protest anthems does not yet exist. “These protest chants that were created have been monumental,” said McCall. “It created a movement and not a moment.” Some songs make bold declarations, like the protest anthem album’s lead single, “No Justice No Peace.” The well-known protest refrain, popularized in the U.S. in the 1980s, is something that millennials grew up hearing before they joined the front lines of their generation’s civil rights movement, McCall said. McCall is featured on the track, along with his fiancée, singer Malikka Miller, and choir members from Brooklyn’s Grace Tabernacle Christian Center. The song is currently available for purchase and streaming on iTunes, Amazon Music and YouTube. Godfather Records, a label run and owned by David Wright, pastor of Grace Tabernacle Christian Center, plans to put out the seven-song album. His late father, Timothy Wright, is considered the “Godfather of gospel music.” “We’re mixing gospel music with social justice, to reach the masses,” Wright said. “We have always been strengthened through songs, like ‘We Shall Overcome’ and ‘Wade in the Water.’ I want to put a new twist on it.” There is a history of interplay between music and Black protest. The 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles Police Department officers — as well as the contemporary “war on drugs” — amplified NWA’s 1988 anthem, “F(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) tha Police,” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” released in 1989. More recently, Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” Beyoncé’s “Freedom” featuring Lamar, and YG’s “FDT” provided a soundtrack for many BLM protests. Legendary musician and activist Stevie Wonder released his hit 1980 song, “Happy Birthday,” as part of a campaign to recognize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday as a federal holiday. King’s Day, which faced years of opposition at the national level, was officially recognized in 1986, three years after it won the backing of federal lawmakers. Some historians cite Billie Holiday’s musical rendition of the Abel Meeropol poem, “Strange Fruit,” in 1939 as one of the sparks of the civil rights movement. The song paints in devastating detail the period of lynching carried out against Black Americans for decades after the abolition of slavery, often as a way to terrorize and oppress those who sought racial equality. The new film “United States vs. Billie Holiday” depicts the jazz luminary’s real-life struggle to perform the song in spite of opposition from government officials. Singer and actress Andra Day, who portrays Holiday in the film, recently told the AP the song's significance influenced her decision to take on the role. “It was her singing this song in defiance of the government that reinvigorated the movement,” Day said. “And so that was really incentivizing for me.” Todd Boyd, the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture at the University of Southern California, said many of the most well-known protest chants came out of the civil rights and Black power movements, and then inspired songs. “That’s how culture works,” Boyd said. “Something that starts out in one space can very easily grow into something bigger and broader, if the movement itself is influential.” Terrence Floyd said the protest anthem project feels like a fitting way to honour his brother’s memory. Many years before his death, George Floyd dabbled in music — he was occasionally invited to rap on mixtapes produced by DJ Screw, a fixture of the local hip-hop scene in Houston. “If his music couldn’t make it out of Houston, I’m using my Floyd musical ability to reach people in his name,” Terrence said. ___ AP entertainment reporter Jamia Pugh in Philadelphia contributed. ___ Morrison is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison. Aaron Morrison, The Associated Press
Sorry kids, but an education expert says a snow day might not be enough to get you out of that test in the era of online learning. Heavy snowfall disrupted the reopening of schools in three COVID-19 hot spots in the Toronto area Tuesday. Public and Catholic school boards in Peel and York Regions cancelled in-person classes because of the inclement weather, but they said virtual learning would continue, snow or shine. Meanwhile, the Toronto District and Toronto Catholic District school boards decided to move ahead with reopening, but forced students to make their own way to class after cancelling transportation services. Paul Bennett, director of Schoolhouse Consulting, says the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a lesson about the need for learning to continue even when students can't make it to class. "It's time to say goodbye to snow days, once and for all," Bennett said by phone from Halifax. "We need to be using all the knowledge we've gained through adjusting to COVID-19 and put it to good use.' Bennett said Canadian schoolchildren are suffering from the "COVID slide," which he characterized as the greatest learning loss in recent history. But the crisis has also forced school authorities to adopt a variety of remote learning techniques that allow kids to carry on with their studies during periods of mass disruption, he said. "There has been a steep learning curve for teachers, parents and students. And they're now much more accustomed to performing online," Bennett said. "There's no rationale any longer for cancelling school because of inclement weather." In recent years, school boards in some regions seem to have become more inclined to cancel classes at the first sign of bad weather, particularly in the storm-prone Maritime provinces, he said. Bennett said the rise of snow days has not only cost students valuable class time, but also hurts working parents' productivity. While he appreciates that snow days are a childhood "rite of passage," Bennett said these surprise days of winter fun should be as special as they are scarce. "I love snow days as much as any kid going to school," he said. "But as soon as you're losing a week or two weeks (of school), as is the case in some jurisdictions across Canada ... there is a legitimate case to be made that there's significant learning loss." One Ontario school board is trying a new approach in responding to severe weather. The superintendent of the Waterloo Region District School Board said Tuesday marked the district's second "weather-impacted distance learning day," allowing virtual studies to continue through school and bus closures. Scott Miller said in previous years, students were still expected to attend school when transportation services were suspended on account of snow. But that's changed under the school board's new COVID-19 snow day policy, shifting all learning to the online sphere. Because not all students have access to devices, these modified snow days will be used to review what they've learned rather than teaching new concepts, said Miller. When normal studies can safely resume, he said, the school board is considering offering a hybrid of online and in-person learning so students can keep up with their studies regardless of whether buses are running, he said. "Students do look at snow days with exuberance. Or did in the past, certainly, as they saw it as a day that they didn't have to necessarily engage in school," said Miller. "This year, (we're) ... really taking advantage of some of the experiences so that we are learning through what has been an incredibly difficult time." Krista Harquail, a mother of two in York Region, said she welcomes the shift toward online learning as a way to ensure that students, staff and parents alike stay safe rather than risk driving to school in subpar conditions. She recognizes that snow days put pressure on parents who don't have the option of working from home. But if kids are going to be home regardless, they may as well be learning something, Harquail said. "Perhaps this is a step to make education better in the long run," she said. "No one's really falling behind." Harquail added that parents still have the option of pulling their children out of class if they want to make the most of the powder for seasonal pastimes, such as snowball fights and tobogganing. Still, she said her kids were disappointed to learn that they wouldn't be going back to class Tuesday. "I think this one hit a little bit differently than normal snow days," said Harquail. "(My daughter) almost started crying today. Because she's like, 'Oh, I thought I was going to go back to school and see my friends.'" This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Alongside the headline-grabbing race for a COVID-19 vaccine, the hunt for effective treatments has unfolded with its own share of flameouts and triumphs.Thanks to large randomized trials in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, administering steroids to patients with moderate or severe illness has become part of standard care, but clinicians say few other tools have emerged.The best known COVID-19 drug is likely dexamethasone, a corticosteroid with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects for hospitalized patients who need help breathing. But while that drug is credited with helping efforts to bring down hospital mortality rates, credit also goes to discoveries about what does not work against the novel coronavirus – thereby ensuring people get appropriate care.Here's a look at some of the drugs – deemed effective and not – that made headlines in recent months for fostering hype and hope:HEALTH CANADA-APPROVEDRemdesivir – Sold under the name Veklury, this Gilead Sciences drug was among various treatments given to former U.S. President Donald Trump when he successfully overcame COVID-19 last year. But its ability to cut deaths has since been largely discounted by a World Health Organization trial. An earlier study by Gilead found the drug helped moderately ill patients recover more quickly if given for five days, but that benefit was less clear if given over 10 days.Health Canada noted clinical trial data was limited when it approved remdesivir for COVID-19 last July but said "given the high unmet medical need and emergency context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Canada considered the balance of benefit and harm for Veklury to be positive."Bamlanivimab – The federal government paid US$32.5 million for 26,000 doses of this monoclonal antibody that targets the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Eli Lilly says an intravenous infusion can ease and prevent COVID-19 symptoms among mild-to-moderate cases in high-risk groups including seniors.Nevertheless, it has yet to be embraced by clinicians, with Hamilton infectious disease physician Zain Chagla calling it "a good example of a drug that might work on paper but really isn't a great drug to invest in."The associate professor of medicine at McMaster University points to barriers to implementation, which include the staffing and time required to implement the transfusion. Alberta Health Services says it's considering a trial to determine "potential for benefit and feasibility of use" while British Columbia said Monday a clinical trial in Surrey would be funded by AbCellera, the Vancouver company which helped discover bamlanivimab. CAUTIONS AGAINST EARLY HYPEHydroxychloroquine – Commonly used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, this drug earned infamy when U.S. President Donald Trump touted its efficacy with COVID-19 before the science was in. Since then, multiple rigorous trials have concluded it offers no benefit to preventing or treating illness while underscoring the dangers of mixing politics and science.Colchicine – Just last week, the Quebec government cautioned clinicians against embracing this anti-inflammatory as a COVID-19 therapy after the Montreal Heart Institute touted the common gout medication as "a major scientific discovery." Scientists at the National Institute for Excellence in Health and Social Services acknowledged the institute's study showed positive results, but said the benefit was too small.OTHER CONTENDERSTocilizumab – Dr. Niall Ferguson, head of critical care at the University Health Network and Sinai Health System, sees potential in early data for tocilizumab, approved for use in Canada to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although evolving data has been mixed and is still emerging, Ferguson notes the monoclonal antibody is already being used off-label for some severe patients.Heparin – Canadian scientists involved in a global trial for this blood thinner say interim data suggests it can keep some moderately ill COVID-19 patients from deteriorating further. University Health Network scientist Ewan Goligher says the probability of requiring life support dropped by about a third among subjects. He expects the study's findings to be released soon.Peginterferon-lambda – Research into this prospective antiviral treatment was recently published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Lead researcher Dr. Jordan Feld, a liver specialist at UHN's Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, says a small Phase 2 trial found it significantly sped recovery for outpatients. Although more research is needed, he suspected it could offer an important way to quickly bring down the virus level in infected patients and reduce their risk of spreading disease to others.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Les portes de Monkey Spaces à Sainte-Sophie s’ouvrent – littéralement – sur un site enchanteur et paisible, dont le chemin enneigé menant au stationnement est traversé momentanément par quelques chevaux et alpagas. Cette arrivée pour le moins surprenante nous donne l’impression d’entrer dans un tout nouveau monde. Nancy Trudeau est la propriétaire et fondatrice de cet organisme à but non lucratif, ouvert dans sa globalité depuis le mois de mai. Elle est accompagnée notamment de Coco, chargée de projet, Éric, en charge de l’entretien, des réparations ou du soin aux animaux, et de Mélanie, assistante responsable des petits animaux et des autres bénévoles. C’est cette dernière qui nous accueille chaleureusement sur le site qu’elle nous fait visiter avec un enthousiasme contagieux. L’organisation remplit une double mission : le site abrite des animaux, petits et grands – chats, chiens, cochons, poules, chevaux, alpagas, etc. – qui n’étaient plus souhaités ailleurs, ou risquaient même l’abattoir. Non seulement on les sauve, mais leur présence permet aussi de pratiquer la zoothérapie auprès de personnes aux défis particuliers, comme celles vivant avec un trouble du spectre de l’autisme. Il y a plus de 20 ans, Nancy Trudeau achetait ce terrain de 75 acres. Elle y a pratiqué quelque temps la zoothérapie. Par la suite, la vie l’a menée jusqu’au Costa Rica où elle passait normalement la moitié de l’année. Elle y a fait des acquisitions dans le but de développer un projet communautaire. « J’ai fait une serre et je donne les légumes et les fruits à l’orphelinat et à la maison pour personnes âgées », souligne-t-elle. Elle comptait aussi faire construire un sanctuaire pour les singes. La pandémie a toute-fois freiné ses plans au Costa Rica, mais accéléré et concrétisé son projet à Sainte-Sophie. S’adapter aux besoins Le concept de Monkey Spaces est simple et flexible. Les familles profitent d’une période de deux à trois heures sur le site, où plusieurs options s’offrent à eux : brosser et nourrir les animaux, marcher en forêt, faire de la raquette ou glisser en hiver, faire du kayak ou se baigner en été. Il y a même un espace pour prendre un café et une grande salle vitrée propice à la détente et au yoga. On y retrouve aussi des instruments de musique et des livres. Le circuit peut varier d’une famille à l’autre, selon leurs besoins et leurs désirs. Mélanie Dumoulin indique que cette approche fait rupture avec leur vie quotidienne, où les enfants sont souvent restreints et dictés dans ce qu’ils doivent faire. « C’est un centre de plein air pour la différence. Toutes les personnes à défis particuliers peuvent venir ici, se ressourcer ou prendre une pause. Toutes ces familles-là sont essoufflées. Et en plus, avec la COVID-19, leur routine a été bousculée », ajoute-t-elle. D’ailleurs, la demande est significative depuis le mois de mai. La bénévole précise qu’au total, le site a accueilli une centaine de familles différentes. Chaque semaine, une vingtaine y mettent les pieds. Certaines familles reviennent régulièrement. Nancy Trudeau a toujours eu une grande passion pour les animaux. Elle a même possédé un singe pendant trois ans, d’où le nom de son organisation. La propriétaire compte concentrer les vingt prochaines années à développer ses différents projets, répondre à la demande et aider le plus de familles possibles. Il y a d’ailleurs beaucoup d’ambition pour bonifier l’offre de Monkey Spaces. Mélanie indique par exemple la possibilité d’installer des volières pour y mettre des perroquets ou de construire un arbre en arbre pour la saison estivale. L’équipe souhaite aussi diversifier sa clientèle : ils veulent accueillir de plus en plus de personnes âgées ou encore de gens aux prises avec des problèmes de santé mentale, comme la dépression. Des démarches ont même été entreprises auprès de la DPJ pour accueillir des enfants. Bref, ce ne sont pas les projets qui manquent, et surtout pas la passion. Ève Ménard, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès
TORONTO — A few days before the Strumbellas were set to embark on a Canadian concert tour in January 2020, they dropped a bombshell announcement: the entire 14-city run of shows was being postponed as one of the band's own sought treatment for an unspecified illness. The news rocked their fanbase, but lead singer Simon Ward said the decision to cancel came during a crucial time. He was the unnamed member spiralling into a mental health crisis. Over a year later, he’s still digging himself out of it. "I'll be honest with you, it's been the worst year of my life," Ward explained in an interview from his home. "And every day I'm just here, trying to heal and get better." On Friday, the Strumbellas will release "Greatest Enemy," a new single that marks their first effort since Ward faced crippling depression and anxiety. He began writing the song before the six-member band sidelined their touring plans, and the band finished it during a recording session last November. Thematically, "Greatest Enemy" reflects on the overwhelming demons of the mind, but in true Strumbellas fashion, the words are paired with a soaring chorus of perseverance. It’s a formula that did wonders for the band in 2015 when "Spirits" elevated them from a ragtag group of Ontario indie musicians to a Top 40 success story, driven by an unforgettable chorus: "I got guns in my head and they won’t go. Spirits in my head and they won’t go." But the struggles hinted at in "Spirits" became all the more real for Ward as the Strumbellas embarked on a 2019 European tour for their followup album “Rattlesnake." Looking back, Ward says there were signs something was amiss. Sometimes it was as simple as him deciding to hide away in his hotel room when the rest of the group went to dinner together, he said. "It's so easy to isolate yourself when you're having mental health issues," he added. "All you want to do is… not be with other people. So I would stay by myself." But it was after the European leg of the tour wrapped and he returned to Canada that Ward started to realize something more serious was happening. "I started to feel so weird, like total lethargy," he said. "I couldn't get out of bed, dark thoughts, negative thoughts. Thoughts that were really mean to myself. I knew something wasn't right." Ward’s family paid him a visit, and he says that’s when he broke down, confessing to them that he was not doing well. He decided to check himself into a local hospital to seek professional help, receive a mental health assessment and discuss medications. "This has just been a full-on mental health year for me," he said. "(I’m) still in it, still working my way through it and struggling. I'm better now. But, you know, mental health is just such a tricky game. It seems to hang around, come back and float around." Getting the Strumbellas back on their feet will take some time. The band has worked on the early stages of new material in recent months, said guitarist Jon Hembrey. But a near-total shutdown of the concert industry during the COVID-19 pandemic has eased the pressure of getting back on the road. "I wouldn't bet any money on whether there will be shows in the summer," Hembrey said. "It's just too hard to tell." That's left room for the Strumbellas to interact with their fans in creative ways. Last year, they hopped on TikTok for the first time, creating a venue to answer questions about music, and recently for Ward to lend positive encouragement to others dealing with mental health hurdles. “A lot of people are in tough spots right now," he said, reflecting on how the live music industry has ground to a halt. "But everybody's going through it, so honestly make the best of it. We're just trying to make new music, get back in the groove of things and hang out again and see where it goes.” Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
MOSCOW — Two top United Nations human rights experts urged an international probe into the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and called Monday for his immediate release from prison. Agnès Callamard, the Special U.N. Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Irene Khan, the Special U.N. Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said Navalny’s poisoning was intended to “send a clear, sinister warning that this would be the fate of anyone who would criticize and oppose the government.” “Given the inadequate response of the domestic authorities, the use of prohibited chemical weapons, and the apparent pattern of attempted targeted killings, we believe that an international investigation should be carried out as a matter of urgency in order to establish the facts and clarify all the circumstances concerning Mr. Navalny’s poisoning," they said in a statement. Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell sick on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia and was flown while still in a coma to Berlin for treatment two days later. Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent. Russian authorities have denied any involvement in the poisoning. In December, Navalny released the recording of a phone call he said he made to a man he described as an alleged member of a group of officers of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, who purportedly poisoned him in August and then tried to cover it up. The FSB dismissed the recording as a fake. Callamard and Khan on Monday published their official letter sent to the Russian authorities in December and noted that “the availability of Novichok and the expertise required in handling it and in developing a novel form such as that found in Mr. Navalny’s samples could only be found within and amongst state actors.” The experts emphasized in the letter that Navalny “was under intensive government surveillance at the time of the attempted killing, making it unlikely that any third party could have administered such a banned chemical without the knowledge of the Russian authorities.” Navalny was arrested on Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from the nerve agent poisoning. The arrest triggered massive protests, to which the Russian authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown. Last month, Navalny was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation while convalescing in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated — and which the European Court of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful. Last week, Navalny was sent to serve his prison sentence to a prison outside Moscow despite the ECHR's demand for his release, which cited concerns for his safety. Russian officials have dismissed demands from the United States and the European Union to free Navalny and stop the crackdown on his supporters. Mikhail Galperin, Russia's deputy justice minister, charged Monday that Moscow has contested the ECHR's ruling demanding Navalny's release in a letter sent to the Strasbourg-based court. Meanwhile, the UN rights experts noted that an international probe into Navalny's poisoning is “especially critical” now when he is in prison. They called for his immediate release and reminded Russia that it's “responsible for the care and protection of Mr. Navalny in prison and that it shall be held responsible for any harm that may befall him.” Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights" is making Canadian history on Spotify. The Toronto-raised singer's hit single has become the first song by a Canadian artist to pass two billion plays on the streaming platform. And he's only the fourth artist in the world to join this elite group of massively popular songs. Ahead of him is "Dance Monkey" by Australia's Tones and I (2.1 billion streams), "Rockstar" by American Post Malone (2.12 billion) and the leader "Shape of You" from English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (2.7 billion). A couple of other Canadians could also reach two billion streams with one of their songs later this year. Drake's "One Dance" is teetering around the mark with 1.98 billion streams, which ranks him one spot behind the Weeknd as the No. 5 most-streamed song. Shawn Mendes' "Senorita" is at No. 9 with 1.7 billion plays. The Weeknd's streaming numbers were helped by his performance at the Super Bowl, which gave his entire catalogue of albums a boost. But it's fellow Torontonian Drake who holds the biggest streaming crown on Spotify. He earned the platform's most-streamed artist of the decade honour at the end of 2019. Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Health officials have declared COVID-19 outbreaks at two more Metro Vancouver hospitals after finding evidence the virus was transmitted within a medicine unit at both locations. A statement from Fraser Health says the outbreaks are in single units of Surrey Memorial Hospital and Chilliwack General Hospital. One patient at Surrey Memorial and five patients at Chilliwack General have tested positive for COVID-19. Those units have been closed to admissions, but Fraser Health says other units and the emergency rooms of both hospitals remain open. Information from Vancouver Coastal Health shows a COVID-19 outbreak continues at three in-patient units on three separate floors of the highrise tower at Vancouver General Hospital. The units remain closed to admissions, transfers and visitors after COVID-19 outbreaks were confirmed on those wards, with the first outbreak reported Feb. 21. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
Infectious disease experts and COVID-19 modelers are sounding alarm bells of an approaching third wave expected to be driven by more contagious variants of the virus.But while we brace for Wave 3, some are wondering if we ever actually cleared Wave 2, especially in populous areas of the country where transmission has remained more steady.Experts say the definition of what constitutes a "wave" and pinpointing when it's passed isn't so clear.Some say we're on the tail end of the second wave now, as evidenced by the downward trend of cases across the country, while others say ebbs and flows haven't been uniform enough to determine when one wave ends and another begins. Caroline Colijn, a COVID modeler and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, says the word "wave" has been somewhat misleading. Waves of viruses tend to ease up on their own as immunity grows within a population, she says, which we haven't reached yet with COVID.Instead, the ebb and flow of SARS-CoV-2 has been dictated by our own actions, Colijn added, for instance restrictive measures that limit the ability of the virus to spread."This isn't a wave, it's a forest fire," Colijn said. "We turn the hoses off and the flames build up again and we get exponential growth. Then we turn the hoses back on and cases decrease." Colijn, whose modelling predicts steep rises in cases around the end of February in six of Canada's biggest provinces, says the challenge of "wave language" is that when waves recede, people think the threat has ceded with it.But until we reach levels of herd immunity, she says, that's not going to happen."We're not seeing a natural tailing off. We're seeing things drop because of restrictions — those fire hoses we put in front of the fire," she said. "Then we turn the hoses off and we're surprised that this wave is coming back."Canada's top doctors said Friday that eight provinces have reported cases of new COVID variants, with three of them showing evidence of community transmission.Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said there had been 429 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., 28 cases of the variant first identified in South Africa, and one of the variant first found in Brazil.While it sounds like a small number compared to our population, University of Manitoba virologist Jason Kindrachuk says the heightened transmissibility of those variants makes the situation more alarming.Compounding things further is that true prevalence of the variants nationwide is unknown, he added, though some jurisdictions have been doing point-prevalence studies to help determine that. Kindrachuk says one or two cases, when caught early and isolated, aren't too concerning. But danger proliferates as more pop up."You have that initial fire and then sparks start flying ... and that leads to a bunch of small fires," he said. "If those start to catch, you lose the ability to necessarily keep things in control." Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, says the presence of more transmissible variants means people should be more diligent in adhering to current safety measures aimed at slowing the spread of other COVID strains, including limiting contacts, mask-wearing and distancing.The spike in variant cases comes at a time when Canada appears to be "two-thirds of the way down the curve," Tam said, as overall COVID cases fall.Some jurisdictions, like Ontario, have taken that as reason to reopen. Most of the province is moving away from its stay-at-home orders next week, even though projections released Thursday show a potentially rapid rise by late February. Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, says reopening Ontario now could lead to further lockdowns in the province later."I anticipate our numbers over the next two weeks are going to be pretty good, but it's four weeks from now, six weeks from now that I'm most concerned about," he said.Troy Day, a COVID modeler out of Queen's University, says the problem with the variants is that they're still lurking beneath the surface. And they may not truly be seen until they take hold more firmly.Day said he's concerned about a third wave in Canada because places like Britain have shown similar trajectories."Cases go down and you think everything's OK, but underneath is actually an increase in variant cases that will eventually dominate everything," he said.Day says the word wave is "funny terminology," adding he's been hesitant to definitively label the ups and downs of COVID case counts that way."All the waves we've seen are driven largely by what we're doing to control it," Day said. "The more we open up and shut down, the more multiple waves we'll have."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — "Never Have I Ever" star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is among the Canadians on Time magazine's 100 Next list. Comedy star Mindy Kaling, who co-created Netflix's "Never Have I Ever," wrote the profile of the Tamil-Canadian teen in the newly released issue. Ramakrishnan is from Mississauga, Ont., and plays the leading role of a first-generation Indian-American dealing with the death of her father and the hormone-fuelled challenges of adolescence. The 19-year-old auditioned for the part in the coming-of-age comedy series after seeing an open casting call Kaling had posted on social media. Ramakrishnan beat out some 15,000 auditioners and recently got an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her performance. Also on the Time 100 Next list is Canadian-raised Apoorva Mehta, founder and CEO of grocery delivery company Instacart, and climate journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat, whose website says he is a member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil'Wat Nation of Mount Currie in British Columbia. Ramakrishnan made the "Phenoms" section of the list, which is an expansion of the magazine's flagship Time 100 franchise that highlights emerging leaders. The profiles are written by Time 100 alumni. Kaling wrote that Ramakrishnan is a "gifted comic actress" who "has an activist's heart and wants to use her platform to help others." "What’s most extraordinary about Maitreyi is that when you’re with her, you think you’re simply talking to a cool, smart teenager, but later, when you see her work onscreen, you realize you were actually interacting with a great artist at the beginning of her journey," Kaling wrote. "Thank you for seeing me as I am," Ramakrishnan tweeted to Kaling after the list was revealed Wednesday. In a video on the Time website, Ramakrishnan says she feels "a sense of responsibility to take strong roles that have actual character and story to them." "All genres are great, but it just matters about the actual character depth and what the project is trying to say to audiences." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether it is unconstitutional to exclude people living in Puerto Rico from Supplemental Social Security Income. The justices said they would hear an appeal, first filed by the Trump administration, of a lower-court ruling that held that residents of the U.S. territory should have the same access to SSI benefits as older, disabled and blind Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The administration argues that a pair of 40-year-old Supreme Court decisions already upheld the federal law that created SSI and excluded Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories from it. Congress later added in the Mariana Islands. In recent months, a federal judge ruled that Puerto Rico residents should have access to other federal welfare benefits from which they have been excluded as well. A federal judge in Guam said residents of that Pacific island also should be able to collect SSI. A separate program, Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled, covers residents of the territories, but it has more stringent eligibility requirements and pays less generous benefits than SSI. The Associated Press
COPENHAGEN — The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Monday that there are 329 candidates — 234 individuals and 95 organizations — that were nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by the Feb. 1 deadline. The Oslo-based organization said that it was the third highest number of candidates ever, adding the current record of 376 candidates was reached in 2016. A vast group of people — heads of state or politicians serving at a national level, university professors, directors of foreign policy institutes, past Nobel Prize recipients and members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee — can submit a nomination for the prize. However, the nominees aren’t announced by the very secretive board in Oslo, but those doing the nominating may choose to make it public, raising publicity both for the nominee and the proposer. The Associated Press earlier has reported that the 2021 nominees include exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and two other Belarus democracy activists, Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova; the Black Lives Matter movement; Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny; Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has become a leading voting rights advocate; and former White House adviser Jared Kushner and his deputy, Avi Berkowitz, who negotiated a series of Middle East agreements known as the Abraham Accords. Groups nominated in 2021 include the World Health Organization for its role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic; NATO; Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF; and Polish judges defending civil rights. The U.N. World Food Program won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee announces its annual decision in October. The peace prize and other Nobel prizes are presented Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Five Nobel Prizes were established under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will. A sixth prize, for economics, was created by the Central Bank of Sweden in 1968 as a memorial to Nobel. Each prize carry substantial cash awards that are adjusted each year. In 2020, they came with a 10-milion krona ($1.1 million) cash award — which often is shared — along with diplomas and gold medals. The Associated Press