Watch this little boy freeze up in shock when the waitstaff surprises him by singing 'happy birthday'. Priceless!
Watch this little boy freeze up in shock when the waitstaff surprises him by singing 'happy birthday'. Priceless!
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies gradually 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 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 The province's proposed order of priority for vaccination according to its website is those in residential and long-term care centres, workers in the health and social services network, followed by those in isolated and remote communities, people 80 years or older, and then the general population in 10-year increments. Health officials launched an online and telephone system for vaccine registrations on Feb. 25 and will begin vaccinating people aged 85 years and older in Montreal on March 1. Officials said that while residents across the province aged 85 and older can register for a vaccine, priority will be given to people in the greater Montreal area, which has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Quebec. On Feb. 26, officials opened registration for Montrealers as young as 80 years old. It has not yet been announced when the next age group can begin to register for vaccines. 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 has mapped out a three-phase approach to its rollout. Phase 1, which is still ongoing, reserves shots for those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers, and people who live in congregate care settings. All Indigenous adults, people aged 80 and older and adults receiving chronic home care will be next in line. The province says it will begin vaccinations among the 80 and older age cohort starting the third week of March. Vaccinations will begin for people 75 and older starting April 15. The province will then move to offer shots to those 70 and older starting May 1; 65 and older starting June 1; and 60 and older the first week of July. Indigenous adults and patient-facing health-care workers will receive vaccinations as the province works through those age groups. The government is still finalizing the list of essential workers who will receive vaccinations in May if supply is available. The province has not detailed when people younger than 60 can expect to be vaccinated. Appointment bookings can be made online and by phone starting March 15 for those in eligible age cohorts. --- 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. They say most people over 80, and First Nations individuals over 60, could be eligible in early March. The province plans to have all personal care home residents vaccinated with two doses by the end of February, and has started sending team to other congregate living settings such as group homes and shelters. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, say inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if new vaccines are approved and supplies are steady. The plan does not include a separate category for essential workers — something that Reimer says will be considered as vaccine supplies increase. --- 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. When bookings opened to this age group Wednesday, the website was temporarily overwhelmed when more than 150,000 people tried to get access. Within a day, 100,000 appointments were booked. 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. Some 28,000 seniors in long-term care have already been vaccinated. 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 The first phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign launched in December and focused on health-care workers in hospitals, paramedics, residents and staff at long-term care homes, and remote Indigenous communities. The second phase set to wrap up in March includes people aged 80 and above, Indigenous elders 65 and up, Indigenous communities that didn't receive vaccine in the first phase, as well as more health-care workers and vulnerable populations living and working in certain congregate settings. The third phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign is set to start in April and last until June, reaching people between the ages of 60 and 79, along with those who are highly clinically vulnerable, such as cancer patients. B.C.'s plan for the general population is based on age, with the oldest residents first in line. --- Nunavut Nunavut's vaccination rollout is underway, with vaccine clinics for the general population scheduled or completed in all 25 communities. In Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, a general vaccination clinic is underway for priority populations, including staff and residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. Starting March 1, the vaccine clinic will be extended to all adults in Iqaluit ages 45 and up. Nunavut still expects enough vaccines to immunize 75 per cent of its residents over the age of 18 by the end of March. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories says it has vaccinated 42 per cent of its adult population since its vaccine rollout began in early January. Vaccine clinics are either completed or underway in all 33 of the territory's communities. In Yellowknife, residents and staff in long-term care homes are being prioritized for the vaccine. Vaccination of Yellowknife's general population will begin in late March. The N.W.T. still expects to receive enough vaccines to inoculate 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. --- 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 Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker. Israel’s Channel 13, in an unsourced report, said the assessment in Israel is that Iran was behind the blast. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Iranian government did not comment on the blast Friday. The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago. Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago. Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Persian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe. It discharged vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam. While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defence officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents. A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. The U.S. Maritime Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued a warning to commercial shippers early Saturday acknowledging the explosion and urging ships to “exercise caution when transiting” the Gulf of Oman. While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military." As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. In the tense summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes. The U.S. also had attributed a series of other suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. Since the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the scientist's killing. Friday's incident also follows normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, met with scathing criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic. __ Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell And Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
HOUSTON — President Joe Biden heard firsthand from Texans clobbered by this month's brutal winter weather on Friday and pledged to stick with them “for the long haul” as he made his first trip to a major disaster area since he took office. Biden was briefed by emergency officials and thanked workers for doing “God's work.” He promised the federal government will be there for Texans as they try to recover, not just from the historic storm but also the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “When a crisis hits our states, like the one that hit Texas, it’s not a Republican or Democrat that’s hurting," Biden said. “It's our fellow Americans that are hurting and it's out job to help everyone in need." With tens of thousands of Houston area residents without safe water, local officials told Biden that many are still struggling. While he was briefed, first lady Jill Biden joined an assembly line of volunteers packing boxes of quick oats, juice, and other food at the Houston Food Bank, where he arrived later. The president's first stop was the Harris County Emergency Operations Center for a briefing from acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton and state and local emergency management officials. Texas was hit particularly hard by the Valentine's weekend storm that battered multiple states. Unusually frigid conditions led to widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water. At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm and, although the weather has returned to more normal temperatures, more than 1 million residents are still under orders to boil water before drinking it. “The president has made very clear to us that in crises like this, it is our duty to organize prompt and competent federal support to American citizens, and we have to ensure that bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way,” said Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, who accompanied Biden to Houston. Biden was joined for much of his visit by Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn, both Republicans, four Democratic Houston-area members of Congress and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. The president also stopped by a mass coronavirus vaccination centre at NRG Stadium that is run by the federal government. Biden on Thursday commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office, halfway toward his goal of 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 U.S. deaths blamed on the disease. Democrat Biden suggested that he and Republicans Abbott and Cornyn could find common cause in getting Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. “We disagree on plenty of things,” Biden said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are plenty of things we can work on together. And one of them is represented right here today, the effort to speed up vaccinations." Texas' other U.S. senator, Ted Cruz, an ally of former President Donald Trump and one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who had objected to Congress certifying Biden’s victory, was in Florida Friday addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference. Cruz, who has been criticized for taking his family to Cancun, Mexico, while millions of Texans shivered in unheated homes, later said the trip was a mistake, but he made light of the controversy on Friday. “Orlando is awesome,” he said to laughs and hoots. “It’s not as nice as Cancun. But’s nice.” At the peak of the storm, more than 1.4 million residents were without power and 3.5 million were under boil-water notices in the nation's third largest county. Post-storm debate in Texas has centred on the state maintaining its own electrical grid and its lack of better storm preparation, including weatherization of key infrastructure. Some state officials initially blamed the blackouts on renewable energy even though Texas relies heavily on oil and gas. In Washington, Biden's climate adviser said the deadly winter storm was a “wake-up call” for the United States to build energy systems that can withstand extreme weather linked to climate change. “We need systems of energy that are reliable and resilient,” Gina McCarthy said in an interview with The Associated Press. The White House said Biden's purpose in visiting was to support, not scold. Biden was bent on asking Texans "what do you need, how can I help you more," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “And what can we get more for you from the federal government.” Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas and asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to aid the recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent emergency generators, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and blankets. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said in an interview that he didn't know what more the federal government could do to help because the failures were at the state level. But Henry, a Republican who is the highest county official in the suburban Houston county, said that if Biden “thinks it's important to visit, then come on down.” Biden wanted to make the trip last week, but said at the time that he held back because he didn’t want his presence and entourage to detract from the recovery effort. Houston also was the destination for Trump's first presidential visit to a disaster area in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding that August. Trump, who is not known for displays of empathy, did not meet with storm victims on the visit. He returned four days later and urged people who had relocated to a shelter to “have a good time.” —- Associated Press writers Juan Lozano in Houston, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, and Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed reporting. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
Two Ontario regions struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks will be moving back into lockdown next week, while public health restrictions will be loosened elsewhere in the province. Local leaders in Thunder Bay - a hub for travel in northwestern Ontario - had been calling for assistance as COVID-19 outbreaks were declared at correctional facilities, among the homeless population and at number of local schools. Simcoe Muskoka, which has also been hit with several outbreaks driven by infectious virus variants, will also be placed on lockdown. Health Minister Christine Elliott said recent projections on the pandemic in Ontario "(show) us that we must be nimble and put in place additional measures" to stop the spread of the virus. "With COVID-19 variants continuing to spread in our communities, it is critically important that everyone continues strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures to help contain the virus and maintain the progress we have made to date," Elliott said. Meanwhile, restrictions will loosen Monday in Niagara Region, Chatham-Kent; Middlesex-London; Southwestern; Haldimand-Norfolk; Huron Perth; and Grey Bruce. The government lifted a stay-at-home order for most of the province two weeks ago and moved the majority of health units back to its colour-coded restrictions system. Data has shown the stay-home order and strict public health measures imposed in January brought cases and hospitalizations down but they have since started to trend upwards again. In Thunder Bay, the local public health unit has recorded more COVID-19 cases in February than throughout all of 2020, the city's mayor said Friday before the lockdown was announced. "We're in a difficult spot right now," Bill Mauro said in a telephone interview. "Clearly there is a situation here that we don't see ending in the near term." The mayor has been calling on the provincial and federal governments to provide financial and human-resources assistance in health care. The only isolation centre in the city of over 121,000 people is on the "verge of failing," he said. Ontario's top doctor recommended Thursday that the city be moved to lockdown because the virus could spread to remote communities with scarce health-care resources. Dr. Janet DeMille, medical officer of health for Thunder Bay District Health Unit, welcomed the lockdown announcement. "These enhanced measures are needed to get COVID in our community under control," she said in a statement. A New Democrat legislator who represents the northern city in the provincial parliament said the government waited too long to help the city avoid a lockdown. “It’s been like watching a car crash in slow motion,” Judith Monteith-Farrell said Friday. Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler had also requested support from Ottawa and the province, saying the region was grappling to keep up with the growing case load. The chiefs pointed to inadequate resources for people released from correctional facilities who are being sent to isolate in hotels in Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay and Timmins. “Thunder Bay is in a precarious situation, and there is growing concern as government ministries, health organizations and health units struggle to contain the spread of this virus," Fiddler said. "Moving back to lockdown across northwestern Ontario will be painful, but is necessary as COVID-19 cases continue to rise." One northwestern Ontario First Nation declared a state of emergency after several members living off-reserve in Thunder Bay tested positive for COVID-19. Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias said at least 12 members had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday. There was also news Friday of more infectious COVID-19 variants detected for the first time in the northwestern part of the province. The local health unit that covers the Kenora, Ont., area, reported its first case of a COVID-19 variant. It said a person in the Dryden, Ont., area has tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the U.K. Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford welcomed the news that Health Canada had approved a third COVID-19 vaccine – from AstraZeneca – for use in Canada, saying it would speed up Ontario's vaccine rollout. "We're geared up, we're ready to go and just can't wait to get the third vaccine," he said. The province plans to offer shots to people aged 80 and older starting in the third week of March, though the timeline is subject to change. Some local health units will start inoculations in the broader community earlier based on their progress vaccinating the highest-priority groups first. Vaccinations for those 80 and older are to begin at Windsor-Essex County clinics on Monday. The City of Ottawa will deliver shots next Friday at a pop-up clinic open to those born in 1941 and earlier, adult recipients of chronic home care and residents of high-risk neighbourhoods. York Region will also allow residents aged 80 and older to book appointments Monday, with vaccinations to start possibly the same day. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Major League Soccer says Ron Burkle has backed out of plans for an expansion team in Sacramento, California, that was scheduled to start play in 2023. The league said in a statement Friday night that Burkle's decision was “based on issues with the project related to COVID-19.” MLS announced the Sacramento Republic as its 29th team on Oct. 21, 2019, and said then the team would start play in 2022. MLS said July 17 that Sacramento would not start play until the 2023 season because of the pandemic. At the time, the league delayed Charlotte, North Carolina, until 2022 and St. Louis until 2023. MLS expanded to 26 teams last year with the addition of Miami and Nashville, Tennessee. Austin, Texas joins this season, which is scheduled to start April 17. Sacramento's announced ownership group included Burkle, founder of The Yucaipa Cos. and an owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, as lead investor. He was joined by entertainment executive Matt Alvarez and Kevin Nagle, an investor in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings who had spearheaded the bid for MLS expansion since 2014. Burkle's group had planned a $300 million soccer-specific stadium on a 14-acre site downtown and signed a deal with UC Davis Health to be its MLS jersey sponsor. But the group had run into cost issues with the proposed stadium site and had yet to break ground on the proposed 21,000-seat stadium. There also was growing concern the team would not be able to start until 2024. The current Sacramento Republic, founded in December 2012, plays in the second-tier United Soccer League Championship. “After working for many years to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, the league continues to believe it can be a great MLS market,” MLS said in a statement. “In the coming days, the league will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for MLS in Sacramento.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he remains optimistic about finalizing plans for the league's 30th team. MLS's 2020 season started Feb. 29 but was interrupted after March 8 by the pandemic. The season resumed July 8 and each team played 23 regular-season games, down from 34 originally scheduled. As a fallout from pandemic restrictions, attendance dropped from nearly 9 million to about 750,000. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic. The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that the agency will move quickly to follow the recommendation, which would make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. Vaccinations are picking up speed, but new supplies are urgently needed to stay ahead of a mutating virus that has killed more than 500,000 Americans. After daylong discussions, the FDA panelists voted unanimously that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for adults. Once FDA issues a final decision, shipments of a few million doses could begin as early as Monday. “There’s an urgency to get this done,” said Dr. Jay Portnoy of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. “We’re in a race between the virus mutating — and new variants coming out that can cause further disease — and stopping it.” More than 47 million people in the U.S., or 14% of the population, have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which FDA authorized in December. But the pace of vaccinations has been strained by limited supplies and delays due to winter storms. While early J&J supplies will be small, the company has said it can deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June. J&J’s vaccine protects against the worst effects of COVID-19 after one shot, and it can be stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to handle than the previous vaccines, which must be frozen. One challenge in rolling out the new vaccine will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of the first U.S. vaccines. “It’s important that people do not think that one vaccine is better than another,” said panelist Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts University. The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The numbers from J&J’s study are not that high, but it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. One dose of the J&J vaccine was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19. After adding in moderate cases, the total effectiveness dropped to about 66%. Some experts fear that lower number could feed public perceptions that J&J’s shot is a “second-tier vaccine.” But the difference in protection reflects when and where J&J conducted its studies. J&J’s vaccine was tested in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa at a time when more contagious mutated versions of the virus were spreading. That wasn’t the case last fall, when Pfizer and Moderna were wrapping up testing, and it’s not clear if their numbers would hold against the most worrisome of those variants. Importantly, the FDA reported this week that, just like its predecessors, the J&J shot offers strong protection against the worst outcomes, hospitalization and death. While J&J is seeking FDA authorization for its single-dose version, the company is also studying whether a second dose boosts protection. Panel member Dr. Paul Offit warned that launching a two-dose version of the vaccine down the road might cause problems. “You can see where that would be confusing to people thinking, ’Maybe I didn’t get what I needed,’” said Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It’s a messaging challenge.” J&J representatives said they chose to begin with the single shot because the World Health Organization and other experts agreed it would be a faster, more effective tool in an emergency. Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since their January peak that followed the winter holidays. But public health officials warned that those gains may be stalling as more variants take root in the U.S. “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said during a White House briefing Friday. She noted that new COVID-19 cases have increased over the past few days. While it’s too early to tell if the trend will last, Walensky said adding a third vaccine “will help protect more people faster.” More vaccines are in the pipeline. On Sunday, a CDC panel is expected to meet to recommend how to best prioritize use of the J&J vaccine. Other parts of the world already are facing which-is-best challenges. Italy’s main teachers’ union recently protested when the government decided to reserve Pfizer and Moderna shots for the elderly and designate AstraZeneca’s vaccine for younger, at-risk workers. AstraZeneca’s vaccine was deemed to be about 70% effective in testing. Canada became the latest country Friday to allow use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. ___ AP reporters Carla K. Johnson and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lauran Neergaard And Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A man who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for WE Charity says he believes two different groups of donors were told they had raised the money for a school in Kenya. Reed Cowan testified before a parliamentary committee today where he said he discovered a plaque that had once borne his late son's name had been replaced with the name of another donor. Cowan says he then found a video online that showed an opening ceremony for the school building, almost identical to one he participated in, that took place with a different group of donors two weeks before the one held for his group. Cowan, who was a member of the advisory board to a WE-affiliated group in the United States, says he began raising money after his son Wesley died in an accident at age four and that helping children in Kenya helped him deal with the loss. In an email, WE Charity says there was only one opening ceremony for the school and Cowan misunderstood what was happening in the video. WE says it inadvertently failed to notify Cowan about the removal of the plaque and that it has now been returned. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday that Iran should view his decision to authorize U.S. airstrikes in Syria as a warning that it can expect consequences for its support of militia groups that threaten U.S. interests or personnel. “You can't act with impunity. Be careful,” Biden said when a reporter asked what message he had intended to send with the airstrikes, which the Pentagon said destroyed several buildings in eastern Syria but were not intended to eradicate the militia groups that used them to facilitate attacks inside Iraq. Administration officials defended the Thursday night airstrikes as legal and appropriate, saying they took out facilities that housed valuable “capabilities” used by Iranian-backed militia groups to attack American and allied forces in Iraq. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, said members of Congress were notified before the strikes as two Air Force F-15E aircraft launched seven missiles, destroying nine facilities and heavily damaging two others, rendering both “functionally destroyed.” He said the facilities, at “entry control points” on the border, had been used by militia groups the U.S. deems responsible for recent attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq. In a political twist for the new Democratic administration, several leading Congress members in Biden's own party denounced the strikes, which were the first military actions he authorized. Democrats said the airstrikes were done without authorization from lawmakers, while Republicans were more supportive. “Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. And Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said lawmakers must hold the current administration to the same standards as any other. “Retaliatory strikes not necessary to prevent an imminent threat,” he said, must get congressional authorization. But Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, backed the decision as “the correct, proportionate response to protect American lives.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that Biden used his constitutional authority to defend U.S. personnel. "The targets were chosen to correspond to the recent attacks on facilities and to deter the risk of additional attacks over the coming weeks,” she said. Among the recent attacks cited was a Feb. 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. At the Pentagon, Kirby said the operation was “a defensive strike” on a waystation used by militants to move weapons and materials for attacks into Iraq. But he noted that while it sent a message of deterrence and eroded their ability to strike from that compound, the militias have other sites and capabilities. He said the strikes resulted in “casualties” but declined to provide further details on how many were killed or injured and what was inside the buildings pending the completion of a broader assessment of damage inflicted. An Iraqi militia official said Friday that the strikes killed one fighter and wounded several others. Kirby said the facilities hit in the attack were near Boukamal, on the Syrian side of the Iraq border, along the Euphrates River. “This location is known to facilitate Iranian-aligned militia group activity,” he said. He described the site as a “compound” that previously had been used by the Islamic State group when it held sway in the area. The Iraqi militia official told The Associated Press that the strikes against the Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, hit an area along the border between the Syrian site of Boukamal facing Qaim on the Iraqi side. The official was not authorized to speak publicly of the attack and spoke on condition of anonymity. Speaking to reporters Thursday evening shortly after the airstrikes were carried out, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “I’m confident in the target that we went after. We know what we hit.” Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq and send a message to Iran. The Biden administration in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. The U.S. has previously targeted facilities in Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, which it has blamed for numerous attacks targeting U.S. personnel and interests in Iraq. The Iraqi Kataeb is separate from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the war in Syria, said the strikes targeted a shipment of weapons that were being taken by trucks entering Syrian territories from Iraq. The group said 22 fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi umbrella group of mostly Shiite paramilitaries that includes Kataeb Hezbollah, were killed. The report could not be independently verified. In a statement, the group confirmed one of its fighters was killed and said it reserved the right to retaliate, without elaborating. Kataeb Hezbollah, like other Iranian-backed factions, maintains fighters in Syria to both fight against the Islamic State group and assist Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in that country's civil war. Austin said he was confident the U.S. had hit back at “the same Shia militants” that carried out the Feb.1 5 rocket attack in northern Iraq. Kirby credited Iraqis with providing valuable intelligence that allowed the U.S. to identify the groups responsible for attacks earlier this year. The U.S., he said, then determined the appropriate target for the retaliatory strike. He said the U.S. also notified Russia shortly before the strike as part of the ongoing deconfliction process of military activities in Syria. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel,” Kirby said. Syria condemned the U.S. strike, calling it “a cowardly and systematic American aggression,” warning that the attack will lead to consequences. U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group. Lolita C. Baldor, Robert Burns And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
“The connection is me,” said Tsuut’ina Nation artist seth cardinal dodginghorse, linking his work for Contemporary Calgary and his protest at the opening of the southwest Calgary ring road last October. dodginghorse spoke virtually yesterday, the final speaker for Contemporary Calgary’s Water Event. His exhibit, entitled The Glenmore Rezerveoir, is a water jug with a label made from elk hide parfleche. Writing is painted on the inside of the label and can only be read if it’s “really bright out” and the jug is angled. The label reads: “You drink Tsuut’ina land.” dodginghorse said he was approached in August by the gallery to be one of six Indigenous artists to produce a water sculpture as part of political activist Yoko Ono’s exhibition, Growing Freedom. Two months later, he stood at the opening of Tsuut’ina Trail, unofficially called Calgary’s southwest ring road, and cut off his braids, offering them to the portion of the road that displaced his family six years earlier from their generations-held land. “The connection is story-wise and intent behind making the work. They weren’t directly related at all. But a lot of my intent … all my own personal experiences, traumas informed making this work and those were the same things that informed me speaking out at the opening … (and) resulted in me cutting my hair and everything. It’s more like the connection is that I made the artwork and the connection is that I ended up cutting my hair. The connection is me,” said dodginghorse. dodginghorse’s family was forced off their land in 2013 because of the ring road. That land had been in the family since his great-great grandmother. His mother and her siblings had grown up there. Many Tsuut’ina people beyond dodginghorse’s family members had connections to that land. When living there, dodginghorse said the water they drank was “some of the most beautiful, delicious water you could drink.” His family moved to another piece of land on the Tsuut’ina reserve. They were told not to drink the water from the tap because of numerous environmental concerns, including nearby fracking. His family had to drink water from jugs. “We didn’t grow up having to purchase water. We didn’t grow up having to be afraid of what was coming from our tap. We’ve been drinking from these water bottles for quite a bit now and I thought, ‘Why don’t I just use one of these and highlight the issue of drinking water and where does the water I’m purchasing come from?’” he said. In 1932, dodginghorse said Tsuut’ina Nation was “pressured” by Calgary and the government to sell 400 acres of reserve land to the city. That land became the Glenmore reservoir and provides safe drinking water for Calgary residents. “There’s just so much loaded history behind Glenmore reservoir and my family as well ... It’s very strange and very ironic that my family, once we moved, in order to drink water we had to drink water from land that was originally part of Tsuut’ina. That was like essentially purchasing water back from ancestral lands,” said dodginghorse. Having to be concerned about safe drinking water is not unique to Tsuut’ina, said Dodginghorse, noting that boil water advisories are common in many First Nations communities right across the country. While some artwork takes time to conceive and time to determine the medium, this piece was readily conceived, dodginghorse said. “It was very easy to make but then thinking about the history behind the objects, behind my family’s history, all of these connection, is one of those really nice pieces in a way where I made this and then afterwards I started thinking and analysing and really understanding what I had made,” he said. dodginghorse said he prefers his work to be “blunt and in your face.” He wants people to “get” what he is saying with his art and not have to ponder it for “three hours” before the message sinks in. dodginghorse has been showing his work in Calgary galleries for about six years. He said he understands that this venue only reaches “a certain crowd.” “A lot of the people that were involved in a lot of these decisions historically that are still here, aren’t really the type of people that go to galleries. With this type of work has like the focus on reaching out to the average white Calgarian that goes to galleries,” he said. Ryan Doherty, chief curator of Contemporary Calgary, who hosted the virtual talk, said dodginghorse’s piece was popular with gallery goers, many of whom came after dodginghorse cut his braids at the ring road opening. “That seemingly mundane container is in fact so loaded,” said Doherty. When Contemporary Calgary was tasked with asking a new group of artists to collaborate with Ono in this iteration of Water Event, Doherty said he knew it had to be a group with which water had an “enormous significance.” “When you consider the long history and impact of the Bow and Elbow rivers to the Indigenous population past and present it seemed the best thing would be to invite artists for whom that connection would resonate in the collaboration with Yoko,” said Doherty. The other Water Event collaborators are Adrian A. Stimson, Faye HeavyShield, Jessie Ray Short, Judy Anderson and Kablusiak. In 1971, Ono held her first museum exhibition, Water Event, in which she invited over 120 participants to produce a water sculpture. “As Yoko herself noted to us, (this) was one of the best iterations to date,” said Doherty. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
(Émilie Vast/CBC - image credit) Alberta finance officials are pushing back against a proposal in a private members' bill that would add members representing public sector plans to the board of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). Shannon Phillips, the NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West, presented Bill 208, Alberta Investment Management Corporation Amendment Act, 2020, to the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members' Public Bills on Friday. The bill proposes adding four members representing the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund, Special Forces Pension Plan , Local Authorities Pension Plan and Public Sector Pension Plan to AIMCo's 11-person board. Since taking office nearly two years ago, the current United Conservative government has compelled the pension funds to use AIMCo as their investment manager. MLAs have been inundated with phone calls, emails and letters about this issue, Phillips said. Adding representation from the four largest public sector pensions to the AIMCo board would help ease those worries, she said. "Those funds then deserve a better window over governance at AIMCo and input into how they make investment decisions and ultimately how they serve their clients," she told the committee. AIMCo is an investment firm owned by the provincial government. Management came under fire last year after losing $2.1 billion from a bet on market volatility. Managers of the four pensions, which provide retirement income for teachers, provincial and local government workers, health care workers and municipal police officers have expressed concern that AIMCo would mishandle their funds. Lowell Epp, assistant deputy minister for Treasury Risk and Management for the Alberta government, rejected Phillips' proposal in his presentation to the committee. He says a 15-member board is unwieldy and would be less productive than a smaller board. He also suggested the proposed new members would represent the interests of their individual pension plans and not AIMCo as a whole. "Representative boards frequently take a combative approach to decision making rather than a much more productive, consensus-based approach," he said. Epp said each public sector pension retains control over their investment policies. UCP MLAs, who make up the majority on the committee, echoed some of Epp's concerns. Referendum question The Alberta government has the power to issue investment directives to AIMCo. Bill 208 would remove that provision from existing legislation. Concerns have been raised that the UCP government could order AIMCo to invest funds in oil and gas projects. Phillips said the power has never been used, so it shouldn't be a problem to remove it. "Removing that section of the act is a very simple solution to some of the concerns that have been raised by the public," she said. The government is currently studying the feasibility of leaving the Canada Pension Plan and creating an Alberta Pension Plan in its place, a measure recommended by the Fair Deal Panel last year. Bill 208 proposes asking Albertans in a referendum whether they want to switch to a provincial pension plan and if they want AIMCo to manage the fund. Epp, in his presentation, said early evidence suggests a provincial pension plan could be beneficial, but that no decisions have been made on who would manage the funds. MLAs on the committee agreed to hear stakeholder presentations on Phillips' bill before deciding whether to send it back to the legislative assembly for additional debate.
The human trafficking case brought against a former U.S. Olympics women’s gymnastics coach hours before he killed himself could signal a new approach to policing a sport already dogged by a far-reaching sexual abuse scandal involving a one-time team doctor. John Geddert, the head coach of the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, killed himself Thursday hours after prosecutors charged him with 24 counts accusing him of turning his once-acclaimed Michigan gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train there and then abusing them — one sexually. Although Geddert was charged with sexually assaulting one teenager and he worked closely with Larry Nassar, the imprisoned sports doctor who sexually abused hundreds of women and girls under the guise it was treatment, the bulk of the case against Geddert was for human trafficking — a charge that even the state's top law enforcement official acknowledged might not fit the common understanding of such a case. “We think of it predominantly as affecting people of colour or those without means to protect themselves ... but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday. “Young impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.” Lawyers for women who accused Geddert and Nassar of abuse say Nassar's imprisonment and Geddert's death won't resolve some of the serious issues that have plagued the sport. But they lauded the attorney general's office for bringing the trafficking case against the 63-year-old Geddert, who was charged with making money through the forced labour of young athletes. According to a transcript from a closed court hearing this week, Geddert reported that his income was $2.7 million between 2014 and 2018. “They took a stand that if you do this kind of thing as a coach, you are going to get charged,” John Manly, an attorney for accusers of the two men told The Associated Press, noting that the maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for each of the 20 trafficking counts is more than the penalty for the sex crime he was charged with. Sarah Klein, an attorney who works with Manly and was coached by Geddert, whom she said physically and emotionally abused her — and was sexually abused by Nassar — said she doesn't think Geddert's suicide will halt any reckoning for women's gymnastics. “I think this sends a big message that you can't emotionally and physically, and obviously sexually, abuse children for the sake of winning anymore,” she said. What that means for the immediate future is that the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, where Nassar once worked, will face increased scrutiny, Klein and Manly said. Both organizations turned a blind eye to such abusive treatment, they said. The USOPC didn't respond to a request for comment Friday. USA Gymnastics President Li Li Leung issued a statement expressing shock that Geddert killed himself, and expressed her sympathy for the victims. Manly and Klein said that although the latest case will bring more attention to abusive coaching in women's gymnastics, the success of coaches like Geddert, whose 2012 Olympic team won the team gold, will make reforming the sport more difficult. They said so much of Geddert's alleged abuse was able to continue because his private gyms and gymnastics clubs operated outside of the view of the public or even the athletes' parents. And that abuse, as described by Nessel, was emotional and physical, from ordering one distraught girl to apologize to him for trying to kill herself to throwing another girl into the uneven bars with such force that it ruptured the lymph nodes on one side of her neck. “In almost every elite gym ... parents were not allowed, so they had no idea that if a kid vomited and he saw there were French fries, he would stick the kid's face in the vomit,” Manly said. He said in recent years, some gyms have opened up a bit to let the parents see how their kids are being coached. But many still operate behind a wall of secrecy. Klein said this secrecy has been tolerated and even encouraged because coaches were producing champions that the whole country could be proud of, which she traces back to the wild success of Bela and Martha Karolyi, the husband-and-wife duo who coached America’s top female gymnasts for three decades. For most of those years, she said, nobody was asking questions of what gymnasts later said was the couple's harsh treatment of their young charges. The coaches are now the subject of at least one lawsuit from a gymnast who contends they knew or should have known about Nassar's behaviour. Finding out what is going on will also be made tougher by parents' unwillingness to ask questions or look too closely because of all the success Geddert and other coaches, Manly and others said. In a transcript released this week, this issue was raised by a young woman who was coached by Geddert. “He gets everyone to buy into his program, then parents start seeing positive results from their gymnast, then they are hooked," she said. “The parents then decide to tolerate Geddert’s style or they turn their heads.” Don Babwin, The Associated Press
(Robert Short/CBC - image credit) One of Nova Scotia's largest nursing-home operators is urging the province to bring COVID-19 vaccination clinics into retirement living centres. Only seniors in licensed long-term care homes in the province can get vaccinated on site. The thousands of seniors living in independent or community settings like the Parkland complex in Halifax, owned by Shannex, must go to public clinics. "For the health and safety of our residents, it is our hope that as vaccine supply increases, we can assist in the vaccine rollout by holding on-site vaccination clinics in our retirement living communities," said Katherine Van Buskirk, Shannex's director of communications and community affairs. She said many residents can't travel independently to a public clinic. "Retirement living residents are at risk of COVID-19 because they live in close proximity to other seniors and receive care and services provided by a workforce that lives in the larger community," Van Buskirk told CBC News in a statement. Only Nova Scotia seniors in licensed long-term care homes are getting vaccinated on site. Shannex has 17 long-term care homes in Nova Scotia that are licensed by the Department of Health and Wellness. Its Parkland Retirement Living division has seven locations in Nova Scotia. The average age of seniors who lives at Parkland is 80. Many seniors living 'fairly independently,' says Strang Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said Public Health officials are aware of the issue and are looking at how best to accommodate those seniors. "Many of these people, they're still living fairly independently and they do have themselves or family that can get around on a frequent basis already. And so coming to a vaccine clinic is not necessarily that much of a challenge," he told CBC News on Friday. This week, Nova Scotia opened a vaccination clinic at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, where 500 seniors over the age of 80 were vaccinated. They were chosen by a random draw. The province will hold more clinics across the province for that age group next month. Strang said Nova Scotia has a limited supply of vaccines and lacks the resources to open more clinics. Parkland GM says on-site clinics safer, more convenient Earlier this month, Parkland general manager Jennifer Shannon wrote to residents and their families, encouraging anyone with concerns to contact their MLA. Shannon followed up this week, telling residents and families that Shannex continues to advocate for on-site clinics. "This is a more convenient and safer solution for residents," she wrote. Strang said Friday that the public clinics are safe. He said he visited the IWK clinic and people were physically distancing, wearing masks and taking other precautions. "We have infection-control practitioners at the hospital that have provided guidance about how to have the right level of infection control as people come into these clinics," he said. "So I'm very comfortable that these clinics are actually very safe." MORE TOP STORIES
SAN DIEGO — California is freeing up as much as $28 million to help immigrants arriving from Mexico and being released in the U.S. until their court dates, a sharp contrast from other border states that have emerged as foes of President Joe Biden's immigration policies. The funding, expected to last through June, comes as Biden unwinds former President Donald Trump's policy to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico until their court hearings. It will pay for hotel rooms for immigrants to quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic before going to their final destinations throughout the U.S. Money also will go to Jewish Family Service of San Diego to provide food, transportation and help with travel logistics. The state will fund health services for the short stays, including COVID-19 testing. Last week, the Biden administration began allowing people into the United States who had been forced to wait south of the border under Trump's “Remain in Mexico" policy. On his first day, Biden suspended the program for new arrivals. An estimated 26,000 people with active cases will be allowed into the U.S., with about 25 people released a day in San Diego. “This is what happens when California and Washington are talking with each other instead of at each other,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance. The first asylum-seekers waiting in the Mexican border city of Matamoros, home to a migrant camp with squalid conditions, were processed for entry Thursday in Brownsville, Texas. Processing began Friday in El Paso, Texas. At the same time, the U.S. is releasing more asylum-seekers who are not enrolled in “Remain in Mexico” into the country, as it did for hundreds of thousands of people before Trump foisted the responsibility of hosting asylum-seekers on Mexico in 2019. While most people are quickly expelled without an opportunity to seek asylum under pandemic powers that Trump instituted and Biden kept in place, limited releases in the U.S. have raised financial and humanitarian concerns in some border cities. “There’s no plan of action once Border Patrol releases migrants in city centres from being detained,” Bruno Lozano, mayor of the South Texas city of Del Rio, said in an interview. Lozano posted a YouTube video last week calling on the Biden administration to stop releasing migrants during a winter storm that ravaged Texas, knocking out power and water for several days in many cities. The Border Patrol resumed releasing migrants in Del Rio on Feb. 20 after the cold passed. Lozano said Friday that border agents have resumed releasing people in Del Rio and nearby cities. He noted that non-profit groups provide cellphones, food and clothing to people leaving border custody and called on federal authorities to ramp up vaccinations in border communities or provide hotel rooms where migrants who test positive can quarantine. In Yuma, Arizona, Mayor Douglas Nicholls estimated that by the end of Thursday, some 230 migrants, including many families with children, had been released since Feb. 15. Many are dropped at a Greyhound bus stop outside a discount store in a rural area. Nicholls wants state and federal officials to transport migrants to larger cities with more infrastructure and resources, as the federal government did during Trump's presidency. Texas has sent 10,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to Brownsville for arriving migrants. City spokesman Felipe Romero says the tests are administered at the local bus station and anyone who tests positive is told to isolate. In El Paso, the Annunciation House shelter is receiving 25 immigrants daily from the Remain in Mexico program. The shelter expects releases to double in the coming weeks and perhaps reach 75 a day by the end of March, director Ruben Garcia said. California has so far been the most generous with aid. Besides the new funding, it's already spent nearly $12 million to help about 30,000 asylum-seekers at the border since Trump’s presidency. With Biden in the White House, Arizona and Texas have emerged as chief critics of immigration policy, a position that California proudly took during the Trump years. Texas successfully sued to block Biden's 100-day moratorium on deportations. Texas and Arizona signed agreements with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Trump's final days that could delay any changes to immigration policy. The Biden administration has rejected them. ___ Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Anita Snow in Phoenix contributed to this report. Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
Staff vaccination rates at the site of one of Hamilton’s worst outbreaks still have some ways to go to reach the provincial target, as the city resumed vaccinations for health-care workers on Friday. This week, the CEO of Shalom Village in Westdale released the number of the home’s staff who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccination. The numbers offer a glimpse into the rollout and uptake of vaccines in this high-priority group in long-term care. Shalom Village, a facility offering long-term care and assisted living, was home to the second-worst outbreak in the city, with 218 cases and 20 deaths from Dec. 9 to Feb. 5. In an email this week, CEO Ken Callaghan said 120 staff out of about 173 “active” staff have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, he said “the vast majority” have received two doses, but didn’t provide numbers. Four additional staff received their first doses on Tuesday, when the city’s mobile clinic came to vaccinate more residents, Callaghan said. At 69 per cent, Shalom Village’s current vaccination numbers fall below a provincial goal of 75 per cent vaccination rate for the city, and a “per organization” target set by a Hamilton “vaccination strategy” group, of which Callaghan is a member. The province’s goal is a “planning target” which represents the proportion of Hamilton adults expected to volunteer to receive the vaccine. The number is based on previous annual vaccine uptake, but does not limit who can receive the vaccine. Shalom staff began receiving vaccines on Dec. 28, with 10 spots allocated per day to the home at the Hamilton Health Sciences clinic. However, the clinic shut down on Jan. 27 after the province ordered that vaccines should only be given to seniors’ home residents due to shortages. That clinic reopened on Friday. Shalom’s numbers are also less than vaccination rates at Grace Villa, the site of the city’s worst outbreak with 234 cases and 44 deaths from Nov. 25 to Jan. 19. In an email Friday, the CEO of APANS Health Services, which runs the east Mountain home, said 123 out of 139 staff have received both vaccine doses, about 88 per cent. Mary Raithby added that 105 out of 108 residents have received both vaccine doses. “We continue to have staff and residents vaccinated according to the public health guidelines and vaccine availability,” she said. Callaghan said by email on Thursday that he is “comfortable where Shalom is on staff vaccinations,” noting the current numbers are “not where we will end up with the vaccination site reopening.” He said there are additional staff on the list to receive their first doses as the city’s fixed-site clinic resumes. But Callaghan didn’t specify how many staff were on that list, only saying there are 34 staff and essential caregivers combined. Some have expressed concern over a reluctance among staff to receive the vaccine, or barriers preventing them from easily doing so. In mid-January, The Spectator reported concerns from SEIU Healthcare — a union representing health-care workers, including at Shalom Village — that workers faced barriers to accessing vaccines. The union advocated for paid sick leave for workers who experience side effects from the vaccine, as well as travelling costs and time for staff to consult with a doctor prior to receiving the vaccine. Language barriers and scheduling issues were also concerns. Staff vaccinations in long-term care are essential, as experts have pointed out that COVID-19 only enters a home from the outside. At the time, Hamilton’s medical officer of health was pleased that vaccine uptake in long-term-care and retirement home workers was more than 65 per cent. Callaghan declined an interview request about staff responses to vaccinations and whether Shalom Village took or is taking steps to address any concerns. As for residents, Callaghan said about 97 per cent have received both doses of the vaccine. It is not clear how many residents that represents. “The only residents not receiving both vaccinations were due to their refusals to be vaccinated,” he said, noting all residents who consented directly or through their attorneys have received both doses of the vaccine. Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
VIDALIA, La. — The onetime lead singer for the now defunct rock and country band Bishop Gunn has been arrested in Louisiana on drug and traffic charges, authorities said. Travis McCready was arrested Thursday in Concordia Parish in the east-central part of the state. McCready, 33, of Natchez, Mississippi, was taken to the Concordia Parish Jail on charges of failure to dim the lights on his vehicle, expired vehicle tag and no proof of insurance as well as charges alleging possession of Schedule I, Schedule II and Schedule III drugs, authorities said. McCready, a resident of Natchez, Mississippi, where the band also had been based, was released on a $25,000 bond, The Natchez Democrat reported. It was unknown if McCready has an attorney who could speak on his behalf. The Bishop Gunn band broke up in February 2020, citing “internal issues." It suspended all future activity including tour dates and new music releases. With McCready as the group's lead singer, Bishop Gunn made it to the top of the Billboard Blues Album chart in 2018 with their debut album “Natchez.” At the height of its run, Bishop Gunn toured in Europe with Slash after playing two cruises with Kid Rock and received multiple accolades from Rolling Stone Magazine’s top country charts. Although the band has called it quits, McCready has performed solo in Natchez and elsewhere. The Associated Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia health officials say the federal government's approval of two new vaccines is encouraging news and one more layer of protection to help get the province through the pandemic. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a statement that approval of the vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Verity-Serum Institute of India is an "exciting" step forward.The statement says the new vaccines are "fridge stable," making them easier to transport and distribute across the province.British Columbia announced 589 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday along with seven more deaths.But the statement cautioned that the case numbers are considered provisional, due to delays in its lab reporting system.More than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., while roughly 73,000 of those are second doses.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. There are 861,472 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 861,472 confirmed cases (30,516 active, 809,041 resolved, 21,915 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 3,252 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 80.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,886 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,984. There were 50 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 339 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 48. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.66 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,205,347 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 977 confirmed cases (290 active, 682 resolved, five deaths). There were four new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 55.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 114 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 16. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. 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 0.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 194,501 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 121 confirmed cases (seven active, 114 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 4.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been six new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 100,524 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,634 confirmed cases (35 active, 1,534 resolved, 65 deaths). There were 10 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 3.57 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 323,312 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,428 confirmed cases (42 active, 1,360 resolved, 26 deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 5.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. 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 3.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 234,746 tests completed. _ Quebec: 286,145 confirmed cases (7,888 active, 267,885 resolved, 10,372 deaths). There were 815 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 91.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,458 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 780. There were 11 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 94 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 120.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,220,844 tests completed. _ Ontario: 298,569 confirmed cases (10,294 active, 281,331 resolved, 6,944 deaths). There were 1,258 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 69.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,798 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,114. There were 28 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 124 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,726,049 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 31,721 confirmed cases (1,197 active, 29,635 resolved, 889 deaths). There were 64 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 86.79 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 486 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 69. There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 526,985 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 28,344 confirmed cases (1,510 active, 26,454 resolved, 380 deaths). There were 153 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 128.11 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,099 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 157. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.18 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 567,399 tests completed. _ Alberta: 132,788 confirmed cases (4,505 active, 126,406 resolved, 1,877 deaths). There were 356 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 101.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,433 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 348. There were three new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 42.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,378,626 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 79,262 confirmed cases (4,719 active, 73,188 resolved, 1,355 deaths). There were 589 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 91.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,427 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 490. There were seven new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,901,202 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. 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 8,126 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (three active, 39 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 6.64 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 14,388 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 356 confirmed cases (26 active, 329 resolved, one deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 66.07 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 24 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 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,569 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is getting hit with tough questions about investigations into sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces. David Akin explains what kind of investigation Opposition leader Erin O'Toole, an Air Force veteran, is calling for.
JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska Native corporation said it was unable to meet a deadline for aerial surveys of polar bear dens in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because a federal agency did not issue the necessary authorization in a timely manner. The Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. also took issue with what it calls a “blatant mischaracterization” of what happened and says it is owed an apology. On Saturday, Melissa Schwartz, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Interior, said the corporation had confirmed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials that den detection surveys had not been conducted by a Feb. 13 deadline. The corporation was told “their request is no longer actionable, and the Service does not intend to issue or deny the authorization,” she said. Her comments echoed those of Regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Gregory Siekaniec in a letter to corporation President Matthew Rexford a day earlier. The corporation had sought authorization from the agency for activities that could disturb polar bears as part of a broader proposal to conduct what are known as seismic surveys to search for oil and gas deposits within the refuge’s coastal plain. In December, the Fish and Wildlife Service released for comment a proposed authorization that would allow for “incidental harassment” of polar bears in the coastal plain during a set period for seismic work. More than 6 million comments were received, according to Siekaniec. In his letter, Siekaniec said the agency was unable to review and consider all the comments and “make appropriate refinements” to the proposed authorization and supporting documents before a "key milestone” in the corporation's request, noting the Feb. 13 deadline. Rexford, in a response to the regional director, said the corporation had gotten conflicting messages on the status of that review. He said that the agency had failed his corporation and community. Kaktovik is on the northern edge of the refuge, on the Beaufort Sea coast. He told The Associated Press the corporation is evaluating its next steps. Schwartz on Friday declined comment beyond her previous statement. President Joe Biden’s administration last month announced plans for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the region considered sacred by the Indigenous Gwich’in. The Interior Department says none of the lands proposed for seismic survey activity are within the area that has been leased. Pending lawsuits have challenged the adequacy of the environmental review process undertaken by the Trump administration. Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he's looking forward to renewing the relationship between his country and Canada, whose interests and goals are tightly intertwined. Blinken and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau met over a video link Friday.