VICTORIA — British Columbia has reported 317 additional cases of COVID-19 and six more people have died since Friday.At a news briefing Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 1,594 cases are active in the province, including 58 people who are hospitalized.Nearly half of the active cases are connected to long-term care and assisted-living facilities, including 471 residents and 320 staff.Henry said 5,446 people have recovered after testing positive for the illness, while more than 3,000 people are being actively monitored for symptoms.The latest case numbers come as students head back to classrooms and smoke from wildfires in the United States blankets much of southern B.C., prompting air quality advisories.It can be challenging to determine whether symptoms of respiratory illness are related to air quality or the novel coronavirus, said Henry, urging people to visit the website for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control for more information."Things like dry cough and runny eyes and irritation — those can be associated both with smoke and with COVID. But there are things that are not as likely to be caused by wildfire smoke, so anything like fever and chills and aches and the productive cough ... that we get with COVID."Wildfire smoke contains particulates that can irritate the nose, throat and lungs, said Henry, adding that exposure often affects the same people who are at highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, including older people and those with underlying health conditions.The potential for confusion is particularly concerning in schools, said Henry, adding anyone who's concerned about symptoms should stay home.She acknowledged that her advice to close windows in order to keep smoke out runs contrary to public health guidelines throughout the pandemic, which encourage spending time outside or in well-ventilated spaces.But Henry said schools are safer environments than many homes when it comes to wildfire smoke and there are other measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as physical distancing and health screenings.A tight-fitting mask can also help reduce the particulates being inhaled, she noted.B.C. has reported 7,279 cases of COVID-19 so far.— By Brenna Owen in Vancouver.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2020.The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated there were 1,595 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C.
OTTAWA — A group of Tamil Canadians is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for legal changes to remove sovereign immunity as a defence for international crimes.Such a move would enable Sri Lankan families to seek justice for their disappeared loved ones, said Kumanan Kunaratnam, a Tamil activist in Ottawa, in a Parliament Hill news conference Monday.A civil war gripped the country between 1983 and 2009, with insurgents who sought a separate Tamil state battling a central government dominated by Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese.Amnesty International estimates at least 60,000 people have disappeared in Sri Lanka since the late 1980s, with the activists saying most of the victims are Tamil. Last year the United Nations noted that thousands of people in Sri Lanka don't know what happened to missing loved ones."This is an issue that must deeply concern all human beings," Kunaratnam said.The legal doctrine of sovereign immunity largely protects governments from court actions in other countries. There are exceptions, however, such as when a state engages in commercial activities.Kunaratnam said sovereign immunity should be removed. "If sovereign immunity can be removed as a defence for a commercial transaction, why cannot it be removed for international crimes?"He said that such legislation will not only benefit Tamils but also victims of enforced disappearances across the globe.Hundreds of thousands of people have vanished during conflicts or periods of repression in at least 85 countries around the world, according the United Nations.A group of four Tamil Canadians finished a 16-day "walk for justice" from Brampton, Ont., to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to raise awareness about the human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Another group of three activists walked from Montreal to Ottawa.The group also wants Canada to refer Sri Lanka to the committee established under the United Nations convention against enforced disappearance.Although Sri Lanka ratified the UN's convention against enforced disappearances in 2016, it invoked a provision of the international treaty that prevents victims from petitioning the committee over a country's violations of the convention. Only another country can make such a complaint against Sri Lanka.Canada, however, has not signed on to the convention at all, limiting its standing to make such a complaint.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2020.———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said both Sri Lanka and Canada have signed the convention on enforced disappearances. In addition, it gave an incorrect spelling of Kumanan Kunaratnam's first name.
As the federal government puts the finishing touches on a national hydrogen strategy designed to kickstart the budding sector, some experts say one of the vital ingredients for the industry to flourish is to build more pipelines.While pipelines are often associated with moving oil and natural gas, they are equally important for the developing cleaner sources of fuel like hydrogen, according to Maggie Hanna, a fellow at the Energy Futures Lab.After a 30-year career in the oilpatch as a geologist, Hanna's focus is now on technology and innovation.Instead of oil and natural gas, she believes hydrogen, hydro, nuclear, solar and wind will be the dominant energy sources a few decades from now as the country moves toward lowering its emissions.Still, for that clean energy transition to happen, the country will need to put more pipes in the ground."We got to get over this friggin' pipeline thing," said Hanna, with a smile as she shook her head. "It is the No. 1 safest way to move any fluid."Not only does the country still depend heavily on pipelines to move oil and natural gas, but many other sources of energy may also depend on pipelines.Hanna is a big supporter of utilizing hydrogen for heating buildings, powering trains and long-haul trucks, and for industrial sectors like manufacturing, among other uses.WATCH | A clean energy transition does require more pipelines:Hydrogen has the potential to be a major energy source in the future and help the country lower its emissions in the future. That's why the federal government is set to release a national hydrogen strategy before the end of the year, which is expected to include financial incentives and other measures to fuel the sector's growth.Pipelines would be needed to move hydrogen across the country and for export, said Hanna."In liquid forms and gaseous forms, mixed in with methane," she said, among other examples. There would also be a need to move carbon dioxide emissions to be sequestered underground or used in industrial sectors.Pipeline backlashOver the last 20 years, oil and natural gas pipelines have garnered much more attention across North America and have attracted a significant amount of criticism because of concern about the impact that expanding the fossil fuel industry will have on climate change.Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said the discussion shouldn't focus on vilifying one industry, but instead be centred around how the country can lower its emissions in the future."I think we're all going to get a lot more sophisticated about this. I mean pipelines have become a lightning rod," he said. "Pipelines aren't the issue, emissions are the issue."Whether the country will need more pipelines in the future to move materials like hydrogen, O'Regan said it's an important question "because all of that will require significant investment."Team Canada To get more pipes in the ground in the future, some argue a so-called 'Team Canada' approach is necessary. While Alberta and Quebec have sparred often in recent years over oil and gas pipeline development, both are supporters of growing the hydrogen industry.Some hydrogen proponents say there is strong support for the sector from coast-to-coast."It's the one energy solution that isn't divisive across Canada," said Stephen Beatty, a vice-president with Toyota Canada, which is part of a Quebec hydrogen coalition, which formed earlier this year.Hydrogen is environmentally-friendly and not a pollutant, he said, like other materials that move by pipeline."I think if you look at the history of energy politics over the last year or two, you've seen pipeline debates, you've seen lots of other things happening. The reality is that every major part of the country has a potential to be a player in hydrogen," he said, in a phone interview from a dealership in Ajax, Ontario.Canada is already one of the larger hydrogen producers in the world today, producing approximately three million tonnes a year using steam methane reformation (SMR) of natural gas, a process that's drawn scrutiny for its carbon emissions.Environmentalists say the climate benefit of hydrogen is highly dependent on how it is made. Government officials and analysts believe Canada has what it takes to develop low or zero-carbon hydrogen through a variety of tools, including renewable energy or, in the case of natural gas, utilizing carbon-capture technology, like that in Alberta. Meanwhile, provinces like B.C., Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland have significant hydroelectric resources and Ontario has nuclear energy, which can be used in off-peak times to produce hydrogen from water through a process called electrolysis.Pipeline problems possibleAlberta government officials say the province could be a world leader in hydrogen production. That's why it is so important for governments across the country to work hand-in-hand."It provides investor confidence that they're going to come and set up shop in Alberta. They're not going to have to worry about fighting with other levels of government as well," said Dale Nally, Alberta's associate minister of natural gas"We've seen what can happen in other areas where we're not aligned, whether it's building pipelines or fossil fuels or even natural gas," he said.WATCH | Would there be opposition to a new pipeline if it carried hydrogen?:Those experiences are why he is convinced there still would be opposition to more pipeline construction, especially among activists, even for moving materials like hydrogen."I have no doubt that the same challenges that we see with oil and gas will also be there for hydrogen. The difference is our eyes are open now and we're going into this with our eyes wide open," he said.
QUISPAMSIS, N.B. — New Brunswick's Progressive Conservatives won a majority government on Monday, concluding a highly unusual election race — the first in Canada since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic."Come what may in the months and years ahead, we know we'll have stability and experience leading us through these challenging times," Premier Blaine Higgs told about 50 supporters who were wearing masks and standing two metres apart in a Quispamsis, N.B., bingo hall."I want to thank every New Brunswicker who showed the country how democratic elections can be held safely during this pandemic."With all votes counted, the Tories were elected in 27 ridings, the Liberals in 17, the Green party in three and the People's Alliance in two. At least 25 seats were needed for a majority in the 49-seat house.As Higgs walked to the stage with his wife and two daughters, all four were wearing full face shields. When the premier arrived at the podium, he took off the shield, looked at the sparse crowd and said with a smile: "There's nothing like coming to a packed hall. This is life in COVID."Soon after Higgs delivered his victory speech, Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers announced he would be stepping down."Obviously with the results of this evening, it's time for another leader to step up and take this party forward," he said. "I'm hoping the next leader will take the torch and bring it up higher."It's the first time a government in New Brunswick has won two consecutive terms since Bernard Lord led the Tories to re-election in 2003.Higgs called a snap election four weeks ago, saying his 21-month-old minority government lacked stability at a difficult time for the province.His opposition rivals accused him of political opportunism, but Higgs gambled that the electorate wouldn't see things that way, given that he had won widespread praise for his leadership in the face of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis.During the last week of the campaign, Higgs said he wanted a majority win to ensure the Tories could focus on health care and keeping people safe. He said any other option would put the province at risk.The 66-year-old former Irving Oil executive cast himself as a dull but dependable in a crisis."Maybe I'm boring, but I'm no surprise," he said last month. "I'm consistent. You can trust me."At dissolution, there were 20 Tories, 20 Liberals, three Greens, three People's Alliance members, one Independent and two vacancies.During the 28-day election race, few candidates campaigned door-to-door, and those who did were careful to wear a mask and stand well back when speaking to voters. There were no handshakes, no kissing of babies, no big rallies.Campaign literature was sent through the mail and the party leaders took part in outdoor events that were livestreamed, as masked candidates stood well in the background to comply with physical distancing rules. And at most campaign stops, Higgs wore a plastic face shield.On the campaign trail, Vickers accused Higgs of listening to political advisers rather than the people of New Brunswick, arguing that the election wasn't wanted or needed.Acclaimed Liberal leader in 2019, Vickers had served as sergeant-at-arms in the House of Commons, where in 2014 he was credited with fatally shooting a gunman who had fired a rifle inside Centre Block.When the election campaign started on Aug. 17, Green party Leader David Coon also accused Higgs of opportunism.As the Tories secured their majority win on Monday, Coon said the electoral system has to be changed."It speaks to the need for electoral reform, so we don't have these majority governments where premiers can have their way," he said.In recent election campaigns in New Brunswick, voters were confronted with polarizing issues, such as hydraulic fracturing, skyrocketing auto insurance rates or privatization of the province's Crown-owned utility, NB Power.But this election was all about the province's response to COVID-19.New Brunswick has one of the lowest levels of infection in Canada — bested only by P.E.I. and the territories. That fact became Higgs' key talking point during the election race. He also cited forecasts suggesting the province was leading the country in terms of an economic recovery.Higgs highlighted the fact that New Brunswick had experienced a smaller economic contraction than the rest of Canada due to COVID-19, mainly because the province contained the virus quickly.The Tories argued during the campaign that all that good news was a result of Higgs' leadership.By contrast, Vickers took a gloomier view, saying the Tories were pretending that everything had returned to normal, when "businesses are still feeling the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic."While the Tories managed to secure a majority, they largely failed to make gains within the province's French-speaking regions.As a result, the province remains divided along linguistic lines, with the Tories dominating in the English-speaking ridings of central and southern New Brunswick and the Liberals hanging on to the French-speaking ridings in the north — a problem that emerged after the 2018 election.The leaders of the smaller parties warned voters against electing a majority government, saying the minority arrangement had performed well with an all-party cabinet committee handling the COVID-19 crisis.People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said he was disappointed with the Tories' majority win but insisted the People's Alliance would continue to press for change in the legislature."We have made some significant changes in the political landscape," he said. "We still have our foot in the door, make no mistake about it."Mackenzie Thomason, 23-year-old interim leader of the New Democratic Party, said during the campaign the smaller parties were there to "keep the big parties' feet to the fire." The NDP didn't win any seats in the 2018 election and it was shut out again Monday.— With files from Michael MacDonald in HalifaxThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2020.Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
Migrants are demanding to leave the island and be allowed to travel to mainland Europe after last week's fire which destroyed the Moria camp.View on euronews
Two dozen Hong Kong pro-democracy activists appeared in court on Tuesday to hear charges of participating in an illegal assembly over a June 4 vigil commemorating the crackdown on protesters in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. It was the first time the vigil had been banned in semiautonomous Hong Kong, with police citing coronavirus restrictions on group gatherings as the reason for not granting permission. "We insist that condemning the Tiananmen massacre is no crime," said Lee Cheuk-yan, who organises the annual vigil in Hong Kong and is among those facing charges, before entering the court.
Smoke from uncontrolled wildfires along the U.S. West Coast is blowing eastward, stretching thousands of kilometres across Canada and covering several provinces. Dozens of blazes have raged with unprecedented scope across some 18,000 square kilometres in Oregon, California and Washington state since August, laying waste to several small towns, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 36 people.The fires also have filled the region's air with harmful levels of smoke and soot, bathing skies in eerie tones of orange and sepia while adding to a public health crisis already posed by the coronavirus pandemic. That smoke was seen sweeping eastward Tuesday, with it blowing as far as Toronto and Ottawa, as well to the northeast, covering Alberta, according to satellite imagery captured by the U.S.-based National Weather Service (NWS). "Notice that the smoke originates across the west and then gets pulled to the east due to the jet stream aloft. The haziness may increase later today," NWS said.On Monday smoke blanketed Vancouver so thickly that Canada Post was forced to stop deliveries for the day, calling the conditions "unsafe." While on Sunday, the union representing B.C. teachers urged the province to close schools, citing the combined threat of wildfire smoke, which is affecting air quality, and the COVID-19 pandemic."The combination of COVID-19 pandemic and extremely poor wildfire air quality is deeply concerning for bced," the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) said on Twitter. "Teachers and students should not be in crowded classes with no ventilation or fresh air."Ten deaths have been confirmed during the past week in Oregon, the latest flashpoint in a larger summer outbreak of fires accompanied by catastrophic lightning storms, record-breaking heat waves and bouts of extreme winds in the U.S.
OTTAWA — A new survey suggests there are Canadians who believe that warnings from public officials about the threat of COVID-19 are vastly overblown.Almost one-quarter of respondents in an online poll made public Tuesday by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies say they believe public health and government officials exaggerate in their warnings, including about the need for measures like physical distancing to slow the spread of the pandemic.Regionally, respondents in Alberta were more likely to believe the threat was embellished, followed by Atlantic Canada and Quebec, with Ontario at the bottom.Broken down by age, younger respondents were more likely than those over 55 to believe statements were being exaggerated.The online poll was conducted Sept. 11 to 13 and surveyed 1,539 adult Canadians. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the results may explain something else that came up in the survey: That a majority of respondents said they have relaxed how strictly they adhere to public health recommendations.Among those recommendations are things like wearing a mask in public, avoiding large gatherings and trying to maintain a two-metre distance between people."There is a link. If you believe we're exaggerating the disease, you're more likely to have relaxed on your strict observance of the rules in place," Bourque says.About 57 per cent of respondents in the survey said that they had eased their adherence to one or more of public health safety measures over the last month. Proper physical distancing was the most likely to be relaxed at 37 per cent of respondents, followed by wearing a mask outside the home at 33 per cent and not gathering in large groups at 31 per cent.Respondents age 18 to 34 were the most likely to have relaxed on how closely they followed measures, with nearly three-quarters of them saying they had done so in the past month. Over the last month, case counts have gone up for young people, with Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warning anew on Monday that the country can't let its guard down."It's a global pandemic and we don't have to look very far to find countries that have lost control of their pandemic and are in serious condition, both from a health perspective and an economic perspective," federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Tuesday."In fact, the health of Canada depends on all of us taking this seriously, but the economy of Canada depends on that as well. And those things go hand in hand."Weekly questioning shows an uptick in the percentage of survey respondents who believed the worst of the crisis is yet to come, which hit 45 per cent on Sept. 13, the highest level it has been since April 13. Nearly two-thirds of respondents in the survey believe the country is heading back to some form of lockdown, similar to what happened in March and April. How closely Canadians follow public health recommendations may rest on how soon officials declare the start of a second wave, Bourque said, or if jurisdictions crack down harder on those breaking rules, such as Quebec started doing in recent days."We're not at this pivotal moment where people feel we need to go back to how we used to be, where basically Canadians were exemplary in terms of following the safety measures put in place," he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
With a sudden spike in cases prompting more people to get tested, Canadians are coping with hours-long lineups at COVID-19 testing centres across the country — and some medical experts are calling on Health Canada to approve new devices to deliver faster results.Concerned parents and their children faced four-hour waits at Ottawa's primary testing facility on Monday. A similar scene greeted those looking for a test on Tuesday. At Toronto's William Osler drive-thru testing centre, residents were kept waiting for more than three hours.Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said today that one approach to the crush of people looking for tests could be the deployment of rapid-testing devices. Seven months into this pandemic, these devices still are not available for use in Canada because Health Canada regulators haven't yet approved them."I totally agree with a number of comments from experts that we need to augment the portfolio of testing capabilities in Canada," Tam told a press conference."That's something we need to press hard at. The regulator at Health Canada has said it's prepared to work hard to get us tests that are accurate and reliable. I think people are just trying to be careful."While she urged caution, Tam said that "right now, I think, is the time to really accelerate getting Canadians this capacity."Watch: Dr. Theresa Tam on rapid COVID-19 testsTam's comments come after Dr. David Naylor, one of the country's leading doctors and a co-chair of the federal government's COVID-19 task force, urged regulators to give Canadians more testing options ahead of an anticipated fall surge in COVID-19 cases."We really desperately need some rapid testing to be done at points of congregation, or points of meetings, so that you can have use of some form of salivary testing or rapid nucleic acid testing, or even antigen testing in schools and work sites. That would really help things here," Naylor said in an interview with CBC's Power & Politics on Monday.A rapid test, or a test that uses antigen technology, can produce results in minutes and can be used in a wide range of settings, such as doctors' offices, pharmacies, walk-in clinics and long-term care homes.Some public health experts also have said rapid tests should be sent to schools and some workplaces to offer on-the-spot results in high-risk settings.The antigen tests — which, depending on the device, use matter collected from a nasal or throat swab — don't require the use of a lab to generate results.While much faster, these tests are considered by some to be less accurate than the "gold standard" — the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing process currently in use across Canada.If administered properly, PCR tests are highly accurate, identifying positive cases nearly 100 per cent of the time. Antigen tests are also considered highly accurate but they are not as sensitive as molecular PCR tests run through a lab.Two new tests approved in U.S.While Health Canada has been reviewing the efficacy of these antigen tests for months, U.S. agencies fast-tracked two such devices in the summer and they are already in wide use there.In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave approvals for Quidel Corporation's Sofia 2 SARS device through an emergency use authorization.According to the National Institutes of Health, thousands of Quidel analyzers were in place across the United States as of July. The analyzers can give electronic results within 15 minutes. Quidel claims its test has a 96.7 per cent sensitivity rate within five days of the onset of patient symptoms.In July, the FDA issued approvals for Becton Dickinson's Veritor System for Rapid Detection of SARS-CoV-2; the devices have since been deployed to 11,000 nursing homes across the U.S. to screen residents and staff. The company said it expects to have the manufacturing capacity for 2 million tests per week by the end of September.The company also announced Monday that it is investigating complaints about a "small number" of false-positives in some homes.In August, six states announced a plan to bulk buy millions of tests from Quidel and Becton Dickinson to ramp up the use of rapid antigen testing to help detect outbreaks more quickly."With severe shortages and delays in testing ... the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19," said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, in announcing the multi-state pact.Both companies behind these devices and a third, Korean-based SD Biosensor, Inc., have applied for Health Canada approvals.As of Tuesday, all are listed as "under review."A spokesperson for the Health Canada said antigen tests "are being prioritized for review ... Health Canada continues to review all applications as quickly as possible without compromising patient safety.""There's a whole regulatory process that needs to be obviously respected for all these new tests, and potential new tools in the toolbox. We need to know the right way to use them and in the right context," added Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief medical officer. "It may well be they don't perform as well as the PCR."But even if these antigen tests are not quite as accurate, Naylor said, they could be a crucial line of defence — and because of their lower cost and faster results, someone could take the test multiple times to weed out errors.When such tests show someone has COVID-19, he said, that person should be tested again immediately to confirm the result."That test will help rule out the false positive. If after those two tests you still got a positive, you say, 'OK, let's do a swab or send the swab to the public health lab,'" said Naylor.
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers is stepping aside after failing to win a seat in the legislature. Vickers lost to People's Alliance candidate Michelle Conroy by nearly 1,300 votes in the Miramichi riding. Conroy was re-elected with 45.1 per cent of the vote, compared with 28.6 per cent for Vickers."It's time for another leader to step up and take the party forward," Vickers said after his personal loss and the party's defeat in the provincial election at the hands of the Progressive Conservartives. WATCH | Kevin Vickers says he will step down as Liberal leaderHe said the people of New Brunswick have spoken and he respects "the decision of our citizens." Vickers said he stood by his decision not to agree to Premier Blaine Higgs's conditions for avoiding a snap election. He said Higgs didn't have the mandate to "act on those initiatives." "For the good of democracy, it was the right thing to do," said Vickers. When asked if there was a future for him in politics, Vickers said "never say never." He also said there may be other ways to contribute."I look forward to those challenges," said Vickers. Vickers, who turns 64 later this month, was a political newcomer when he announced his candidacy early last year.He had been riding a wave of popularity after being hailed as a national hero for helping to end the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill by a lone gunman. On Oct. 22, 2014, Vickers was serving as sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons when he fired the shots that killed a man armed with a .30-30 rifle. Michael Zihaf Bibeau had barged into Centre Block on Parliament Hill after killing honour guard reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.Vickers was appointed ambassador to Ireland by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in January 2015.Although born and raised in the Miramichi, Vickers spent most of his adult life living outside New Brunswick, something political pundits speculated may work against him. Liberals lost five seatsThe Liberals lost five ridings that they won in 2018 — Moncton East, Moncton South, Carleton-Victoria, Fredericton North and Saint John Harbour — and roughly three per cent of the popular vote. But they did manage to win back the north-eastern riding of Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou to complete the sweep of the north, as predicted.The popular vote for the Liberals dropped to 34.41 per cent from 37.8 per cent in 2018. That compares to 39.48 per cent for the PCs this time around — up from 31.9 in 2018. New Brunswick Votes 2020 Results: Watch returns come in live on our interactive results page.
A St. John's mother who spent four days on the phone booking a COVID-19 test says the reservation system she was forced to navigate desperately needs a revamp.Flora Salvo said the painfully slow process of getting tested — from her first call to when she received a negative result, last Saturday — stretched over a full week."Taking a week to get tested is very, very long. I think it's dangerous," Salvo told CBC News recently.Salvo decided she'd book a COVID-19 test over the Labour Day weekend, when she and her two children developed flu symptoms, including a runny nose and sneezing."I decided to follow the government's guidelines," she said, a decision taken as a precaution that she now regrets after missing a full week's work and an appointment at her gynecologist.Anyone looking to take a free COVID-19 test in Newfoundland and Labrador has to book an appointment through the 811 health line. Doing so requires making or receiving at least three phone calls — already a tedious process. But for Salvo, who tried making an appointment at a time when Eastern Health's phone lines were first closed and then reopened to a surge in calls, tedium quickly turned to frustration.79 calls in 1 daySalvo's unenviable saga began Sept. 6, the Sunday of the Labour Day long weekend, when she completed an online self-evaluation form and was directed to 811. An 811 operator took down her symptoms and contact details and told her she would soon get a call back.Later in the day, a nurse phoned, went through Salvo's symptoms again and gave her a number to call to reach a second nurse — this time at Eastern Health, the regional health authority that would eventually carry out her test.Here, the process hit a major snag. The phone line she was told to call was open only on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to the recorded message she heard when she called. When she tried the next day — Labour Day — she learned the phone lines were also closed for the statutory holiday."How could it be closed?" said Salvo. "It's something that's urgent."The next day, Sept. 8, Salvo began calling again. But because of a high volume of calls from people looking to book a test, she couldn't get through."I called 79 times [in one day]. I counted on my phone. My friend, she called 37 times. I was calling every five minutes," Salvo said. "Each time, the volume of calls was too many."In the end, Salvo waited until last Wednesday — her fourth day on the phone — to speak to an Eastern Health nurse. That health worker once again confirmed her health and contact information and explained she would soon receive a final call from a booking agent.After completing that last step in the process, Salvo was finally tested two days later — last Friday — and received her results Saturday.Eastern Health increasing hoursA number of factors seem to have led to the delays. First, as Salvo realized, Eastern Health had not staffed its COVID-19 phone lines on the weekend and on the Labour Day holiday. The health authority changed that policy last Wednesday after seeing an increase in calls, seemingly due to students returning to school and changes to quarantine rules for asymptomatic rotational workers, who can now get tested after five days in self-isolation."Hours of operation may be adjusted to meet demand, as required," Eastern Health spokesperson Allison Barter said in an email to Radio-Canada. "We have expanded hours of operation to seven days per week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m."Eastern Health CEO David Diamond was not available for an interview. But outside the House of Assembly on Monday, Health Minister John Haggie said officials with the health authority were meeting with his department to discuss adding capacity to the booking system."It became apparent over the weekend that despite the fact that they're adding resources, we're hearing complaints about wait times," he said. "The holdup seems to be in Eastern Health and it seems to be related to the public health mechanism there, rather than staff.… They're operational issues and we're making sure that Eastern Health is on top of that."System 'should be speedier,' says HaggieHaggie said changes were coming to the 811 line to triage callers based on a number of factors, such as if they are a rotational worker or a student."Something similar, if you remember, happened with 811 back in March when suddenly there was a really rapid spike. But within a few days 811 had responded and they were handling 2,500 calls a day," he said.Haggie said the system "should be speedier," but added, "I think it's fair to say that every child with a sniffle will not get a COVID test and I think some of this is going to have to be expectation management — the message is if your child has a sniffle you don't send them to school."The Department of Health and Community Services said as of Monday, the wait time for 811 to answer incoming calls had been reduced to 40 minutes. As of Tuesday, there was a five-minute wait time.Followup calls for "urgent" matters from an 811 nurse on Sunday took, on average, 10 minutes, said Kathy Dicks-Peyton, media relations manager with the Department of Health and Community Services. Non-urgent followups took just over two hours on average.As for Eastern Health, Dicks-Peyton said, there was as of Sunday an average wait time of 85 minutes once a person had successfully gotten through to the health authority and were in the queue to book a COVID-19 testing appointment.The department did not provide data for how long it took people referred by 811 to actually get through to Eastern Health and be placed in that queue — the step that caused Salvo the most difficulty last week.Hope for simpler systemFlora Salvo argues that while the system needs to be well staffed, it also needs to be streamlined. Her trouble getting through occurred at a time when the province had barely any active COVID-19 cases, but authorities may soon face a second wave of cases, as public health authorities in a number of jurisdictions have warned in past months."Calling one number, to one place, that would be way less complicated," she said. "There's no reason to need to talk to four different people. It needs to be much quicker."Salvo said nurses operating the phone lines must also better communicate the rules for people waiting for a test, adding that she worries people will hesitate to get tested if the system doesn't become more efficient."The danger of taking so much time to answer [the phone] and talking to so many interlocutors is that people are going to lose patience," Salvo said.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government went looking for a way to quickly set up exterior visitation rooms at personal care homes across the province — something that could keep residents and their loved ones safe during the COVID-19 pandemic but also comfortable during the frigid winter.On Tuesday, the government revealed the result: repurposed shipping containers, complete with insulation, heat and even interior finishings to make the boxy structures feel a little homey."This is going to make a difference for all those Manitobans who need to have that contact with their family and their friends and their loved ones, no matter what is happening outside of their personal care home," Health Minister Cameron Friesen said.He said the system is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada and other jurisdictions are looking at the idea.PCL Constructors Canada Inc. came up with the design. The company plans to refurbish 90 containers and set them up in locations across the province by late fall. The province is paying $17.9 million.The aim is to ensure that even if COVID-19 numbers grow and restrictions are put in place inside nursing homes, residents and their relatives can continue to meet in a separate space that is safe and cleaned between each visit.The 13-metre-long units will be connected directly to the exterior of the homes, so that residents are sheltered as they move back and forth. Visitors are to enter from a separate door. And if COVID-19 numbers climb and more protection is needed, a small divider can be put in place between residents and visitors.The air flow inside the containers is designed to also protect residents."The HVAC system draws in fresh air from the care home or the care facility side and ... the air gets drawn out through the visitation side, so that the resident sits on the fresh air side," said Monique Buckberger, PCL Winnipeg district manager.Personal care homes in Manitoba have not seen the kind of large-scale outbreaks that have occurred in Quebec and Ontario, but there have been some cases since the pandemic began in the spring.One of the worst outbreaks included the deaths of four residents at the Bethesda Place care home in Steinbach, southeast of Winnipeg. Bethesda is one of 10 long-term care facilities across the province that had restrictions on visitors as of Tuesday.Also Tuesday, the province reported 17 new COVID-19 infections, for a total active case count of 269. Sixteen people in Manitoba have died from the virus since the pandemic began, health officials said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 15, 2020.Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — A detailed look at COVID-19 deaths in U.S. kids and young adults released Tuesday shows they mirror patterns seen in older patients.The report examined 121 deaths of those younger than 21, as of the end of July. Like older adults, many of them had one or more medical condition — like lung problems, including asthma, obesity, heart problems or developmental conditions.Deaths were also more common among those in certain racial and ethnic groups, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC found 54 were Hispanic, 35 were Black, and 17 were white, even though overall there are far more white Americans than Black and Hispanic.“It’s really pretty striking. It’s similar to what we see in adults,” and may reflect many things, including that many essential workers who have to go to work are Black and Hispanic parents, said Dr. Andrew Pavia, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at the University of Utah. He was not involved in the CDC study.The numbers of young deaths are small though. They represent about 0.08% of the total U.S. deaths reported to CDC at the time, though children and college-age adults make up 26% of the U.S. population.Fifteen of the deaths were tied to a rare condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which can cause swelling and heart problems.The report also found nearly two-thirds of the deaths were in males, and that deaths increased with age. There were 71 deaths among those under 17, including a dozen infants. The remaining 50 deaths were ages 18 to 20.Scientists are still trying to understand why severe illnesses seem to become more common as children age. One theory is that young children have fewer sites on their airway surfaces that the coronavirus is able to attach to, Pavia said. Another is that children may be less prone to a dangerous overreaction by the immune system to the coronavirus, he added.Thus far this year, the COVID-19 toll in children is lower than the pediatric flu deaths reported to the CDC during a routine flu season, which has been about 130 in recent years. But comparing the two is difficult for a number of reasons, including that most schools weren't open during the spring because of the pandemic.___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.Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
The City of Charlottetown wants to know how efforts to slow traffic on a residential street are going over with the people who live there, and with drivers.Gay Avenue in Parkdale is just one block long. For a month now, orange pylons and signs at each end of the street advise drivers to slow down for pedestrians and cyclists."I just like the fact that there's less traffic on the street. As a parent, I feel safer with the kids out playing," said Aaron Mills, who lives on Gay Avenue.Cars and trucks are still allowed and pedestrians and cyclists are advised to give way to cars. On Monday afternoon, with children in school, Gay Avenue was wide open and empty; the only cars visible were parked in driveways."After supper that's when all the kids come out to play and the street fills up," said Mills. "There's a lot of biking, street hockey, just regular kid's stuff going on and kids just hanging out. It's definitely a positive experience."However, the owner of a daycare at the foot of Gay Avenue is concerned about the safety of children who start playing in the street in the pilot project zones."As an early childhood educator, I would say no matter what the circumstances, children should not play in a street," said Nicole Ford, owner of Super Stars Daycare on Orlebar Street.Some parents were using Gay Avenue to get their toddlers to and from Super Stars. Ford said she's heard no complaints from parents about the slow street pilot project.Green Party MLA Karla Bernard lives on Gay Avenue. She told CBC News she supports the initiative, but was not involved in the city's choice of which streets to include.The pilot project has already hit a few road bumps.Garbage collection during the first week was interrupted as the trucks couldn't make the turn with the pylons placed where they were. City crews have since moved the pylons so larger vehicles can get through.The city also planned to designate W. Burns Street as a slow street too, but residents said "no thanks" to the pilot project shortly after it began on their street — due to garbage collection problems in the first week. Another test site has since been setup on King Street, between Prince and Great George Streets.What do you think?City officials said the slow streets are producing results. Traffic volumes and speeds are lower at the two test sites."So far it's in the direction we'd hoped," said Scott Adams, manager of the city's public works department."Whenever you deploy a new technology, you usually see a good response in the beginning but we'll see how that holds."The pilot project runs through mid-October. The City of Charlottetown public works department is encouraging city residents to contact them with feedback.More from CBC P.E.I.
TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is hoping to turn up the virtual glamour with a star-studded awards fundraiser Tuesday night.Anthony Hopkins and Kate Winslet are among the acting honourees at the second annual TIFF Tribute Awards. The gala, which will be held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to celebrate standout creators in the film industry while raising money for TIFF's year-round programming.Winslet says she's impressed with how organizers have managed to move much of the festival online.The "Ammonite" actor hopes that some of these technological innovations will be integrated into future festivals to reduce the environmental footprint of flying people in from across the globe."In terms of the co-ordinating of my real life and still being able to honour my commitments to the festival, it's been wonderful."However, Winslet acknowledges that it's hard to digitally recreate the boost that smaller independent films can get from a platform as big as TIFF.It's something she's benefited from in her long history with the festival. In a sense, Winslet says winning the TIFF Tribute Award feels like coming "full circle."In 1994, Winslet's first film "Heavenly Creatures," directed by Peter Jackson, won a media award at TIFF, despite causing a stir at the time for its depiction of same-sex desire.Last Friday, TIFF hosted the world premiere of "Ammonite," which stars Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as two women who fall in love while searching for fossils on the craggy shores of southwest England in the 1840s."It's wonderful to be able to contribute to this very important evolving ongoing conversation and how the world views LGBTQ people in their relationships by telling their stories in a way that normalizes them, and expresses same sex love without fear," says Winslet."To be part of this film, 'Ammonite,' and expressing that level of affection for someone of the same sex has truly been one of the most joyful experiences of my career."TIFF typically marks an important early stop on the long road of an Academy Awards campaign, and "Ammonite" looks to be no exception.However, the Oscars conversation may be a little different this season between COVID-19 complications and anticipation of impending changes to the best picture category.Earlier this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science announced that starting in 2024, best picture contenders must meet new eligibility criteria aimed at addressing the representation of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and disability both in front of and behind the camera.While Winslet welcomes the move, she wants to see more initiatives like it — the sooner, the better."It should have happened a long time ago," says Winslet. "Change only happens when you actually commit to the changes, and it's incredibly important."Another film generating early Oscars buzz is "The Father," which stars Hopkins as a man losing his memory as his daughter, played by Olivia Colman, struggles to take care of him.Hopkins says he lives in a state of "non-expectation" as far as awards are concerned. Even the TIFF recognition comes as a pleasant surprise, he says."I'm glad they're still doing (festivals) in this odd way," Hopkins says from his Los Angeles home. "It's so strange to not be there."Still, Hopkins says he's grateful to be able to participate in an event that is "near normal" as the COVID-19 crisis has forced the film community to find new ways to come together.Also set to be honoured at the TIFF Tribute Gala is director Chloe Zhao, whose American Midwest-set drama, "Nomadland," was met with widespread praise at TIFF after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. She will receive the TIFF Ebert Director Award, named after the late film critic Roger Ebert.Oscar-nominated composer Terence Blanchard will be recognized with the TIFF Variety Artisan Award, while filmmaker Mira Nair will be honoured with the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media.Following the premiere of her debut feature, "Beans," at the festival, Mohawk director Tracey Deer, will receive the TIFF Emerging Talent Award. Selected by TIFF and MGM, the honour celebrates a woman who is making groundbreaking strides in the industry.Canadian hitmaker Shawn Mendes is set to lend his musical talents to Tuesday's festivities with a performance.CTV "etalk'' hosts Chloe Wilde and Tyrone Edwards will preside over the evening, joined by presenters including actors Colin Farrell, Regina King, Olivia Colman and Jodie Foster as well as director Ava DuVernay.Canadians can tune into the awards at 8 p.m. on CTV or the network's digital platforms. Variety magazine will stream the event internationally.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
Masks will continue to remain mandatory in Calgary's public spaces, council decided Monday.Council voted 11-3 to maintain the current bylaw as is, with the next update to be heard on Dec. 14. The only votes against were Councillors Sean Chu, Jeromy Farkas, and Joe Magliocca.On Aug. 1, the city implemented a bylaw mandating face coverings in indoor public spaces, in step with other cities like Toronto and Ottawa.Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, an urgent care doctor in the city, told council Monday that as Alberta continues to have the highest number of cases per 100,000 people of any province in Canada, masks continue to be necessary. "Half-time is over, schools are open, the weather is cooling, days are shorter and winter is coming, and we're still learning more about this virus," he said. "It's about protecting all of society from this illness."Ultimately this is still about risk versus benefit, the risks of mask use are small … the benefits of mask use are super clear."89% of Calgarians wear masks in indoor public spaces: surveyCouncil heard from administration that the majority of Calgarians support the bylaw, according to its research.A city survey of 500 Calgarians conducted between Aug. 25 and 28 found that 88 per cent support the bylaw, 89 per cent wear a mask inside spaces like grocery stores or malls, and 95 per cent wear a mask on public transit.That percentage of indoor mask use was up 34 per cent since the bylaw was implemented. "Calgarians are incredible, the way they have embraced the bylaw is amazing," Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson said. There are currently 557 active COVID-19 cases in the city, and outbreaks at multiple locations, including long-term care centres, meat processing plants, a church, private gatherings, an Amazon warehouse, and schools.That's a rate of 36.3 cases per 100,000 people, but with a kernel of good news in the transmission rate — Sampson said the current RT value is .85, meaning each person with COVID-19 spreads the illness to less than one other person. Administration said since the bylaw was implemented, there have only been two cases where tickets were issued, and that it found no need to change the bylaw's wording. However, Calgary Community Standards has received more than 600 reports of concerns through 311Those who fail to wear a mask and don't meet exemptions can be fined $50, but the city has said it has focused on education, not enforcement. When will bylaw be revoked?Coun. Jeromy Farkas questioned how to judge the efficacy of the bylaw and under what circumstances it should be repealed, something Sampson said is hard to definitely say without a double-blind, randomized controlled trial."If I wear a mask, I might be a person who is more conscious about touching my face," Sampson said, adding that the majority of medical evidence points toward masks being effective. Council can call a special meeting at any time to repeal the bylaw, and administration said reasons for repeal could range from a vaccine becoming available to transmission and infection rates dropping low enough that medical experts agree masks are no longer required."If I were to look to the future, that [reason for repeal] would likely be a vaccine," said Sampson. Bhardwaj pointed to how much still isn't known about masks and the virus, like emerging evidence that masks could grant some level of immunity as they reduce the number of infectious particles a wearer is exposed to."As a council we simply have to put our personal opinions aside and listen to the experts," Coun. Jeff Davison said.
It's been one week since K-12 students in Saskatchewan returned to classrooms.Schools began reopening on Sept. 8. Some teachers taught outside to space out students while other divisions did a staggered start, with only half of students returning for the first week. While two cases at a daycare and one at a high school were announced in Saskatoon, some students are still happy to be back — even with the restrictions and new safety protocols. "I'm just happy to be here because we haven't seen our friends in like a long time," Milan Murray said. Milan and her brother Joshua are in Grades 6 and 4 respectively at Centennial School in Regina. The two went back on Sept. 9 because of the staggered start. Joshua said the staggering made sense to be safe, but that he missed his friends who weren't there. Milan agreed, saying the second week was fun "because everyone's together now." As Regina Public School Board students, the two wear masks when physical distancing isn't possible and frequently in the classroom. Milan said it can be hard to wear a mask all day because her glasses fog up, but that she understands why it's necessary.Other things are different as well, she said. "When we go to our classrooms, we have to get some hand sanitizer, rub it on our hands and we have to wipe off our tables before we eat lunch and after we eat lunch," Joshua said. "We only can get up most of the time to see the teacher that we're done work."The biggest challenge Joshua noticed was on the playground. "Most of the games we play involve touching, but we just grab a stick and then we poked him with it lightly," he said. "So that's how we play."Joshua said he is a bit worried about the virus but simply doesn't listen to more news than needed to avoid being overwhelmed."Take all the precautions and you are going to stay safe because we're taking all the precautions."New rules confusing at times: Regina studentEver Olaechea Payant, who is in Grade 3 at Connaught Community School in Regina, said the new rules have been confusing at times. "My teacher was like 'OK just social distance,' but then we went closer, no, farther than that, no, closer," Olaechea Payant said. "It was crazy." One week on, Olaechea Payant said she's still concerned. "I'm just afraid that the people — they won't stay socially distanced, they'll take off their masks whenever they want or they won't follow the protocols," she said. She said she is making sure to tell people to leave their masks on.Despite the confusion, she said it's still good to be back in-person."I get to see their faces and I'm like 'Oh, you look bigger,' 'You look older,'" she said. Olaechea Payant said the entire classroom looks different and is spaced out to fit everyone. She hopes everyone takes the precautions needed for the pandemic to be over soon."I can't hug anybody," she said. "When COVID is over, I'm just going to say hi to people and then I'm going to hug them … Hug for you, hug for you, hug for everybody I see. That's how much I miss hugging."
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he wants to hear the federal government pledge its support for the oil and gas industry in next week's throne speech. Moe has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal opposition leaders outlining what he would like to see addressed. Saskatchewan has no Liberal seats in the House of Commons, and the Saskatchewan Party premier said that he wrote the letter with the hope that the province's interests will be represented in the Sept. 23 speech.
With concerns rising in Pennsylvania that tens of thousands of mail-in ballots will be discarded in the presidential election over technicalities, officials in the presidential battleground told counties they aren't allowed to reject a ballot solely because an election official believes a signature doesn't match the one in the voter’s file. The new guidance from Pennsylvania’s Department of State — that state law does not allow counties to set aside mail-in ballots based on their signature analysis — prompted the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh to drop a lawsuit in federal court Monday. "As a result of this case, Pennsylvania voters can cast their vote without fear that their ballot could be rejected solely because an election official — who isn’t trained in handwriting analysis — thinks their signatures don’t match," said Mark Gaber, a Campaign Legal Center lawyer who represented the groups in court.
Every day for ten years, Nizar Ali Badr has collected stones. He uses them to tell the stories of the war in Syria and those who've had to give up everything because of it.