WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
The Trump administration plans to tighten sanctions on Tehran during its final months in power, the top U.S. envoy on Iran said on Wednesday, as he urged President-elect Joe Biden to use the leverage to press for a deal that reduces the regional and nuclear threats posed by the Islamic republic. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams, praising Biden's National Security Adviser and nominee for Secretary of State as "terrific people", cautioned against repeating what he saw as former President Barack Obama's mistakes in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal.
My mother's dementia has become more difficult to manage as Canadians are told to limit social contact for safety's sake.
After six years operating in one of Aylmer’s landmark buildings, the Family Central Restaurant will be closing its doors on Saturday, Dec. 19. Central building board member, Albert Loewen, described challenges from COVID-19 as “the final nail” that led to the restaurant’s closure. The building’s Family Central Apartment program, which provides affordable housing to participants while they work towards education and employment goals, will remain open. “It’s tough because you need numbers, you need crowds, that’s literally what you rely on to make your ends meet,” Mr. Loewen said. “We’re headed into the winter where there’s no patio option, and now there’s talk of further lockdowns.” Family Central Restaurant has been serving the community since 2014 with a goal of providing a wholesome and welcoming dining environment to families and the business community of downtown Aylmer. To encourage families and groups to have meaningful conversations with each other, the restaurant rewards patrons who refrain from using cell phones during meals with a 10% reduction on the bill. “At the end of the day, it’s a tough market for restaurants right now. We’re sad about it, but it’s a reality that a lot of restaurants are facing,” said Mr. Loewen. “I would highly encourage people to support the other local restaurants.” The organization’s main focus will now be providing affordable housing to the community through the Family Central Apartments, which provides eight units on the second and third floors. Currently, the basement is being renovated to operate as a space to serve those in the program. The space will provide semi-private meeting rooms, access to computers for job searches and other online needs, shower and laundry facilities, and an in-house barber. “The whole idea is to be a transitional space for people to get to a place of independence - whether they’re lacking education, or whatever is holding them back from a place they can get on their own,” explained Mr. Loewen. The apartment program currently employs two people who actively work and partner with other agencies to support those living in the program. The future for the first floor of the building, where the restaurant is, has yet to be determined.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
The Town of Aylmer is in the midst of revising its flag policy after a request to fly a Christian flag at town hall from resident Susan Mutch on July 29. Ms. Mutch sent in her request the week after the town flew a rainbow-striped pride flag to show support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. With that request so far unanswered, the Aylmer Express has found some some history of the flag, including its U.S.A. Methodist founding and unofficial status in Canada. Forrest Pass, flag historian and curator at Library and Archives Canada, said of the Christian flag, “It’s a very American emblem. In the United States, it has some official sanction from an ecumenical body that represents a number of denominations - it has that significance there. “In Canada - the Canadian Council of Churches or any of those organizations have not adopted it.” Mr. Pass said flying a Christian flag at governmental buildings throughout Canada is not unheard of, pointing to a similar case in Newfoundland about four years ago. “The organization that requested this may be in fact taking their inspiration from that case,” noted Mr. Pass. A group of Christians of all denominations raised a Christian flag at the Confederation Building in St. John’s, Newfoundland in March 2016. Almost immediately, the move drew criticism from the general public and some members of the House of Assembly, who felt the symbol had homophobic connotations and represented a “divisive” approach to Christianity. The flag was taken down less than 24 hours later. “Flags can be hugely emotional. These are emblems that are designed to provoke emotion and they do provoke emotion,” noted Mr. Pass. The Christian flag itself has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The red symbolizes the blood Jesus shed on the Calvary, blue represents the waters of baptism and faithfulness of Jesus, and white represents Jesus’ purity. The idea for the flag originated at Brighton Chapel in Brooklyn, New York in 1897. After a scheduled speaker failed to arrive for an event, the superintendent, Charles Overton, of the Sunday school gave an impromptu lecture. He asked students what a flag representing Christianity would look like. The design of the flag was based on the text from this lecture. In 1907, Mr. Overton and and Ralph Diffendorfer, secretary of the Methodist Young People's Missionary Movement, designed and began promoting the flag. “It’s an interesting case where the design emerges before the physical artifact,” said Mr. Pass. The flag does have some history in Canada, he said, used as early as the 1920s. It’s been used fairly regularly by Sunday school groups, Canadian Girls in Training, and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). “I’m not sure how frequently it would be used by provincial governments or by municipal governments, but I wouldn’t say it’s unprecedented,” noted Mr. Pass. The flag mainly represents a wide swath of Protestant Christianity and is largely an evangelical symbol, he said. It is not a symbol that has any particular resonance for Roman Catholics. “It’s really up to the user of the flag what it represents – that’s one of the interesting things about these symbols is that their meaning changes constantly.”Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Calgary police have released a sketch of a man wanted in relation to a sexual assault investigation."Just after midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, a woman was walking in the area of 19 Avenue and Fifth Street S.W., when a man approached her," the police said in a news release. "The man grabbed the woman and held on to her while sexually touching her. The woman broke free and fled. The man was last seen walking towards 17 Avenue S.W."The man is described as black, between 20 and 30 years old, standing between five feet, eight inches and six feet tall, weighing 180 pounds. He has a slim build, black buzz-cut hair and was clean shaven with a strong jaw line and high cheek bones. At the time of the alleged assault, he was wearing a dress shirt and black leather jacket with dark jeans. Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to contact police at 403-266-1234 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
Nova Scotia reported 37 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the most since April. The province has imposed new restrictions on the Halifax area, including closing gyms and libraries and banning indoor dining.
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Former President Barack Obama, already a million-selling author, is also a prize-winning author.PEN America announced Wednesday that Obama will receive its second annual Voice of Influence Award in recognition of how his writings “have traversed political, social, and ideological bounds and framed a self-reflective humanism that has marked his influence on public life.”Obama, whose memoir “A Promised Land” came out last week, will be honoured Dec. 8 at the literary and human rights organization's annual gala, to be held virtually because of the coronavirus.During the ceremony, Obama and historian Ron Chernow, a former PEN board president, will discuss freedom of expression and the importance of truth in a world of misinformation.Obama’s previous books include “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”“As an organization of writers, we have always seen President Obama not just as a leader, but as one of us: an author. His probing and evocative narratives helped introduce the world to his unique background, and the power of his life experience as a prompt toward a more pluralistic and encompassing society,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.PEN presented its first Voice of Influence Award in 2019 to filmmaker Ava DuVernay.Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
Brendon Crane of Lorne Valley, along with a number of area residents, said they appreciate the province’s decision to restrict travel off and onto the Island. On Monday, Premier Dennis King announced border restrictions on all non-essential travel for a minimum of two weeks. Those travelling would be required to isolate for 14 days upon their return to PEI. “I believe in the science of the health care professionals,” Mr Crane said. “If Heather Morrison says this is what we need to do as a preventative measure then I think we should do it." “We’ve had no hospitalizations so we’ve been very fortunate and if we can take preventative measures, that is way better than trying to fix a problem after the fact.” Mr Crane said he was recently speaking with a veteran who put his life on the line for the safety of others. “When you put it into perspective, if you might be saving lives, wearing a mask and taking precautions is likely worth it.” Mr Crane’s daughter lives in Nova Scotia and if the restrictions extend they may not be able to visit this Christmas. This hasn’t changed his opinion in favour of the measures PEI is taking. Kenny MacLennan of Caledonia said he appreciates how Islanders can continue to go about business within the province, unlike in other areas of the country. “It’s good. Lock ‘er down if we need to,” he said. Duane Wilson lives part-time in Lower Montague and part-time in Fredericton. He just moved to PEI this past Friday and family members were set to join him here for Christmas as they do every year. Mr Wilson said if the restrictions continue they may have to change their plans but he is still in favour of the decision to fortify preventative measures on the Island. “Cases have been rising in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I think it’s important there are limitations.” Shelley LaVie, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Souris, said local events such as the town’s annual Christmas Parade will go ahead as planned. “Some family members (of locals) might not be able to make it but overall it shouldn’t be affected.” Ms LaVie thinks Islanders are fortunate to be able to continue with a variety of activities and festivities that could be restricted in the event of an outbreak.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
Those who want to pass on their gently used hockey gear to kids who need it can do so at an equipment drive the first week of December. Brain Atkins of Total Construction Management in Peterborough wants to help First Nations communities get hockey equipment so he has organized an event for Dec. 5 at the company's location at 169 Lansdowne St. E, from 9 a.m. to noon. “Most of the gear is for smaller kids, but we have already gotten a few items for older players,” said Atkins. Although he does have a few items on hand, Atkins says he cannot accept equipment prior to the drive due to space. “I have some equipment that’s in my vehicle, but I would rather wait until the day of the drive,’’ he says. Atkins says items like skates, good condition hockey sticks and goalie equipment are needed. “We will take whatever people have in equipment, new or used,” he adds. The hockey equipment drive is also being held in other cities in the province such as Whitby and Kitchener. Atkins says those equipment drives are quite successful and he says he has seen the positive effects of the drive and wanted to do something in Peterborough. “This is a first for the City of Peterborough,” he says. To follow all COVID-19 safety measures, Atkins says for those who are going to donate can stay in their cars the day of the event, between the hours listed and the team will remove the equipment. TCM helps First Nations communities rebuild homes, construct community centres, renovate existing homes and complete construction as well as train homeowners how to maintain their homes and buildings after the work is complete. He says the team is dedicated in providing sustainable and self-sufficient structures for the communities they work in. “What a better way to give back than through hockey, and I’m just happy kids will have equipment to use to play hockey.”Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Peterborough This Week
Catfish Creek Conservation Authority (CCCA) staff and board members were pleased with the financial summary for October. CCCA Finance Coordinator Susan Simmons reviewed the finance report during a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12. She noted the conservation area revenue was currently at $565,275.15, about $2,200 short of the budgeted amount. “I think we all deserve a sigh of relief for making it through,” said Ms. Simmons. “When we started the year, we didn’t know what we were going to be looking at for revenue for the conservation area.” CCCA recently launched a fundraiser to assist in the $80,000 replacement of the aging Springwater Conservation Area gatehouse and visitor centre. Ms. Simmons said, including recent donations, the current total for donations was about $14,000. “I’m really happy with that. $20,000 is our goal, and we’re getting kind of close to it,” she said. Recent donors, such as A1 Unique Installations and Ferguson RV World, are very passionate about Springwater, she added. “I think that the situation that’s happening now with COVID-19, we’re doing an excellent job at Catfish Creek,” said CCCA chair Rick Cerna. Total expenditures for CCCA were at $1,079,812.64, about $250,000 less than the annual overall budgeted amount. Board members had no questions regarding expenditures.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
WASHINGTON — The second of three estimates on U.S. growth for the July-September quarter was unchanged at a record pace of 33.1%. But a resurgence in the coronavirus is expected to slow growth sharply in the current quarter with some economists even raising the spectre of a double-dip recession.While the overall increase in the country’s total output of goods and services was static, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday, some components were revised.Bigger gains in business investment, housing and exports were offset by downward revisions to state and local government spending, business inventories and consumer spending.The 33.1% gain was the largest quarterly gain on records going back to 1947 and surpassed the old mark of a 16.7% surge in 1950.Still, the economy has not fully recovered from output lost in the first six months of the year when GDP suffered a record-shattering drop of 31.4% in the second quarter. That followed a slide at an annual rate of 5% in the first quarter as when the pandemic shut down much of the economy and triggered millions of layoffs.Economists are concerned that growth has slowed sharply in the current October-December and there are fears that GDP could dip back into negative territory in the first three months of next year.Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said he had forecast GDP growth of around 2% in the fourth quarter, with the real possibility of GDP turning negative in the first quarter of next year.Economists at JPMorgan Chase have trimmed their forecast for the first quarter to a negative 1% GDP rate. “This winter will be grim and we believe the economy will contract again in the first quarter,” the JPMorgan economists wrote in a research note.“The economy is going to be very uncomfortable between now and when we get the next fiscal rescue package,” Zandi said. “If lawmakers can’t get it together, it will be very difficult for the economy to avoid going back into a recession.”While lawmakers have returned for a lame-duck session, there has been no progress so far in narrowing the differences between Democrats who are pushing for a big package of $1 trillion or more, and Senate Republicans who are refusing to approve anything above approximately $500 billion.More than 9 million people will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year when two jobless benefit programs are set to expire unless Congress extends them.At the same time virus cases are surging, triggering a number of states to re-impose business limits such as earlier closing times for bars and restaurants and stricter limits on the number of in-store shoppers.Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, is urging New Brunswickers to "have a plan ready" for self-isolation.More than 1,000 New Brunswickers are currently in self-isolation, Russell said at Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing, the third this week. "I am sure that very few of these people expected that this would happen to them, and even fewer made a plan for this eventuality. But everyone needs to be ready," she said.Russell advised residents in all zones to "make a plan today.""Have a plan for self-isolation, how you'll arrange work, supports and other activities on short notice. Until a vaccine becomes available the risk of outbreaks will remain high."Russell also announced three new cases on Wednesday.These include two cases in the Saint John region (Zone 2): one person in their 50s and another person in their 70s.Both are self-isolating and their cases are under investigation.The third case is someone 30 to 39 in the Bathurst region (Zone 6). This case is travel-related and the individual is self-isolating.There are 94 active cases in the province, and one person is in hospital.As of Wednesday, 118,648 tests have been conducted, 1,060 since Tuesday at this time.Health minister addresses testing delays, backlogHealth Minister Dorothy Shephard also spoke at Wednesday's briefing and opened by acknowledging "frustration" with testing access and an increase in requests for testing.On Tuesday alone, Shephard said, 1,384 requests for a test were submitted online.Of those, 503 came from the Saint John region and 333 from the Fredericton region. Compounding this week's increase in demand was a "technical glitch" that was preventing test requests from getting through to schedulers, Shephard said.The glitch has been resolved, and with the addition of a new testing centre at James the Less Church, located at 1760 Rothesay Rd. in Rothesay, the delays are expected to ease. "As we go through the next day or two you're going to see that we will be able to clear those backlogs up," Shephard said. Dr. Jennifer Russell had earlier noted that the backlog did not affect priority testing such as pre-operation testing or results for people who are self-isolating.Shephard also urged New Brunswickers to take care of their mental health as they head into the holiday season, taking care to exercise regularly, avoid alcohol, get plenty of sleep, maintain a regular routine and take care of one another."COVID-19 fatigue is real. The longer this pandemic goes on the bigger the impact COVID-19 fatigue has on our mental health," she said. "We are all in this together. It is important to know you are not alone."Another positive case at Shannex in Saint JohnThere are now five positive cases of COVID-19 at the Shannex Parkland facility in Saint John.Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said Wednesday that a new case has been confirmed, after one employee and three residents tested positive earlier this week."There was one new [case] this morning and we have just done another round of testing, so we will know by tomorrow morning how they all turn out," Shephard said. She did not say whether the new case was a resident or an employee.Earlier this week, Public Health said the Shannex outbreak was at Tucker Hall, a 90-bed licensed long-term care home on the Parkland Saint John campus. COVID-alert app in use in N.B., but little data availableThe COVID-alert app is being used by New Brunswickers, but the province does not yet know how many people have downloaded it."We are not able to get data from the federal government on how many people in each province have it," Dr. Jennifer Russell said Wednesday when asked if there has been uptake on the app here in New Brunswick."But obviously, the more people who have it, the better, because it would decrease the timeframe between notifying someone that they are positive and making sure they take all the steps to protect themselves and others."Russell said they do have data on "one-time key entries" that show the app is being used here, and further data should be coming.Changes to single-household bubble rules The province has adjusted its single-household rule for residents in orange or red zones.The single-household bubble can now now be extended to include a caregiver or an immediate family member who needs mental, social and/or emotional support, the province said in a release Wednesday. The caregiver can be a close friend or neighbour.Members of this extended bubble can go to restaurants and other venues, such as church, together.Public Health wants to be sole provider of exposure warningsWhen businesses and other organizations release their own statements about possible COVID-19- exposure, it can create confusion and anxiety with the public, says New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health."They feel like they're doing their due diligence and it's well-intentioned," said Dr. Jennifer Russell. "But it can be very confusing for the public."Earlier this week, Public Health announced possible COVID-19 exposures at the Stan Cassidy Rehabilitation Centre and Montgomery Street School in Fredericton.At the same time, the YMCA of Fredericton and GoodLife Fitness on Prospect Street in Fredericton released statements about possible COVID-19 exposures on their properties. Russell said such announcements cause people to question why a business or organization is issuing an advisory and not Public Health. "When Public Health is involved and Public Health has made the risk assessment, then you can feel confident the information shared is accurate," she said. To minimize confusion, Russell said it would be better if businesses and organizations refrained from releasing their own statements.CBC News spoke recently with a Fredericton business owner frustrated by the poor flow of information from Public Health about what he should do after a visitor to his store tested positive for COVID-19. But Russell said Public Health follows a standard process to decide if the public is at risk and whether a notice of exposure is necessary.The process includes a detailed questionnaire, and how the questions are answered determines the risk of COVID-19 exposure to the public. When someone tests positive for COVID-19, Public Health will contact those who have been within two metres of that person for 15 minutes or longer — or have had brief exposures that were repetitive in a span of 24 hours that added up to 15 minutes or more. Public Health also decides when that person was contagious and the contact tracing is based on that period of time. Russell said there's no need to issue a public advisory if close contacts are notified and there's no risk of public exposure.But if they can't track down or reach all the close contacts, that's when Public Health officials will notify citizens about potential exposure out of "an abundance of caution." Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health and Health Minister Dorothy Shephard, will be speaking at a news briefing in Fredericton at 2:30 p.m.Businesses don't know what the rules are The president and CEO of WorkSafeNB says the pandemic has been a difficult time for many New Brunswick businesses — especially when it comes to following the rules. Doug Jones said the main concern he's hearing from business owners is they aren't sure what rules are.He said WorkSafeNB spent time this week clarifying those guidelines."Essentially, we want people to wear a mask almost all the time, unless you're in your own cubicle or in your own office space, in the work environment," he said."Just wear a mask all the time. That's the biggest message."The biggest gap inspectors are also seeing is that many businesses don't have a written operational plan .He said businesses typically get a warning first. But if problems continue or pose a serious risk a business could be fined or shut down.Public Health expects surge in testingDr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said Public Health expects to see surges in COVID-19 testing when more outbreaks happen.That's when Public Health will ramp up testing capacity. They do this by adding more hours and testing centres, which they've done in Saint John. There's also a priority system in place to minimize risks of outbreaks, which includes first-responders and people living in long-term care facilities.Russell said testing typically takes between 24 and 72 hours. Meanwhile, contact tracing is between 24 and 48 hours.But there can be delays"It is unfortunate but we keep track of that," she said.As of Tuesday, 117,588 tests have been conducted.Hockey league postpones 7 gamesThe Quebec Major Junior Hockey League postponed seven games scheduled in the Maritimes Division this week. The games were scheduled in Charlottetown, Cape Breton, Moncton, Saint John and Bathurst. According to its website, the decision was made after the announcement of new restrictions by Public Health officials in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.Last week, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has postponed at least five games involving the Saint John Sea Dogs and the Cape Breton Eagles after a positive COVID-19 test.The positive test was within the Saint John Sea Dogs organization.All fitness and recreational facilities, libraries, museums and casinos in the region must close for the next two weeks, as well.P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison is advising people to travel off the Island only for essential purposes.Nova Scotia reported 37 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — the fifth highest single-day increase in cases since the start of the pandemic.As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, all restaurants and bars in the Halifax region must close to in-person dining, except for takeout and delivery orders, for the next two weeks. Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health is advising residents to avoid non-essential travel to Halifax, which reported 16 new cases on Thursday.If New Brunswickers are travelling from there, they should behave as though they've just come from an orange zone. She is advising people to avoid gatherings and vulnerable people. They should also wear a mask inside and out."This is a rapidly changing situation and we're assessing it every day," Russell said.And if risks are getting too high, New Brunswick will be cut off from Nova Scotia.Potential public exposure warnings for Fredericton, Saint John, MonctonNew Brunswick Public Health has warned of the following possible exposures to COVID-19 in Moncton and Saint John, including gyms, stores, bars, restaurants and on flights.Anyone who visited these places during the identified times should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days.Anyone who develops any COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate and take the self-assessment online to schedule a test.Fredericton area * The Snooty Fox on Nov. 18 and 19, 66 Regent St., between 8:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Public Health has identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious on Nov. 19 while on these flights: * Air Canada Flight 178 – from Edmonton to Toronto arrived at 5:58 a.m. * Air Canada Flight 404– from Toronto to Montreal arrived at 10:16 a.m. * Air Canada Flight 8902 – from Montreal to Moncton arrived at 4:17 p.m.Saint John area * Vito's Restaurant on Nov. 16, 111 Hampton Rd., Rothesay, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. * Rothesay Route 1 Big Stop Restaurant on Nov. 14 between 12:45 p.m. and 2 p.m. (2870 Route 1, Rothesay). * Pub Down Under on Nov. 14, between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (400 Main St., Saint John) * Fish & Brew on Nov. 14 between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (800 Fairville Blvd., Saint John) * Cora Breakfast and Lunch on Nov. 16 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (39 King St., Saint John). * Goodlife Fitness McAllister Place on Nov. 16 between noon and 1 p.m. and on Nov. 18 between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. (519 Westmorland Rd., Saint John). * NBCC Grandview campus on Nov. 16, 17, and 18 between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (950 Grandview Ave., Saint John). * Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio on Nov. 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. (47 Clark Rd., Rothesay) * Let's Hummus at 44 Water St. between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. * Eighty-Three Bar Arcade at 43 Princess St. on Nov. 14 between midnight and 2 a.m. * Callie's Pub at 2 Princess St. on Nov. 14 between midnight and 2 a.m. * O'Leary's Pub at 46 Princess St. on Nov. 14 between midnight and 2 a.m. * Five and Dime Bar at 34 Grannan St. on Nov. 14, between 12:30 to 2:30 a.m * Freddie's Pizza at 27 Charlotte St. on Nov. 14, between 2:30 to 3 a.m. * Big Tide Brewing Company at 47 Princess St. on Nov. 16, between 12:30 to 2 p.m. * Java Moose at 84 Prince William St. Nov. 16, between 2 to 2:30 p.m. * Rocky's Sports Bar at 7 Market Square on Nov. 13, between 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Potential public exposure was also reported on Nov. 14 between 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.Moncton * RD Maclean Co. Ltd. on Nov. 16, 17 and 18 at 200 St. George St., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. * GoodLife Fitness on Nov. 21 at 555 Dieppe Blvd, Dieppe, between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. * Fit 4 Less at 165 Main St. on Nov. 6-12, at various times between 5 p.m. and midnight. Full list on Public Health website. * GoodLife Fitness at Moncton Junction Village Gym on Nov. 6, between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Potential public exposure was also reported on Nov. 9, between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. * Aldo Shoes at Moncton Champlain Mall on Nov. 6-10 at various times between 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. * CEPS Louis-J. Robichaud fitness room at 40 Antonine-Maillet Ave. on Nov. 6, 9, 10 and 12 at various times in the evening from 5:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. * Tandoori Zaika Cuisine and Bar at 196 Robinson St. on Nov. 8, between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. * Keg Steakhouse and Bar at 576 Main St. on Nov. 17, between 7:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. * Flights into Moncton: * Air Canada Flight 8954 on Nov. 15 from Winnipeg to Toronto, arrived at 8:16 p.m. * Air Canada Flight 8918 on Nov. 15 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:43 p.m. * Air Canada Flight 0992 on Nov. 7 from Mexico City to Toronto, arrived at 7:20 p.m. * Air Canada Flight 8918 on Nov. 7 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:43 p.m.What to do if you have a symptomPeople concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: * A fever above 38 C. * A new cough or worsening chronic cough. * Sore throat. * Runny nose. * Headache. * New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. * Difficulty breathing.In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.People with one of those symptoms should: * Stay at home. * Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. * Describe symptoms and travel history. * Follow instructions.
The Alberta government's new measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 cases fall short of what's needed to avoid a crisis in hospitals and in the health-care system, Edmonton doctors say. Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease physician and assistant professor at the University of Alberta, paints a grim picture of the province's current COVID-19 situation. "We're awfully close to the precipice of a complete disaster in Alberta," Schwartz said. Intensive care units are being pushed beyond their capacity, with COVID-19 patients taking up a large portion of that space, Schwartz said in an interview with CBC News Tuesday. Schwartz noted that 66 COVID-19 patients are in ICU right now while the province had previously designated a capacity for 70 ICU beds for patients with COVID-19. "So clearly we're already brushing right up to that maximum capacity." Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro declared another public health emergency and announced new mandatory restrictions on social gatherings and businesses for three weeks. Starting Friday, most retail businesses, such as liquor, grocery, pharmacy and clothing stores must limit their capacity to 25 per cent of allowed occupancy under the Alberta Fire Code. Starting immediately, all indoor social gatherings are banned, Kenney said. The province will allow bingo halls, water parks, racing centres and casinos to remain open. Restaurants, pubs and bars may remain open at 25 per cent capacity, with a maximum of six people at one table from the same immediate household, Kenney said. Schwartz said there are contradictions in the measures. "The definition of social gathering seems to be fairly arbitrary because it doesn't seem to include going to bars or going to a casino," he said. Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, also took issue with the premier's messaging about the measures being designed to target where spread was occurring. "With our contact tracers being overwhelmed, we still don't know where 80 per cent of people are getting COVID from," Mithani said Tuesday. "So to say things like restaurants are not a significant source of spread and bars and casinos are not a significant source of spread, we actually don't know that because we're missing so much of that data." Measures too late Alberta's spiking cases made front-page headlines for several days before Kenney announced new measures on Tuesday. The measures also come three weeks after hundreds of doctors signed letters urging the province to implement a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown. "It comes clearly too late to be meaningful," Schwartz said. Schwartz said he expects things to look worse mid-December. "We know that even if we completely abated transmissions today, we're still going to be in trouble in three weeks from now," Schwartz said. "And so to implement these measures for three weeks seems short sighted." Mithani said the province needs to be on board with the federal contact tracing app, to help collect data on where Albertans are contracting the virus. @natashariebe
NEW YORK — With police brutality continuing to devastate Black families and the coronavirus ravishing Black America disproportionately, the world was driven to the significance of this year’s Juneteenth more than ever before.And Beyoncé knew she wanted to release a song on that momentous day — so she dropped “Black Parade,” an anthemic jam where she proudly sings about her heritage, hometown and returning to her African roots.Months later, the song — and others focused on protesting, police brutality and the overall Black experience — are taking centre stage at the 2021 Grammy Awards.Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” scored nominations for two of the top awards: song of the year and record of the year. The track will also compete for best R&B song and best R&B performance.“There could have been a different approach as far as releasing the record and capitalizing off of timings of other things, but we really wanted to get it out during a time where we could all remember the feeling and the energy,” Derek Dixie, a longtime collaborator of Beyoncé’s who co-wrote the song with the pop star, said in an interview with The Associated Press.“It’s not always about the money and about catching streaming numbers and things like that. Sometimes it’s just about what it is — which was making our people proud.”“Black Parade” helped Beyoncé land nine nominations, making her the overall top Grammy contender. Dixie earned three Grammy nominations for co-writing and co-producing the song.For song of the year, “Black Parade” will compete with H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” the R&B singer’s track about police brutality.Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” a protest song he created in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, scored nominations for best rap song and best rap performance. Proceeds from the song will support the Black Lives Matter movement, Breonna Taylor’s attorney, the Bail Project and the National Association of Black Journalists.Anderson .Paak also released a song on Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free — and it’s competing for two awards. “Lockdown” is nominated for best rap performance and best music video..Country singer Mickey Guyton wrote the track “Black Like Me” a year ago but released it this year because she felt it was extremely relevant. Now, it’s nominated for best country solo performance, giving the performer her first-ever Grammy nomination.“It’s been so hard in the country music community and trying to get country music to even support my music and for me to get a Grammy (nomination), it just goes to show that writing your truth is just the way to go,” Guyton told the AP on Tuesday. “And not only writing your truth, but really bringing your brothers and sisters up with you.”But Guyton admits that everyone’s response to her song wasn’t warm. It features the lyrics, “If you think we live in the land of the free/You should try to be Black like me."“I released it and I did get people that were very angry. There were even radio stations that people were like, ‘Get this (expletive) off of my radio station,’” she said. “I would get people writing me messages like, ‘Well, if you don’t like it here then leave.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, it’s just as much my country as it is yours.’”Guyton added that some “radio stations were scared to play (‘Black Like Me’) because they were (angering) their listeners because their listeners didn’t want to hear that.”“But I wasn’t writing that song for them, I was writing that song got the people that understand this exact walk that I’m walking," she continued. “It’s for them."Apart from “Black Parade,” Beyoncé also earned nominations for her film honouring Black art and Black history, “Black Is King,” as well as her ode to dark- and brown-skinned women, “Brown Skin Girl.”Dixie, who has worked as Beyoncé’s music director and has produced, engineered and arranged songs for the singer, said he’s grateful he’s working with an artist who boldly speaks about Black pride in her music.“It’s just good to see that she’s willing to put that type of energy out and not necessarily be thinking about: ‘What’s going to guarantee me a No. 1? What’s going to guarantee me this?' It’s a part of our conversation, it’s a part of the process, but when it’s necessary to put that art out there, to put that energy out there, she’s usually ... leading the pack in that regard,” Dixie said. “So I’m grateful to be associated with her on that path.”Guyton added that it’s comforting to see some many Black musicians reflect the current times in their music, and she’s grateful to the Grammys for acknowledging those kinds of songs.“It’s so important because so often Black people, and Black women especially, are getting overlooked and constantly get overlooked and you’re constantly just trying to get people to remember that you’re there,” she said. “It feels like we’re seen and I don’t think we’ve always felt seen.”“I use this scenario of going into any grocery store — if you go to any grocery store ... and you look for hair products for someone who is ethnic and ... you see an entire aisle full of every and any hair product you can possibly think for someone that is not Black. But whenever it comes to finding hair products for a Black person, we’re designated a shelf. And today, it doesn't feel like we’re designated a shelf.”The 2021 Grammy Awards will air live on Jan. 31.Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
A Dawson City, Yukon, business owner says he was surprised on Tuesday to hear of a COVID-19 potential exposure notice for his store, just before it was announced publicly."[The Yukon government] gave us a phone call this morning. Maybe around 9:15 a.m., or 9:30 a.m. or so, not too long before the press release came out. Probably minutes," said Kyler Mather, owner of the Dawson City General Store, on Tuesday.Mather's store is the first potential exposure site identified outside of Whitehorse. Anybody who was at the store on Nov. 15 between opening and closing hours, and develops symptoms, is asked to get tested.The announcement came at Tuesday morning's COVID-19 briefing with Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. Hanley also confirmed there were two cases in Dawson.Mather said the news came as a shock to him."Nothing had been formally announced that there was any cases in any of the communities or in Dawson so it was a little bit of an eye-opener," he said.No extra information was provided to Mather by officials. Mather understands that the government is overwhelmed with the growing number of cases in Yukon, but he wishes he had a bit more information."More notice would have been better and any more information, right? Maybe a bit more of a detailed time of when the individual was in the store."'Well-prepared for it'Mather says his store has had safety measures in place since March."All of these measures are in place to prevent any kind of spread in this exact scenario. I kind of feel that we're well-prepared for it," he said.Measures include two different hand washing stations in the store, plexiglass at cash registers, arrows on the floor to direct customers, and mandatory masks for all employees.Mather says that he will be following the government protocols but the store will also continue with its own internal protocols to keep everyone safe.Mather thanked Dawsonites for their support and said he's happy to live in a community like Dawson.Mayor Wayne Potoroka says he's impressed by the local adherence to COVID-19 guidelines. "I'm especially impressed with the leadership a lot of local businesses have showed by just implementing the measures they have, to keep themselves and their customers safe. That includes the General Store, by the way," Potoroka said.Potoroka said that he himself was at the General Store on Nov. 15, the day identified in the potential exposure notice.He said he's not too worried."According to my credit card, I was at the General Store three different times on November 15th. I'm not really concerned. As long as we all take those steps to protect ourselves, then we'll be OK."
BERLIN — Germany's Cabinet on Wednesday approved legislation that would provide compensation to gay servicepeople who experienced discrimination in the military before a change of policy 20 years ago.The decision comes two months after Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer issued an apology for decades of discrimination. A study commissioned by her ministry documented “systematic discrimination” in the Bundeswehr — the military of West Germany and since 1990 of reunited Germany — from 1955 until 2000.The study said that “same-sex orientation was viewed as a security risk in the Bundeswehr until the turn of the millennium and made a career as an officer or noncommissioned officer impossible.”Kramp-Karrenbauer said that soldiers affected will be “rehabilitated” under the new legislation.The legislation foresees the lifting of military court verdicts imposed for consensual gay sex, with 3,000 euros ($3,560) in compensation being paid for each of those verdicts, but also to soldiers who were dismissed, denied promotion or stripped of responsibility. The Defence Ministry estimates that about 1,000 people will apply, news agency dpa reported.“I know that we can't make up for the personal injustice they suffered but, with the lifting of verdicts and the payment of lump-sum compensation, we want to send a signal — a small signal — of redress, to restore the dignity of these people who wanted nothing other than to serve Germany,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.It is Germany's latest move to address past anti-gay discrimination. In 2017, parliament voted to annul the convictions of thousands of gay men under a law criminalizing male homosexuality that was enforced zealously in post-World War II West Germany.A federal court decided in 1970 that homosexuality was no longer a disciplinary offence for soldiers unless there was a “service connection,” the study released in September said. That was interpreted strictly to start with and gradually loosened.Then-Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping ended official discrimination in 2000 after an officer who had been removed from his post as a commander took his case to Germany’s highest court.Scharping issued a paper stating that “homosexuality does not constitute grounds for restrictions in terms of assignment or status and thus also is not a suitability criterion to be examined separately.”Kramp-Karrenbauer said the new legislation will also cover people who experienced discrimination in communist East Germany's National People's Army, which she called “an important signal" in a year when Germany marked 30 years of reunification.It still requires parliamentary approval. Kramp-Karrenbauer told lawmakers she hoped for their support "so that we can rehabilitate and compensate those affected next year.”Legislation criminalizing male homosexuality was introduced in the 19th century, toughened under Nazi rule and retained in that form by democratic West Germany, which convicted some 50,000 men between 1949 and 1969. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 but the legislation wasn’t taken off the books entirely until 1994.Lawmakers approved compensation for men who were convicted. Payments were later extended to people who were put under investigation or taken into investigative custody but not convicted.Geir Moulson, The Associated Press
A North Battleford man accused of attempted murder was denied bail in Prince Albert Provincial Court. Trent Fox, 19, had a show cause hearing on Nov. 19. He has been in custody since mid-October when he was arrested and charged with attempted murder after a 21-year-old man was stabbed at a business. STARS Air Ambulance took the victim to a Saskatoon hospital with life-threatening injuries. According to Prince Albert Police, they were called to a business in the 3200 block of 2nd Avenue West at about 10 p.m. on Oct. 14. Prince Albert Police say that Fox hitchhiked to Prince Albert from North Battleford earlier on the evening of Oct. 14. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Prince Albert Police at 306-953-4222 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Fox is now scheduled to appear in Prince Albert Provincial Court on Dec. 3 by CCTV to enter a plea. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in Alaska within a few weeks, state health officials said.Early batches of vaccine will be prioritized for essential workers in health care, assisted living and emergency medical settings, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.Vaccines initially will be issued in limited quantities and likely will not be available to the general public until March or April.The state continues to work on plans to distribute supplies after the vaccines become broadly available.The mid-December timeline for arrival in Alaska was based on announcements by drug companies working to produce coronavirus vaccines.Pfizer Inc. said earlier this month that test results showed its vaccine is 95% effective and protects older people most at risk of dying. Moderna Inc. said this month that preliminary data from an ongoing study showed its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective.AstraZeneca PLC on Monday reported results from ongoing studies of a vaccine under development with Oxford University, saying the drug was up to 90% effective.The high efficacy rates of the vaccines is “such a triumph,” said Joe McLaughlin, an Alaska state epidemiologist. For comparison, influenza vaccine effectiveness is typically between 40% and 60%, he said.Alaska has not definitively settled a timetable, but the distribution will be done in phases with front line health care workers prioritized, said Tessa Walker Linderman, co-lead of the Alaska COVID Vaccine Task Force.The soonest the Pfizer vaccine could be shipped is Dec. 10, with Moderna's vaccine likely being shipped about a week later, said Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer.After the first round of people get the vaccine, the next phase could include high-risk or critical-infrastructure workers.Pregnant women and children were not included in any of the drug trials and will need to wait longer for access.The state does not know how much vaccine will be delivered and officials are planning for three different scenarios, including batches of less than 5,000 doses and groups of around 10,000 and 20,000 doses, Zink said.For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.The Associated Press