Jim Carrey has revealed how he really felt about ex Renée Zellweger. In a new, semi-autobiographical novel "Memoirs and Misinformation," which Carrey co-authored with Dana Vachon, the actor referred to Zellweger as the “great love of my life.”
Jim Carrey has revealed how he really felt about ex Renée Zellweger. In a new, semi-autobiographical novel "Memoirs and Misinformation," which Carrey co-authored with Dana Vachon, the actor referred to Zellweger as the “great love of my life.”
(ANNews) – Laramey Cardinal, a 21-year-old Indigenous woman from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, has been selected to compete in Miss Canada Petite, the National Preliminary to the Miss Universal Petite Pageant, the winner of which will represent Canada at the annual Miss Universal Petite Pageant. After being contacted personally by Miss Petite Ontario, Keely Wesley, Laramey Cardinal will be representing Saddle Lake on the pageant stage in August 2021. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it at first, but she really encouraged me. She’s reaching out for more [Indigenous] girls to join to competition,” said Cardinal. The application process for the pageant has been a long one she said, “I had to do an interview over the phone about why I want to represent Canada and all my favourite things about Canada. Then I got accepted and now I have to pay entrance fee for my shawl.” “Then I’ll be going for a week in Toronto. I believe the first few days will be training – how to walk in heels, that kind of thing – you don’t need experience to join.” Laramey described the format and structure of the pageant. “I know that they will have different categories, like they’ll be having Miss Salsa, Miss Karaoke, Miss Photogenic – There’s a bunch of different categories,” she said. When asked about whether or not she will dance salsa, Cardinal said “Yes.” However, a career in pageantry is not Miss Cardinal’s long-term goal. “Pageantry is just a hobby right now. I’m currently enrolled in college working towards my nursing degree. I’m just finishing my first semester at Portage College in Cold Lake.” When asked about where she sees herself in five years, Laramey said, “hopefully nursing.” “My biggest inspiration growing up was my older sister. She travelled all over the world to go help other countries – like she went to Africa to build an orphanage and to Nicaragua,” Cardinal said, and her inspirations can be seen in her interest in humanitarian goals. “I would like to bring recognition to the Indigenous communities to start initiatives that will set up regulations that protect people regardless of their ethnic background. A lot of our people are failed by the healthcare system and it’s a really tough subject for me,” Laramey said. “A lot of our people get very poor treatment when they go to hospitals. Some people don’t like going to hospitals because of their colour.” Winning the pageant is only one of the very many ambitions that Miss Cardinal has for the future. Her self-confidence should help pave the way. When asked whether or not she thinks she will win, Cardinal responded with, “Yeah, I hope so.” Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
B.C. has recorded 1,330 new cases of COVID-19 and 31 deaths in the province over a three day period. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provided the update Monday in a news conference, saying there were 584 new cases recorded between Friday and Saturday, 445 new cases between Saturday and Sunday, and 301 new cases between Sunday and Monday. The Sunday-Monday case jump of 301 new cases represents the lowest level of one-day growth since Nov. 3, with active cases of the virus now at their lowest level since Nov. 7. Restrictions were first implemented for some health regions in B.C. on Nov. 8. Henry said that the next few weeks will be crucial in determining whether some restrictions, including the restrictions on non-essential travel, could be lifted by Family Day long weekend in mid February. "Clearly the things we are doing in our community are working," said Henry, adding that outbreaks continue in essential workplaces and in long-term care homes. "We are at a tipping point that I am feeling hopeful and positive about. I am hopeful that outbreaks are slowing down and we are stopping that second generation." Watch | Dr. Bonnie Henry says some COVID-19 restrictions could loosen if community transmission continues to fall There are currently 4,326 active cases of the virus in B.C., with 343 people in hospital, 68 of whom are in critical care. Thirteen of the new cases are associated with temporary farm workers who have come to B.C. for work. An outbreak at McKinney Place, the deadliest outbreak in Interior Health, has been declared over. Long-term care home vaccinations As of Monday, 87,346 people in B.C. had received at least one dose of vaccine, with no new allergic reactions to the vaccine having been recorded in Canada. Henry said that the province will soon finish vaccinating all residents of long-term care homes in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, and is on track to complete vaccinations in all long-term care homes by end of next week depending on when vaccine arrives. She said visits to long-term care homes could possibly resume by late March, or once two incubation periods have passed since a long-term care home outbreak has ended. The federal government on Friday announced Pfizer is temporarily reducing shipments of its vaccine in order to expand manufacturing capacity at a facility in Belgium. This means fewer shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine until at least March. Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said the change was not surprising and it is something health officials have planned for. "In a worldwide vaccination campaign, we expect fluctuations in supply and we are prepared to change our vaccination campaign to respond." Henry said on Monday that the delay is a "setback" and will temporarily slow the province's delivery of the vaccine to at-risk people. But she said the province is working to ensure the highest number of people are immunized. "We have been able to rearrange and look at processes that we have to make sure we are continuing to give first doses to those at highest risk and that we get second doses to people at Day 35," she said. "The focus will be on second doses next week and the week after and then going back to first doses for those at risk." Henry added that the province will be providing more first doses of the vaccine in March than originally planned, with second doses being pushed to later in March when supply increases. "[The delay] is a matter of weeks … not months. We knew these types of things could happen, so we're trying to have some flexibility," she said. Henry said that while B.C.'s numbers continue to slowly trend in the right direction, the risk of transmission remains high in all areas of the province. "The challenges that we are facing now concern more transmission in the Interior and North," she said. Dix acknowledged this week marks one year since the province began issuing daily updates on the virus. "It's been a long year," he said. "One year later, thank you."
Uganda's Bobi Wine is a pied piper of a figure who dared raise the hopes of the country's youth, only to be beaten in an election with the odds tipped against him by a man who has had his hands on the levers of power for 35 years. So what now for the self-styled "ghetto president"? Two days after Uganda's electoral commission announced that President Yoweri Museveni had decisively won last week's ballot, Wine and his wife, Barbara, remained under house arrest at their home in Magere, just north of the capital, Kampala. "Nobody is allowed in, nobody is allowed out. We are stuck," Wine said in a telephone interview with CBC News on Monday morning, adding that government security forces had not only surrounded his house but "jumped over the fence and taken control of my compound." "We demand that they release me and they release all the political prisoners so we can be able to assemble freely, like is provided for by the law, and discuss the way forward." Wine said it was clear Museveni was trying to prevent him from speaking to his supporters. "[The government is] worried I will make a statement that will make the people go active. We've been telling the people of Uganda and we continue to tell them that they must be non-violent, but that they must be assertive." Wine said his National Unity Platform (NUP) plans to launch a legal challenge to the results, which accorded him 35 per cent of the vote, and to present proof of electoral tampering once internet access is restored to the country. Museveni 'looking beyond this election' The government shut internet providers down just a day before the vote on Jan. 14 and one day after military tanks and security forces paraded through opposition neighbourhoods in Kampala, in a show critics say was intended to intimidate opposition supporters already hurting from weeks of violence and arrests by government security forces. Few analysts thought Wine stood a chance of winning the elections, given Museveni's determination to hold on to power and the tools available to him. But they say Wine nonetheless remains a threat to Museveni's hold on power, and that it's clear Museveni sees him as such. Although not necessarily from the ballot box. "People are right to say Mr. Museveni is looking beyond this election," said Fred Muhumuza, a lecturer in economics at the University of Makerere in Kampala. "His biggest worry is the ideology that has started, this thinking that is beginning to come. We've seen it in the Arab Spring: Once citizens feel they are not being well provided for by services that have been given by government, it becomes very hard to govern them. So I think there are concerns about the governability of the country going forward." In a speech on Saturday, Museveni claimed the election to be the fairest in Uganda's history. His support and that of his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), comes in large part from rural voters and those old enough to remember the stability he brought to the country after the bloody legacies of Idi Amin and Milton Obote in the 1970s and '80s. "For the older generation, the Museveni [appeal] has to do with security," said Muhumuza. "There are people who think [support for Wine] might have to do with other governments or foreign interests trying to take advantage of the youth and cause some kind of insecurity in the country." Wine appeals to younger Ugandans But two-thirds of Uganda's population is under the age of 30, offering up a powerful constituency for Wine in a country where jobs are scarce and many voters will have known no other president than Museveni. "They need to get opportunities to work and for the first time they have a younger person representing them who is in their age bracket," said Muhumuza. Now 38, Wine grew up in a Kampala slum, which earned him the moniker of the "ghetto president." He grew first to be a successful musician, changing his name from Robert Kyyagulanyi to Bobi Wine and writing songs about social injustice. In 2017, he stood for the national parliament and won. "He's been a public commentator. Every time in Uganda we had a very sensitive issue, Bobi Wine had a song, [and was] making an intervention. The music that made him a star was music about HIV/AIDS," said Yusuf Serunkuma, a social researcher at Makerere University. Serunkuma also thinks Museveni is worried about Wine's ability to mobilize the street. The 2018 protests in nearby Sudan, which led to the ousting of president Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power, offer a fresh reminder of what public demonstrations can do. Serunkuma also said opposition activists understand that it's almost impossible to win an election in a dictatorship that disguises itself as a democracy. "So what happens is that you mobilize the constituents that make it difficult for [the government] to continue. And I think that this is what Bobi Wine is doing." Serunkuma said it's that possibility that Museveni has been preparing for, rather than the election. Election observers kept away The president's supporters say he has every right to order security forces onto the streets to prevent what they say could be a potential insurrection. Andrew Mwenda, a journalist with close ties to Museveni and his inner circle, said he knows Bobi Wine "very well." "I don't have a problem with him, even though I think he is intellectually handicapped to understand the complexities of government," said Mwenda, the founder and managing editor of a newsmagazine called the Independent. He dismisses Wine's supporters as thugs and hooligans. "They are incapable of tolerating dissent. It's not in their DNA. They make Trump's supporters look like the most liberal democrats the world has ever seen." On the other hand, Mwenda describes Museveni as a "very tolerant man" — even though the editor almost boasts that he himself was once jailed by Museveni, presumably for criticizing the government. He said recent attacks by security forces against reporters covering the Bobi Wine campaign — or trying to — were "regrettable," but not a "reflection of the freedom that exists" in Uganda. WATCH | CBC news crew deported from Uganda ahead of election: Canada joined several European Union countries, the United Kingdom and the United States in expressing concern over the harassment of journalists and media freedom ahead of the election. Election observers from the U.S. were refused permission to monitor the vote while the European Union pulled out its own team late last year, citing Uganda's failure to implement previous recommendations on electoral reform. A coalition of civil society groups making up Africa Elections Watch issued a statement saying their observers found that the vote did not "meet the threshold of a democratic, free, fair and transparent credible electoral process." Wine happy to 'inspire young people' Wine's challenge to Museveni is the story of this election and is potentially a defining moment for the country. But it makes it no easier to predict his future. On the phone on Monday, Wine was endlessly gracious, but the fatigue in his voice came through. Serunkuma has described Wine's popularity as contagious. He acknowledged that Wine has "really been successful, but I'm not sure whether what he's done is sustainable. Ugandans do not take to the streets." When they did in November, it came with a heavy price — at least 54 people were killed by security forces when protests erupted after one of Wine's arrests, allegedly for breaking COVID-19 restrictions. "I don't think anything is going to happen because the president has done so much to prepare for the moment after the election," said Serunkuma. "It started way, way back." Muhuzuma said "there are people who think the election will simply be an event in a long process of what will eventually remove Mr. Museveni." The question is, will his regime crack down even harder on civil liberties or will some of those in power be rattled enough to try and change something from within? "A lot of [Museveni's] supporters have, I think, picked up that signal, to say we can't just keep growth that is not inclusive, that is not creating opportunities for youth," said Muhuzuma. For his part, Wine said he is determined to see Uganda through to a new chapter. If that means merely serving as an inspiration for real change, it will be enough. "I came in not saying that I am the alpha and the omega, but I wanted to spark the mind that would change the world, to influence and inspire young people, and I am very glad to see that happening," he said. Wine also said he continues to fear for his safety and that of his wife. "We hope the world continues to put the focus on Uganda and to hold General Museveni accountable for our lives."
MONTREAL — The Quebec coroner is investigating the death of a man whose body was found inside a portable toilet early Sunday morning close to a Montreal homeless shelter he frequented.On Monday, a spokesman for the coroner identified the man as Raphael Andre, 51, and said the investigation will establish his cause of death and the circumstances surrounding it.Montreal homeless shelter The Open Door said in a Facebook post that Andre, identified by the nickname "Napa", was a regular and was often the last person to leave the facility.The Open Door had been operating 24 hours a day, but a COVID-19 outbreak in mid-December and a plumbing issue forced it to suspend its overnight service and to close at 9:30 p.m.Because of the provincewide curfew that is in effect between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., people who are not in overnight shelters risk confrontations with police if they are found outside. The Open Door said in its Facebook post that had it been allowed to stay open overnight and operate its warming centre, Andre would not have been left outdoors in the cold. "When people are in a safe place with support workers watching over them, help can be called when someone is in distress," the shelter wrote. "Instead, he tragically passed away in a portable toilet. This needs to change." A spokesperson for the shelter did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.Montreal's public health department said in a statement Monday that it issued a recommendation on Jan. 12 supporting the reopening of The Open Door's warming station. A Montreal health board that oversees the area said the shelter can reopen for overnight service once conditions are met."Following an evaluation of the situation, a list of 13 recommendations were submitted to Open Door's management and board of directors to prevent future outbreaks and to protect the clientele and shelter staff," the board said in a statement Monday, adding that it was still waiting for the measures to be implemented.The city's homeless community has been dealing with numerous outbreaks fuelled by a high rate of community transmission. A plan by local health officials to vaccinate the homeless began on Friday.Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante offered her condolences regarding the death of Andre and said the city and public health authorities are working to ensure The Open Door's warming station is able to reopen as soon as possible and in compliance with sanitary measures. "Each death in these circumstances is one death too many," Plante said. "This tragic event reaffirms the urgency of providing vulnerable people with resources adapted to the various needs which have been exacerbated by the health crisis."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Big White Ski Resort recently unveiled an updated master plan that could result in major expansion for the Okanagan resort, located about an hour outside of Kelowna, B.C. Submitted to the province as part of its agreement to use the area, the master plan sets a vision of potential development opportunities over the next 60 years, explained Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president of the resort. Ballingall said one of the most intriguing elements of the plan is the wealth of terrain that it identifies for skiing. If fully carried out, the resort would almost triple its skiable terrain, from 607 acres to 1,628 acres and add more than a dozen new chair lifts. Much of this new terrain is located in an area east of the Black Forest Chair known as East Peak. Ballingall described it as nice fall line, intermediate to high-end terrain. “What we got really excited about is the potential of this new East Peak area for skiable terrain,” said Ballingall. He said the terrain will be accessible from the main village by ski. Big White’s first master plan was signed in 1989 by Mr. Des Schumann and expires in 2039. This new plan is designed to further the resort’s draw as an all-season resort. It includes an expanded mountain biking trail system, a mountain coaster, and two golf courses. The plan was developed by resort planning company Brent Hartley and Associates. Ballingall said the resort has worked in coordination with Westbank First Nation on the plan. He said the resort and the First Nation have a strong relationship and that the resort is committed to providing employment opportunities for members. “We have a great partnership with Westbank First Nation,” said Ballingall. “They have been consulted every step of the way. They have great ideas and want to see Big White succeed… [and] they want to succeed with us.” While the plan may be ambitious, Ballingall said Big White stands to see significant growth in future given its high elevations and relatively cold temperatures. A recent report from Protect Our Winters, an advocacy group dedicated to supporting climate change policy, predicted Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) could lose 12 per cent of its average season by the 2050s and that many Ontario ski hills could have seasons of less than 20 days in the 2080s unless significant action is taken to reduce the impact of climate change. “I think we are blessed because we’re in the Interior,” said Ballingall. “I don’t think any of us in our lifetime are ever going to have to worry about snow.” Public comments on the master plan will be accepted up until February 26. You can learn more about the plan, as well as ways to give feedback on it, at the following link. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
Some Sackville residents started their Sunday with an unpleasant sight - black or brown water coming from their taps. And for a few residents, the issue was not fully resolved more than a day later. Melanie Long-Pitre of Zwicker Drive said she first noticed this issue around 9:20 a.m. Sunday. She called a neighbour, and then posted to Facebook to see if others were also experiencing water issues. She soon discovered a number of others were. Nearby, Cathy Crinnion in Ogden Mill, told the Times & Transcript her water was “shockingly black” on Sunday morning. Later Sunday, the town issued a bulletin for residents, stating the municipality "experienced a technology communication failure between our water treatment plant and water tower early this [Sunday] morning. As a result, residents may experience discoloration in their water, as well as low pressure. Our Public Works crew is currently attending to the issue with watermain flushing in strategic areas, and we hope to have it resolved soon." Dwayne Acton, the town’s engineer, said the discolouration is caused by iron and manganese deposits loosened in the pipes when water surged through them at a higher velocity than usual. When the computer system issue occurred with the altitude valve, the town engaged in a flushing program, but this action can make the situation worse, at least visually, and cause the discolouration residents saw, he said. “Although it doesn’t look the best, it won’t harm you to drink or use,” he said. Staff worked Saturday night and into Sunday to resolve the issue, Acton said, adding that things were for the most part back to normal on Monday. But residents in some areas said they were still seeing discolouration, although less intense. Long-Pitre said her water wasn't completely back to normal and was unsure whether it was safe to drink until the town issued a second advisory around noon on Monday. Crinnion said by mid-afternoon Sunday her water was at least 85 per cent clearer, but by Monday morning it wasn’t completely back to normal, and she made plans to bring in water to use. Late Monday afternoon, Crinnion said her water was finally running clear. She said she was surprised that the initial advisory Sunday did not indicate if the water was safe to use. Acton said the town is now advising residents that if they are still experiencing discoloured water, to run their cold water taps to see if the water clears. If it does not, they should contact Public Works at 363-4960. While the issue initially affected the whole town, it was more acute and long-lasting in the Ogden Mill and Reservoir Road areas, he said. The town planned to engage in light flushing based on reports of ongoing issues so as not to make the discolouration pronounced again, while trying to resolve the issue, Acton said. Long-Pitre said as of 5 p.m. Monday, though markedly improved, the situation had not fully resolved in her home. Jamie Burke, chief administrator officer for the town, confirmed that they received a few reports of water discolouration through the day and were continuing to flush the system as of 5 p.m. Monday, but hoping to have things back to normal soon. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority’s public health officials announced a COVID-19 outbreak in the community of Black Lake First Nation on Jan. 17. The outbreak was connected to an increasing number of confirmed cases linked to both a mass gathering and travel out of the community. Officials are notifying the public that individuals who tested COVID-19 positive attended a wake/funeral event in Black on New Year’s and Jan. 1 and 2, 2021when the individuals were likely infectious. A contract tracing investigation is currently underway. Public health officials are advising individuals who were at these events on the dates specified to immediately self-isolate if they have had or currently have any symptoms of COVID-19. The also advise to call HealthLine 811 or a community health clinic to arrange for assessment and testing. “All other individuals who are not experiencing symptoms should self-monitor for 14 days from the date of last exposure, it is important to note that individuals may develop symptoms from two to 14 days following exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” the release explained. Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person but some common symptoms include a new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, temperature equal to or over 39 C, feeling feverish, chills, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, now loss of smell or taste, headache, gastrointestinal symptoms and feeling very unwell. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Ethel Lockrey, 97, and a resident of Silver Fox Estate in Salisbury said people might be surprised at what she and some other seniors have come up with while under lockdown at their retirement residence: floor curling. The game bears some resemblance to regular curling, except there are little wheels under the stones, and of course the absence of ice, said another resident, Doug Sentell, 83, adding that a smooth surface is still important. "I think people would be surprised to know such a game exists. It's fantastic,” said fellow resident Glenna Brugess, 91, adding that she really enjoyed playing and thinks she could be good at it. This week, the seniors had a faceoff: women versus men, said Sentell. The women's team won, he said The women’s team’s most senior senior was certainly a big part of their success, though she is very humble, Sentell said. Lockrey, who many referred to in interviews as “Speedy Ethel” said she thinks “people would be surprised that at 97 years old I can play." "I like to curl. It exercises my whole body and I feel that's important,” she said. Sentell said this week’s game was only the second time he and his fellow residents have given the new game a shot, but noted their skills have improved considerably. “The first time we were flipping the stones upside down,” he said, sharing that his biggest tip would be not to push too hard initially. “We had 10 playing this time. The first time there were maybe four or five that tried, with more as spectators,” said Sentell, adding that people have been learning by watching. Jason Wilson, operator of Silver Fox Estate, said the home, which opened in May during the pandemic, has hired a full-time wellness coordinator, who has been organizing everything from curling to chair fitness. Residents can’t have visitors nor can they participate in off-site visits right now, he said. The home is their household bubble, he said. But while opening during a pandemic was a nightmare from a business perspective, Wilson said, the positive side has been really getting to know each resident slowly and watching residents grow closer to each other than they perhaps would have been otherwise. “They rely on each other. They take care of each other,” he said. From crib, to bingo, to chair exercises, they do activities together, said Wilson. And now, of course, they curl together. Sentell said he thinks as they get more players interested they could explore the possibility of a tournament. “I think this could take off,” he said. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
In a week in which the first residents of Haldimand-Norfolk were vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease also claimed two more lives in the community. The health unit announced the latest death on Friday, bringing the toll to 37. The death of another resident was made public on Tuesday. The health unit does not release any information about COVID-19 deaths, including age, gender or town of residence, citing privacy concerns in the small community. There are currently 162 active COVID-19 cases in Haldimand-Norfolk. The region has had 1,166 lab-confirmed positive cases since March, including 490 — or 42 per cent of the total — since Dec. 1. Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer of health, said the vast majority of the health district’s COVID-19 deaths have been among the elderly, which is why long-term care residents and staff are the first community members to be vaccinated, as per a provincial directive. The rollout started on Wednesday, with 170 residents and a few staff members at Norview Lodge in Simcoe receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. “To see our residents and staff get vaccinated — it’s amazing,” said Norview adminstrator Bill Nolan. “Without the hard work and dedication of our team and the support from our community, this would not have been possible.” On Thursday, 109 residents and 33 staff at Grandview Lodge in Dunnville got their first shots from Dr. Ahmed Kamouna, Grandview’s medical director, assisted by paramedics and Grandview staff. “Today feels like the beginning of the end, and that is exciting when it relates to a pandemic,” said Grandview administrator Jennifer Jacob. “We know this isn’t a cure and that we’re still in this battle, but there is a sense of relief knowing we are now better protected. We will continue to do everything we can to protect our staff and residents through the use of PPE, social distancing and hand hygiene.” Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt praised the staff at Grandview, which is run by the county, for their “continued dedication” to residents’ well-being. “This vaccine has been long-awaited by many and I could not be happier for Grandview Lodge staff, residents and resident families,” Hewitt said. “There is still work to be done, but knowing we are one step closer to beating this virus is extremely welcome news.” The vaccine’s arrival was also cheered at Edgewater Gardens in Dunnville, where 58 residents and eight health-care workers were inoculated on Thursday. “Look at these happy faces! Smiles all around as Edgewater residents and some staff members received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine,” the home posted to its Facebook page. Public health staff were at Dover Cliffs in Port Dover on Friday. Nesathurai said the health unit’s plan is to vaccinate all 1,250 long-term-care residents in Haldimand-Norfolk by Sunday evening, along with roughly 250 health-care staff. Everyone who receives the Pfizer vaccine must get a second dose within 21 days, which aligns with the health ministry’s delivery schedule of the initial 3,000 doses slated for Haldimand-Norfolk. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
After a successful competitive career, Montreal figure skater Elladj Baldé vowed to push back against the sport's traditions and explore his own style. The result? Newfound internet fame. The 30-year-old skater's videos, which show him performing unconventional routines punctuated by backflips, have garnered over 16 million views on TikTok and 13 million on Instagram. "I was shocked by how things were being received," Baldé said of his quick rise to internet celebrity. But to him, the attention just means he's moving in the right direction, trying to modernize and diversify the culture of a sport that remains traditional and "limiting" at the pro level, he said. "I feel the reason why they're going viral is because ... I'm completely diving into what I want to do and how I want to do it." WATCH | Baldé speaks about authenticity in his skating: The Russian-born, Montreal-raised athlete started figure skating at age six, and spent years in the Canadian and international competitive circuits. After two unsuccessful Olympic trials and even more concussions, Baldé made the decision to retire from competitive skating in May 2018, at 27. Since then, he's been a choreographer and judge on the live-competition skating series Battle of the Blades, gotten engaged and co-founded the Figure Skating Diversity and Inclusion Alliance (FSDIA), a non-profit that aims to combat racial inequality in the sport. The alliance and videos are Baldé's way of reclaiming his artistry and authenticity after years of rigid competitive routines, he said. "Being a Black man in figure skating was a different experience," he said. "It's very much rooted in, you know, a white, European, elitist kind of mentality." "You have to fit within a certain box and a certain style in order to be successful," he added. The FSDIA is already working with Skate Canada to foster more diversity and inclusion in the sport environment. Baldé said he wants to address the financial barriers that keep Black, Indigenous and other people of colour from participating in sports like figure skating, and he wants to help create policy changes to help athletes and coaches of colour report racism and discrimination. "The culture of figure skating needs to change," Baldé said. "We're just really committed to bringing a new perspective to skating." That perspective shines through in his online routines, where he's been skating to the likes of Rihanna and James Brown on local outdoor rinks and scenic lakes during the pandemic. And he's not just attracting the attention of his fellow Canadians; American actress Jada Pinkett Smith reposted one of his videos on Instagram, where it racked up another nearly 8.5 million plays. Baldé said the viral fame shows him there's room to make figure skating cool again, as well as an appetite for more creative, diverse performances. "I would love to encourage people to pursue their passion, whatever that is," he said. "And hopefully, the next generation that comes into the sport will no longer have to deal with some of the things that us older generations ... had to experience." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
U.S. lawmakers are moving ahead with efforts to ban facial recognition software even as the technology helps identify supporters of President Donald Trump who ransacked their workplace and forced them to evacuate this month. Researchers and law enforcement have been running photographs from the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol through facial recognition, which looks for similar faces in databases of mugshots, social media headshots or other images. "It's a great tool," said Michael Sheldon, research associate at the nonprofit Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, whose mission includes protecting democratic institutions.
Island dentists are offering their expertise as the province ramps up and rolls out COVID-19 vaccinations. The P.E.I. Dental Association says dentists themselves could give some of the shots. The average dentist gives a dozen or more needles every day to patients, said Dr. Mike Connolly, a dentist in Charlottetown and past president of the P.E.I. Dental Association. "We felt that if we can help, and we feel we can, that we should offer to help," he said. "The pandemic, it's not something that's fleeting, that's going to go away easily. So we have offered through public health and the Chief Public Health Office, a community of dentists who would be willing to help provide vaccinations if that was required." There are about 65 dentists who practise in the province, and the association said it's surveying them to see how many are willing to join the effort. Requires order from CPHO The association noted that giving needles in arms, instead of the gums and the mouth, is outside their normal scope of practice and would require an order to be issued by the Chief Public Health Officer. Connolly said many dentists are looking forward to receiving the vaccines when it is their turn. Nurses and pharmacists have also said they are willing and able to administer the vaccines. More from CBC P.E.I.
The Alberta government wouldn’t put a price tag on what the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline would cost, but it would wipe out existing and projected jobs and many hopes for the oil sector.
OTTAWA — At least three provinces are now temporarily delaying or pausing COVID-19 vaccination programs amid fallout from Pfizer's decision to reduce Canada's vaccine deliveries over the next month.More than half a million Canadians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 thus far, and more than 822,000 doses of the two approved vaccines have been delivered from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.But all provinces are being forced to revisit their vaccination programs after Pfizer suddenly told Canada on Friday morning it would be cutting the doses delivered in half over the next four weeks, while it upgrades its factory in Belgium. Pfizer was to ship 735,150 doses to Canada between Jan. 18 and Feb. 14.Canada's deliveries after the partial pause will be bigger than previously expected so Pfizer can fulfil its contract to deliver four million doses by the end of March.About 600,000 doses have been delivered from Pfizer so far.The new delivery schedule has not yet been posted publicly, but provinces are preparing for the temporary downturn anyway.Manitoba stopped taking appointments for first doses Friday but will honour appointments already made. Ontario's chief medical officer Dr. David Williams said Saturday his province would delay giving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 42 days, instead of the recommended 21 days. The 28-day schedule for Moderna's vaccine will remain intact, said Williams.Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday his province has "quite simply run out of supply" of COVID-19 vaccines and is no longer taking appointments for people to get their first doses."I am deeply disappointed at the situation we are now facing," said Kenney."Due to the unexpected supply disruption the federal government announced last week, Alberta will have no more vaccine doses available to administer as first doses by the end of today or early tomorrow."B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said his province is considering whether to adjust the dosing schedule. B.C. had already changed the 21-day second-dose schedule to 35 days, but Dix said that may change again because of the delivery shortages.Alberta hit a milestone on Sunday by delivering of the first doses of vaccine to all residents of long-term care facilities. Ontario still anticipates hitting its first target of inoculating 61,500 long-term care residents, staff and primary caregivers by Thursday.Pfizer is trying to double its production of vaccine doses to two billion this year and is planning to temporarily curb production at its Belgian facility to make upgrades that will allow for that increase.Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said the delivery delays will affect other countries besides Canada and the European Union but the company has not identified them."Multiple countries around the world, beyond Canada and the EU, will be impacted in the short term," Antoniou said."Pfizer is working closely with all governments on allocation of doses. While the precise percentage allocation may fluctuate, we anticipate that it will balance out by the end of (the first quarter of) 2021."Europe has already seen its delivery delay period shortened from four weeks to just one. Pfizer told Europe Friday that delays to its dose deliveries would end Jan. 25, while Canada expects to be affected until mid-February.European leaders were furious at the initial announcement that their deliveries would be smaller for several weeks. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called Pfizer's CEO directly to discuss the issue late last week.Pfizer later announced Europe's deliveries would only be affected for this week.Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must explain why Canada's delivery schedule is being affected for longer."It’s up to the prime minister to explain to Canadians why they won’t be able to get vaccinated for months, while European countries have minimal delays in receiving vaccines," Rempel said."It’s up to him to explain why, based on Friday’s news about vaccine delivery delays, we might be looking at many more months of lockdown — with the lost jobs, time with families, and mental health challenges that accompany them. It’s up to him to find a better path forward."Trudeau said Friday the decision was "out of our hands" but that it would not affect Canada's long-term goal to have every Canadian vaccinated by the end of September.By the fall, Canada is to get a total 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Both use a similar technology to train the human immune system to recognize the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, and mount a defence against it.Both vaccines showed they were more than 94 per cent effective at preventing serious illness after two doses. Health Canada approved Pfizer's vaccine Dec. 9 and Moderna's on Dec. 23. It continue to review two more COVID-19 vaccines, from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, but neither is expected to complete the review process in Canada for at least several more weeks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
A majority of Canadians, New Brunswickers among them, want improved access to psychologists, according to a poll conducted by Nanos. Canadians most frequently report having the most confidence in psychologists when it comes to helping people with mental health problems, but many say access to these professionals is still a problem and they’d like both the private and public sector to help them do that more easily. “COVID-19 has impacted the psychological health of New Brunswickers who were already faced with a shortage of psychologists,” said Mandy McLean, executive director of the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick. "Access to necessary psychological support was difficult before – and the need for the services of licensed psychologists continues to grow." Fifty-eight per cent of New Brunswickers responded that COVID-19 has had a negative or somewhat negative impact on their ability to access mental health care by psychologists. In the public sector, which includes psychologists who work in schools, hospitals and community mental health systems, the shortage is significant, McLean told the Times & Transcript. Of New Brunswick respondents, 46.1 per cent said the amount of time needed for Canadians to get access to psychological services in the publicly-funded health-care system is either unreasonable to somewhat unreasonable. More than 88 per cent of New Brunswickers supported or somewhat supported improving access to psychologists through the publicly-funded health-care system. Many New Brunswickers say the cost of receiving care from a psychologist is influencing their decision to pursue treatment privately. More than 83 per cent said cost was very or somewhat significant in deciding whether to access a psychologist. McLean said some extended workplace health plans are offering benefits for sessions with a psychologist for about $300 a year, which would not provide more than a couple of sessions with a private psychologist. More than 76 per cent of New Brunswickers said providing greater access to psychologists through employer health benefit plans would be a good or very good idea. Access is also about wait times. Long wait times significantly or somewhat significantly were a factor for 76.2 per cent of New Brunswickers in deciding to access a psychologist. Psychologists have nearly a decade of training or more, said McLean, making them unique in their extensive training in how people think, learn and behave. Nearly half of New Brunswickers believe psychologists are effective in diagnosing people living with depression, anxiety, addiction of learning disabilities. Nanos conducted a representative online survey of 3,070 Canadians, drawn from a non-probability panel between Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, 2020. The research was commissioned by the Canadian Psychological Association and the Council of Professional Associations of Psychologists and was conducted by Nanos Research before being compiled into a report. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
The long wait to learn who will represent Alberta at the national curling championships is over. The decision provided some clarity on the wild-card front too. Reigning Alberta champions Laura Walker and Brendan Bottcher will wear provincial colours once again, Curling Alberta announced Monday, 10 days after cancelling its playdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Walker, ranked seventh in Canada, was expected to get the nod for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. However, the selection of the fourth-ranked Bottcher for the Tim Hortons Brier was tougher to predict. Sixth-ranked Kevin Koe and 15th-ranked Jeremy Harty also had a case. Koe didn't play in the last Alberta playdowns since he had a Brier entry as Team Canada, while Harty is the provincial standings leader. "This was an extremely difficult decision for Curling Alberta’s board of directors,” Curling Alberta president Steven Young said in a release. "As a province, we were faced with a unique set of circumstances in unprecedented times. "No one could predict that we would be forced to make a decision like this, which we tried to avoid by pushing hard to host our championships." Koe will instead get one of the two wild-card spots based on the final 2019-20 domestic rankings. Fifth-ranked Mike McEwen of Manitoba gets the other. "My disappointment level really isn't that high," said Team Koe lead Ben Hebert. "If we knew that this was the make-or-break (decision) of whether or not we were going to be in (the Brier), obviously my tune would change. "I'm pretty grateful that we still get to compete regardless and that Curling Canada is putting on this bubble for us." Harty could still be considered for the third wild-card spot in the 18-team Brier field. The national federation will make that decision once all member associations either complete playdowns or name representatives. The Feb. 19-28 Scotties will kick off a run of six straight competitions in a so-called bubble at Calgary's Markin MacPhail Centre. "We're excited to wear the Alberta colours and the Alberta jackets," Walker said. "It's obviously not the same as when we won the honour to go but we definitely feel honoured to have been asked." Also Monday, the New Brunswick Curling Association cancelled its women's playdowns. Reigning champion Andrea Crawford has been invited to represent the province again. The New Brunswick men's tankard, meanwhile, is still on the schedule for Feb. 10-14. Bottcher, the Canadian No. 4, reached the Brier final last year but lost to Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador. The 2021 Brier is set for March 5-14. Ninth-ranked Glenn Howard of Ontario appears to be a good bet for the final wild-card spot, although other teams may be considered. On the women's side, two Alberta skips — No. 5 Chelsea Carey and No. 6 Kelsey Rocque — are ahead of Walker in the women's rankings. But Carey is a free agent and Rocque only has two returning players from last season's team, one short of the required minimum. Manitoba's Tracy Fleury is a wild-card lock at No. 2. The other two women's berths will be filled over the coming weeks. Suzanne Birt is a heavy favourite to win the two-team Prince Edward Island championship at the end of the month, but a loss would move her into a wild-card spot at No. 9. World junior champion Mackenzie Zacharias is in the mix at No. 11 along with fellow Manitoban Beth Peterson at No. 12. It's possible that Rocque and 10th-ranked Robyn Silvernagle of Saskatchewan - who also has two returning members - could be in play for the third wild-card spot. A Curling Canada spokesman said the 3-of-4 rule applies to the first two wild-card teams in each gender, but added that qualifying criteria for the third wild-card team won't be finalized until after all member associations have declared teams. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Residents of Fort Liard describe being worried, nervous and on-edge as the community starts its mandatory 14-day containment order on Monday. The order bans all at-home gatherings of any size, forces schools and non-essential businesses to close and mandates masks in public places. Fifty people are currently isolating in the community of just over 500, but Dr. Kami Kandola said that number could change quickly. 'I'm quite worried' Rose Betthale-Reid found out about the COVID-19 cases through a family member. Many people in the hamlet are related, she said, so news travels fast. She's worried about her siblings, who are all in their 70s, and her 98-year-old mother who is living in Fort Simpson's long-term care home. "I'm quite worried," Betthale-Reid said. "There's a lot of people that I care for." The 67-year-old elder had a hard time understanding the government's containment order, she said, because the notices from the government were only in English. Betthale-Reid ended up calling her grandsons to help her translate the N.W.T.'s request. "What does containment mean? What does order mean?" she asked. She said it's frustrating for Indigenous people who are fluent in their own language to try and understand what the government is saying when it's communicated only in English. Betthale-Reid said the N.W.T. government and the Acho Dene Koe First Nation should make it a priority to distribute information in Dene languages for people like her who don't have access to the internet or who do not keep social media accounts. Late Monday afternoon, Dehcho First Nations chief Gladys Norwegian posted a health advisory in Dene Zhatie on the First Nation's Facebook page. 'It was just a matter of time' Ragu Kanagalingam, the principal of Echo Dene School, started hearing rumours about positive COVID-19 cases first thing Saturday morning — but didn't believe them at first. Then, he got a call from the local health department confirming what was being said around town. "We were all pretty nervous and on edge, but we tried to stay calm, stay positive," Kanagalingam told CBC. "It was just a matter of time ... but we are all prepared." "It was just a matter of time, but we are all prepared." - Ragu Kanagaligam, principal of Echo Dene School For the last 10 months, staff take the temperature of every student in the morning, use hand sanitizer throughout the day and put any students with symptoms in an isolated chamber while they wait for their parents to come pick them up. The school, which works with roughly 120 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 12, issued a statement on Sunday that they will be closing down until further notice. The school is undergoing a deep clean on Monday. However, school won't be interrupted for the students, Kanagalingam said, because staff are putting together learning packages for them to use at home. Parents will be able to pick them up on the road starting Tuesday morning. Teachers will make themselves available from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for students who have questions about the material. Kanagalingam said high school students will start remote learning. Although access to the internet poses a problem for some households in the community, Kanagalingam said they will be supplying students with turbo sticks to connect them to WiFi. Kanagalingam said they are hoping to re-open on Feb. 1, but that will depend on whether the situation is under control by then. "I just hope that everybody stays positive," he said. "If we continue to follow the CPHO's orders ... we'll get through this." Fort Liard First Nation advises members to get vaccinated Boyd Clarke, acting band manager for the Acho Dene Koe First Nation, found out about the COVID-19 cases late Friday night, and got further updates as the situation evolved over the weekend. Clarke said the hamlet is taking the lead on the emergency response. The First Nation set aside $200,000 in emergency funds for the hamlet if they need any help. "We've made a commitment to help the municipality in anything they might require," Clarke said. Clarke said the hamlet has not taken them up on that money, noting the mayor and council have things under control. "[The vaccine] will help to reduce exposure and reduce any further transmission that may be in existence." - Boyd Clarke, acting band manager Acho Dene Koe First Nation Fort Liard Mayor Hillary Deneron refused an interview request Monday. The First Nation will decide how to best help their members once they get more information from the N.W.T. government about the length of the containment order. Clarke reminded members to "remain calm" and to comply with the public health orders of washing hands, wearing masks and not travelling in and out of the community. The First Nation is also advising their members to get vaccinated. There is a vaccination clinic coming to Fort Liard on Thursday, where it will be given to anyone over 18 who wants it. "[The vaccine] will help to reduce exposure and reduce any further transmission that may be in existence," Clarke said. Any updates on the situation will be coordinated through the hamlet's emergency team, and will be re-posted on the First Nation's social media pages and broadcast over the hamlet's local radio station, Clarke said. He reminded residents to seek out trusted news sources or information bulletins from the N.W.T. government for the latest information. Closures in other communities Other communities in the southern N.W.T. are taking preventative measures in response to the COVID-19 cases in Fort Liard. The Town of Fort Smith announced it is closing the town hall and recreation centre in the short term. They will be evaluating the situation on a daily basis. Deninu K'ue First Nation in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., said in a statement they will be putting back up a roadside checkpoint to monitor everyone coming in and out of the community. The First Nation is discouraging all unnecessary travel. The N.W.T. government has not found any risk of exposure to anyone outside of Fort Liard.
Ontario physicians are calling on the province to provide paid sick days for Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and other long-term care home (LTCH) workers in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. There is also a recommendation that government needs to invest more money to improve internet infrastructure in Northern Ontario with the ideaof being able to improve virtual care. These are just a couple of several calls to action by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to fight against the forecasts that say more deaths will be occurring in long-term care homes. The recommendations were provided in a recent teleconference hosted by OMA president Dr. Samantha Hill, who said physicians have been seeing the terrible toll the pandemic is taking on elderly residents in nursing homes. "Our members, Ontario doctors, have been on the first line of the pandemic since the very beginning," said Hill. "We've seen first hand the effects on our patients, our colleagues, our hospitals and people in all settings including long-term care," she added. Hill said the medical community in Ontario has been watching the long-term care situation for several months and she said it was dire and heart-breaking. "Over Christmas some of our members came forth to help in overwhelmed LTCHs and described conditions and situations that are truly inhumane," said Hill. "Right now, we all know more needs to be done quickly," said Hill. "What can we do now for the residents, for the families, and for those who are caring for them?" And while she asked the question, Hill had an answer chambered. She said there are actually five important steps that can be taken immediately by the provincial government to improve the situation in long-term care homes. Hill said this included the following: 1. Increase efforts to vaccinate all long-term care residents and caregivers, including health workers, personal support workers, other staff and relatives who provide physical and mental health support. Hill said in concert with that, the province should continue COVID-19 testing so that public health officials have better real-time information to prevent or manage outbreaks. 2. Cut the red tape preventing physicians from moving rapidly into long-term care homes with outbreaks or other significant needs. The OMA said this would include better valuation of all LTC employees and caregivers to the point that paid sick days would be provided. This means that personal support workers (PSWs) who might be feeling under the weather would not have to make the choice of going to work to earn money for food and rent or stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. The OMA said this also included the need to speed up training of new PSWs including retraining people who lost jobs in other industries because of COVID. 3. Continue the use of virtual care in long-term homes to prevent the spread of the virus and improve access to specialists, in conjunction with in-person care where appropriate, especially in homes with outbreaks and where patients are in declining health. Virtual care also helps LTC residents receive more timely care and limit unnecessary trips to the hospital or community medical clinics, said the OMA document. For Northern Ontario and rural areas, this would mean that an additional financial investment would be required by the government to ensure that there is reliable internet infrastructure so that certain residents can get care by cellphone, by tablet or video device. 4. Appoint a chief medical officer for long-term care for each Ontario Health region to ensure the best quality care is being provided; for example, by coordinating efforts between the acute and long-term care sectors, liaising with Public Health and co-ordinating physician coverage over multiple sites. 5. Shift social attitudes so that caring for frail older adults is considered to be one of the most important jobs in the world. “The situation in our long-term care homes is dire and heartbreaking,” said Dr. Hill. “We appreciate the steps the government has taken and continues to take. But we all know more needs to be done and done quickly.” The OMA said the five recommendations have been forwarded to the Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission with the message that instead of waiting for a final report in April as expected, the premier should consider taking action now. Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order directing U.S agencies to assess any security risks from Chinese-made drones in American government fleets and to prioritize removing them. Trump directed all U.S. agencies to outline the security risks posed to the existing government drone fleet from drones built by Chinese companies or by other countries deemed foreign adversaries, including Russia, Iran and North Korea.
LOS ANGELES — California has become the first state to record more than 3 million known coronavirus infections. That’s according to a tally Monday by Johns Hopkins University. The grim milestone wasn’t entirely unexpected in a state with 40 million residents but its speed was stunning. California only reached 2 million reported cases on Dec. 24. The count is also far ahead of other large states, such as Texas. California also has seen more than 33,600 deaths due to COVID-19. A caseload surge that began last fall has strained hospitals. Although there’s been a slight downward trend, officials warn that could reverse when the full impact from holiday gathering transmissions is felt. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below: California's state epidemiologist is urging a halt to more than 300,000 coronavirus vaccinations using a Moderna vaccine version because some people received medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions. Dr. Erica S. Pan on Sunday recommended providers stop using lot 41L20A of the Moderna vaccine pending completion of an investigation by state officials, Moderna, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the federal Food and Drug Administration. “Out of an extreme abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine, we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory," Pan said in a statement. She said more than 330,000 doses from the lot arrived in California between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12 and were distributed to 287 providers. Fewer than 10 people, who all received the vaccine at the same community site, needed medical attention over a 24-hour period, Pan said. No other similar clusters were found. Pan did not specify the number of cases involved or where they occurred. However, six San Diego health care workers had allergic reactions to vaccines they received at a mass vaccination centre on Jan. 14. The site was temporarily closed and is now using other vaccines, KTGV-TV reported. Moderna in a statement said the company “is unaware of comparable adverse events from other vaccination centres which may have administered vaccines from the same lot.” The CDC has said COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects for a few days that include fever, chills, headache, swelling or tiredness, “which are normal signs that your body is building protection." However, severe reactions are extremely rare. Pan said in a vaccine similar to Moderna, the rate of anaphylaxis — in which an immune system reaction can block breathing and cause blood pressure to drop — was about 1 in 100,000. The announcement came as California counties continue to plead for more COVID-19 vaccine as the state tries to reduce its rate of infection, which has led to record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. California, with a population of 40 million, has shipped about about 3.2 million doses of the vaccine — which requires two doses for full immunization — to local health departments and health care systems, the state's Department of Public Health reported Monday. Only about 1.4 million of those doses, or around 40%, have been administered. So far. the state has vaccinated fewer than 2,500 people per 100,000 residents, a rate that falls well below the national average, according to federal data. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that anyone age 65 and older would be eligible to start receiving the vaccine, Los Angeles County and some others have said they do not have enough doses to vaccinate so many people and are first concentrating on inoculating health care workers and the most vulnerable elderly living in care homes. On Monday, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District sent a letter to state and county public health officials asking for authorization to provide COVID-19 vaccinations at schools for staff, local community members and for students once a vaccine for children has been approved. “Doing so will help reopen schools as soon as possible, and in the safest way possible,” Superintendent Austin Beutner wrote. California is nearing 3 million coronavirus cases and more than 33,600 people have died since the start of the pandemic last year, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The death rate from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County — the nation's most populous and an epicenter of the state pandemic — works out to about one person every six minutes. On Sunday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District suspended some pollution-control limits on the number of cremations for at least 10 days in order to deal with a backlog of bodies at hospitals and funeral homes. “The current rate of death is more than double that of pre-pandemic years," the agency said. On average, California has seen about 500 deaths and 40,000 new cases daily for the past two weeks. Although hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions remained on a slight downward trend, officials have warned that could reverse when the full impact from transmissions during Christmas and New Year’s Eve gatherings is felt. “As case numbers continue to rise in California, the total number of individuals who will have serious outcomes will also increase,” the state health department said in a statement Monday. Adding to concerns, California is experiencing new, possibly more transmissible forms of COVID-19. The state health department announced Sunday that an L452R variant of the virus is increasingly showing up in genetic sequencing of COVID-19 test samples from several counties. The variant was first identified last year in California and in other states and countries but has been identified more frequently since November and in several large outbreaks in Northern California's Santa Clara County, the department said. Overall, the variant has been found in at least a dozen counties. In some places. testing has found the variant in a quarter of the samples sequenced, said Dr. Charles Chiu, a virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California San Francisco. However, not all test samples receive genetic sequencing to identify variants so its frequency wasn't immediately clear. However, health officials said it was linked to a Christmas-time outbreak at Kaiser Permanente San Jose that infected at least 89 staff members and patients, killing a receptionist. The outbreak has been blamed on an employee who visited the hospital emergency room wearing an air-powered inflatable Christmas tree costume. The variant is different from another mutation, B117, that was first reported in the United Kingdom and appears to spread much more easily, although it doesn't appear to make people sicker. That variant has already shown up in San Diego County and Los Angeles County announced over the weekend that it had detected its first case. Robert Jablon, The Associated Press