CEO of Providence Therapeutics Brad Sorenson talks about the company’s clinical trials for a made-in-Canada vaccine and how results could bring new hope for Canada’s vaccine shortage problem.
CEO of Providence Therapeutics Brad Sorenson talks about the company’s clinical trials for a made-in-Canada vaccine and how results could bring new hope for Canada’s vaccine shortage problem.
Chinese officials have signalled that Beijing plans sweeping electoral changes for Hong Kong, possibly as soon as next week, when China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), opens in Beijing. WHAT IS BEIJING PLANNING? Xia Baolong, director of China's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, has said the electoral system in the global financial hub needs to be changed to allow only "patriots" to govern.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker. Israel’s Channel 13, in an unsourced report, said the assessment in Israel is that Iran was behind the blast. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Iranian government did not comment on the blast Friday. The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago. Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago. Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Persian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe. It discharged vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam. While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defence officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents. A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. The U.S. Maritime Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued a warning to commercial shippers early Saturday acknowledging the explosion and urging ships to “exercise caution when transiting” the Gulf of Oman. While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military." As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. In the tense summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes. The U.S. also had attributed a series of other suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. Since the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the scientist's killing. Friday's incident also follows normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, met with scathing criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic. __ Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell And Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
The “Trump-made-me-do-it” defence is already looking like a longshot. Facing damning evidence in the deadly Capitol siege last month — including social media posts flaunting their actions — rioters are arguing in court they were following then-President Donald Trump's instructions on Jan. 6. But the legal strategy has already been shot down by at least one judge and experts believe the argument is not likely to get anyone off the hook for the insurrection where five people died, including a police officer. “This purported defence, if recognized, would undermine the rule of law because then, just like a king or a dictator, the president could dictate what’s illegal and what isn’t in this country," U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said recently in ordering pretrial detention of William Chrestman, a suspected member of the Kansas City-area chapter of the Proud Boys. “And that is not how we operate here.” Chrestman’s attorneys argued in court papers that Trump gave the mob “explicit permission and encouragement” to do what they did, providing those who obeyed him with “a viable defence against criminal liability.” “It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement. Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did,” Chrestman’s lawyers wrote. Trump was acquitted of inciting the insurrection during his second impeachment trial, where Democrats made some of the same arguments defence attorneys are making in criminal court. Some Republican lawmakers have said the better place for the accusations against Trump is in court, too. Meanwhile, prosecutors have brought charges against more than 250 people so far in the attack, including conspiracy, assault, civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding. Authorities have suggested that rare sedition charges could be coming against some. Hundreds of Trump supporters were photographed and videotaped storming the Capitol and scores posted selfies inside the building on social media, so they can’t exactly argue in court they weren’t there. Blaming Trump may be the best defence they have. “What’s the better argument when you’re on videotape prancing around the Capitol with a coat rack in your hand?” said Sam Shamansky, who’s representing Dustin Thompson, an Ohio man accused of stealing a coat rack during the riot. Shamansky said his client would never have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 if Trump hadn’t “summoned him there.” Trump, he added, engaged in a “devious yet effective plot to brainwash” supporters into believing the election was stolen, putting them in the position where they “felt the the need to defend their country at the request of the commander in chief.” “I think it fits perfectly,” he said of the defence. “The more nuanced question is: Who is going to buy it? What kind of jury panel do you need to understand that?” While experts say blaming Trump may not get their clients off the hook, it may help at sentencing when they ask the judge for leniency. “It could likely be considered a mitigating factor that this person genuinely believed they were simply following the instructions of the leader of the United States,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan who's now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. It could also bolster any potential cases against the former president, experts say. “That defence is dead on arrival,” said Bradley Simon, a New York City white-collar criminal defence attorney and former federal prosecutor. “But I do think that these statements by defendants saying that they were led on by Trump causes a problem for him if the Justice Department or the attorney general in D.C. were to start looking at charges against him for incitement of the insurrection.” While the legal bar is high for prosecuting Trump in the Capitol siege, the former president is already facing a lawsuit from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson that accuses him of conspiring with extremist groups to prevent Congress from certifying the election results. And more lawsuits could come. Trump spread baseless claims about the election for weeks and addressed thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House before the Capitol riot, telling them that they had gathered in Washington "to save our democracy." Later, Trump said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” A lawyer for Jacob Chansley, the shirtless man who wore face paint and a hat with horns inside the Capitol, attached a highlighted transcript of the Trump's speech before the riot to a court filing seeking Chansley's release from custody. The defence lawyer, Albert Watkins, said the federal government is sending a “disturbingly chilling message” that Americans will be prosecuted “if they do that which the President asks them to do.” Defence lawyers have employed other strategies without better success. In one case, the judge called a defence attorney’s portrayal of the riots as mere trespassing or civil disobedience both “unpersuasive and detached from reality.” In another, a judge rejected a man’s claim that he was “duped” into joining the anti-government Oath Keepers group and participating in the attack on the Capitol. Other defendants linked to militant groups also have tried to shift blame to Trump in seeking their pretrial release from jail. An attorney for Jessica Watkins said the Oath Keepers member believed local militias would be called into action if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to stay in office. Watkins disavowed the Oath Keepers during a court hearing on Friday, saying she has been “appalled” by fellow members of the far-right militia. “However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government, but to support what she believed to be the lawful government,” her lawyer wrote. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Dominic Pezzola, another suspected Proud Boy, said he “acted out of the delusional belief that he was a ‘patriot’ protecting his country." Defence attorney Jonathan Zucker described Pezzola as “one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President's deception.” “Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence," he wrote. “Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege." Michael Kunzelman And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
The Demon Slayer film, based on a popular manga and TV anime series, has grossed over $350 million at theaters in Japan, despite COVID-19 restrictions, surpassing Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winner "Spirited Away" in just over two months to become the most successful Japanese anime of all time. It was a great storyline, for sure.
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is lauding a new collective agreement between a rural school division and its teachers as a “turning point” in public-sector bargaining in the province. The union, which represents upwards of 16,000 public school teachers in Manitoba, announced Friday members of the Beautiful Plains Teachers’ Association have unanimously voted to ratify a new agreement. The new contract in Beautiful Plains, which encompasses Carberry- and Neepawa-area schools, includes a 1.6 per cent salary increase for 2018-19 and a 1.4 per cent increase for 2019-20. All teachers will then receive a $500 bonus going into the third year. Substitute instructors will also receive a three per cent bump in pay. MTS president James Bedford said Friday the agreement is the first one to be reached in the public sector after Bill 28 was introduced and, more recently, overturned in a court challenge. “It’s a statement that employees and employers can sit down (and) reach a negotiation that’s good for both parties, and that results in what really is inflationary protection,” said Bedford. Introduced in 2017, Bill 28, the Public Services Sustainability Act, seeks to regulate salary increases for public-sector employees over a four-year-period. It proposes a wage freeze for the first two years, followed by an increase of 0.75 per cent and in the final year, a one per cent hike. Last summer, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench overturned the legislation, calling it a “draconian measure” that reduced unions’ bargaining power. The Pallister government is appealing the decision. Meantime, the Beautiful Plains agreement marks the third time in the last year teachers have been awarded increases that counter the legislation. The Beautiful Plains situation suggests divisions don’t need guidance from the province to reach agreements with staff, Bedford added. Earlier this month, the education department informed Manitoba superintendents divisions must now obtain “a bargaining mandate” from cabinet’s public-sector compensation committee prior to engaging in negotiations with both unionized and non-unionized staff. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Class sizes, support staff levels and school instructional budgets in the Pembina Trails School Division could all be affected next year, as the board looks for $7 million in savings in its upcoming budget. The board of trustees unveiled the details of its 2021-22 draft budget at a virtual board meeting Thursday. The trustees discussed financial constraints related to a decrease in provincial funding, growing enrolment, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a recent arbitration award. “There is no way we can avoid reductions in services to our students,” said Kathleen McMillan, chairwoman of the board, in a prepared release published Friday, with details of the draft budget. “With no taxation authority and insufficient funding from the province, we are left in an unfortunate position.” The province has earmarked $62.5 million in 2021-22 operating funding for Pembina Trails, which is the equivalent of a 0.3 per cent decrease. Residents in the division will not see an increase in their property education tax bill. The province has asked all 37 public divisions to freeze the tax and instead will provide grants to divisions to cover the sum equivalent to a two per cent increase. The draft document proposes a balanced budget of $183,156,077. In order to achieve that figure, McMillan said the board is proposing to use its modest surplus and deferring infrastructure needs across the division to minimize the negative impact on student learning. The draft budget suggests an increase in high school class sizes, the elimination of high school teacher librarians and the reduction of such positions in middle years, a decrease in educational assistants and K-8 English Additional Language specialists, and a drop in school instructional budgets. A suspension of the Kindergarten Here We Come program is also on the table for 2021-22. The recommended cuts reflect the fact the division is projecting 335 new students next year, unforeseen COVID-19 costs such as hiring more staff and purchasing 860 webcams for classrooms to support remote teaching, and the recent Pembina Trails Teachers’ Association award, according to the Friday release. The decision challenges the province’s public-sector wage freeze directive, which was overturned in a court challenge last summer. Retroactive and future payments in Pembina Trails are estimated at $12.5 million. Residents can provide feedback on the draft budget via email or sign up to appear as a virtual delegation at a special board meeting scheduled March 4. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) A pub trivia night held earlier this month in Port Moody has now been connected to more than 300 cases of COVID-19, according to health officials. A total of 24 people who attended the Feb. 2 event at the St. James's Well pub have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 as a result, according to the health ministry, and those cases have led to hundreds more in the community. On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the spread has included transmission in a daycare, school, multiple workplaces and within families. "These are the things, the chains of transmission, that we need to stop as soon as we can," she said. According to the province, current public health orders bar pubs and restaurants from holding any events that draw people together, including trivia contests. The pub apologized Thursday in a statement on Facebook. "We are heartbroken by the impact this has had on our workers, customers and the community at large. We are deeply sorry that we failed to honour your trust on this occasion," the statement read. Jeff Guignard, executive director of the B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said it's up to both patrons and business owners to follow the rules. For patrons, that means visiting restaurants and pubs with your immediate household only, and sticking to your own table — absolutely no table-hopping is permitted right now. "Our bargain is to keep the rules in place and yours is that you're going to follow the rules," Guignard told CBC News. "We'll warn you once if you don't follow the rules and then generally we will give you your check and ask you to leave."
The search for the next leader of the BC Liberal party has officially begun. A leadership conference to pick the party’s next leader will be held Feb. 3 to 5, 2022, with the leader chosen on Feb. 5, the BC Liberal Party announced today. “Today is really an opportunity for us to begin that focus on the search for a new leader that will revitalize our party and connect with British Columbians,” said Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond on Feb. 26. The previous party leader, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, stepped down in November after the BC Liberals lost about a third of their seats and the New Democrats picked up a majority government. The BC Greens won two ridings. Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond replaced Wilkinson when she was elected interim Liberal leader by her caucus colleagues on Nov. 23. “We are excited to begin the race for the (permanent) leadership of our party, a process that will help to shape the future of BC politics” said Interim Liberal Party President Don Silversides in a press release. Given the pandemic context, the party decided an 11-month long timeframe would allow the broadest range of candidates as much opportunity as possible to interact with voters, Silversides said. “It gives the party a chance to talk about the things that matter to British Columbia,” said Bond. “We're going to have the opportunity to hear from what I hope will be a broad, diverse range of candidates as we look to renew the party.” Political hopefuls will have until Nov. 31 to register as candidates. All BC Liberal Party members will be eligible to vote in the leadership election, and anyone who isn’t a member who wants to participate has until Dec. 29 to join the party. Bond will stay on as interim leader until a new leader is selected next February. Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
An Alberta court ordered an updated Gladue Report for an Onion Lake Cree Nation woman facing drug trafficking charges in that province. Tamarah Lee Dillon, 27, had court appearances in Alberta and Saskatchewan on charges stemming from separate incidents. She had an appearance on Feb. 24 in Lloydminster Provincial Court for breaching condition of her release. The matter was adjourned to Aug. 4. She had an appearance in St. Paul Provincial Court Feb. 18 on drug trafficking charges. The St. Paul court adjourned her matter until April 8 to allow time for an updated Gladue Report. A Gladue Report is a pre-sentence report typically prepared by Gladue caseworkers at the request of the judge, defense or Crown Prosecutor. By law, judges must consider Gladue factors when sentencing First Nations people. Section 718.2(e) of Canada’s Criminal Code stipulates that judges must clearly address an Aboriginal offender’s circumstances, as well as the systemic and background factors that contributed to those circumstances. Gladue was a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision handed down in1999. In 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Gladue Principle also applies to breaches of long-term supervision orders. The ruling says that failing to take Aboriginal circumstances into account violates the fundamental principle of sentencing. The Gladue Principles also state that restorative justice may be more appropriate for Aboriginal offenders. Restorative justice focuses on healing those affected by the criminal act, including the offender, which is more in line with traditional Aboriginal justice. This restorative justice approach is also meant to act as a solution to reducing the over-representation of Aboriginals in Canadian jails. Dillon was wanted on a Canada-wide arrest warrant in December 2018 for being unlawfully at large. She remains in custody. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
The British Columbia government announced today its controversial Site C dam project will move forward, despite the new price tag of $16 billion — nearly double what was initially projected. The West Moberly First Nations says it will file a lawsuit to stop the project.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 67,201 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,774,599 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,682.409 per 100,000. There were 398,071 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,441,670 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.68 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,827 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 20,285 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.739 per 1,000. There were 7,020 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 33,820 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,485 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 12,176 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.758 per 1,000. There were 1,670 new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.75 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,987 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 32,019 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.81 per 1,000. There were 14,700 new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.66 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were 11,760 new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 13,464 new vaccinations administered for a total of 400,540 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 46.81 per 1,000. There were 28,500 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 537,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.47 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 21,805 new vaccinations administered for a total of 643,765 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.826 per 1,000. There were 220,030 new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.27 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 71,469 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 51.902 per 1,000. There were 6,100 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 108,460 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 4,015 new vaccinations administered for a total of 69,451 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.899 per 1,000. There were 15,210 new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 93.09 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 11,728 new vaccinations administered for a total of 207,300 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.092 per 1,000. There were 69,090 new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.39 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,490 new vaccinations administered for a total of 252,373 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.18 per 1,000. There were 15,491 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 323,340 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 15,174 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 363.615 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 80.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 19 new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,276 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 187.884 per 1,000. There were 8,500 new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
LOS ANGELES — Bruce Meyers was hanging out at Pismo Beach on California's Central Coast one afternoon in 1963 when he saw something that both blew his mind and changed his life: a handful of old, stripped-down cars bouncing across the sand. It sure would be fun to get behind the wheel of one of those, Meyers thought, if only they weren't so ugly and didn't appear so uncomfortable. He built his own solution: a “dune buggy" fashioned out of lightweight fiberglass mounted on four oversized tires with two bug-eyed looking headlights and a blindingly bright paint job. The result would become both an overnight automotive sensation and one of the talismans of California surf culture, especially when he created a space in the back to accommodate a surfboard. He called the vehicle the Meyers Manx and it turned the friendly, soft-spoken Meyers into a revered figure among off-roaders, surfers and car enthusiasts of all types. Meyers died Feb. 19 at his San Diego-area home, his wife, Winnie Meyers, told The Associated Press on Friday. He was 94. Meyers built thousands of dune buggies in his lifetime but he did far more. He designed boats and surfboards, worked as a commercial artist and a lifeguard, travelled the world surfing and sailing, built a trading post in Tahiti and even survived a World War II Japanese kamikaze attack on his Navy aircraft carrier the USS Bunker Hill. “He had a life that nobody else has ever lived,” his wife said with a chuckle. Bruce Franklin Meyers was born March 12, 1926, in Los Angeles, the son of a businessman and mechanic who set up automobile dealerships for his friend Henry Ford. Growing up near such popular Southern California surfing spots as Newport, Hermosa and Manhattan beaches, it was wave riding, not cars, that initially captivated Meyers, who liked to refer to himself as an original beach bum. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy and was aboard the Bunker Hill when it was attacked near Okinawa, Japan, on May 11, 1945. As fire raged aboard the ship, he jumped overboard, at one point handed his life preserver to someone who needed it more, and helped rescue others. Later, his wife said, he returned to the ship and helped remove the bodies of the nearly 400 sailors killed. After the war he served in the Merchant Marine and attended the Chouinard Art Institute, now part of the California Institute of the Arts. He also designed and built boats, learning to shape lightweight but sturdy fiberglass. That experience gave him skills he would put to use in building the first dune buggies. He built his first 12 mainly for himself and friends, and decades later was still driving No. 1, which he named Old Red. He and his friends had fallen in love with surfing the more rugged and less crowded beaches of Mexico's Baja California and they figured a Meyers Manx would be perfect for driving over and around the area's sand dunes. “All I wanted to do was go surfing in Baja when I built the dang thing,” he told broadcaster Huell Howser when he took the host of Public Television's California Gold program for a spin in Old Red in 2001. Those first dozen cars were built without chassis, which hold in place the axels, suspension and other key parts of a vehicle's undercarriage. Not having one made the car lighter but illegal to drive on public roads. Meyers began adding chassis to his models and created kits that people could initially buy for $985 and build their own cars. What really caused sales to take off, though, was when Meyers and friends took Old Red to Mexico in 1967 and won a 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometre) off-road race that took drivers through steep gullies, across soft sand and past other obstacles. Old Red won in record time, shattering the previous mark by more than five hours. “Almost overnight we had 350 orders,” Meyers told The New York Times in 2007. Soon afterward, the road race became officially known as the Mexican 1,000 — since renamed the Baja 1.000 — and when a Meyers-built dune buggy won that one too the orders poured in. In all, B.F. Meyers & Co., built more than 6,000 Meyers Manx dune buggies. Although he trademarked the design, it was easy to borrow from it, and deep-pocketed competitors sold more than 250,000 copycats. The Historic Vehicle Association says the Meyers Manx is the most replicated car in history. Fed up with losing control of his invention, Meyers closed his company in 1971 and went on to other things. At one point, his wife said, he sailed to Tahiti with a wealthy sponsor and built and ran a trading post. He and his wife re-established the car business in 1999, by which time there were dune buggy clubs all over the world. They sold the business to a venture capital firm last year. Asked over the years what it was about the dune buggy that so captivated the public, Meyers said several things played into its success. One was the cars' bright colours and big tires, which gave them almost a cartoonish look. Another was the flat surface of the fenders, which were a perfect place to put a beer. There was also the spot in the back designed for a surfboard. That, he and others noted, captivated people at a time when California surf culture was being glorified in movies and song. The car, with Elvis Presley at the wheel, is featured in the opening credits to the 1968 film “Live a Little, Love a Little.” To this day, children still play with Meyers Manx Hot Wheels. As Road and Track Magazine stated in 1976: “The Manx has to rank as one of the most significant and influential cars of all time. It started more fads, attracted more imitators … and was recognized as a genuine sculpture, a piece of art.” In addition to his wife, Meyers is survived by a daughter, Julie Meyers of Colorado. Two children, Georgia and Tim, preceded him in death. John Rogers, The Associated Press
NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — Saskatchewan's Opposition NDP is calling on the provincial government to help maintain a homeless shelter in North Battleford that is to close April 1 due to lack of funding. Don Windels, executive director of Lighthouse Supported Living, says 22 full and part-time staff at The Lighthouse emergency facility have received layoff notices. He says the shelter has space for 37 people and will try to find new housing for them. Windels says the shelter depended on around $500,000 in core funding from the Provincial Metis Housing Corporation and says it costs about $800,000 per year to operate. He says the corporation wants to focus on housing in the north and believes shelters should be the province's responsibility. In a news release, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called on Premier Scott Moe to ensure funding is in place to keep The Lighthouse shelter open in North Battleford. "Saskatchewan is in the midst of two public health crises. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the overdose crisis that is taking a brutal toll in lives across our province," Meili said Friday. "It is unacceptable that the Sask. Party government would allow the crucial work the North Battleford Lighthouse does in service of the most vulnerable to be shut down due to lack of funding." The Ministry of Social Services said it increased provincial funding to the shelter last April and in November to help offset extra COVID-19 related services. The ministry said it has met with Lighthouse staff to discuss the shelter's loss of federal funding and had meetings with Indigenous Services Canada to determine what other money might be available. "We continue to work with the North Battleford Lighthouse emergency shelter and other partners in the community to support income assistance clients," the ministry said in an email. "We are also continuing to provide income assistance benefits for per diems to emergency shelter for individuals in need.” (CTV, The Canadian Press) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
(Robert Short/CBC - image credit) One of Nova Scotia's largest nursing-home operators is urging the province to bring COVID-19 vaccination clinics into retirement living centres. Only seniors in licensed long-term care homes in the province can get vaccinated on site. The thousands of seniors living in independent or community settings like the Parkland complex in Halifax, owned by Shannex, must go to public clinics. "For the health and safety of our residents, it is our hope that as vaccine supply increases, we can assist in the vaccine rollout by holding on-site vaccination clinics in our retirement living communities," said Katherine Van Buskirk, Shannex's director of communications and community affairs. She said many residents can't travel independently to a public clinic. "Retirement living residents are at risk of COVID-19 because they live in close proximity to other seniors and receive care and services provided by a workforce that lives in the larger community," Van Buskirk told CBC News in a statement. Only Nova Scotia seniors in licensed long-term care homes are getting vaccinated on site. Shannex has 17 long-term care homes in Nova Scotia that are licensed by the Department of Health and Wellness. Its Parkland Retirement Living division has seven locations in Nova Scotia. The average age of seniors who lives at Parkland is 80. Many seniors living 'fairly independently,' says Strang Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said Public Health officials are aware of the issue and are looking at how best to accommodate those seniors. "Many of these people, they're still living fairly independently and they do have themselves or family that can get around on a frequent basis already. And so coming to a vaccine clinic is not necessarily that much of a challenge," he told CBC News on Friday. This week, Nova Scotia opened a vaccination clinic at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, where 500 seniors over the age of 80 were vaccinated. They were chosen by a random draw. The province will hold more clinics across the province for that age group next month. Strang said Nova Scotia has a limited supply of vaccines and lacks the resources to open more clinics. Parkland GM says on-site clinics safer, more convenient Earlier this month, Parkland general manager Jennifer Shannon wrote to residents and their families, encouraging anyone with concerns to contact their MLA. Shannon followed up this week, telling residents and families that Shannex continues to advocate for on-site clinics. "This is a more convenient and safer solution for residents," she wrote. Strang said Friday that the public clinics are safe. He said he visited the IWK clinic and people were physically distancing, wearing masks and taking other precautions. "We have infection-control practitioners at the hospital that have provided guidance about how to have the right level of infection control as people come into these clinics," he said. "So I'm very comfortable that these clinics are actually very safe." MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is telling California's Santa Clara County that it can't enforce a ban on indoor religious worship services put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. The high court issued an order Friday evening in a case brought by a handful of churches. The justices, in early February, told the state of California that it can't bar indoor church services because of the pandemic. The justices said at the time that the state could cap indoor services at 25% of a building’s capacity and continue to bar singing and chanting. But Santa Clara had argued that its temporary ban on indoor gatherings of any kind including worship services should be allowed to stand. The county, which includes San Jose, said that it was treating houses of worship no differently from other indoor spaces where it prohibits gatherings and caps attendance. The county said people could go into houses of worship to pray or go to confession, among other things, but couldn't gather with groups of others. The county said the same was true of retail establishments, where shoppers can go but not gather for an event such as a book reading. The justices' unsigned order Friday said that their action was “clearly dictated” by their order from earlier this month. The court's three liberal justices dissented. Santa Clara had told the court in a letter Thursday that coronavirus cases in the county have recently continued to decline and that it was already close to lifting its ban on indoor gatherings. If the data continued the positive trend, the letter said, the county expected to allow all indoor gatherings, subject to restrictions, as soon as next Wednesday. The Associated Press
The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce joined many in its network in urging the provincial government to address key economic points of pain on Friday. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with its network of local chambers across the province, released its pre-budget submission to the provincial government. The submission released ahead of Ontario's 2021 budget focuses on three themes: Recovery, growth and modernization. A major part of the submission calls on the government to offer relief to small businesses and municipalities that lasts beyond a short-term timeline. "We want to hear recovery; we don't want band-aids anymore," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. "We want to continue to make sure that small businesses and small-medium sized businesses are very well taken care of," added Kirkland. "We want to see everybody recover and we need the support of our government officials in order to do that." Targeted funding towards the hardest-hit sectors is established as a key request early in the submission to the government. "The number one affected industry by COVID-19 is tourism," said Kirkland. She added that is one reason why the pandemic has hit the areas of Gananoque and the Thousand Islands hard, as they rely on tourism through boaters and summer travellers for a portion of revenue. The submission acts as a messaging piece for chambers and districts across the province, bringing in a large variety of recommendations and requests. Population areas as large as Toronto to smaller towns like Gananoque are represented. "With Ontario's economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact," said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians," added Rossi. Recommendations under the growth section that would directly support the area include accelerating broadband expansion and supporting farmers and producers with online sales. "We need to not only support tourism but also the agriculture sector as well," said Kirkland. Under the recovery section of the submission, the OCC also argues that the government must minimize the economic impacts of business closures. One of the methods the chambers are asking for beyond physical distancing is through testing. Prioritizing rapid testing and contact tracing would facilitate more targeted decisions regarding business restrictions. Kirkland also said that better distribution of the vaccine would greatly help businesses. "We need a solid plan moving forward to get out to a post-COVID environment," said Kirkland. Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s office confirmed that the provincial budget will be presented no later than March 31, but no exact date has been announced. With regards to the OCC submission, ministry spokesman Scott Blodgett said: "The Ministry of Finance does not speculate as to what may or may not be in the forthcoming budget." Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska Native corporation said it was unable to meet a deadline for aerial surveys of polar bear dens in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because a federal agency did not issue the necessary authorization in a timely manner. The Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. also took issue with what it calls a “blatant mischaracterization” of what happened and says it is owed an apology. On Saturday, Melissa Schwartz, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Interior, said the corporation had confirmed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials that den detection surveys had not been conducted by a Feb. 13 deadline. The corporation was told “their request is no longer actionable, and the Service does not intend to issue or deny the authorization,” she said. Her comments echoed those of Regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Gregory Siekaniec in a letter to corporation President Matthew Rexford a day earlier. The corporation had sought authorization from the agency for activities that could disturb polar bears as part of a broader proposal to conduct what are known as seismic surveys to search for oil and gas deposits within the refuge’s coastal plain. In December, the Fish and Wildlife Service released for comment a proposed authorization that would allow for “incidental harassment” of polar bears in the coastal plain during a set period for seismic work. More than 6 million comments were received, according to Siekaniec. In his letter, Siekaniec said the agency was unable to review and consider all the comments and “make appropriate refinements” to the proposed authorization and supporting documents before a "key milestone” in the corporation's request, noting the Feb. 13 deadline. Rexford, in a response to the regional director, said the corporation had gotten conflicting messages on the status of that review. He said that the agency had failed his corporation and community. Kaktovik is on the northern edge of the refuge, on the Beaufort Sea coast. He told The Associated Press the corporation is evaluating its next steps. Schwartz on Friday declined comment beyond her previous statement. President Joe Biden’s administration last month announced plans for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the region considered sacred by the Indigenous Gwich’in. The Interior Department says none of the lands proposed for seismic survey activity are within the area that has been leased. Pending lawsuits have challenged the adequacy of the environmental review process undertaken by the Trump administration. Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The Ontario government's switch to a centralized procurement system stalled the replenishment of the province's stockpile of personal protective equipment in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, an independent commission heard this week. Health Minister Christine Elliott told the commission examining the crisis's impact on long-term care that the government expected its supply of PPE to be restocked, and that she was not aware at the time that the process had been held up by the change. The commission has heard that much of Ontario's supply of PPE was destroyed by December 2019 because it had expired. The panel's co-counsel, John Callaghan, said previous testimony indicated only 10 per cent remained by then, most of which was meant to deal with Ebola rather than a disease like the novel coronavirus. "You never went to cabinet, you never went to anyone to suggest that the safety of Ontarians would require us to have a stockpile in the face of a pandemic? You never went and made that suggestion?" Callaghan asked the minister. Elliott replied it wasn't necessary to do so because "there was an expectation that it would be replenished." "And that is what we were doing, (we are) in the process of doing. But I was not aware that it had been slowed up by the central procurement. I anticipated that it was happening, but I did not know that it had been held up by that." COVID-19 has devastated Ontario's long-term care system, causing the deaths of 3,743 residents and 11 staff members so far. The commission is set to present a report on April 30 that will include recommendations aimed at preventing similar outcomes in the future. Callaghan pressed the minister on whether the provincial government should bear responsibility if the commission finds Ontario's lack of PPE early in the pandemic led to deaths in the long-term care system. He noted the commission has heard many long-term care homes did not have the required stockpile of PPE when the health crisis began. "The loss of life here is tragic. And is something that I think everyone in government feels some level of responsibility for," Elliott replied. "But certainly I knew that there were inspections that were going on in long-term care homes. I would have expected that checking to make sure that they had a supply of PPE would have been something that the inspectors would have checked upon." Asked whether maintaining an appropriate stockpile of PPE should be legislatively mandated for the province and long-term care homes, Elliott said she didn't believe it necessary, noting homes are already required to do so. Deputy health minister Helen Angus, who testified alongside Elliott, said it would be helpful to outline the requirements for homes "in more detail going forward," before looking at the mechanism to "compel and enforce it." Elliott also defended the government's decision last summer to give COVID-19 tests to anyone who wanted one, which the commission has heard went against the recommendations of several scientists advising the government, particularly in light of the strained lab capacity and the need to monitor cases in long-term care. "Looking back, it would have been because of the increase in community transmission and the need to locate where that was coming from and to understand better what was happening in communities," she told the commission. Callaghan noted scientists have testified they advised the province that would not be an effective strategy. "In fact, you are going to delay the responses from the tests because you are going to have so many of them that are unnecessary," he said. He also asked why Ontario had not run any pandemic simulations before COVID-19 that likely would have flagged its lack of lab capacity in the face of a surge in testing. Angus acknowledged the delays in processing tests "at times obviously were unacceptable" but stressed the issue stemmed from the absence of an integrated lab system and that the province quickly moved to fix the problem and ramp up its daily testing capacity. The commission's hearings aren't open to the public but transcripts are posted online, typically days later. The minister and deputy minister testified Wednesday and the transcript was released Friday evening. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation has continued on a downward trend in the number of daily coronavirus cases. Tribal health officials on Friday reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. The latest numbers bring the total to 29,710 cases since the pandemic began. The death toll is 1,165. A curfew remains in effect for residents on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to prevent the spread of the virus. Health facilities on the reservation and in border towns are conducting drive-thru vaccine events or administering doses by appointment. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: Vaccination passports may open society, but at cost of inequity. Canada regulators have approved AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. Japan is partly ending pandemic emergency, keeps it for Tokyo. Third US vaccine option expected in Johnson & Johnson shot; raises the question: Which shots are best? ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported another new 405 cases of the coronavirus as it began vaccinating tens of thousands of workers at frontline hospitals in the second day of its mass immunization program. The daily increase reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the national caseload to 89,321, including 1,595 deaths. Most of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which was hit hardest by a devastating winter surge that erased months of hard-won epidemiological gain and sparked public criticism about the country’s vaccine rollout that has been slower than many nations in the West. The government had insisted it could maintain a wait-and-see approach as its outbreak still wasn’t as dire as in the United States or Europe. The KCDC said 18,489 residents and workers at long-term care facilities received their first injections of two dose vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University during the first day of public vaccinations on Friday. ___ RENO, Nev. — The average number of new daily cases reported in Nevada over the past two weeks has fallen to its lowest level since mid-September and dropped by nearly 90% since a peak of more than 2,700 a day in mid-December. The 314 new daily cases reported on average over the previous 14 days is the lowest since an average of 312 were reported on Sept. 16, state health officials said Friday. That’s down from a peak of 2,716 reported on Dec. 11. The daily average dropped below 2,000 in mid-January and has steadily declined ever since. The state’s positivity rate also has dropped to 8.3%, the lowest since 8.2% on Oct. 19. The rate is based on a 14-day rolling average with a seven-day lag. It peaked at 21.6% on Jan. 13. ___ DENVER -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says anyone 60 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus beginning March 5 followed by those 50 and older toward the end of the month. The governor said Friday the state has already administered nearly 883,000 first doses of the vaccine and more than 423,000 second doses. An increase in vaccine supply is expected in the coming weeks as pharmaceutical companies ramp up production. More than 424,000 people in the state have tested positive and nearly 6,000 have died from the virus since it started its rapid spread last spring, and Polis warned Friday to stay vigilant. ___ BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday that Connecticut still has “a long way to go” to improve COVID-19 vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic residents, as new data show whites are getting inoculated at higher rates. Lamont appeared with Black clergy members at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport to try to convince people the vaccines are safe and effective. Several church leaders received vaccinations Friday. “We have a long way to go,” the Democratic governor said. “We’re doing better than we did two weeks ago, but not good enough.” New data released by the state Thursday shows 39% of white state residents ages 65 and older have received the first of two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, compared with 21% of Black residents and 27% of Hispanic citizens 65 and older. ___ SACRAMENTO, Calif: Gov. Gavin Newsom expects California to start administering the new Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine next week. At a Fresno news conference Friday, Newsom said the Biden administration plans to send California more than 1.1 million of the single-dose shots in the next three weeks. The vaccine, still in the final federal approval process, has fewer handling restrictions than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now being used. Those vaccines require two doses to be fully effective and must be stored at extremely low temperatures. Addition of the J&J vaccine would come as California is seeing dramatic drops in virus cases and hospitalizations after record highs in early January. ___ ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- In an unusual example of the effectiveness of social distancing, residents of a Southeast Alaska fishing community have so far escaped the coronavirus pandemic without any infections. Alaska Public Media reports that the town of Pelican is one of the Alaska communities that has avoided the illness by remaining isolated. Pelican can only be reached by bush plane or boat. The community has no recorded cases of COVID-19 and has vaccinated more than half of its adults. Interviews and social media posts indicate there are at least 10 virus-free communities statewide. ___ UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable the unhindered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination of millions of people in conflict areas. The British-drafted resolution, cosponsored by 112 countries, reiterated the council’s demand last July 1 for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts on the Security Council agenda from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia. It expressed concern that an appeal for cease-fires in all conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which was first made by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, “was not fully heeded.” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the current council president, announced the result of the email vote because the council has been meeting virtually, saying the resolution “will help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict areas or displaced by conflict.” ___ NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans’ mayor says coronavirus pandemic restrictions are being relaxed, starting Friday. Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office says the past 30 days have shown a sustained decrease in case counts, transmission rate, and positivity rate. The statement says groups of up to 75 may gather indoors and 150 outdoors. Restaurants, bars and other businesses can seat up to 15 people at a table. Indoor stadiums may admit up to 15% of the maximum number of fans usually allowed, with outdoor stadiums admitting up to 25%. New Orleans’ changes bring city guidelines closer to the state’s, the city says. New Orleans has averaged around 50 new cases a day with less than 2% of tests indicating infection. Case counts in January averaged more than 170 a day. There were 679 people hospitalized statewide on Thursday, compared to more than 2,000 in January. ___ PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown says all Oregonians who are 16 and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations no later than July 1. Health officials say people who are 45 to 64 with underlying health conditions will be eligible starting March 29. Brown says the next round of vaccine distribution will occur in multiple waves. Currently people who are eligible for vaccine are healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities, educators, seniors 70 and older and adults in custody. On Monday, people who are 65 or older will be eligible for the vaccine. The Vaccine Advisory Committee has stated one of their goals is to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to minority communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Last week health officials reported significant disparities. White people represent 75% of Oregonians. While they only comprise about 48% of coronavirus cases, they account for 74% of vaccinations. ___ MADRID — Spain’s health authorities say people under 55 who have had a coronavirus infection will only receive one of the two doses of a vaccine six months after their recovery. Spain has fully vaccinated nursing home residents, their caretakers and frontline health workers, a total of 1.2 million of its 47 million residents. Additionally, 2.4 million have received at least one shot. Vaccination efforts are currently focused on those over 80 and police. The new update to the country’s vaccination guidelines released Friday also state the next group to receive the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots will be people older than 60. AstraZeneca will be administered to those ages 45 to 55. With 8,341 new coronavirus infections and 329 deaths for the coronavirus confirmed Friday, Spain’s pandemic tally rose to nearly 3.2 million cases and more than 69,000 deaths. ___ GENEVA — The U.N. health agency chief is calling on member states of the World Trade Organization to authorize the lifting of intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines for wider use. World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “We can’t beat COVID without vaccine equity. The sharing problem can be addressed effectively if production is increased -- and to increase production, there are trade barriers or other barriers: That has to be addressed.” South Africa and India in October presented a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on vaccines. Rich countries with big pharmaceutical industries including Britain, Switzerland and the United States have resisted or raised questions about the proposal, which would need consensus under WTO rules. ___ DETROIT — A Whole Foods Market store in Detroit is receiving rapid COVID-19 testing for all its 196 employees after 23 tested positive for the coronavirus. Chief Detroit public health officer Denise Fair says the outbreak hit the store in the city’s Midtown. She says has made a commitment that no workers or close contacts of any employee who has tested positive will be allowed back to work until they have produced a negative test result. Whole Foods Market says it is “diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities.” Mayor Mike Duggan announced this month that food service workers, including grocery store workers who live or work in Detroit, are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. ___ COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s largest hospice provider is partnering with state health officials to pilot an effort to vaccinate eligible residents who rarely, if ever, leave their homes. Agape Care and the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced they’ll launch the pilot program in Hampton and Jasper counties, largely rural areas at the southern tip of the state. After scheduling and receiving a Moderna shot, the nurse will return 28 days later to administer the second shot. If a live-in caregiver is also eligible, he or she can get vaccinated, too. ___ WASHINGTON — The Biden administration and major U.S. business organizations are launching a joint educational campaign to reinforce basic COVID-19 do’s and don’ts with their customers and employees. White House coronavirus senior adviser Andy Slavitt says it’s part of an effort to get the whole country working together to contain the virus and encourage Americans to get vaccinated. The strategy has three parts. First, requiring masking and social distancing on business premises. That’s already the case in nearly all supermarkets, drug stores, offices and other types of commercial establishments. But masking is not always adhered to in some smaller workplaces. Second, removing roadblocks to get employees vaccinated. Businesses could use flexible scheduling and paid time off to encourage workers to get their shots. Finally, using business platforms like websites and some products to echo public health advice about getting vaccinated and wearing masks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and leading associations of minority-owned businesses are participating in the effort. ___ LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas is lifting most of its coronavirus safety restrictions, except for the state’s mask mandate. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the decision as he extended the public health emergency he declared last year because of the pandemic. Hutchinson is extending the order until the end of March. The rules being lifted include capacity limits for restaurant, bars, gyms and large venues. Hutchinson has faced pushback from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature over the virus safety rules. Hutchinson says the mask mandate will be lifted at the end of March if the state’s positivity rate is below 10%, with at least 7,500 tests on an average daily basis. If the state has fewer tests, the mandate would end if hospitalizations are below 750 patients. On Thursday, Arkansas had a test positivity rate of about 10% and reported 522 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19. ___ WASHINGTON — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm that recent gains against the coronavirus may be stalling. Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the CDC is looking at data that COVID-19 cases have been increasing the past three days, but more time is needed to see if that is a blip or the start of a trend. Walensky spoke at the White House coronavirus briefing Friday, noting virus mutations spreading in the U.S. are among the CDC’s biggest concerns. Along with a more transmissible strain first detected in Britain, scientists here are tracking variants in New York and California, which also appear to spread more easily. “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” says Walensky, stressing now is not the time to relax protective measures like wearing masks and avoiding gatherings. Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since the January peak that followed the winter holidays. Deaths have also declined. But Walensky says those gains could be in jeopardy because the background level of cases is still too high. ___ PARIS — French authorities have ordered a local weekend lockdown starting on Friday evening in the French Riviera city of Nice and the surrounding coastal area to try to curb the spread of the virus. Nice reported this week a rate of almost 800 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people, nearly four times the national average. The measure comes in addition to a national 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The northern port of Dunkirk is under similar restrictions. In both places, numbers of infections have spiked and hospitals are overwhelmed, with some patients being transferred to other French regions. Nice mayor Christian Estrosi announced the ban on the beaches and the famous Promenade des Anglais esplanade to ensure the restrictions will be fully respected. The weekend lockdown also includes nearby coastal towns of Cannes and Antibes. The Associated Press
(Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel - image credit) A group of Edmonton medical staff are calling on the province to delay plans to move forward with further relaxation of COVID-19 measures. The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMA) released a letter Friday saying that instead of moving to Step 2 of its reopening plan, the Alberta government should close bars and restaurants to indoor service or, at least, institute capacity limits. Dr. James Talbot, co-chair of EZMA's pandemic committee, worries that the province is getting ahead of itself. "You're virtually guaranteeing that you are going to miss the signal," Talbot said. "They should be waiting longer if they are going to use hospitalizations [as a lagging indicator] and in fact they should be using active cases." Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer, said the province would not make a decision to further restrictions until Monday at the earliest. After a steady decline since December, Alberta's daily new cases and test positivity rate have plateaued and showed signs of trending upward since the province entered Step 1 on Feb. 8, which included reopening bars and restaurants for in-person service. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Friday that the last week's worth of data still needs to be reviewed, but he wasn't anticipating a need to delay Step 2. He said the data will be reviewed by government and public health officials on Monday before an official decision is made. Talbot worries that opening banquet halls and conference centres — both a target for eased restrictions under the province's next step — could lead to so-called super-spreader events. Further easing of indoor fitness guidelines is a concern for Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury, a critical care doctor at the University of Albeta Hospital. "It scares me when places where you get a lot of people together, where it's hard to control everybody's behaviour [start to reopen]," Chowdhury said. "That's always a risk." Co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, Dr. James Talbot, would like the province to hold off on Step 2 of the reopening plan. He advises that mask wearing and physical distancing measures should be strictly adhered to at gyms and any indoor space. Otherwise, Dr. Chowdhury is cautiously optimistic to move forward with Step 2. "We're not out of the woods by any means, I hope nobody thinks that … as long as [the province] is paying attention to the numbers, I think we're going to be OK." Chowdhury said he was feeling burned out around the holidays but the pressures have eased slightly on frontline staff. He said they have been able to return to normal staffing levels on most units. "I think it will be a huge hit to morale if we see cases come up again," he said. "I don't think anyone really wants to go through, or is prepared to go through, what we may have gone through at Christmas time. We're hoping now we can just tread water until this thing at least dissipates." As of Friday's update from Alberta Health, there were 269 people in hospital, including 55 in ICU. The province said it would consider each step of eased restrictions based on hospitalization benchmarks, with the mark for Step 2 set at less than 450 hospitalizations.