The Manitoba government plans to buy some COVID-19 vaccines without going through the federal government. The province has struck a deal with a manufacturer who has started clinical trials.
The Manitoba government plans to buy some COVID-19 vaccines without going through the federal government. The province has struck a deal with a manufacturer who has started clinical trials.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
LOS ANGELES — Catherine Zeta-Jones was already a fan of “Prodigal Son,” so when the chance came to join the show, she jumped, lured by the prospect of working alongside Michael Sheen. The Welsh actors were born in cities about an hour apart and moved in similar circles during their youth without ever knowing each other. She was born in Swansea and Sheen was born in Newport seven months apart. “We have all these mutual friends, but we’ve never crossed. My mom and dad know his dad,” she said Tuesday in a virtual Television Critics Association panel. “It’s bizarre. That was, of course, a huge pull for me.” Zeta-Jones joins Fox’s “Prodigal Son” in Tuesday's episode, directed by co-star Lou Diamond Phillips. Previously, the Oscar winner had done guest episodes and appeared in TV movies and miniseries, but never a regular series role. She plays Dr. Vivian Capshaw and Alan Cumming appears in two episodes as a cocky Europol agent. “It’s a family drama with a twist of danger and it’s a dark family,” Zeta-Jones said. “I gravitate to kind of dark material.” Sheen’s presence increased the comfort level for Zeta-Jones to come onto a set where the cast and crew had already been together for a season. He plays an incarcerated serial killer surgeon. “As soon as Lou shouted, ‘Cut,’ Michael and I went into inside jokes, Tommy Cooper impressions,” she said, referring to the British comedian. Phillips said, “She came like a team player, she came to play. It was seamless.” Zeta-Jones told her agent she wanted to join the show on the same day she was watching “The View” talk show. “Whoopi Goldberg just randomly gives it this incredible kind of thumbs up and I’m like, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m talking about,’” she said. “That was like a stamp of approval that came from nowhere.” The show’s second season is currently airing on Fox, and the first season began streaming Tuesday on HBO Max. Beth Harris, The Associated Press
LYON, France — Canada's Eugenie Bouchard lost 7-6 (7), 6-2 to Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus in the opening round of the Lyon Open on Tuesday. Bouchard, given a wild-card entry into the event, was broken six times against the 96th-ranked Sasnovich at the WTA Tour 250 event. The 143rd-ranked Bouchard, from Westmount, Que, was playing in her first main draw of the year after failing to qualify for the Australian Open. In doubles play, Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Anna Blinkova of Russia beat Lucie Hradecka and Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-4, 11-9 to advance to the quarterfinals. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Texas on Tuesday became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the U.S. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials not to let down their guard yet. The state will also do away with limits on the number of diners who can be served indoors, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. The governors of Michigan and Louisiana likewise eased up on bars, restaurants and other businesses Tuesday, as did the mayor of San Francisco. “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed." A year into the outbreak, politicians and ordinary Americans alike have grown tired of rules meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed over a half-million people in the United States. Some places are lifting infection control measures; in other places, people are ignoring them. Top health officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have responded by begging people repeatedly not to risk another deadly wave of contagion just when the nation is making progress in vaccinating people and victory over the pandemic is in sight. U.S. cases have plunged more than 70% over the past two months from an average of nearly 250,000 new infections a day, while average deaths per day have plummeted about 40% since mid-January. But the two curves have levelled off abruptly in the past several days and have even risen slightly, and the numbers are still running at alarmingly high levels, with an average of about 2,000 deaths and 68,000 cases per day. Health officials are increasingly worried about virus mutations. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday. Even so, many states are allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining, reopening movie theatres and expanding mass gatherings, while Americans are eager to socialize again. An Indianapolis-area bar was filled with maskless patrons over the weekend. In Southern California, people waited in lines that snaked through a parking lot on a recent weekday afternoon for the chance to shop and eat at Downtown Disney, part of the Disneyland. (The theme park's rides remain closed.) And Florida is getting ready to welcome students on spring break. “People want to stay safe, but at the same time, the fatigue has hit,” said Ryan Luke, who is organizing a weekend rally in Eagle, Idaho, to encourage people to patronize businesses that don’t require masks. "We just want to live a quasi-normal life.” Miichael Junge argued against a mask mandate when officials in the Missouri tourist town of Branson passed one and said he hasn’t enforced it in his Lost Boys Barber Company. He said he is sick of it. “I think the whole thing is a joke honestly,” he said. “They originally said that this was going to go for a month and they have pushed it out to indefinitely. ... It should have been done a long time ago.” In San Francisco, and upbeat Mayor London Breed announced that California gave the green light to indoor dining and the reopening of of movie theatres and gyms. Florida is getting ready for spring break travellers to flock to its sunny beaches. The state is considered to be in an “active outbreak,” along with Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina, according to the data-tracking website CovidActNow. Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis made it clear during his annual State of the State speech Tuesday that he welcomes more visitors to Florida in his drive to keep the state’s economy thriving. Municipalities can impose their own mask rules and curfews, restrict beach access and place some limits on bars and restaurants, but some have virtually no such measures in place ahead of the season. Miami Beach will require masks both indoors and out and will restrict the number of people allowed on the beach as well as in bars and restaurants. “If you want to party without restrictions, then go somewhere else. Go to Vegas,” Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila said during a recent virtual meeting. “We will be taking a zero-tolerance attitude towards that behaviour.” In Michigan, a group called All Business Is Essential has resisted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s virus policies, and many people are abandoning mask requirements and other measures, said group leader Erik Kiilunen. “At some point you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Do I want a zero-risk life?’” he said. “It’s become a farce, really. People have quit living for a year, at what price?” “I think everybody wants things to get back the way they were,” said Aubrey D. Jenkins, the fire chief in Columbia, South Carolina, whose department issues dozens of $100 citations every weekend to bar-goers who refuse to wear masks or keep their distance. “But we still have to be real cautious.” ___ Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahasee, Florida; Anila Yoganathan in Tucker, Georgia; John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Paul J. Webber in Austin, Texas; Janie Har in San Francisco; and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this story. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Nearly a decade ago, the United States was touting Myanmar as an American success story. The Obama administration reveled in the restoration of civilian rule in the longtime U.S. pariah as a top foreign policy achievement and a potential model for engaging with other adversaries, such as Iran and Cuba. But today, Myanmar is once again an international outcast, facing a new wave of U.S. sanctions. A coup has returned the military to power and pro-democracy activists, reform advocates and journalists have been attacked and detained in a brutal crackdown. The collapse is not America’s fault, to be sure, but it follows inconsistent efforts to nudge the Southeast Asian nation further toward democracy, enthusiasm for which was diminished by a systematic campaign of repression against Muslim minorities in the country's north. After years of robust diplomacy with Myanmar under President Barack Obama focused mainly on then-opposition leader and now jailed State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Trump administration adopted a largely hands-off policy. It focused primarily on Myanmar’s strategic importance in the competition between the United States and China for influence in the region. Myanmar has become a reminder that, for all the hopefulness and anticipation of Obama administration officials – many of whom now serve in the Biden administration – there are limits to America’s ability to shape developments in another nation, particularly one so reclusive and far away. The restoration of civilian rule after six decades of dictatorship was at least partially the fruit of one of the Obama administration’s earliest attempts to reach out to a country long denounced by the U.S. Overtures to Iran and Cuba would come later, buoyed in part by what appeared to be success in Myanmar. Sanctions were eased, diplomatic representation bolstered and aid was increased. Obama made two trips to Myanmar, also known as Burma, as president and his two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, each visited the country twice themselves. Clinton’s visit in 2011 was the first by a U.S. secretary of state since 1955.. She met with Suu Kyi at the lakeside home where the opposition leader had been held under house arrest for years, Just six years earlier, President George W. Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had branded Myanmar as one of six “outposts of tyranny” for the military’s refusal to brook dissent and rejection of democratic elections. And, in 2007, as world leaders gathered at the annual United Nations General Assembly, a crackdown on Buddhist monk-led protests, the so-called “Saffron Revolution,” attracted widespread concern and international condemnation, including high-profile repudiations from Rice and then-first lady Laura Bush. Thus, the opening initiated by Obama and Clinton in 2010 augured what many hoped would be a new beginning for Myanmar, whose military leaders were then ostensibly concerned about being overly reliant on China for trade and security. There was initial enthusiasm over the thaw, over Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi’s elevation to a leadership role despite being barred from running for office, and over Myanmar’s steady but hesitant opening of its once cloistered country. But that soon faded, most notably over the government’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims, who became the target of a ruthless campaign of repression and abuse. Repeated entreaties to Suu Kyi, who was appointed State Councilor after her National League for Democracy won 60% of the vote, and others on behalf of the Rohingya and other minorities went unheeded. Still, the Obama administration continued to have faith in her. “Proud of my friend Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma for never giving up in the long struggle to bring change to their country,” Clinton said in 2015, after having devoted an entire chapter of her 2014 memoir “Hard Choices” to the Obama administration’s policies toward the nation. Despite Kerry’s two trips to Myanmar, the administration became rapidly consumed with the Iran nuclear deal and normalization of ties with Cuba. At the same time, it was pursuing an ill-fated effort to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. So Myanmar’s halting and imperfect democratization was left largely untended by officials in Washington. When President Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration made no secret of the fact that it was focused less on bilateral ties than in concentrating on a broader effort to blunt China’s growing regional influence. In November 2017, Trump’s first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, made that administration’s only high-level visit to the country and on his return declared that the military-backed violence against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state amounted to “ethnic cleansing.” Sanctions on the country’s top military leaders followed the next month. But since then, U.S. attention to Myanmar has been sporadic, dominated primarily by public expressions of disappointment in Suu Kyi, who defended the military crackdown in Rakhine and opposed efforts to initiate and international investigation into it. Stirrings of the Feb. 1 coup, coming as those elected in November 2020 elections won by Suu Kyi’s party were to take their seats in parliament, did not appear to be a priority in Washington, where officials were preoccupied by domestic political problems of their own. In its final weeks in office, the Trump administration made no public comments about growing civilian-military tensions in Myanmar despite speaking out about democracy concerns in Venezuela, Tanzania, Uganda, Cuba, Iran and Russia. After taking over on Jan. 20, the Biden administration was similarly silent until Jan. 29 when the U.S. Embassy in Yangon signed onto a joint statement with several other embassies to support democracy in the country and to oppose “any attempt to alter the outcome of the elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition.” The warning went unheeded by the military. “There was a risk that the Burmese generals were playing us,” Clinton wrote about the 2010-11 rapprochement with Myanmar in “Hard Choices.” That fear may have been prescient. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Founders of a committee that seeks to combat anti-Black racism in the public school board say they hope to develop strategies and foster conversations that better support Black staff and students. Following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last year and conversations around anti-Black racism, Windsor-Essex school boards are stepping up to create space for diverse staff and students. Most recently, the Greater Essex County District School Board has developed a Black Staff Equity Alliance that seeks to generate "systemic changes." The Alliance was founded by four members of the public board: Amina Abdulle, Venus Olla, Shantelle Browning-Morgan and Natalie Browning-Morgan. "It really is about action and taking action," said Olla, who is a graduation coach for Black, African and Caribbean students at the public board. "And not just talking about change but actually ensuring that change is occurring through these different initiatives." She said they have already started by providing anti-Black racism training and they'll educate the board's student senate — a group that represents the student body — at the end of the month. Other ideas they are working on include a conference at the end of the year and creating space for conversations between staff, students and allies. The board and union are partnering up on this initiative, said Abdulle, who is a contracted high-school teacher with the public board. "We want to create a space where we're all coming together to create initiatives that are going to create changes and are also going to build on the things we already have to better serve our students and our staff," said Abdulle. "This partnership is between us, ourselves as Black identifying individuals, and our allies who all want to be at the table putting together initiatives that will create fundamental opportunities for everyone to feel that they are learning in a space that really welcomes them." They said they hope Black allies will also join in on the conversation as they "can't do it alone." The committee has its first virtual information session on Wednesday and already has more than 50 people registered. Here's what other school boards in the region are doing But it's not the only school board in the region looking to be more inclusive. The region's French Catholic Board — Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence — recently announced in a news release that it has hired Vanessa Kabore as a human rights and equity advisor. The Catholic school board says it has an Equity and Inclusion committee that works on policies to make sure schools are welcoming to everyone. (Sanjay Maru/CBC) The position, according to the board, is meant to ensure a "school and work environment that encourages students and the school community to realize their full potential." The board said Kabore will work to create policies and strategies, as well as raise awareness, train employees and other stakeholders. Kabore has a master's degree in law and has expertise in ethics and rules of professional conduct at different public protection agencies, according to the board. The French public board, Le Conseil Scolaire Viamonde Publie, says it does not have a Black equity group but that its 2021-2025 strategic plan includes "initiatives and action plans," which aim for more equitable and inclusive schools and workplaces, the board said in an emailed statement to CBC News. The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board also told CBC News via email that it doesn't specifically have a Black Staff Equity Alliance, but it does have an Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee. The committee, it said, consists of employees and community volunteers who review policies and aim to foster a more inclusive environment. The board said it also does the following: Partners with Family Fuse, a local organization that helps Black families navigate their way through the education system through workshops. The board says one of its superintendents sits on Family Fuse's advisory committee. Collaborates with Black Women of Forward Action who provide resources and support and has helped the board with its professional development for teachers and support staff that specifically deal with equity issues and anti-Black racism. 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. (CBC)
It has been a tough year for many local businesses, and the Timmins Chamber is doing its part to celebrate the perseverance and determination of those who have adapted to the ever changing business climate. On Tuesday afternoon, the 45 nominees for the 2021 Nova Business Excellence Awards were announced. There were 120 nominations received across the 15 award categories ranging from "Innovation" to "Marketing" to "Best New Business." Three finalists were announced in each category by a panel of independent community judges. The winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony broadcast on May 13. Under normal circumstances, a gala event with hundreds of well-dressed people would be held at the McIntyre Arena where attendees can mingle and network over cocktails, but due to the ongoing restrictions surrounding COVID-19, the event will be held online for the second consecutive year. “It's clear from this list of finalists that our local entrepreneurs have continued to construct powerful strategies to stay viable throughout the pandemic, which is why we're looking forward to celebrating the best of Timmins business at the Nova Award, virtually, on May 13,” said Chamber president Melanie Verreault. “This year's slate of incredible nominees is yet another reminder that Northern Ontario entrepreneurs are leaders in shaping and moulding the socio-economic landscape, bridging gaps, and hammering out key investments that grow our economy through almost every aspect of their business, and they deserve recognition.” Now in its 19th year, the Nova Awards are the largest business awards in Northern Ontario. This year's theme is "Building Business" – which celebrates the ways in which local entrepreneurs continue be leaders in building a stronger community. “Our businesses consistently work with each other, laying the foundation for lasting relationships and paving the way through 2020. Its why we remain honoured to have spent 19 years making sure their achievements are recognized at the Nova Awards to help us celebrate their ongoing successes,” said Verreault. The ceremony will be streamed online as well as on Eastlink TV. 2021 NOVA FINALISTS BMT Insurance & Financial Services Business Contribution to the Community Award (1-5 employees) – Discover Fitness/Discover Performance Inc.; Pioneer Snack Express; Your Professional Business Solutions. The Venture Centre Business Contribution to the Community Award (6-10 employees) – 101 Radiator Timmins; Lady Luck Family Restaurant & Convenience; The Moose/Vista Radio Ltd. NorthernTel Business Contribution to the Community Award (11+ employees) – Full Beard Brewing Co.; MNP LLP; Newmont Porcupine. FNETB Best Place to Work Award – Bright Spot Therapy Services; Plan A Timmins Health Care Staffing; SMS Equipment. Newmont Porcupine Young Leader Award – Katherine Storring, dB Hearing Inc; Kieran Duquette, Northern Windows & Doors; Melissa Lamarche, Spoiled Rawt'n. RBC Marketing Award – Fortier Automotive; Kinz and Klomp Live; New Burger Planet Inc. National Bank Innovation Award – Casa di Media Productions; Mine Safety Solutions; Radical Gardens. Northern College Service Excellence Award – CL Lawn Care; Gorilla Property Services; The Wizard of Paws Inc. Caisse Alliance New Business Award (Under 2 Years) – All About You Medical Spa; Golden Crust Specialty Bakery; Hallmark Timmins. TD Bank Group Business of the Year Award (1-5 employees) – Dumoulin's; Northern Lights Fauxmagerie; Porcupine Advance Printers. Scotiabank Business of the Year Award (6-10 employees) – The Co-operators Timmins; J&R Custom Cabinets; The Urban Farm. Kidd Operations Business of the Year Award (11+ employees) – DSI Services; J&B Cycle & Marine Ltd; Timmins Mechanical Solutions Inc. DeBeers Canada Indigenous Partnership Award – Niiwin General Partnership Inc; NPLH Drilling; The Bucket Shop. City of Timmins Non-Profit Organization Award – Anti-Hunger Coalition Timmins; Living Space; Timmins and District Hospital Foundation. OPG Lifetime Business Achievement Award – BMT Insurance and Financial Services; McIntyre Catering Services; Wyatt Image Solutions. President's Award – To be announced on May 13. Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
For author Eden Robinson, saying goodbye to the "Trickster" trilogy feels like a "mutual breakup." For the past decade, Robinson says the supernatural book series had been occupying her mind from the moment she wakes up, to those last hazy thoughts while drifting off to sleep. As "Return of the Trickster" hit shelves Tuesday, Robinson, who is from the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations, said the culmination of her coming-of-age tale about a young Indigenous man grappling with his magical family history has created a conscious void. "It's left a huge hole where I wake up and go, 'Oh, yeah, that's done.' And go to sleep and go, 'Oh, I don't really have a book yet.'" Normally, Robinson said she'd move on to her next writing project. But for now, the Kitamaat Village, B.C.-based writer feels like she could use a "breather" as she closes the book on "Trickster" amid the fallout from the cancellation of the TV adaptation of her series. "It's like a mutual breakup," said Robinson, 53. "You have to be alone by yourself." In January, CBC pulled the plug on the second season of the "Trickster" series, which premiered to positive buzz last fall, after a CBC News report questioned co-creator Michelle Latimer's claims of Indigenous identity. The public broadcaster said the decision to end "Trickster" was made in consultation with members of the creative team, including Robinson, who in a statement said seeing a young, Indigenous cast "soar'' was "one of the best parts of 2020'' for her. Ahead of the show's debut last October, Robinson told The Canadian Press she kept picturing the actors as their characters while writing "Return of the Trickster." Robinson said releasing the book with the knowledge that those visions won't be realized feels "surreal." She declined to comment further on the cancellation of the CBC series. But Robinson she's had her fill of the film and TV world for a while. "That was enough," she said. "I'm done." Robinson's preferred medium is the page. But in crafting the supernatural final showdown in "Return of the Trickster," the author said she sought to emulate the oral tradition of one-upmanship that shaped the trickster stories she was raised on. "When I'm listening to two storytellers battling back and forth, it's always thrilling," said Robinson. "I was hoping to have that same sense in the last book, that we've gone as far up as we can go." The final installment of the trilogy raises the stakes for protagonist Jared — who like his biological father, is a shape-shifting, dimension-trotting trickster — as he faces off against his ogress aunt and her pack of organ-gobbling coy wolves. Jared is joined in this battle by a motley crew of mythical beings, including a witch, a sasquatch and an octopus monster. Robinson said Jared's strength lies not only in his supernatural abilities, but the connections he's made throughout the series. She feels the same is true of her own success, which she said wouldn't be possible without the support of her community. "With the Haisla and Heiltsuk, you are an individual, but you're also thoroughly enmeshed in your community," said Robinson. "If you're given a big name, you have a lot of status, but you also have a lot of crushing responsibility." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
There still isn’t a trial date one year after a Kindersley mom was arrested and charged with second-degree murder for the death of her infant daughter. In Saskatoon Provincial Court in November 2020, Teenie Rose Steer elected to be tried by judge alone without a jury. Her case was then moved from the provincial court level to Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench. Her matter was on Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench pre-trial list Nov. 13, 2020, to set a trial date. That pre-trial conference was adjourned to Dec. 18, 2020, and then it was adjourned to Feb. 12, 2021. The matter has now been adjourned to March 31. Pre-trial conferences are closed to the public and media. They are informal meetings in chambers between the Crown and defence. Steer was arrested 13 months ago. According to the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada Jordan Rule, once charges are laid provincial cases must be heard within 18 months and superior court cases within 30 months or the charges can be dismissed. RCMP arrested steer February 2020 and charged her with killing her one-month-old infant three years ago. On Sept. 27, 2018, police responded to a home after receiving a report of a baby in cardiac arrest. First responders and doctors at the Rosetown hospital attempted life-saving measures but the infant was pronounced dead in hospital. A September 2018 autopsy revealed information that led investigators to believe the baby’s death was suspicious and RCMP Major Crimes took over the investigation. RCMP didn't reveal details of that information. The charges against Steer haven’t been proven in court. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Uptake for the second dose of the Moderna vaccination in First Nation communities in Northern Manitoba is going well. While Manitoba First Nations continue to show higher test positivity rates compared to non-Indigenous Manitobans, many First Nation communities have shown relatively good signs as their Elders continue to receive their vaccination. In an online press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Michael Routledge confirmed that there is some improvement in severe cases from the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. communities due to the vaccine uptake. “There are still a couple of communities in the MKO area that are struggling with some outbreaks, but by large, most MKO communities have been very quiet,” said Routledge, the medical advisor to MKO and Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin. “In the north, we are seeing the case numbers and test positivity rates slowly come down. We are starting to see the outbreaks get under control, although again, they are some communities that are really struggling.” Routledge added that the second allotment of vaccine supplies for Elders have arrived in most Manitoba First Nation communities including Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. As of Monday, there are 843 active cases among First Nations people with 25 current hospitalizations and eight in intensive care units. On Monday, the province updated the eligibility for vaccinations whereby First Nations born on or before Dec. 31, 1950, can now book their appointments to receive immunization against the virus. “As I always tell our people, we are all in this together,” said Chief Nelson Genaille from Sapotaweyak Cree Nation who believes 40 more vaccine doses will arrive in his community soon. “What’s going to happen next? You know, that’s what we need to prepare for. We don’t know what’s coming in the future for our children or grandchildren … how can we make it better? One good way is communication, another good way is teamwork, and another is to properly uplift ourselves because the mind is very powerful.” Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Click here to sign up for our daily newsletter. Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun
OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month-long decline, giving urgency to the question of who should receive doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive in Canada Wednesday. The "moderate increase" at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless stricter public health measures are imposed to combat more contagious strains of the virus. “The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends," Tam said Tuesday. Canada saw 2,933 new cases on average over the past week, a figure similar to last Friday's numbers that revealed week-over-week increases of between eight and 14 per cent in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. The uptick comes as provinces figure out how to allocate their various vaccines, especially as Canada receives 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. About 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also arriving this week, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand. Guidance on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has caused some confusion. Health Canada authorized its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends it not be administered to people 65 and over. The advisory committee cites concern over limited data from clinical trials for older patients. Health Canada also acknowledges that issue. But the advisory panel, which recommends how vaccines should be used, says the limitation means seniors should take priority for the two greenlighted mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — where dearth of data is not an issue. Alberta's health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses, though details on who will get those jabs is not always clear. "With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible," the B.C. health ministry said in an email. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott characterized Oxford-AstraZeneca as "very versatile " because it lacks the same cold-storage requirements as the two other vaccines in use in Canada. It won't go to seniors, but she said shots might be administered in correctional facilities for that reason. P.E.I. will target AstraZeneca at "healthy younger individuals who are working in certain front-line, essential services," said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief medical officer of health. Health officials in Quebec and New Brunswick say they await further advice from health authorities and are taking time to examine how to deploy the latest vaccine. Nova Scotia's chief medical health officer Dr. Robert Strang said the province has yet to give an answer to Ottawa "about whether we actually want to take the vaccine." All provinces must provide a response by midday Thursday, he said. Two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses. Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent. But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada. "If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that's still a win for you," Colijn said. "I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner." No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions. Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada projected a steep surge in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren't tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons. But Tam said Canada is gaining ground on "the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon" every day. "Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track," she said. Provinces have now reported 1,257 cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, 99 cases of the B. 220.127.116.11 strain first identified in South Africa, and three of the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil. There have been 870,033 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 22,017 deaths as of Monday night. There were 30,430 active cases across Canada, with an average of 42 deaths reported daily over the past week. Provinces are also figuring out whether to stick to the original injection schedules or extend the interval between doses beyond three or four weeks. The national advisory committee is expected to update its recommendations this week. Ontario is waiting for that guidance, while B.C. is pushing ahead with its plan to prolong the interval to four months. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said Monday the decision was based on local and international evidence that shows the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provides "miraculous" 90 per cent protection from the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. — With files from Camille Bains, Kevin Bissett, Laura Dhillon Kane and Holly McKenzie-Sutter. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
On Wednesday, the verdict in Toronto’s van attack trial will be revealed. Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Erica Vella reports.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden to be his budget director after she ran into stiff opposition over tweets that upset lawmakers, in the first Capitol Hill rebuff of one of his nominees. "I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget," Biden said in a short statement on Tuesday. The decision to withdraw Tanden's nomination reflected the tenuous hold his Democrats have on the Senate.
CALGARY — The Western Hockey League announced Tuesday that it has been granted approval by the B.C. Provincial Health Office to play in bubble environments in Kamloops and Kelowna this season. The league said in a release that the WHL's B.C. Division will begin play March 26. The league's announcement comes a day after B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said a plan had been approved in principle to allow the league to resume play in the province during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams in the league's other three divisions have already been cleared to play by state and provincial governments and public health authorities. The Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars, and Vancouver Giants will be based in Kamloops. The Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals will play in Kelowna. Teams will be permitted to travel directly between the hub cities for games, with no stops permitted in between. No spectators will be permitted in the arenas. The league said a 24-game schedule for the B.C Division will be announced at a later date. Players and staff will begin self-quarantining Saturday and then will report to their respective bubble on March 13, where they will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival followed by an additional quarantine period. Players and staff will then undergo a second COVID-19 test before being permitted to engage in any team activity. The league said COVID-19 screening for all players, team staff and officials will also take place on a daily basis, including regular temperature screenings. Coaches will be required to wear masks at all times, including while conducting practice and while behind the bench during games. "The WHL appreciates the cooperation we have received from the Provincial Health Officer and health officials in B.C. as we work toward a safe return to play in the B.C. Division," WHL commissioner Ron Robison said in a release. "With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play beginning in the Kamloops and Kelowna hubs. "We are excited to now have all four WHL Divisions returning to play as it was our objective from the onset to deliver a season for all of our players." The start of the 2020-21 WHL season was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Play finally began Feb. 26 with the league's Alberta-based teams. Teams in the U.S. Division are scheduled to start March 19 while the East Division, with teams based in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, has been cleared to play in a bubble environment. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was the only league under the Canadian Hockey League to start its season at its traditional time, but pandemic-related issues have caused several interruptions. The Ontario Hockey League has yet to announce plans for a season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Trois-Rivières – Quatre jeunes entrepreneurs de la Mauricie et du Centre-du-Québec font partie des 75 qui ont été sélectionnés par le gouvernement du Québec pour recevoir une bourse d'honneur de 25 000$. Cette bourse est remise à des personnes de 18 à 35 ans issus de 16 régions du Québec pour favoriser le développement de leur entreprise. Chaque récipiendaire bénéficiera également d'un accompagnement gratuit d'un an, offert par le Réseau Mentorat. En Mauricie, Florence Bélanger de la Coopérative La Charrette et Luc Lévesque de l'entreprise Le Maltraiteur ont été choisis. La Coopérative La Charrette produit des légumes biologiques vitaminés et colorés sous forme de paniers bio pour les restaurants et épiceries ainsi que pour des kiosques libre-service. L’entreprise d’économie sociale vise à créer des emplois de qualité en région et à tisser des liens durables avec ses clients. Quant au Maltraiteur, il s'agit d'une compagnie de malterie qui élabore une gamme de malts traditionnels provenant de producteurs locaux de céréales certifiées Agrinature pour créer des saveurs d’ici et répondre aux besoins des microbrasseurs et microdistilleurs du Québec. Au Centre-du-Québec, le choix s'est arrêté sur Mathieu Gauthier du restaurant Le Rachel et sur Rose Guillemette de Kear's Workshop. Le Rachel est un restaurant gastronomique drummondvillois qui se spécialise dans la mise en valeur des produits locaux et saisonniers, les vins d’importation privée biologiques, les cocktails originaux et les bières de microbrasserie. Des menus dégustation de trois ou cinq services à l’aveugle sont offerts tous les soirs et le restaurant offre des cours de cuisine, de mixologie et de sommellerie aux clients intéressés. Pour ce qui est de Kear's Workshop, cette boutique en ligne vend des vêtements de mode fabriqués uniquement à partir de matières recyclées : sandales, casquettes, manteaux, t-shirts et maillots de bain. Avec sa diversité de produits, de modèles et de couleurs autant pour les hommes que pour les femmes, Kear’s Workshop veut pousser les gens à changer leur manière d’agir et de penser. Ses maillots de bain sont conçus à partir de bouteilles d’eau en plastique ainsi que de filets à pêche. « Les enjeux et les défis économiques auxquels nous sommes confrontés sont nombreux. La pandémie a frappé le Québec de plein fouet, et le gouvernement s'affaire à le remettre en marche. Soutenir et accompagner de jeunes entrepreneurs permet de poser un jalon important dans le passage vers une économie transformée, renouvelée et tournée vers l'avenir. Bravo aux récipiendaires! », exprime MarieChantal Chassé, adjointe parlementaire du ministre de l'Économie et de l'Innovation pour les volets Innovation et entrepreneuriat. «Je félicite les gagnants des 75 bourses d'honneur pour l'année 2020. Le Québec a besoin de jeunes entrepreneurs en vue d'assurer sa vitalité économique et cette initiative est une belle façon de stimuler la création d'entreprise. Je tiens à souligner la grande mobilisation des différents intervenants régionaux et la concertation entre eux. Plus il y aura d'entreprises en croissance, plus nous générerons de la richesse partout au Québec. Nous comptons sur l'énergie, la créativité et l'audace de leurs dirigeants pour faire croître et prospérer les régions», souligne pour sa part Marie-Eve Proulx, ministre déléguée au Développement économique régional et ministre des régions de Chaudière-Appalaches et du Bas-Saint-Laurent. La cérémonie de reconnaissance aura lieu le 18 mars prochain, au cours de l'événement virtuel Expo Entrepreneurs 2021. Ce sont 410 projets qui ont été évalués selon, notamment, leur originalité, leur caractère novateur, leur plan marketing et leur analyse de marché. Ces candidatures ont été évaluées par le ministère de l'Économie et de l'Innovation, conjointement avec le Carrefour d'entrepreneuriat et d'innovation-Desjardins de l'Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, les espaces régionaux d'accélération et de croissance, les tables d'action en entrepreneuriat de chacune des régions et plusieurs entrepreneurs. En 2018 et en 2019, 195 bourses d'honneur de 25 000 $ ont été attribuées, dont 50 à des entrepreneurs de la diversité de tous âges et 145 à des entrepreneurs de 18 à 35 ans. Marc-André Pelletier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nouvelliste
TORONTO — Ontarians should be encouraged to see friends and relatives outdoors in the coming months, some health experts said Tuesday in stressing the need for realistic pandemic guidance following a winter of isolation. Now that most of the province has emerged from the stay-at-home order imposed in January, it's crucial to give residents safer options to socialize to help prevent another spike in COVID-19 infections, particularly in light of new, more contagious variants of the virus, some experts said. "It's really important now that we find realistic solutions for people, and what we know is that we by all means should avoid ... that people now congregate inside," said Dr. Peter Juni, an epidemiologist and director of the province's COVID-19 science advisory table. "People are social animals. We need something to balance ourselves mentally, socially, and psychologically, and so we will need to find a good way forward." A simple message – that outdoor, distanced gatherings are safer, while any indoor gatherings with people from other households should be avoided – should help people make decisions based on common sense, he said. Juni said he felt the need to bring the issue to the science table after seeing photos of large crowds and lineups inside malls and big box stores over the weekend, which he said gave him "goosebumps." The group will discuss possible recommendations to the province regarding messaging related to gatherings over the next few weeks, he said. While being outdoors doesn't mean there is zero risk of infection, that risk becomes "minimal" if people also follow distancing and masking guidelines, he said. By comparison, congregating indoors is "playing with fire," he said. Dr. Nitin Mohan, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Western University, said switching the messaging to promote outdoor activities makes sense from a harm reduction standpoint. "Folks have been indoors for quite some time. We know the mental health and other psychological issues that are going to be a result ... of our lockdown and quarantine measures," he said. "So if folks can get outdoors and it's safe to do so, I think it should be encouraged." There is a risk people may get used to seeing their loved ones when the weather is nice, and then break the rules when it's too cold or snowy to meet outdoors, Mohan said. "Are you comfortable saying, 'hey we probably can't see each other today, let's wait until it gets warmer,' or does it become sort of a lack of compliance where 'hey, we've already seen each other outside, it's no big deal to come inside for a quick cup of coffee,'" he said. "And that's where it becomes problematic." People also have to be reasonable in terms of the kinds of gatherings they're having, Mohan said, noting it won't be safe to have "500 people in a backyard barbecue." Timothy Sly, an epidemiologist and professor at Ryerson University, echoed that warning. "In very general terms, 'outdoors' presents a huge reduction in risk, all other factors being unchanged. BUT this is NOT the time for throwing the masks away and getting into yelling at sports arenas or close-up BBQ parties," he said in an email. "Those will be super-spreader events for sure, especially with the new variants." Most of Ontario has returned to the government's colour-coded system of pandemic restrictions after weeks under an order that required residents to stay home except for essential activities. The government still advises all residents to limit close contact to those in their household. Restrictions regarding gatherings vary between the colour-coded zones, with the more stringent grey or lockdown zone prohibiting indoor gatherings and allowing outdoor ones of up to 10 people with distancing measures in place. Regions in the green, or least restrictive, zone permit private gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, along with events of up to 50 people indoors and up to 100 outdoors, all with distancing measures in place. Three regions -- Toronto, Peel, and North Bay-Parry Sound -- remain under the stay-at-home order that's set to last until March 8. When asked for comment on the possibility of updating guidelines on outdoor gatherings, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health said the province's top doctor will continue to consult with local medical officers of health and experts, and review data, to advise the government on "appropriate and effective measures" needed to protect Ontarians. Health officials in Toronto, meanwhile, said their guidance on socializing remains the same. "Our advice at this time is still to try to maintain as much distance and to not interact with people with whom you don't live," the city's top public health doctor, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said earlier this week. "And if you have to be outside, to really keep your distance and to ensure that you're wearing your mask as much as possible." - with files from Denise Paglinawan This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
NASHVILLE — Country music festival CMA Fest in Nashville, Tennessee, will be cancelled for a second year in a row because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Country Music Association announced on Tuesday the decision to cancel the June event, which is one of the oldest country music festivals after starting in 1972 as Fan Fair. It was also cancelled last year. “While we are optimistic with the pace at which COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more widely available, we still face several challenges that prevent us from bringing our many artists, crew members and fans together safely for the full CMA Fest experience we know everyone has come to expect,” CMA CEO Sarah Trahern said in a statement. Trahern explained that the festival takes place at several Nashville venues and couldn't be rescheduled for later in the year. Venues would also have capacity restrictions that would limit attendance. Further, the festival draws many out-of-state and international visitors that would be impacted by travel restrictions. People who purchased passes for last year and held onto them to use for this year's festival can either retain them for 2022 or opt for a refund at CMAFest.com. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccines for all adult Americans by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot. With the bolstered supply, Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers, and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program. He challenged states to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all teachers by the end of March as part of his administration's efforts to reopen more schools across the nation. "We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said Biden, who likened the partnership between the two drug companies to the spirit of national co-operation during World War II. The announcement comes as the White House looks to speed the production of the single-dose J&J vaccine and accelerate the nation’s plans to reach “herd immunity” in the U.S. and begin restoring normalcy after the pandemic. Biden noted that vaccine supply was only one bottleneck toward that goal, and that the new challenge will be injecting doses into arms as swiftly as possible. To that end, the Biden administration told governors Tuesday to prepare for their supplies of vaccine to continue to climb over the coming weeks. Additional doses are also heading toward a federally backed program to administer doses in more accessible retail pharmacies. Those pharmacies will be key in getting the vaccines into the arms of teachers, which will help reopen schools to better educate students who have been at risk at falling behind during the pandemic. "Let’s treat in-person learning as the essential service that it is," Biden said. Biden had originally suggested that the supply would be enough to vaccinate every adult American by the end of July. But despite the good news, he was leery of predicting when the nation would return to normal. He said, “My hope is by this time next year we’re going to be back to normal," adding that he maybe it could come sooner. Officials have said J&J faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and produced only 3.9 million doses ahead of its receiving emergency use authorization on Saturday. The company has promised to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June. White House press secretary Jen Psaki also announced Tuesday that the federal government was increasing supply of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to states next week to 15.2 million doses per week, up from 14.5 million previously. States will also receive 2.8 million doses of the J&J shot this week. On a call with governors Tuesday, White House coronavirus co-ordinator Jeff Zients said states should prepare for administering 16-17 million total weekly doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of March, climbing to 17-18 million weekly by early April. The supply of J&J doses to states, expected to dip after the initial shipment this week, will climb to 4-6 million weekly doses by the end of March and 5-6 million doses weekly through the end of April. More than 800,000 doses of the J&J vaccine will also be distributed this week to pharmacies to administer in a separate federally-run program that also includes 2.4 million doses of the other two shots. Both figures are expected to steadily increase, as the White House increasingly looks to the capacity of pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens to help speed the nation's mass vaccination campaign. Facing questions about the company's slipping delivery schedule, J&J Vice-President Richard Nettles told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that the company had faced “significant challenges” because of its “highly complex” manufacturing process. The assistance from Merck was expected to help J&J meet its production commitments and expand supply even further, but the administration did not immediately provide specifics. Psaki said that an "across the administration effort” was required to get the two historic rivals to work together on the vaccines, even though conversations between the two companies have been going on for months. “There’s a difference between conversations and it moving forward,” she said. President Joe Biden is set to highlight the development in a speech Tuesday afternoon, as his administration now expects to have enough supply of the three approved vaccines to inoculate all eligible American adults by June — though actually delivering the injections could take longer. It was not immediately clear when the effect of Merck's assistance would be reflected in supply. Previously, federal officials have cautioned that setting up the highly specialized manufacturing lines to produce vaccines would take months. The White House said Merck would devote two plants to the production process. One would make the vaccine and the other would handle inserting the vaccine into vials and ensuring strict quality controls. Psaki said the Biden administration was using its powers under the Defence Production Act to help Merck retool to work on the production. The news was first reported by The Washington Post. Compared to the two-dose versions produced by Moderna and Pfizer, the J&J vaccine is less resource intensive to distribute and administer, making it a critical piece to U.S. plans to spread vaccinations around the world — but only once Americans are inoculated. The J&J vaccine can be stored for months at refrigerated temperatures, rather than frozen, and doesn’t require patients to return for a second dose three or four weeks later. J&J has set up a global production network that includes brewing bulk vaccine at its Janssen facility in the Netherlands, and with a company in the U.S., Emergent BioSolutions, and another in India, Biological E. Ltd. Other contract manufacturers are lined up to help with later steps, including putting the vaccine into vials, in the U.S., Italy, Spain and South Africa. In the scramble to create COVID-19 vaccines, the three Western drug makers who’ve dominated the vaccine industry for decades — Merck & Co., Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline — surprisingly all fell short. Merck halted its own plans to develop a coronavirus vaccine earlier this year, finding that their candidates were generating an inferior immune system response compared with other vaccines. It said it would instead focus its work on developing treatments for COVID-19. Now, amid the global clamour for more vaccine doses, those heavyweights are helping manufacture doses for less-experienced rivals whose vaccines won the first emergency authorizations from regulators. Merck has since said it was in talks to help other drug companies with vaccine production, but wouldn’t say Tuesday whether other deals are imminent. “Merck remains steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic and to preparing to address future pandemics,” the Kenilworth, New Jersey-based company said in a statement. Sanofi Pasteur, named for pioneering French biologist Louis Pasteur, produces more than 1 billion vaccine doses a year and is a leader in pediatric, influenza and polio vaccines. It, too, has had delays with its COVID-19 vaccine candidates. While it tries to resolve those problems, Sanofi has agreed to bottle and package about 125 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, as well as roughly 12 million doses per month of J&J's vaccine. GlaxoSmithKline, which makes vaccines against shingles, hepatitis, meningitis and many childhood illnesses, has focused its COVID-19 efforts on combining its adjuvant technology with rival companies’ vaccines. Adjuvants boost immune system response to vaccines, meaning smaller doses could be used and supply could be stretched. ___ Johnson reported from Fairless Hills, PA. Lemire reported from New York. Lauran Neergaard in Washington contributed to this report. Zeke Miller, Linda A. Johnson And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
PIERRE, S.D. — Top South Dakota lawmakers announced a proposal on Tuesday to delay evaluating whether the state's attorney general should be impeached until the conclusion of the criminal case against him for hitting and killing a man with his car. House Speaker Spencer Gosch, a Republican, released a plan he will present to a House committee on Wednesday, arguing that a delay was necessary in light of a judge's order last week that halted Gov. Kristi Noem and government officials from releasing evidence in the investigation. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg — also a Republican — is facing three misdemeanour charges for striking and killing a man walking on the shoulder of a highway late on Sept. 12. Ravnsborg initially told authorities that he thought he had struck a deer or another large animal and said he searched the unlit area with a cellphone flashlight. He said he didn’t realize he had killed a man until the next day when he returned to the accident scene. A bipartisan group of lawmakers had filed articles of impeachment against the state's top law enforcement officer last week, just hours after Noem had called for Ravnsborg to resign. The Republican governor also made the extraordinary move of releasing videos of interviews Ravnsborg had with criminal investigators. But her administration was later forced to remove the videos by a judge in the county where the criminal case against Ravnsborg is proceeding. “Our proceedings need to be fair and transparent," Gosch said in a statement. "In light of the recent court order issued by the Honorable John Brown, we have some concerns on what our abilities are in a public proceeding.” Gosch's proposal amounted to a step back from the impeachment proceedings after the governor and some lawmakers had used nearly every available means to get Ravnsborg to resign last week. The lawmaker said he would propose removing the articles of impeachment from the legislative resolution and replacing them with a statement saying that after Ravnsborg's criminal trial, the House “may evaluate whether articles of impeachment ... are necessary and proceed accordingly.” Both House Republican Leader, Kent Peterson, and Democratic Leader, Jamie Smith, said they agreed with the delay. A hearing date for Ravnsborg's criminal case has not been set. Gosch said it would also require a special session of the Legislature to reconvene for impeachment, which would require support from two-thirds of both chambers. If the House decided to proceed with the impeachment, it would take a simple majority to advance the impeachment charges to the Senate. There, it would require two-thirds of senators to convict and remove him from office. Noem would get to appoint a replacement if Ravnsborg leaves or is removed from office. Stephen Groves, The Associated Press
TORONTO — North American stock markets were quieter after experiencing strong gains to start March. The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 121.98 points to 18,421.60. But U.S. markets were lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 143.99 points at 13,391.52. The S&P 500 index was down 31.53 points at 3,870.29, while the Nasdaq composite was down 230.04 points at 13,358.79. The Canadian dollar traded for 79.20 cents US compared with 78.98 cents US on Monday. The April crude oil contract was down 89 cents at US$59.75 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was up 6.2 cents at US$2.84 per mmBTU. The April gold contract was up US$10.60 at US$1,733.60 an ounce and the May copper contract was up 10.9 cents at US$4.22 a pound. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) The Canadian Press