Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the possibility of involving other countries in efforts to maintain a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire on Nov. 10 that halted six weeks of clashes in the mountain enclave, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the enclave under the ceasefire deal, which locked in Azeri advances.
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — The Weeknd angrily slammed the Grammy Awards, calling them “corrupt” after the pop star walked away with zero nominations despite having multiple hits this year.The three-time Grammy winner criticized the Recording Academy on Tuesday after he was severely snubbed despite having one of the year’s biggest albums with “After Hours” and being tapped as the Super Bowl halftime headline performer. He also topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless.”“The Grammys remain corrupt,” the singer said on Twitter. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”The harsh words come less than a year after the Recording Academy's ousted CEO accused the group that determines nominations in the top categories of having conflicts of interest and not engaging in a transparent selection process.Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s interim president and CEO, spoke earlier about whether he was surprised the Weeknd didn’t earn a single nomination. He said it’s hard to predict the voters’ decisions.“You know, there’s so many nominations and there’s only so many slots, it’s really tough to predict what the voters are going to vote for in any given year,” he told The Associated Press. “I try not to be too surprised.”After the Weeknd called out the academy, Mason Jr. released a statement explaining some that “unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”“We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling,” Mason Jr. said.The Weeknd was shut out from being a Grammy nominee along with Luke Combs, who set records on streaming services and dominated the country charts. Morgan Wallen also had a successful year in country music, but he came away empty.A group of young R&B female acts moving the needle also missed out on nominations, including Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor and Kehlani. Late rapper Juice WRLD, Brandy and Chris Brown were also snubbed.Justin Bieber earned four nominations, but the singer also criticized the Grammys decision-making as well. He said music from his fifth studio album “Changes” was wrongly viewed as a pop album, rather than an R&B project.Bieber gave thanks saying he was “flattered” for being acknowledged but thought being left out of the R&B category was a mistake.“I set out to make an R&B album,” he wrote on Instagram. “’Changes’ was and is an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album, which is very strange to me.”Bieber was nominated in the categories for best pop solo performance, best pop duo/group performance, best pop vocal album and best country duo/group performance.The singer said he loves pop music, but he wants to be respected for his work.“I grew up admiring R&B music and wished to make a project that would embody that sound,” he said. “For this not to be put into that category feels weird, considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style, all the way down to the hip-hop drums that were chosen, it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!”Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press
An accountant for a hotel in downtown Nelson, B.C., had a heart attack and collapsed shortly after being spat upon by an angry customer refusing to wear a mask, according to the hotel manager.The Nelson Police Department confirms it is investigating last Friday's incident, in which the customer allegedly yelled at a barista who offered him a face covering at the Empire Coffee shop in the Adventure Hotel.According to hotel manager Rob Little, the suspect "was screaming profanities at the top of their lungs to the point that they [the staff of Empire Coffee] had to say, 'Just get out!' "Little said that after receiving a call from the coffee shop manager, he sent his accountant — a woman in her 50s — to see what was going on."It was at that point that the person was trying to enter again," Little said."And she said, 'Listen! You're not going to talk to our people this way, and this is the law.' And he proceeded to spit on her."Little says police arrived and removed the suspect and took a statement from the accountant. After arriving back at the office about an hour and a half later, Little said the accountant, who was distraught from the experience, reported feeling ill and fell to the ground. She was airlifted to a hospital in Kelowna where it was determined she'd had a heart attack."She's stable right now, but she's not out of the woods by any stretch," he said. Aggressive behaviour around mask mandateAt least one other business in the city of over 10,000 people said they've experienced an increase in aggressive behaviour targeting customer service representatives, after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced last Thursday that face coverings are now mandatory in all retail spaces.This week, Kootenay Co-op — a grocery store near the hotel — hired a security guard for the first time in its 45 years to head off rude behaviour among some shoppers who are resisting the mask mandate.The grocery store's manager said while most customers have followed the new regulations, about 10 to 20 per cent are refusing to wear a mask and become confrontational when asked to do so. "We all live here because of the quality of people that are here," Little said. "To see this kind of polarizing views on things and people going to such extremes is just disappointing."Police investigating spitting incidentStaff Sgt. Brian Weber with the Nelson Police Department says police are looking at the relationship between the woman's heart attack and the spitting incident with the customer. "There have been … some investigations that have made those causal links in the past," he said."[But] it's far too early and I know far too little about the exact file to make that kind of jump right now."The suspect is facing an assault charge.Tap the link below to listen to Bob Keating's conversation with Rob Little and Staff Sgt. Brian Weber on Daybreak South:
Russia says preliminary results for its COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, show a 95 per cent efficacy rate after being tested on more than 18,000 volunteers.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government says American duties on Canadian softwood lumber exports continue to be "unfair" and "unjustified," even if they have been reduced. An administrative review by the U.S. Department of Commerce imposes countervailing duties of nearly nine per cent on certain Canadian exporters, down from just over 20 per cent. It's the latest salvo in one of the most persistent trade irritants between Canada and the United States, a dispute that has been raging for nearly 40 years. The lower rate appears to be the result of a World Trade Organization decision in August that found Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission were wrong to impose the original duties in 2017. International Trade Minister Mary Ng acknowledged the lower tariffs as a step in the right direction, but insisted they remain baseless and unfair. Ng says the government will continue to seek a negotiated settlement and defend the interests of Canadian forestry companies and workers."While reduction in tariffs for some Canadian producers is a step in the right direction, Canada is disappointed that the United States continues to impose unwarranted and unfair duties on Canadian softwood lumber," she said in a statement Tuesday evening."These duties have caused unjustified harm to Canadian businesses and workers, as well as U.S. consumers."U.S. producers have long taken issue with Canada's system of provincially regulated stumpage fees, which are paid to the Crown in exchange for the right to harvest timber. They say the system unfairly subsidizes an industry which in the U.S. is privately owned and operated, with pricing set by the competitive marketplace.Canadian lumber exports play a critical role in the U.S., where demand for wood products used in construction significantly outstrips the domestic supply.The U.S. Lumber Coalition, a champion of countervailing duties against Canada, noted in a statement that the August decision by the WTO is being appealed — although the U.S. has effectively hamstrung the world body's dispute resolution panel by refusing to appoint new members. "It is absolutely imperative that these flawed WTO recommendations are not allowed to undermine in any way the continued enforcement of the trade laws," executive director Zoltan van Heyningen said in a statement. "The WTO case is far from over, and as such, it must not be allowed to influence the ongoing process and the results of the second administrative review."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.The Canadian Press
A Toronto taxi company says the city should use its own vehicles to transport people with probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 because relying on cabs puts drivers at risk.Kristine Hubbard, the operations manager for Beck Taxi Limited, said the company has received several calls from the city to pick up people who may be or who are infected with the novel coronavirus and take them to and from assessment centres, shelters and isolation centres. Hubbard said if the city wants taxi drivers to transport probable or positive COVID-19 patients, then it could hire those drivers, install plastic shields in their vehicles, dedicate them to that specific work to avoid picking up general fares, and cover them if they are forced to go into quarantine."Taxi drivers are vulnerable people as it is. They're doing their best to keep safe. But that's a risk they just shouldn't be asked to take and frankly they're just not willing to take," Hubbard told CBC Toronto on Tuesday."This is kind of a city issue. They have giant vehicles, whether it's TTC buses that aren't in operation, or Wheel-Trans buses. We know that Wheel-Trans is not being used at its full capacity," Hubbard said. "These are vehicles operated also by people who are hired by the city, vehicles that are larger and that provide them with more protection." .Hubbard said she consulted with taxi drivers about the city's request and they have told her that they are not interested in providing the service."I got a resounding response of: 'Please don't.' They have families at home. And they are worried about their own health. And they are certainly worried about the health of the people who are taking our safe, reliable service right now."Since the start of the pandemic, Beck Taxi has been approached by the city to transport probable and positive COVID-19 patients, she said. She said it would be "irresponsible" of her to suggest the company commit taxi drivers to providing such a service that would increase their risk.Jafar Mirsalari, a taxi driver for Beck, said there are other vehicles available to transport people who may be infected with COVID-19."When people call 911 now, the ambulance people, they show up, fully equipped and fully covered," said Mirsalari, who has worked as a taxi driver in Toronto since 1988."Now I heard that the city wants us, knowingly, to take the risk without any protection. I don't know if they want us to do the essential work, but who wants to be responsibility for my loss —not only for my business, but for my health?" he said."It's not our job."Mirsalari said he doesn't want to jeopardize the health of his wife and children.Taxis asked to transport patients after hours, TPH says Sonya Bourgeois, associate director of strategy and preventive health for Toronto Public Health (TPH), said the public health unit has formed a partnership with the city's shelter, support and housing administration division to provide transportation for people who are going to the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre."Transportation is provided through the City's own fleet of vehicles and/or contracted providers and City staff," Bourgeois said in an email on Tuesday."During after hours, TPH has been working with taxi companies to provide transportation for individuals to access the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre. In these cases, TPH discloses that the individual may or may not have COVID-19, and the driver may opt out of providing transportation if they do not feel safe to do so," she said.As for Beck Taxi drivers, the company says about 10 have tested positive for COVID-19 but it doesn't know if the drivers caught the virus from passengers.
Another senior in the town of Grand Bank has tested positive for COVID-19. That makes five people over the age of 70 who have been infected with the coronavirus in the past week, three of them tenants at a seniors' complex called Blue Crest Cottages. The new case, a woman, is not one of the tenants. In total, seven people in the community have tested positive, including a rotational worker. Newfoundland and Labrador registered another case on Tuesday, a woman in her 60s who is a close contact of a previous case unrelated to the Grand Bank cluster. With one new recovery from the disease, there are now a total of 24 active cases in the province. No one is in hospital. There are no new cases in Deer Lake, where a cluster of six positive cases, including an elementary student, has caused the school and much of the community to shut down as a precaution. Meanwhile, the Department of Health advised Tuesday that rotational workers who have returned from the LNG Canada project site in Kitimat, B.C., in the last 14 days will have to self-isolate for 14 days and stay physically distant from household members because of an outbreak there. They should also call 811 to arrange a COVID-19 test. Normally, rotational workers returning from within Canada can get tested on Day 7 and leave isolation if it’s negative, with some provisos. They are not allowed to enter long-term or personal care homes. The province is suspending its participation in the Atlantic bubble as of today at noon. That means anyone arriving in the province from the Maritimes must complete a full 14-day isolation, although a travel exemption is not required as it is for other parts of Canada. The province has strongly advised against non-essential travel due to a growing second wave of COVID-19 across the country. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
NEW YORK — Beyoncé is bringing her Black parade to the Grammys: The pop star’s anthem about Black pride scored multiple nominations Tuesday, making her the leading contender with nine nominations. Beyoncé picked up song and record of the year bids with “Black Parade,” which she released on Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free. The song, which reached the Top 40 on the pop charts, is also nominated for best R&B song and best R&B performance. Beyoncé’s “Black Is King” film that highlighted Black art, music, history and fashion is up for best music film while “Brown Skin Girl,” a song dedicated to dark- and brown-skinned women, is nominated for best music video. The singer also earned three nominations for her slick guest appearance on Megan Thee Stallion’s No. 1 hit “Savage.” A winner of 24 Grammys, Beyoncé becomes the second-most nominated act in the history of the awards show with 79 nominations. Beyoncé is only behind her husband Jay-Z and Quincy Jones, who have both earned 80 nominations each. Jay-Z picked up three nominations this year for his contributions to Beyoncé’s songs: He co-wrote “Black Parade" and “Savage," thus earning nominations for song of the year, best R&B song and best rap song. Jay-Z has won 22 Grammys throughout this career. Beyoncé’s domination this year came as a surprise since the singer did not release a new album. Other surprises, well snubs, include pop star the Weeknd being completely shut out and earning zero nominations despite having a No. 1 album, multiple hit singles and winning the coveted Super Bowl halftime performance slot. Luke Combs, who dominated the country charts and set records on streaming services this year, was also surprisingly shut out of nominations. Instead, multiple nominations went to Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and Roddy Ricch, who each earned six nominations and followed Beyoncé as the second-most nominated acts. Lipa, who won two Grammys last year, earned bids for album of the year with “Future Nostalgia” as well as song and record of the year for her hit “Don’t Start Now.” Swift, whose last two albums didn’t garner nominations for album of the year, is competing for the top prize with her surprise album “folklore.” If she wins, she would become the first artist to win album of the year three times. Other album of the year nominees include: Post Malone’s multi-hit “Hollywood’s Bleeding”; Coldplay’s “Everyday Life”; HAIM’s sophomore release “Women In Music Pt. III”; Jhené Aiko’s atmospheric R&B project “Chilombo”; English musician Jacob Collier’s multi-genre release “Djesse Vol. 3”; and the deluxe edition of Black Pumas’ self-titled debut album. Tracks competing with Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” and “Savage” for record of the year include DaBaby and Ricch’s “Rockstar,” Malone’s “Circles,” Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted,” Black Pumas’ “Colours” and Doja Cat’s “Say So.” “Black Parade,” “Don’t Start Now,” “Everything I Wanted” and “Circles” are also nominated for song of the year — a songwriter’s award — along with Swift’s “cardigan,” Ricch’s “The Box,” JP Saxe and Julia Michaels’ “If the World Was Ending” and H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” her protest anthem addressing police brutality. Several songs that emerged following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor were nominated for Grammys, including Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” (best rap song, best rap performance), Anderson .Paak’s “Lockdown” (best melodic rap performance, best music video), Mickey Guyton’s “Black Like Me” (best country solo performance) as well as Beyoncé’s “Black Parade.” “I think it’s meaningful. I think it’s reflective of what’s gone on in our world," Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording’s interim president and CEO, said of multiple protest songs earning nominations this year. “Musicians and artists and writers and producers, they write about what’s going on in their lives. We tend to be fairly emotional people. When there’s things happening, it’s going to come out in our music and our art." Megan Thee Stallion, who released her highly anticipated debut album last week after finding success with hit singles and mixtapes since 2018, scored four nominations including best new artist. She will compete with rapper-singer Doja Cat, pop singer Noah Cyrus, country singer Ingrid Andress, multi-genre DJ-producer Kaytranada, rappers Chika and D Smoke, and indie rocker Phoebe Bridgers, who earned four nominations and helped female acts dominate in the rock categories. Nominees for best rock performance and best rock song include Bridgers, Fiona Apple, HAIM, Grace Potter, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Big Thief, led by Adrianne Lenker. Female performers also dominated in best country album, including Andress, Miranda Lambert, Brandy Clark and Ashley McBryde. The foursome Little Big Town, which features two female vocalists, round out the five nominees. K-pop kings BTS earned their first-ever Grammy nomination after years of having success on the pop charts. They will compete for best pop duo/group performance with their No. 1 hit, “Dynamite.” Other first-time nominees include the Strokes, Megan Thee Stallion, Michael Kiwanuka, Jay Electronica and Harry Styles, who became the first One Direction member to earn a Grammy nomination. Several acts earned posthumous nominations, including John Prine (best American Roots performance, best American Roots song), Nipsey Hussle (best rap performance), Leonard Cohen (best folk album) Pop Smoke (best rap performance) and songwriter LaShawn Daniels (best gospel performance/song). And A-list entertainers hoping to reach EGOT status are getting a chance to earn their Grammy Award, including Renée Zellweger, who is nominated for best traditional pop vocal album for “Judy” — a performance that won her a second Academy Award — while Meryl Streep is nominated for best spoken word album for “Charlotte’s Web.” Kanye West, who has won 21 Grammys, only scored a single nomination this year — for contemporary Christian music album for “Jesus Is King.” Others who were snubbed include country performers the Chicks and Morgan Wallen, R&B singers Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor, Chris Brown and Brandy, and late rapper Juice WRLD. Songs and albums released between Sept. 1, 2019 and Aug. 31, 2020 were eligible for nominations this year. Winners will be announced at the live show on Jan. 31. Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reassure Canadians on Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccines will start to arrive in the coming months even as he acknowledged that other nations are likely to start inoculating their citizens first."One of the things to remember is Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines," Trudeau said during his regular COVID-19 news conference outside his home in Ottawa."We used to have it decades ago, but we no longer have it. Countries like the United States, Germany and the U.K. do have domestic pharmaceutical facilities, which is why they're obviously going to prioritize helping their citizens first."At the same time, Trudeau underscored the importance of getting inoculations to Canadians.“We know we're not going to get through this pandemic without a vaccine," he said.The federal government has signed orders for millions of doses from a variety of foreign pharmaceutical companies in recent months, he said, and Canada has been pushing the international community to ensure equal access for all.“The very first vaccines that roll off an assembly line in a given country are likely to be given to citizens of that particular country,” he said.“But shortly afterwards, they will start honouring and delivering on the contracts that they signed with other countries, including with Canada. We've secured millions of doses of the vaccines of the various vaccine candidates around the world.”The expectation is that doses will start to arrive in Canada in the first few months of 2021, he added.At the same time, Trudeau said, "we've begun to invest once again in ensuring that Canada will have domestic vaccine production capacity because we never want to be caught short again, without the ability to support Canadians directly.”The federal government announced in August that it was contributing $120 million over two years to build a biomanufacturing facility in Montreal that includes the National Research Council.Ottawa previously committed $23 million to Saskatoon’s VIDO-InterVac operations in March and pledged $175 million to Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics in May to boost its research and production capabilities.Trudeau said it will take time for Canada’s own vaccine-production capability to get up to speed. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner blasted the Liberals later Tuesday for not moving faster on that front. She also called on the government to provide a timeline for when Canadians can start to see vaccines in the country."Because until we have that information, there's no certainty for Canadians and I think that's leading to a lot of mental health issues, it's leading to business closures," she said.During a separate news conference, Public Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada has signed contracts for more doses per capita than any country in the world and that efforts are now underway to prepare for their arrival in the next few months.That involves buying 126 freezers, including 26 ultracold ones, to hold millions of doses of vaccines. Ottawa is also seeking private bidders to run the logistics and considering what role the military could play.Health Canada has started work on approving three vaccines, Anand added, and deliveries won’t start until a vaccine candidate gets that green light.The number of new COVID-19 cases across the country continued to grow, with more than 1,000 each in Ontario and Quebec along with nearly 60 new deaths.Alberta brought in new restriction Tuesday as it also announced more than 1,000 new cases of its own and 16 deaths.Under the new rules, indoor private social events are illegal. Students in Grades 7 through 12 will transition next week to at-home learning and the school holiday break will be extended from Dec. 18 to Jan. 11.But Premier Jason Kenney opted to keep business, including retail and clothing stores open, with 25 per cent capacity. Casinos will be allowed to run their slot machines at 25 per cent capacity and churches will still be allowed to hold services with one-third their normal audience. Restaurants can still offer in-person dining. To justify avoiding a stricter lockdown, Kenney used the example of a Venezuelan refugee who he said had sunk all her money into her small food stand and broke down in tears as she told him she would be ruined if forced to close."I would ask people who have the certainty of a paycheque -- particularly a government paycheque -- to think for a moment about those individuals whose entire life savings are tied up in businesses such as that," Kenney said."For some, perhaps, it is a little bit too easy to say just flick a switch. Shut them down."In neighbouring Saskatchewan, another 175 new cases were reported and 471 in Manitoba, where chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin warned the provincial health-care system is being pushed close to capacity.The Manitoba government also reported it had issued one ticket — with more expected — in connection with a Sunday church service in a rural area near Steinbach, southeast of Winnipeg, that allegedly violated a ban on public gatherings. There were 37 new cases were reported in Nova Scotia, with new restrictions set to come into effect in Halifax. Five new cases were reported in New Brunswick and two in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yukon was also adopting mandatory mask orders despite no new cases being reported. “There are more regions of the country with high infection rates,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday.“And it is clear that COVID-19 knows no bounds. Communities, jurisdictions and whole regions that were little, if at all, impacted in the past (are) now seeing community spread. Some areas are experiencing very high rates of infection for the first time.”Meanwhile, the Ontario government said it would start distributing rapid tests for COVID-19, adding that the new tools are already being used in some hospitals and long-term care homes.Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province would continue to deploy the 98,000 ID Now tests and 1.2 million Panbio tests it has received from the federal government in the coming weeks.The Quebec government clarified its plan for the Christmas holidays Tuesday, saying citizens can attend only two events in a four-day window.Premier Francois Legault's government initially announced it would permit gatherings of a maximum of 10 people for four days between Dec. 24 and 27, and asked Quebecers to voluntarily quarantine themselves for a week before and after in exchange.On Tuesday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister decided to weigh in on Quebec's plan, which he called "dangerous.""I don’t want to get into quarterbacking other provinces. There are premiers there doing their absolute best, except to say this: I think it’s dangerous what the Quebec premier has decided to announce on Christmas," Pallister said. In response, Legault said the number of new cases per million residents is currently lower in Quebec than Manitoba.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.—With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg, John Chidley-Hill and Paola Loriggio in Toronto, and Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The Alberta government announced Tuesday new restrictions to battle record-high rates of COVID-19 infections in the province. In addition to declaring a public health emergency, the government ordered the following for the next three weeks: — No indoor social gatherings. Funerals and weddings are limited to 10 people, as are outdoor gatherings. Churches are restricted to one-third normal attendance. — Restaurants and bars can remain open. But a maximum of six people from the same household can sit at a table and there must be no movement between tables. People who live alone can meet with two people. -- Retail stores can remain open at 25 per cent capacity. — At-home learning for students in Grades 7 through 12 starting Monday. Other students are to do their schooling from home starting Dec. 18 before winter break. All students are to resume at-home learning after the break and can return to school Jan . 11. -- Casinos can remain open at 25 per cent capacity with slot machines only. — The closure of banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, concert venues, community centres, and indoor play places. — A halt on all levels of sport, although exemptions may be considered. — Mandatory masks for indoor workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and surroundings areas. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Finance Minister Travis Toews says COVID-19 will affect Alberta’s economy for the next couple of years and perhaps beyond, but projections are encouraging.“COVID-19 has created an environment of uncertainty, not just here in Alberta but around the world,” Toews said Tuesday as he announced updated numbers for his current budget.“I can’t say whether the worst days are behind us in this pandemic. (But) I’m hopeful when I see signs of economic recovery out there. We’re doing all we can to position Alberta for recovery.”Toews said the revised budget deficit this year will be $21.3 billion. That’s $2.8 billion less than projected at the first update in August, but still exponentially larger than the $6.8-billion deficit announced when Toews first presented the budget in February.Since then, Toews said Alberta’s economy has been hit by the “triple black swan”: the COVID-19 pandemic, the drop in oil prices due to an international price war, and a global economic contraction.But he said the updated revenue forecast for the current budget is $41.4 billion, almost $3 billion higher than last quarter due to improved forecasts for resource and gaming revenues, investment income and federal transfers.Expenses are pegged at $62.7 billion, up $5.4 billion due to compensation and health-care initiatives responding to the COVID-19 crisis.Taxpayer-supported debt is pegged to hit $97.4 billion by the spring and $125 billion by 2023.Total spending to fight COVID-19 and for pandemic recovery efforts is forecast to be $4.8 billion this year and an estimated $1.8 billion for the two years after that.Revenue from non-renewable resources is forecast at $1.7 billion, down $3.4 billion.Toews said there are encouraging signs, but it will be a long path to full recovery. Real GDP, a measure of a jurisdictions’ total economic output, is expected to fall to 8.1 per cent rather than the expected 8.8 per cent this year and won’t recover to 2014 levels until 2023.Real GDP is expected to grow 4.4 per cent in 2021.Elsewhere, the province reported that the agriculture sector is reaping the rewards of strong crop conditions overall and the forestry sector is seeing higher prices for lumber.Refined petroleum exports are rising. The food manufacturing sector has seen sales rise 5.5 per cent through September. In the labour sector, employment has gained back 72 per cent of the 360,900 jobs lost earlier this year during the first COVID wave. However, employment is still expected to shrink by seven per cent in 2020 and won’t get back to 2019 levels until 2022.Toews said recalibrating Alberta’s finances in the long term will be tied to three “anchors”: keeping spending under control and comparable to other provinces, keeping the net-debt-to-GDP ratio to no more than 30 per cent, and devising a post-pandemic timeline to get the budget out of the red.“Economic recovery and efficient delivery of government services are both critically important for fiscal recovery,” said Toews. “As we continue to face the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to do everything we can to protect Albertans while also managing our finances responsibly.”Opposition NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips dismissed Toews’ update as an overly optimistic forecast given the province is still dealing with a renewed wave of COVID-19.“Simply put, the UCP can’t be trusted to manage the province’s finances or the economy,” said Phillips.“The first wave of COVID-19 was on our doorstep, but the UCP acted like everything was fine."Now in the midst of a second wave, we see the outcome of this government’s poor planning. We have an out-of-control pandemic, an absent premier and one of the slowest economic recoveries in Canada.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
As COVID-19 cases continue to grow, Premier Andrew Furey has decided to pull the plug on the Atlantic bubble — at least for now. Beginning Wednesday at 12:01 p.m., anyone arriving in the province from the Maritimes must isolate for 14 days. However, travellers within Atlantic Canada will still not have to apply for an exemption. The resumption of quarantine rules will also now apply to southern Labrador border communities, and those who live on the Quebec side but work in Labrador will have to apply for an exemption. Furey described the move as a “circuit break” and said it will be re-evaluated in two weeks. “This is not an easy situation,” he told reporters Monday to a live video briefing. “We must be responsive now and address the situation today,” he said, adding that the aim is to protect the school population and vulnerable citizens. “None of us want another full lockdown like the one we’ve just been through.” Furey said he talked to the other Atlantic premiers over the weekend and all are on board with the decision. P.E.I. Premier Dennis King announced Monday that province will also pause its participation in the bubble, starting Tuesday. “We’re enjoying this level of freedom,” Furey said. “We want to keep it that way.” But he dismissed the notion that leaving the bubble may affect some businesses in the province. “This is an effort to protect the economy.” Furey said the number of cases in other Atlantic provinces was not the only factor in the decision. Public Health also took into account that non-residents from the rest of Canada are still allowed to travel to those provinces without the need of an exemption. The province added another two cases to its tally Monday, including the first case of a child in school. It’s a girl in elementary school in Deer Lake, where a cluster of cases has caused much of the town to shut down as a precaution. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the child’s cohort — which in this case means the rest of her class — will now have to self-isolate while awaiting a test. “While this is not welcome news today, it is certainly not unexpected,” Fitzgerald said. “We knew we would eventually see cases in schools.” She added that procedures are being followed, and that the source of all cases in Deer Lake has been established and there’s no evidence of community spread. Fitzgerald said she’s tweaking the rules for rotational workers, but won’t backtrack on the shortened seven-day quarantine period implemented in September to relieve the burden of constant isolation while home. However, workers returning from sites elsewhere in Canada will have to wait till Day 7 to get a test, rather than being able to arrange one on Day 5. That may mean some workers may have to wait an extra day for results. That rule goes into effect Wednesday as well. Fitzgerald said waiting two extra days will provide an extra layer of protection. Workers returning from work outside Canada or returning from sites with an identified outbreak still have to isolate for the full 14 days. As well, Fitzgerald said families of rotational workers should avoid large gatherings during the isolation period, should wear a mask when in contact with anyone outside their bubble, and should avoid entering personal and long-term care homes. However, she admitted that is a recommendation and not a rule. Rotational workers, however, are now required to stay out of care facilities. “We continue to carefully consider the balance of risks and benefits as COVID rages on outside our borders,” she said. The province now has 23 active cases, but no longer has anyone in hospital. In Grand Bank — where seven people tested positive, including five seniors over the age of 70 — all contacts have been traced and are in quarantine, Fitzgerald said. In Deer Lake, however, contact tracing continues. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Health officials at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Cote-Saint-Luc refute a nurse's assertion that staff are made to travel between hot and cold zones, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to 45 at the residence. They say they have added several precautions since the first wave, including employees whose sole purpose is to make sure protocols are being followed and personal protective equipment is worn and discarded properly. "Staff stay in the same unit," said Jennifer Clarke, site coordinator at Maimonides."It could be that a staff member was asked to move to a hot zone because maybe we need extra support there, but then they do not return to the regular care unit."Monday, a nurse at Maimonides told CBC a colleague had been forced to work in one of the regular units after having worked in the centre's hot zone on the seventh floor. The nurse, whom CBC agreed not to name, said the home is short-staffed and workers are questioning the quality of the personal protective equipment (PPE) they are provided, as seven staff members tested positive on one floor. "The morale is low. We are burned out. We are tired. At night, there is one nurse and one patient attendant for 70 patients," she said. Clarke agreed staff are tired, but that there are no serious staff shortages at the centre. She said the Quebec government program to train thousands of patient attendants benefited the centre, as 70 new patient attendants were sent to work there."The staff are feeling the burden of the pandemic. In the first wave, we were running on adrenaline. But heading into the second wave, you can feel it — they're feeling discouraged."Four Maimonides residents have died since the outbreak began more than a week ago at the centre. Clarke said the outbreak has been traced to a resident who was infected by their caregiver. The centre holds a testing clinic three days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., where staff and caregivers are encouraged to regularly get tested. Clarke says the centre cannot legally force them to be tested, but that testing becomes mandatory once an outbreak is declared. The centre considers one positive case sufficient to declare an outbreak "because we know that once we have one case, it can very easily spread," she said.Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, the president of the health board overseeing Maimonides, CIUSSS West Central Montreal, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, reassuring residents and their families that staff were not transferred from hot to cold zones. "To those who are ill and to their loved ones, I would like to express my deepest concern, as well as my assurances that everything possible is being done to support the residents' recovery," Rosenberg wrote. "It is also worth noting that representatives of the Public Health Department visited Maimonides on Friday. Although their official report has not been released yet, they have already spoken to us and given their approval for the measures we have put in place."
After 17 years on the job, former Timmins mayor Jamie Lim is looking forward to the spending more time with family life while keeping an optimistic eye on the future of the province’s forestry sector. On Monday it was announced that she will be retiring from her position as president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) at the end of the calendar year. “In 2019, we had a little bit of a family health crisis, and it just sort of made me reassess everything, and I thought 2020 would be a nice time to retire,” she told The Daily Press. “I made the decision before COVID. I can tell you now when I made the decision in 2019, I thought 2020 was going to be a nice walk in the park, and regular work, and closing some files and stuff with the association. I had no idea that 2020 would have a global pandemic and a global economic crisis waiting for us.” Her final year at the helm has seemingly gone in a flash. “Since March, it’s just been a blur, because we’ve been so busy making sure that we can continue working during this global pandemic.” Lim said it is important to know when to pass the torch. “Seventeen years at a trade association is a really long tenure. I’m very, very proud that I’ve had 17 wonderful years to work with the forest sector. Some of my members have been running their mills in their family for six generations. Representing this sector, honestly, has been one of the greatest pleasures in my life. It really has.” Ian Dunn will step in as interim president and CEO effective Jan. 1. Dunn is currently the executive director of policy and operations, and has been with the organization for five years. “It’s really an honour and a privilege to lead an association like this,” he said. “I got into this because of a passion for Ontario’s forests, and that’s a real source of inspiration for me and OFIA staff, and I'm looking forward to Jan. 1.” Dunn believes the experience from his current role has prepared him to step into his new position smoothly, as it was policy focused. “Certainly, how it impacted the woodlands operations of our members of forest management type issues. It’s grown over time to include manufacturing-type issues such as carbon pricing, emissions standards, things like that, as well as market-related issues such as the softwood lumber trade dispute. “So in my current role, I’ve had a really good opportunity to get exposed to all facets of the business and I’m really looking forward to stepping into more of a leadership position.” Lim said that by both growing up in Timmins and living in the city as an adult, she knows how important the mining and forestry sectors are to the local and regional economies, and emphasized their roles as the economic engines of the area. She pointed to some big numbers from the OFIA. “We employ 147,000 people directly and indirectly, and we generate about $18 billion in revenue for the province every year.” Over the last two years, she said it has “been a pleasure” to work with a provincial government that recognizes the importance of the forestry sector to Ontario “and acknowledges the importance of having economic engines in Northern and rural Ontario that can create employment for our people.” She credited Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, as well as Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks Jeff Yurek for their commitment to improving the forestry sector in Ontario. “All three ministers with the Premier have been instrumental in supporting the sector before the pandemic and during the pandemic,” said Lim. Ford and Yakabuski announced the provincial forest sector strategy in August. Lim stated that in her 17 years with the OFIA, she has never seen the province willing to put forward a formal strategy. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. The United Nations in 2018 had a study commissioned and it showed that global demand for wood products is expected to increase by 30 per cent by 2030.” Lim believes that everything points to continued strength for the forest products sector, and that with the right public policy, and right aspirations from government decision makers, forestry can become an even bigger economic powerhouse. “Respond to that global demand for wood products. I want to see them come from Ontario, and I want to see the jobs, and the economic growth in Northern and rural Ontario.” Dunn agrees. “I think we’re on a real solid foundation. The province’s forest sector strategy is an amazing opportunity to grow the sector. So I’m very optimistic about the future of forestry in Ontario,” he said. In a year like no other in history, the forestry sector being declared an essential service was absolutely critical for both the people who are employed in the sector, as well as the general public. Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to make that declaration. “People realize in times of crisis like this how important forest products are, and if we can source them from a local jurisdiction like Ontario, that’s even better,” said Dunn. The forestry sector is essential to not only the province’s economic recovery, but also its response to the crisis. “I think this is a sector that can really contribute to the response to the current pandemic in a number of ways. The production of PPE (personal protective equipment) or lumber for infrastructure projects or even palettes for the movement of goods and medicines,” he said. Lim added, “We’ve kept people working, and to me, right now during this economic and health crisis, nothing could be more important. “I never thought I would see something like this in my entire life.” As she prepares to leave her position, Lim talked about the overall current state of forestry in Ontario. “In March, I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect, and it’s incredible that forestry doesn’t seem to have been impacted like other sectors.” The demand and sales numbers for wood products have been “exceptional,” according to Lim. “Who knew that people, because they were staying home, would start doing all these do-it-yourself projects, new decks and renovations — the amount of building that went on really allowed our sector to maintain its strength in the global marketplace.” Having been with the OFIA since 2004 and working through the 2008 recession, Lim sees the forestry sector as being in a better position this time around. “I think there are more opportunities than challenges.” She said that health and safety for everyone must be the top priority, but it does also present its own challenges. There are questions about how tree planting will be handled next spring, for example. However, the forestry sector is in big demand right now with PPEs, consumer lumber, and of course, toilet paper sales way up. “We’re the sector that is making sure that the supplies that people need right now are available,” said Lim. She said the OFIA has a very engaged and passionate team in place, and has full confidence in Dunn. “I am confident that the strong, effective advocacy that OFIA has been known for is going to continue without even a hiccup. We’re going to continue to make sure that forestry is top of mind with the provincial and federal governments, and that the measures we need to keep people working will be in place.” Dunn will be keeping a close eye on the numbers in the final weeks of 2020 before he moves into his new role. “I think Ontario is in a good position,” he said. “I think prices that we’re seeing for some commodity products, certainly dimensional lumber, which have increased pretty substantially over the last couple of months, it will be interesting to see how sustainable those prices are, or if they're more of a blip on the radar.” So what’s next for Lim? Well, for starters, she said she would like “a well-deserved rest” but also, more family time. “I want to exhale. My three children work in the medical sector and they’re all in hospitals, so I really haven't been able to spend any time with them over the last nine months. So my priority is going to be my family. “We’re a really close family and we’re used to being together all the time.” She is looking forward to the next chapter of her life. “People that work with me and know me well, know that I am so passionate about two things: That’s my family and Northern Ontario.” Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, his province bending precariously under the weight of record COVID-19 cases, imposed new sweeping public health restrictions Tuesday that include a ban on gatherings in people’s homes.Kenney also announced changes to schools, churches, restaurants and retailers, and banned sports teams from playing and sharply curtailed attendance at weddings and funerals.He said the goal is to slash the rate of infections and keep people alive while preventing the loss of jobs and livelihoods that threaten to make an already dire situation even worse.“This whole thing is just incredibly tough for everyone,” Kenney said Tuesday.“I just never imagined I’d be in this place in public life where I was telling people who could come visit them at home.“We really just felt we had no option given that 40 per cent of traceable cases connect back to private social activity.”Indoor gatherings are banned immediately, but people who live alone can have two personal contacts they are allowed to meet up with.Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people, as are funerals and weddings.Kenney said the government is still working out how officers will enforce the gathering ban, but said there will be not be a “snitch line” for people to report on their neighbours.“(Officers) will be able to write tickets for fines of up to $1,000 per individual who is violating these rules against indoor social activities."He added that police and peace officers will have latitude on enforcement "They will be able to see if there are obvious signs of a large gathering, a lot of cars parked outside somebody’s house, for example," Kenney said. Starting Friday, businesses will remain open at reduced capacity or by appointment only.Places of worship must operate at one-third capacity. Banquet halls, conference centres and concert venues must also close.And children in grades 7 through 12 will move to at-home learning at the end of the month and other students will follow after Dec. 18.The orders will be reviewed in three weeks.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reported 1,115 new cases on Tuesday — the sixth consecutive day with numbers above the 1,100 mark. There were 348 patients in hospital, 66 of them in intensive care. Sixteen more people died, bringing that total to 492.A day earlier, Hinshaw compared the COVID-19 situation in Alberta to a snowball rolling down a hill, growing in size and speed.Lives and livelihoods have been the crux of the debate in Alberta. Kenney has maintained that the best approach is targeted health restrictions to keep COVID-19 from overrunning the health-care system while keeping the economy from collapsing.Others, including many physicians, infectious disease specialists and the Opposition NDP, have called for sharp, short economic lockdowns, arguing that if the COVID-19 wave isn't stopped, there won’t be an economy left to save.Kenney’s decisions were made after Hinshaw made new undisclosed recommendations Monday to the cabinet subcommittee directing COVID-19 decisions.NDP Leader Rachel Notley called the new restrictions “half-measures” and said they were likely the result of political bargaining instead of advice from public health officials.“We cannot know, unfortunately, exactly what Dr. Hinshaw recommended to this UCP cabinet. But I do not for one second believe it was this,” she said.Mike Parker, head of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, a union representing paramedics and other health professionals, said Kenney tried to find the middle ground and failed.“The measures announced today are inadequate,” Parker said. “(Kenney) continues to put business interests ahead of the well-being of Albertans.”Jason Schilling, head of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the groups supports the move "to move to a combination of in-school and at-home learning that will allow schooling to continue in a safer environment."This is the second time Kenney's government has imposed sweeping rules to combat COVID-19.The province shut down many retail businesses, restaurants, recreation centres and schools during the first wave in March. Most were allowed to reopen in May and June with restrictions. Schools opened again in the fall.In recent weeks, the province has limited public gatherings in areas including Edmonton and Calgary and forced bars and restaurants to stop serving booze by 10 p.m. and to close by 11 p.m.Indoor group fitness and team sports, along with group singing and arts performances, are also banned in several large cities.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
The Hong Kong government's priority is to "restore the political system from chaos", Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday in her annual policy address, which did not deliver blockbuster steps to boost the economy or ease a housing crisis. Lam's lengthy address to the semi-autonomous city's legislature was delayed by more than a month to accommodate her high-profile trip to Beijing for talks on how China can help with the finance hub's economic recovery.
BEIJING — China says it has detected the coronavirus on packages of imported frozen food, but how valid are its claims and how serious is the threat to public health?Frozen shrimp imported from an Ecuadorian company was banned for one week on Tuesday in a continuing series of such temporary bans.While experts say the virus can survive for a time on cardboard and plastic containers, it remains unclear how serious a risk that poses. Like so many issues surrounding the pandemic, the matter has swiftly become politicized.China has rejected complaints from the U.S. and others, saying it is putting people’s lives first. Experts say they generally don’t consider the presence of the virus on packaging to be a significant health risk.A look at the issue and some of the conclusions so far:CHINA’S CRACKDOWNPackaging first became a major issue with outbreaks in China linked to wholesale food markets, including one in June on the outskirts of Beijing. That prompted the removal of smoked salmon from supermarket shelves and has snowballed into multiple cases nationwide involving chicken, beef and seafood from nearly two dozen countries. At some supermarkets, imported meat now comes with a sticker declaring it to be virus-free.Infections among freight handlers have also placed suspicion on packaging. Person-to-person transmission hasn’t been ruled out, however, and China has yet to release evidence that packaging was indeed the route of infection.OVERSEAS COMPLAINTSTrading partners, including the U.S., New Zealand, Canada and the EU, say they’re unclear on China’s methodology and have seen no solid evidence that their products carried the virus. The U.S. has questioned whether China’s crackdown is scientifically based and suggested the bans may amount to an unfair trade barrier.Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called the U.S. accusations “totally groundless and unreasonable.” China’s measures are “necessary following the spirit of putting people’s lives first and protecting people’s health,” he said last week.In a statement to The Associated Press, the World Health Organization said cases of live viruses being found on packaging appear to be “rare and isolated.” While the virus can “survive a long time under cold storage conditions,” there is no evidence of people contracting COVID-19 from consuming food, it said.SURFACE TRANSMISSIONThe virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 is overwhelmingly transmitted through respiratory droplets and smaller sized particles passed through the air, underscoring the importance of mask-wearing.Yet the virus can also be present on surfaces, and public health officials have urged people to wash their hands carefully and avoid physical contact with others. In general, the colder and dryer that conditions are, the longer the virus can survive on surfaces.Wiping down countertops, handrails and other surfaces is a common way to ensure safety. Some people have also gone to the extreme of disinfecting packages brought into their homes, both by themselves or by delivery services.WHAT EXPERTS SAYVirus traces found on packaging can be infectious or non-infectious. The extremely sensitive tests being used can detect both active viruses and their remnants, without being able to distinguish between them, said Timothy Newsome, a virologist at the University of Sydney.“It is possible and may represent some risk, but it’s certainly at the lower end of risk for transmission,” he said. “We know low temperatures do stabilize the virus. Nonetheless, I think things which have been transported and surface transmission — there’s a low risk of it.”A positive test “doesn’t indicate infectious virus, just that some signal from the virus is present on that surface,” said Andrew Pekosz of Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.“I’ve seen no convincing data that SARS-CoV-2 on food packaging poses a significant risk for infection,” he said.___Associated Press health and science writer Victoria Milko contributed to this report.The Associated Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia health officials are reporting a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases, while they order a pause indoor physical activities. B.C. recorded 941 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 10 deaths. There are 7,732 active COVID-19 cases in B.C., and 284 people are in hospital. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a joint statement that residents need to support B.C.'s health-care workers by slowing the spread of COVID-19. The latest peak in numbers comes as health officials ordered dance studios, yoga studios and other indoor physical activity spaces to suspend operations as new guidance is developed. Henry and Dix urged the public to think of COVID-19 patients and the effect the virus is having on their family members. Earlier Tuesday, the Fraser Health Authority announced that 55 patients and 40 staff at Burnaby General Hospital had tested positive for COVID-19 and most patient admissions to the hospital would be suspended. The health authority also announced five deaths due to the virus. Patients in the intensive care unit, maternity, and community palliative care will still be admitted. The health authority says a fire in the hospital's emergency room last week contributed to the outbreak, as patients were moved to areas of the hospital they normally would not be. Also on Tuesday, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth extended the province's state of emergency until Dec. 8 and laid out enforcement measures for wearing masks in B.C. People 12 years and older are required to wear masks in indoor settings, ranging from malls to public transportation, and failure to do so can result in a $230 fine. People who cannot wear a mask, or who cannot put on or remove a mask without the assistance of others, are exempt from the new order. The detailed guidelines come as the union representing British Columbia teachers called on parents to support a "culture" of wearing masks as it continues to push for a mandatory mask policy in schools. Teri Mooring, the head of the BC Teachers' Federation, said in an open letter to parents that the union is looking for help in implementing and following mask-wearing protocols. The federation has repeatedly called on provincial health officials to make masks mandatory in schools. Mooring said some schools have already taken the step to make mask wearing normal and expected and it helps everyone to make schools feel safer. Henry has said that schools have specific COVID-19 safety plans and are exempt from the new mandatory mask requirements set out last week. Henry told a news conference Monday that students are in schools with a group of people they see day-to-day, unlike businesses where people interact with others they don't know, necessitating wearing a mask. She said she supports mask wearing in common areas and among adults at schools. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020. The Canadian Press
Adamson Barbecue based in Etobicoke, just west of Toronto, was allowed to have guests dine-in on Tuesday afternoon despite being in violation of provincial and municipal bylaws.