Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
MADRID — Spain's Supreme Court has revoked a less restrictive prison status awarded to nine Catalan political figures previously sentenced to jail for their part in a secession attempt in Catalonia. The status would have allowed them almost daily release.The court said Friday that such a measure was “premature” given that none of the nine had served half their sentence and most not even a quarter of it. The sentences ranged between nine and 13 years.The nine were convicted in 2019 of sedition and misuse of public funds following the failed independence bid two years earlier. After they were transferred to prisons in the northeastern region, the pro-independence Catalan regional government granted them third-grade status last July. meaning they could leave prison during the day to carry out certain activities.The July measure was quickly suspended following appeals by prosecutors.The new court ruling comes as the leftist Spanish government is considering possible pardons and a reform of the sedition law that would favour the nine.The nine include the former vice-president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, and five ex-regional cabinet members.Former regional president Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium and is still sought by Spanish authorities.Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the secession push in Catalonia was Spain’s most serious crisis in decades. Polls have long shown the wealthy region’s 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence. Spain’s constitution says the country is indivisible.The Associated Press
CALGARY — One child asks for a coat for her dog in case her family gets evicted. Another girl hopes Santa can bring her pet medication he needs. Another wishes for enough dog food.A charity that provides subsidized pet care, including food hampers and medical treatment, for low-income residents is receiving Christmas letters from children asking for help for their furry friends.Parachutes for Pets in Calgary has delivered 2,000 pet food hampers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. But demand, especially during the second wave of the pandemic, is taking its toll on both the organization and those receiving help."Instead of Santa I wanted to write to you guys. My dog Badger is really cute and my best friend. He needs pills or he gets really, really sick. Could you bring me his pills for my Santa gift? I've been really good and so has he," reads a letter signed Hanna and Badger.The organization says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week that normally would have gone to Santa."My Christmas wish this year is a coat for my dog Max. Mom says we can't pay rent after this month and I want Max to be warm if we have to stay in our car," wrote Kaylee."I have a warm coat and I think one would be good for him to stay warm. Please tell Santa this is my only wish. Merry Christmas."Melissa David, who founded the charity, said the messages from the kids are heartbreaking."Instead of writing to Santa, they've written to us. Their Christmas wish is either for their dog to get medication and their dog to get food, so they don't have to share their meal with them."David said the charity referred Kaylee's mom, who was at risk of being evicted, with an agency to deal with her rent arrears.She said the charity made it through the first wave of the pandemic, but the resurgence of COVID-19 in the last months has resulted in demands coming at a "fast and furious rate.""This second wave is going to cripple us. The amount of additional homeless with pets and domestic violence incidents involving pets is astronomical," David said.People are still donating food items, she said, but there's also a need for cash, which is in short supply."This (pandemic) in addition to everyday challenges that are still here, such as cancer and illness, is really making it difficult for people to keep their pets at a time they can't afford mentally to lose them."David said she is reaching out in desperation since there are limits on what help the charity can arrange."We were passed over for most COVID grants because animals were not considered essential."There are also messages asking for help from physically abused women who are afraid to leave their pets behind."They want to take their pet with them. They're at the lowest of lows and they don't leave with anything but the clothes on their back. And if that pet stays, statistics are 80 per cent that it will be tortured or killed or used as some sort of revenge by the abuser."The head of the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter said crisis calls between April and September were up nearly 65 per cent compared with the year before.Shelter CEO Kim Ruse confirms many women stay where they are for fear of their pets being harmed. "Not having a place for pets to go often stops women from leaving abusive and dangerous situations," Ruse said. "Many are unaware that there are options for keeping pets safe while finding safety for themselves and their children."She said the agency does have pet-friendly rooms to accommodate small animals."Allowing pets in the shelter will help provide emotional and healing support for women and their children during their stay."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020\-- Follow @BillGraveland on TwitterBill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Climate activists piled up giant cardboard delivery boxes outside the finance ministry in Paris on Friday, protesting against Amazon's expansion in France as the online retailer launched a delayed "Black Friday" sales drive. Gathered in the ministry's cobbled courtyard, the protesters from three groups - ANV-COP 21, Attac and Amis de la Terre - rolled out a banner on the building's facade bearing the slogan "change of owner" and featuring the faces of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and French President Emmanuel Macron.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in reshuffled his cabinet on Friday as his approval rating sank to a record low amid a backlash over housing policies, rising coronavirus cases, and a scandal involving the justice ministry and top prosecutors. Moon nominated new ministers of interior, health, land and housing, and gender as he sought to refresh his administration, with roughly two years of his presidency to run. Limited to a single term, and holding a small parliamentary majority, there is no obvious risk to Moon's presidency, but the drop in ratings, a resurgence of coronavirus cases and nagging domestic controversies could make it harder for him to fulfil his agenda.
Plexiglass and masks have become a part of everyday life on P.E.I., but for people with hearing loss, those safety barriers create another obstacle to communication."That's making it very difficult for a lot of people to actually comprehend what is being said — some people can't hear," said Daria Valkenburg, co-president of Hear P.E.I. "I basically limit where I go. So for businesses that don't have a system where I can hear out there, unless I have to go, I don't go. So basically that's what it's done is it's limited me."To help those with hearing loss, Access PEI has installed speech transfer systems in Charlottetown and Summerside.Two stations are set up with the device in Charlottetown. There is a microphone on either side of the station, with speakers on the customer-facing side providing extra volume when needed. There's also a function that allows certain hearing-aid users to connect directly."It also has a telecoil, which means that the person speaking has their voice going instantly into the hearing aid or the cochlear implant, meaning that it is completely accessible," said Valkenburg. "There is such a clarity of sound that it's unbelievable."With that method, all the background noise is eliminated, only delivering the audio coming out of the microphone — handy for busy, noisy places like Access PEI, said Valkenburg. The booths that are equipped with this new technology are marked by a universal hearing loop symbol.For those who don't have a hearing aid with telecoil, people can get a hearing loop device that allows users to dial into the frequency and hear it through headphones.'Seemed like a natural fit'The pilot project came about after Access PEI reached out to Hear P.E.I. to see what it could be doing to better serve that community. "It just seemed like a natural fit for us in an attempt to make our sites more accessible, to create a more inviting experience," said Mark Arsenault, director of Access PEI. "They don't have to speak loudly, you know, from a privacy perspective.… It's just your own voice level and their own voice level. So, nobody shouting or anything like that." While it is just a pilot project right now, Arsenault said he'd like it expanded across the Island."Then we'll look at it from there and see whether or not we need it in every stall or is it just one or two per site, so that we can make sure that we can serve that part of the population perfectly well."More from CBC P.E.I.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison has confirmed that all COVID-19 test results have come back negative for the close contacts of a positive case at Charlottetown Rural High School. The number of men in jobs on P.E.I. in November was virtually the same as it was in January, but working women have made no progress in returning to pre-pandemic levels since the summer.An annual free Christmas dinner in Souris has received the green light from public health to do a takeout version Dec. 25. Island comedian Sandy Gillis shared how keeping people laughing has been keeping up his own spirits during the pandemic. P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.Several P.E.I. appliance stores are dealing with a shortage of products to sell because COVID-19 is affecting the manufacturers of fridges, stoves, washers and dryers.One additional COVID-19 case was confirmed in P.E.I. Thursday, a man in his 20s who is a rotational worker and recently travelled to the Island from outside the Atlantic region. P.E.I. currently has five active cases, and there have been 73 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Nova Scotia reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 Friday. The province currently has 117 active cases. New Brunswick reported eight new cases Friday and is dealing with 111 active cases.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
LONDON — Britain’s announcement that it has become the first Western country to authorize the use of a COVID-19 vaccine has sparked debate about whether officials emphasized speed over safety. The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency gave temporary authorization for people to receive a vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech. The agency made the decision under rules allowing regulators to sign off on medicines more quickly during public health emergencies. The move made the United Kingdom the world's first country to OK a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine. The British public is now seeking more information about the vaccine and the immunization timetable as authorities try to find an equitable way to distribute the limited number of doses that initially will be available. WHO WILL GET THE VACCINE FIRST - AND WHEN? Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said vaccinations would begin “within days.” The exact date the shots start will depend on how fast regulators can complete safety checks that must be done on each batch. A panel of independent experts that advises the British government, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, has set out priorities for vaccinating the most vulnerable people first. The highest priority goes to older people living in nursing homes and their caregivers, but logistical difficulties in shipping smaller quantities of vaccine to reach a limited demographic group might cause a delay to this group. People over age 80 and healthcare workers have the second-highest priority. From there, priority access is based roughly in order of age until a vaccine has been offered to everyone over the age of 50, which is almost 40% of the U.K. population. Younger people with health conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 also will take precedence. DID BREXIT HELP THE UK AUTHORIZE A VACCINE FIRST? Health secretary Hancock sparked controversy when he said Wednesday morning that British authorities couldn’t have moved so quickly if the U.K. were still a member of the European Union. That drew a rebuke from the EU, which pointed out that Britain is still governed by the bloc’s rules. While the U.K. formally left the EU on Jan. 31, it remains bound by European Union regulations until a transition period designed to cushion the shock of Brexit ends on Dec. 31. EU rules permit individual member countries to give temporary authorization for the national use of medicines during a public health emergency. But U.K. regulators may have been able to move faster than the 27-nation EU because they are no longer assessing products intended for the entire bloc, Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said. “Consequently, the U.K. has almost undoubtedly had greater capacity to respond to a new application for authorization of a vaccine than any other country,” Evans said. However, any speed advantage the U.K. might have had is likely to disappear starting Jan. 1, when British regulators will become responsible for reviewing all applications for new drugs and vaccines to be authorized in the U.K. "It will have to do work that previously would have been shared among all the other ... member states,” Evans said. DID UK REGULATORS MOVE TOO FAST? Dr. June Raine, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency's, said people should be absolutely confident that “no corners have been cut.” British experts reviewed more than 1,000 pages of information, including raw data, on safety, quality and effectiveness before deciding to give temporary authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine's use, she said. But that doesn't mean regulators take the same approach everywhere. American immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told Fox News that British regulators didn’t review the data as carefully as their counterparts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, potentially fueling concerns of individuals who are hesitant about getting the vaccine. “We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA,'' Fauci said. “The U.K. did not do it as carefully. They got a couple of days ahead. I don’t think that makes much difference. We’ll be there very soon.'' Evans said there is only one major difference between the approach taken by British regulators and those in the U.S. The FDA often reanalyzes raw data to verify the findings of drugmakers. Virtually no other regulatory entity regularly does this, said Evans, who has worked with EU and U.K. regulators. “The processes carried out by the FDA and the MHRA are basically very similar,” he said. “We may well see differences in interpretation of the data between a regulator and a company, but this type of difference is regularly seen by all regulators, whether they reanalyze the data or not.” WHAT DOES THE EU SAY? The European Medicines Agency has said it expects to make a decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by Dec. 29. The regulator said it is taking more time because it is considering granting the vaccine a different type of green light, known as a conditional marketing authorization. The process requires more data, but will result in the vaccine being authorized for use in all 27 EU member nations, rather than a single country. The agency said its procedure is “the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for use in the current pandemic emergency.'' The debate comes at a particularly sensitive moment as Britain and the EU reach the final phase of talks over their post-Brexit relationship. More than four years after people in the U.K. voted to leave the bloc, negotiators have just days to reach a trade deal before the end of the transition period. One of Britain’s goals has always been to wrest control of its rules and regulations from EU bureaucrats. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN DELIVERING THE VACCINE? First, the Pfizer/BioNTeach vaccine must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit) until a few hours before it is administered. Storage and shipment therefore requires specialized equipment that can maintain such ultra-cold temperatures. Also, the U.K.'s emergency use authorization sets out strict conditions to ensure vaccine supplies aren’t damaged or wasted. The vaccine is shipped in packages containing 975 doses. “You can't, at this point, distribute it to every individual GP surgery, as we normally would for many of the other vaccines available on the NHS,'' National Health Service CEO Simon Stevens said. More broadly, vaccinating a large percentage of the country’s population in a few months is an unprecedented challenge. Because of this, most vaccinations will take place at a relatively small number of sites that can handle large numbers of people. WHERE WILL THE VACCINATIONS TAKE PLACE? Vaccinations will start at 50 hospital hubs, which will offer vaccines to care home residents and people over 80. Those who are going to receive the vaccine will be notified by the hospital, so there is no need to schedule an appointment. As the National Health Service receives additional supplies of the vaccine, the shots will also be offered at about 1,000 community vaccination centres. Local GPs will invite their patients to be vaccinated in order of priority. ___ Follow AP's coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Premier Blaine Higgs' concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten the long-term financial support New Brunswick receives from Ottawa has turned out to be prophetic, a new report by a national think-tank shows.Ben Eisen and Milagros Palacios of the Fraser Institute released a study Thursday suggesting contractions in the economy caused by the pandemic and other forces are flattening economic differences across the country and hastening the creation of new have-not provinces. The new order would dilute the federal government's critical $21 billion equalization program – New Brunswick's most important source of support. "It's a fundamentally transformative change," Eisen said in an interview."Where there used to be a big gap between the so-called haves and have-nots, I'm not even sure that bifurcation makes sense any more."Five have-not provinces are currently eligible for money under the program's formula, including Manitoba, Quebec and all three Maritime provinces.As Canada's poorest province, New Brunswick is receiving a record $2.2 billion in equalization funding this year, 10.7 per cent of the entire federal funding pool. The amount to New Brunswick has grown by $502 million in the last four years, an amount boosted in part when Ontario stopped receiving money two years ago. But as quickly as equalization payments can escalate for poor provinces when national economic disparities are growing, they can also recede, either by a poor province getting richer or rich provinces getting poorer. Eisen said economic data has been revealing a steady "convergence" between rich and poor provinces for several years that has accelerated during the pandemic, moving some like Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario close to requalifying for equalization money. He claimed changes are so dramatic it is not out of the question that Alberta will become a have-not province in this decade, a development with major implications for provinces currently in the equalization pool."There's a set amount of equalization dollars. If a new province becomes eligible for equalization payments, what's left for the other provinces that were receiving them before goes down," said Eisen."If you think of everyone eating a pizza and one more person comes and sits down, that's obviously less for the people who were there before. Equalization is no different." Tombe is an associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary and one of Canada's leading experts on equalization.He calls research behind the new study "top notch," but says it is difficult to predict what will happen in the near term."Forecasting these days is tricky, to say the least," Tombe said in a message Thursday.Equalization is based on three-year rolling averages of economic activity and works from a formula completely in the hands of the federal government, which can change the formula as it wishes. The formula also has protections built in to shield the poorest of provinces and, according to Tombe, that means equalization cuts are less of a threat to New Brunswick than to Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba."Those (with economies) furthest from the national average will tend to gain relative to those closer to it," Tombe said. "Hence Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick aren't as likely to be adversely affected." Higgs has been expressing concern since last spring about the federal government's ability to sustain funding of the equalization program and the effect Alberta's economic troubles might have on how the formula works.> Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'we won't worry about that today.' Well, for me, I'm very worried about it. \- Premier Blaine Higgs"I'm very concerned about next year and our transfer payments, because I don't know what's left in the federal government," he said in May."Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'well, we won't worry about that today. We'll worry about that tomorrow or the next day,' or maybe someone believes they'll never have to worry about it. Well, for me, I'm very worried about it and very concerned."Eisen believes it's likely more provinces will qualify for equalization, and that provinces in the program should prepare for what that could mean."It's important to recognize this is a development that could very well affect the budgets of Maritime provinces," he said.
When Bob Murphy began his search for an affordable housing unit in Toronto, he said the process felt something like blindly throwing darts at a map.As a person with a disability on a fixed income, Murphy's options for an affordable unit within the Toronto Community Housing system were even further limited."You're just basically looking at an address on a map and just picking five choices you would possibly want," he said of the process.Three years later, he says there's been no movement on his application, and a total lack of communication about the status of his search.Murphy says he's now resigned to quietly languishing on Toronto's massive waiting list for affordable housing, which numbers 79,768 according to the city's latest count."I call it the never, ever housing list," said Murphy, who also volunteers with the advocacy group ACORN Canada. "I don't plan on anything ever developing from this list."Frustrating experiences like Murphy's are now driving a push to transform the city's outdated affordable housing application system, which has been described as an inconvenient relic from a pre-digital age."It's a barrier to entry," said Mark Richardson, an affordable housing activist behind the grassroots organization HousingNowTO. He's critical of the current system's reliance on physical documentation and the need for applicants to frequently update their files."I think it's a cumbersome system for people who are looking for housing," said Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, who is also the chair of the city's planning and housing committee.All eyes on NYCImprovements to Toronto's affordable housing application process could make the system easier to access, more responsive, and ultimately more capable of matching applicants with suitable housing, say those calling for change.Those advocates can now point to New York City, which in June rolled out a similarly ambitious makeover of its affordable housing application system to early positive reviews.Prospective tenants in New York can now access and update their applications on a smartphone, and the streamlined system is said to be more effective at matching tenants to possible homes."I think it would make a major difference and possibly create a little bit more hope," said Murphy of New York's revamped system.Richardson said a more sophisticated and intuitive system could also remove a burden on applicants to apply for various lotteries when new units become available. Rather than applying for a handful of buildings like Murphy has done, an improved system could match tenants with any building with an availability."You're not waiting to see some sign up on the side of the building, or the sign in a lobby of a building saying some units are becoming available," Richardson said.Change coming early next year, city saysBailão calls the updated system in New York "a great example" and said Toronto's social housing application process will take cues from it for its next update."It is an excellent system and that's what I'm hoping we're going to be able to roll out in Toronto," she said.She said that could happen as soon as the first quarter of 2021 for subsidized units in the Toronto Community Housing network. The same system would later be used for other forms of affordable housing, including below-market-rate units, Bailão said.A recent pilot project that tested an enhanced application system created the equivalent of 200 new units by more efficiently matching tenants to homes, she added.Despite possible improvements to the application process, Toronto will still have to grapple with a demand for affordable housing that still vastly exceeds the current supply of units.The city's HousingTO plan has a target of 40,000 new affordable housing units by 2030, which covers about half the applicants currently on the city's waiting list.
The performers at Russia's majestic Bolshoi Theatre have danced their way through the Bolshevik revolution, bombing by the Nazis in the Second World War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but surviving the COVID-19 pandemic may be their greatest challenge yet.The historic Moscow landmark closed for six months over the spring and summer as the city went into a lockdown to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but it reopened this fall for a 245th season and is attempting to stage a busy schedule of Christmas season events."It's incredibly difficult," said prima ballerina Yekaterina Shipulina, 41, during a recent break in rehearsal where she was dancing Preludes to Bach as part of a tribute to Russian ballet great Maya Plisetskaya."We are in this … dilemma where we actually can't social distance. We have to take our masks off to perform and be shoulder to shoulder with our dance partners," she told CBC News backstage at the Bolshoi."But there's this term, 'stage therapy' and that's what's happening now," she said of the intensive group effort that's been required to rehearse and perform despite the restrictions."We take energy from [the audience] and we give energy."Within days of the theatre reopening this fall, 30 performers and workers out of more than 3,300 tested positive for COVID-19. The number is even higher now, with more than 100 employees off work. It's unclear how many of those are dancers, but for the Plisetskaya tribute, three dancers had to be replaced at the last minute because either they or a close family member had contracted the virus. In normal circumstances, the ballet would also be hosting guest dancers from around the world in prominent roles, but not now. Costly closureThe financial implications for the Bolshoi have been dire. The six-month shutdown cost the theatre roughly $15 million Cdn, prompting director Vladimir Urin to warn the venue's future was at risk.Right now, tickets, which can range up to $200 US each, are being sold for just 25 per cent of the seats in an auditorium that usually seats more than 2,000. Until mid-November, half the seats at the ballet performances were full, but capacity was further reduced as infection rates in Moscow soared.WATCH | How a gala ballet production comes together in a pandemic:Russia is the fifth most-infected country in the world and has been consistently registering more than 25,000 new cases a day for the past 10 days. Moscow has been seeing from 6,000 to 7,000 new cases a day and the city's mayor has acknowledged the hospital system is "under great pressure."In Canada, the National Ballet of Canada has cancelled the remainder of its 2020/2021 season and it is unclear when performances will begin again.The Royal Winnipeg Ballet cancelled its 80th season in March and this Christmas for the first time in 20 years there will not be a production of The Nutcracker.The Bolshoi hosts the world's largest ballet company, with more than 200 dancers. The interior walls of the building's ornate, gold-leafed rooms are adorned with photographs of world figures and celebrities who have visited over the decades.The director of the Plisetskaya tribute insisted it would be a catastrophe if the dancing were to stop for the pandemic."It's in our nature," said Andris Liepa, who as a dancer, choreographer and director has had a long association with the Bolshoi Ballet.He heads a ballet troupe in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but travelled to Moscow for the Plisetskaya production.Personal risk"People should feel that life is going on, and if you close the theatres and close the concerts, then people feel more suffering just by not having the chance to be part of that … culture."He said everyone who performs has to accept some risk."You cannot perform without being close to each other. The pas de deux [duet] has to be done as close as possible — sometimes we roll over each other, going over and over the bodies getting very close," he said, using his hands to illustrate two dancers weaving their bodies together.His own personal risk now, however, may be lower than others as he contracted the coronavirus a few months back and spent weeks at home in bed with a high fever."We are more careful now because we are wearing masks, we are always doing tests," he said referring to the precautions at the theatre for cast, crew and spectators.In fact, very few of the dancers or performers that the CBC News crew saw during the dress rehearsal were wearing masks. Shipulina, the prima ballerina, was the notable exception."I'm always in a mask. I only take it off for the real performance," she said.Most members of the orchestra, who were crammed together tightly beneath the front of the stage, were not wearing masks. Bolshoi officials told CBC News that rules on wearing masks are up to individuals but it didn't appear the conductor or many of the other musicians were covering their faces.Social beingsOn the performance night, patrons were getting their temperatures checked at the door but once inside the theatre, many wore their masks low underneath their noses. "We are social beings, we can't be without this," ballet goer Tatiana Telokova said on continuing with the performances during a pandemic."This is the main theatre of the country so the government has to think about this if there are hard times."WATCH | A young Russian ballet star keeps dancing during COVID-19:One of the Bolshoi's rising stars, 22-year-old ballet dancer Alyona Kovaleva, told CBC News she is strongly in favour of keeping the Bolshoi open despite the significant risk of infection, but she personally finds wearing a mask while dancing during rehearsals too uncomfortable. "It's really hard. I tried it once — but I can't," she said.Kovaleva missed out on dancing a new lead role because of the summer shutdown and said it was very hard to practise and stay prepared. "It was a disappointment. We all stopped and were thrown from our usual world, from our lives and how we used to see them," said Kovaleva."This was the biggest thing we missed during the quarantine and the time away from the theatre — this feeling of entering the stage, of giving your emotions and then receiving the energy back from the audience."I think we have to dance and perform as long as we are able to."
Three Ottawa-area conservation authorities fear major changes proposed by the Ontario government could cost them their voice in development decisions, particularly when it comes to environmentally fragile watersheds.The province began its review of the role of Ontario's 36 conservation authorities a year and a half ago, but the "sweeping" proposals tucked inside an omnibus budget bill tabled Nov. 5 still "shocked" the general manager of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA).> It is much worse and it goes much further than we ever would have anticipated. \- Sommer Casgrain-Robertson, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority"It is much worse and it goes much further than we ever would have anticipated," said Sommer Casgrain-Robertson. "These changes are so numerous and so significant that it really goes to the heart of what conservation authorities do and how we function."While the legislation would affect their budgets, mandates and boards of directors, Casgrain-Robertson's biggest concern relates to a conservation authority's diminished role in cases where there are concerns about flooding, soil erosion or altering waterways.The changes aim to "streamline" the development permit process, allowing the minister to decide on permit applications and even override a conservation authority's decision. The bill also allows for appeals to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.Casgrain-Robertson said RVCA staff make local decisions based on science, and she fears development permit applications in watersheds could now become politicized."We are not an impediment to development," Casgrain-Robertson said, noting the RVCA approves upward of 95 per cent of development permits and cut wait times by half last year.Government aiming for more accountabilityThe Rideau Valley, Mississippi Valley and South Nation conservation authorities have joined counterparts across Ontario in calling on the government to withdraw the proposals for more work.But Ontario's minister of the environment, conservation and parks said a minister's power to take part in the permit process "will be rarely used, if at all," and wouldn't "step outside of the science".Fixes were needed because the appeal process wasn't working, Jeff Yurek told CBC Sudbury earlier this week."What we heard through our consultation was that conservation authorities throughout the entire province were lacking in accountability, transparency and consistency," he said. The changes to Bill 226 worry Ottawa city council, too, because the boards of conservation authorities would be made up solely of municipal councillors, rather than a mix of councillors and residents with expertise, ostensibly to provide better oversight over the spending of tax dollars.City staff said if the changes go through, nearly every council member would need to take a seat on the board of a conservation authority, and take on the workload associated with it.The Association of Municipalities of Ontario also told the government it had a "growing number of serious concerns," especially "at a time when the public is very concerned about climate change and increased flooding and storm events."Ontario's standing committee on finance and economic affairs held a hearing on Bill 226 earlier this week, and is expected to consider amendments in the coming days.
Health-care workers feel muzzled and alone: Study Colleen Romaniuk Health-care workers in Ontario are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, but according to a new study, they are feeling “sacrificed” and “violated” by their employers and the provincial government. Researchers affiliated with the University of Windsor in collaboration with CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union co-authored a report titled “Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19.” Health-care workers represent 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the province, according to the study, a number that is much higher than the global rate of 14 per cent. Due to fear of reprisal, those on the frontlines are extremely hesitant to speak out – but those who participated in the study told a story of “dismal” working conditions and “unrelenting” stress. “Health-care workers in Ontario are suffering from much higher rates of COVID-19 infection than the general public,” said Dr. James Brophy, one of the lead authors of the new study. “While we are all facing COVID-fatigue and worry, health-care workers are suffering disproportionately from serious psychological distress. They are burning out from overwork, fear and anxiety.” Led by Dr. Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, the study examines in-depth, anonymous interviews conducted with 10 health-care workers who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout Ontario. The respondents, who work in facilities that range from small northern-rural to large urban, were contacted by phone in April and May. Frontline workers, including PSWs, RNs, RPNs, and custodial and clerical staff, all reported feeling unprotected and unsupported in their place of work. “We have lost about 100 staff who have either taken a leave of absence because of fear or have taken a leave to go work other jobs. We have a few who have taken early retirement,” said a participant in the study. “When I leave this interview, I’m heading into work and I’m going to work 44 out of the next 60 hours. I’ve prepared enough food for six meals and they’re in two shopping bags right now. That’s what it’s doing to me.” Some interviewees reported going home to cry after their shifts, sleeping in separate bedrooms away from their spouses, and experiencing increased social isolation because they fear infecting their family and friends. “The words on the page cannot convey the level of emotion we heard in the voices of healthcare workers we interviewed,” said Brophy. “We did not expect to hear the degree of anger and desperation that came out. The stories they told us were tinged with anger, frustration and fear.” There are a number of factors that contribute to the distress of health-care workers in the province, including inadequate protection against the virus, government failings, and barriers to exercising their agency. The study suggests that the provincial government, for example, has not applied the “precautionary principle” identified by the SARS Commission in 2006 which stipulates that, when in doubt, policies should err on the side of caution. “An ongoing debate that has direct impact on health-care workers’ safety is whether or not the virus can be transmitted through airborne particles,” said the study. “The evidence has grown that SARS-CoV-2 can indeed become aerosolized through coughing, sneezing, or even just breathing.” These tiny, aerosolized particles can breach surgical masks, according to Brophy. Researchers have recommended the use of N95 masks or powered air-purifying respirators for more adequate protection. Surgical masks are still considered safe for use in a health-care setting under most circumstances, although the health-care workers that participated in the study expressed some skepticism. “I had an infected patient on one of my shifts. I had my own N95 mask and I had my own goggles, and I had my own hair cover and I made sure I double gloved,” said an interviewee. “I put the cheap level two mask over top of my N95.” The study suggests that the government’s policy was probably “supply-based rather than science-based.” Another contributing factor is the health-care workers’ lack of recourse when it comes to addressing these challenges. Employers generally don’t allow their workers to speak publicly about their experiences at work, and, according to reports, the Ministry of Labour has been unhelpful. “All the frontline workers fear reprisal. We are told, ‘You can’t talk to the media. You have to send your manager to talk to them. We have corporate relations. You can’t be outside holding signs',” said one individual. “It’s just a travesty and these issues need to be said and people need to know what’s really going on.” Another said that they were “disheartened” by the Ministry of Labour during the pandemic. “They’ve totally taken the employers’ side and not the workers. There is no consultation with any frontline worker,” they said. “The ministry is not showing up to calls. They’re doing a lot of phone calls, but it’s not how they should be working. They still need to be out there on the frontlines. They should use PPE and come out to the hospital if we’re saying it’s not safe.” Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union and co-author of the study, explained that health-care workers have a limited right to refuse unsafe work. “They can’t refuse if it would result in a danger to a patient or resident,” said Hurley. “The evidence shows that in every case when the Ministry of Labour was called in, they did not support the workers.” To address these issues, the study recommends increasing staffing levels, adequate PPE and protective administrative and engineering controls, increased mental health supports, and reinvestment into a “weakened public health-care system.” There also needs to be a chance in workplace culture so that health-care workers concerns will be heard, respected, and addressed. “Health-care workers' health and wellbeing is essentially being sacrificed. We all need to pay attention to their pleas during this frightening time,” said Dr. Margaret Keith. “Not only does their wellbeing matter, but we also need to realize if they are not being kept safe, they can’t properly care for their patients or residents.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Even though Lacie Krzemien knew she had been a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, she still had to book an appointment and wait to get tested. "I think what should change is anyone that wants to get tested and is saying they have a close contact should be tested and even waiting 24 hours for me was very stressful," she told CBC News. Krzemien works with Windsor's Overdose Prevention Society and is helping to house people from Tent City. After a man they housed tested positive, Krzemien knew she had to get tested as she said she was a close contact. But, because of a province-wide rule, she wasn't able to just walk-in.Yet, Krzemien isn't the only one who had to wait. Pharmacies conducting tests and one local assessment centre is finding the demand for testing in Windsor-Essex has spiked in recent weeks as cases continue to climb. On Thursday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) reported 63 new COVID-19 cases and 19 outbreaks. WECHU CEO Theresa Marentette said in some cases there could be up to a three-day wait for an appointment at assessment centres, though lab results are coming in within a day or two. Testing demand has more than doubled"All of that combined, there is a little bit of delay in people getting tested and then getting their results at this time," she said.Erie Shores HealthCare Chief of Staff Ross Moncur told CBC News Thursday that they're testing more than 160 people per day at their assessment centre, which is more than double what they were seeing back in October. "As the cases have gone up, [we] have seen increased number of folks looking to be tested," he said. "So our teams have regrouped. This is a year of re-invention and we have re-invented our assessment centre a few times now and in response to the demand we'll be increasing the capacity at the assessment centre by about 20 per cent immediately with eyes to increase it further than that in the coming weeks as we see what happens with demand." The wait time to get a test is about two days right now, Moncur said, adding that he hopes that will decrease as they increase their capacity on Friday. He said they are also willing to set up another assessment centre, though it all comes down to having enough staff on hand. Meanwhile, pharmacist Tim Brady of Brady's Drug Stores in Essex, Ont. and Belle River, Ont., who has been testing at his Essex location for about a month says he's also seeing an increased demand. "It's definitely escalating, the amount of people that are coming in," he said. The pharmacy performs tests for asymptomatic people only, Brady said, meaning it's for those who need a test for work or travel. "These are people that we need to make sure aren't positive so that they don't potentially be the spreader to a bigger issue," he said. They are doing tests three to four days a week and people are typically waiting a day or two to get in.His pharmacy is receiving results in 48 to 72 hours.
Part one of an AP tribute to the celebrities that passed away in 2020 - from Kobe Bryant to Jerry Stiller. (Dec. 4)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Paula and Anthony Hunter spun off their catering service into a restaurant serving Italian food with a “touch of soul” right before the coronavirus hit. Soon, both Louisville businesses slammed to a halt, and the couple relied on federal relief to help stay afloat. They improvised to keep income flowing in, navigating a maze of food delivery mobile apps and prepping boxed lunches for health care workers toiling long hours at local hospitals. Now, hit with a recent statewide order closing restaurants to indoor dining until mid-December, the couple is hoping for another round of federal aid to hang on until a vaccine arrives. “Just a few more months, you know, get us through this,” said Paula Hunter, who owns the Black Italian restaurant along with her husband. Kentucky's senior senator, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is at the centre of congressional negotiations on another relief package. Kentucky voters didn’t punish McConnell for the long-stalemated talks, awarding him a lopsided victory as he secured a seventh term in last month’s election. He spent the campaign boasting about the money he delivered for the Bluegrass State in the massive federal relief package passed early in the pandemic. While reports of hardship are growing in Kentucky, much of the political pressure there is focused not on McConnell but on the state’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear. Beshear is under fire from business owners and state GOP leaders who think the virus-related restrictions he’s imposed on daily life in Kentucky have gone too far. Emboldened by gains they made in the November elections, GOP legislative leaders are expected to push to rein in Beshear’s authority to take emergency measures when the legislature convenes next year. Beshear says he's focused on saving lives but Congress must do its part and pass more aid. “We need people to not be Democrats or Republicans but to be human beings and do the right thing," the governor said in an interview. “People out there are dying, People out there are hurting. This is the time to invest in our people and in their safety.” With COVID-19 surging across the country, a group of Senate centrists has offered a $908 billion federal relief package aimed at breaking the monthslong logjam. McConnell hasn’t budged so far from a $550 billion plan that failed twice this fall but said Thursday that “compromise is within reach” as bipartisan talks gained momentum in the Senate. “There is no reason why we should not deliver another major pandemic relief package to help the American people through what seems poised to be the last chapters of this battle,” McConnell said in a Senate speech this week. In his home state, anxiety is rising along with deaths, infections and hospitalizations. In a region already reeling from the decline of coal mining, eastern Kentucky pastor Chris Bartley has heard an unprecedented chorus of pleas for help from people whose lives have been shattered by the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19. “You hear the desperation in the phone calls: ‘I have to pay my rent today. I’ve done everything I can do. I’ve offered to rake leaves or mow grass or anything I can do.’ They’ve lost their job or the stimulus has run out,” said Bartley, associate pastor at a Methodist church in Pikeville, Kentucky. Along with prayers for divine guidance, Bartley hopes to see more relief from Congress. Beshear, meanwhile, delivers daily doses of grim news of the state's virus cases and deaths and presses for another economic lifeline for struggling businesses, the unemployed, and state and local governments. “We saw the first round of CARES Act funding really flow through our economy in a positive manner," he said. “People needed the dollars. They spent the dollars. We saw businesses lifted up by those dollars. We were able to use funds to help people stay in their homes with an eviction-relief fund. Pay their utility bills so they didn’t end up in debt." Beshear has carefully avoided calling out McConnell or President Donald Trump as the impasse drags on. Republicans dominated federal and state elections last month in Kentucky. The governor has fought his own battles as his restrictions on businesses, gatherings and schools have drawn opposition from GOP lawmakers, business operators and the state's Republican attorney general. Kentucky's Supreme Court last month upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related mandates, but Beshear is now embroiled in another legal fight over his recent virus-related suspension of in-person classes at religious schools. Some restaurant operators vow to reopen their dining rooms to 50% capacity later this month, regardless of whether Beshear chooses to extend his current order closing restaurants and bars to indoor dining until Dec. 13. Beshear said Wednesday he doesn't expect to extend the order. The governor set aside $40 million in federal aid to help bars and restaurants reeling from the restrictions, but many say it will cover only a small portion of the revenue they're losing. Publicly, Beshear shrugs off the pushback from his detractors. “I’m willing to take whatever blame some people want to heap out there," he said. “If it means that their relatives are still around for Christmas this year and Christmas next year, I’ll take it.” Meanwhile, Beshear this week announced the release of an additional $50 million in federal relief funding to reimburse hard-hit city and county governments for coronavirus-related expenses. Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones welcomed the influx of money but warned that without another federal relief package, the hardships will intensify for city and county governments faced with increasing demands from constituents amid shrinking tax revenues. He's hoping any new federal package includes another round of Paycheck Protection Program subsidies for struggling businesses and an extension of supplemental federal unemployment programs. “There’s no question if there’s not an extension of the unemployment benefits and another round of PPP funding, it will have a catastrophic impact on local revenues,” Jones said. Bartley sees the damage being inflicted on families firsthand. “I'm dealing with more mental health issues than I ever have in 20 years," he said. At his church's food pantry, demand fell after Congress passed the massive aid bill months ago, but now more and more people are showing up for bags of groceries. “It’s almost as much as we can do to keep up again," Bartley said. Congress, he added, needs to “get past all of the politics” and provide more aid to those in need. “I don’t know a whole lot about the political scheme of all this, but it seems like we’ve got to do something for the betterment of our country," Bartley said. “I don’t know how or what that could be. But it feels like something has to happen, or it’s like the dam is going to break.” ___ Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. ___ Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Bruce Schreiner And Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, The Associated Press
CALGARY — It seems like a no-brainer to use clean-burning hydrogen to offset the environmental negatives of natural gas for warming homes, but pilot projects to do just that starting next year illustrate nothing is simple about this trendy new energy source.As companies consider ways to commercialize hydrogen as a cleaner alternative fuel and projects advance in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and Markham, Ont., most observers concede it will take time and government support to overcome its cost competitiveness issues and lack of infrastructure."All hydrogen is not created equal," says Tahra Jutt, director of the clean economy program for B.C. with environmental think tank The Pembina Institute and co-author of a hydrogen primer published in July.“If you blend the lowest carbon hydrogen, you're going to get a much better outcome in terms of climate benefit."Hydrogen has many advantages as an energy source. When it burns it leaves only water behind — no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. It can be used for high-energy-intensity applications such as trucking, shipping and steelmaking. It can be compressed for energy storage and transportation. It's non-toxic and dissipates quickly when released.But there are disadvantages, too. Its low ignition temperature and nearly invisible flame when burning pose potential safety issues. Concentrated hydrogen can damage metal, requiring enhanced protection for pipelines. The act of creating hydrogen requires energy, whether to tear apart water molecules with the electrolysis method or breaking down natural gas molecules through thermal processes which themselves create greenhouse gases."The economics in our view for blue and green (hydrogen) are challenged right now but support will increase, costs are bound to come down, so (it's) another good opportunity for us to capitalize on our infrastructure," said Al Monaco, CEO of pipeline company Enbridge Inc., on a recent conference call, echoing the cautious stance taken by many industry leaders.Almost all of the hydrogen created in Canada today is considered "grey," created by burning fossil fuel and then used in industrial processes such as refining petroleum or producing fertilizer. Pembina estimates it costs between 91 cents and $1.42 per kilogram to make.If the carbon dioxide and other pollutants from making grey hydrogen are captured and stored, it becomes "blue" hydrogen, but the cost jumps to between $1.34 and $1.85 per kilogram."Green" hydrogen is separated from water using only renewable electricity and, while it is the most environmentally benign, it is also the most expensive at between $3 and $5 per kilogram, according to Pembina.Utility subsidiaries of Enbridge and Atco Ltd. are embarking on plans to inject hydrogen into the natural gas stream leading to home furnaces and water heaters in Markham and Fort Saskatchewan. Electricity can’t be stored as is, but at Enbridge’s power-to-gas facility in Markham it is used to create hydrogen from water that can be stored until eventually being turned back into electricity with Enbridge's 2.5-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell when needed.Markham's hydrogen is considered green because it is made with intermittent renewable electricity. The facility opened in 2018 after investments of $4.5 million by an Enbridge partnership and $4 million by the federal government. Its operation is supported by a three-year contract from Ontario’s electric system operator to supply surplus renewable power.The system works to level out energy availability but when more hydrogen is created than can be stored, it has to be vented, says Cynthia Hansen, president of gas distribution and storage for Enbridge.A partial solution is to blend the surplus at about two per cent into the local natural gas stream to reduce its overall GHG emissions, a $5.2-million project (with $221,000 from the federal government) expected to begin for about 3,600 customers starting next summer.Atco, meanwhile, is building a $6-million hydrogen blending project backed by $2.8 million in Alberta provincial grants and expected to be operational in early 2022. It is to deliver about five per cent hydrogen in the gas stream to about 5,000 homes in Fort Saskatchewan, a small city just northeast of Edmonton, with the hydrogen coming from an unnamed local supplier."When it starts up it will be grey and then it will transition to blue as the supply in the area builds out,” said Jason Sharpe, Atco's general manager of natural gas, estimating it will take two to three years for blue hydrogen to become available.The Fort Saskatchewan area, with its refineries and petrochemical facilities, is ground zero for carbon capture and storage in Alberta.Shell Canada's Quest project, opened in 2015, has injected more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide into underground storage from its oilsands upgrader.The recently completed Alberta Carbon Trunk Line is a pipeline system designed to collect CO2 from industrial sites in the region and take it to mature oilfields where its permanent storage also results in enhanced oil recovery.The global market for hydrogen could easily triple from current levels of about $200 billion per year by 2050 as countries adopt its use as a decarbonization strategy, according to GLJ, a prominent Calgary energy resource consulting firm.Canada is well-positioned to become an exporter into this growing market because of its current and potential production, GLJ said.Pembina's Jutt, however, says hydrogen usage should be targeted. While it may make sense to use it for home heating in some regions, that application doesn't necessarily make sense in B.C., where energy from renewable hydroelectric sources is potentially more environmentally friendly.Much is riding on promised federal and provincial government regulatory, strategic and financial commitments to hydrogen, as well as other alternative fuels that can help Canada meet its goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, she added."Businesses will do what's right for them from an economic perspective but I think everyone's looking to government for signals that it's good to invest in these things — hydrogen being one of many fuels that we'll need to reach our 2050 goals."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:ENB, TSX:ACO)Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
Clearwater Seafoods is dropping Marine Stewardship Council certification for its Canadian offshore lobster fishery, calling it "a voluntary decision driven by business considerations."The blue MSC eco-label tells consumers the seafood they are buying is sustainably caught and has been a point of pride for North America's biggest shellfish producer.Clearwater's offshore lobster fishery off southern Nova Scotia was the first fishery on the Eastern Seaboard to receive MSC certification in 2010.The current five-year certification expires at the end of the month."Clearwater is confident in the ability of this fishery to meet the MSC standard today, but has chosen not to initiate recertification at this time given the internal resources required to support recertification," Clearwater vice-president Christine Penney said in an email statement to CBC News.Maintaining certification has become more onerous recently for the fishery.Two years ago, Clearwater was convicted of a gross violation when it was caught illegally storing thousands of lobster traps on the ocean floor even after it had been repeatedly warned by Canadian authorities to stop the practice because it was a conservation risk. The traps were left on the bottom with escape hatches open, but continued to catch and kill lobsters.The conviction triggered a Marine Stewardship Council audit and new conditions were imposed to demonstrate compliance."The question comes to mind whether they're unable to show that evidence and therefore they wouldn't pass the certification," said Shannon Arnold, an environmentalist with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax."And so by just walking away from it, they're not forced to show that to the consumers that they're actually fishing within the law."Clearwater defends lobster fisheryClearwater said the fishery was always and remains sustainable."While Clearwater has chosen not to enter into recertification of the offshore fishery MSC program at the end of 2020, the sustainability measures that were in place for 10 years of successful certification continue to be in effect," said Penney."The offshore lobster fishery remains sustainable. The fishery has not been suspended or failed, and it maintains its current certificate until December 2020."The Marine Stewardship Council declined to directly comment on Clearwater's decision to drop its lobster certification."Clearwater is a long-standing partner of the MSC, and its other MSC-certified fisheries in Canada and globally remain in our voluntary program," spokesperson Vianna Murday said in a statement.Other core Canadian species are staying with the council.They include offshore scallops, snow crab, arctic surf clam, cold water shrimp and lobster harvested in the Maritimes by an inshore fleet independent of the company.Clearwater said an internal tracing system will allow it to separate lobster it buys from the inshore and the 720 tonnes it harvests under its offshore licences."This fishery accounts for a small portion of Clearwater lobster volumes, and the use of the eco-label is very limited on products from this fishery," Penney said.Partnership buying companyClearwater is in the process of being sold. If approved by shareholders, the new owner of the company will be a partnership between Premium Brands of British Columbia and a coalition of Mi'kmaw First Nations led in part by the Membertou band in Cape Breton.Membertou had previously bought two of the eight offshore licences held by Clearwater. No one from the band was available for comment.Clearwater management and the company lobster boat, the Randell Dominaux based in Shelburne, N.S., will continue to run the coveted offshore lobster fishery.Offshore lobster fisheryClearwater has enjoyed exclusive rights to Lobster Fishing Area 41, which starts 80 kilometres from shore and runs to the 200-mile limit, extending from Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.The company fishes entirely off southern Nova Scotia. Unlike every other lobster fishery, there is no season and Clearwater has been awarded a quota of 720 tonnes, which it has said represents about 15 per cent of all lobster it sells.For environmentalists like Arnold, the loss of Marine Stewardship Council certification is a blow."That transparency from the MSC process, that extra layer, is what really allowed us to dig in and see what was happening with this fishery in the offshore and how they were fishing outside the legal boundaries," she said. "So we're concerned that we're losing that level of oversight."MORE TOP STORIES
Preventing and controlling the spread of infection is all in a day's work for Dr. Natalie Bridger. In the early weeks of the year, well before COVID-19 commanded complete attention, she was focused on preparing for a pandemic she knew was going to hit North America. She's not just a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, but also the clinical chief of infection prevention and control with Eastern Health. She and her team are responsible for ensuring infections don't spread through hospitals in eastern Newfoundland. "I guess that put us in a good position to lead the way through COVID, or help lead the way, I should say," said Bridger."We were working hard to prepare between January and March. There's no doubt about that. But I wasn't certain that we were going to see cases. And then I guess when we did start seeing cases in March, everything changed." > I think people in health care are burnt out, but pushing through with hope that there is an end in sight. \- Dr. Natalie BridgerBridger shifted from planning for coronavirus cases to response mode, and her actions during the pandemic have now been recognized with a Pediatric Chairs of Canada (PCC) 2020 COVID Leadership Award."I was totally shocked to hear that I'd won to be honest. I guess it's meant a lot because I was nominated by a few of my colleagues at the Janeway. And I think that it caused a lot of reflection for me and for my team about about how far we've come since January," Bridger told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show. According to a release from MUN's Faculty of Medicine, Bridger was nominated for going above and beyond to provide safe and high-quality health care. In one example given, she advocated for appropriate personal protective equipment for health-care workers when confronted with dubious deliveries.She also managed testing and quarantines for health care workers who were exposed to COVID-19, and "answered texts and emails at all hours with calm professionalism, knowledge and wit."A stressful part of the job for Bridger has been trying to figure out best practices while battling the misinformation and uninformed opinions found on social and mainstream media.Saying no to Facebook"It does make it difficult because a lot of people just don't know who or what to believe. So, honestly, I got off Facebook, I just couldn't handle it anymore. That was probably cowardly, but it became just too overwhelming and stressful to be on social media and to deal with this professionally."Bridger is feeling optimistic about the prospect of a vaccine for COVID-19, and her stress levels are under control because there hasn't been any evidence of community spread with the recent spate of travel-related cases of coronavirus in the province. LISTEN | Natalie Bridger describes how a team effort helped prepare for and manage coronavirus, during an interview with Ramraajh Sharvendiran: "We're a little ways away from actually having vaccines in people's arms or legs. And so while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I don't think we can use that as a way to back off from from the extreme amount of discipline that's been shown by Newfoundland and Labrador."Bridger is quick to point out the team effort involved in keeping people safe during a pandemic — one that can come with a high price for people on the front lines."Oh, my goodness, everyone is burnt out. Every single person who works in health care … they're stressed out," she said."Health care is complicated at the best of times. And when you add in this extra layer of this unknown illness that you could catch, you could spread, it could do a lot of harm to people in your family. That adds a whole layer of stress that that I've never encountered before. So I think people in health care are burnt out, but pushing through with hope that there is an end in sight." Bridger will received the PCC 2020 COVID Leadership Award during a virtual ceremony on Dec. 11.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador