Meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal had the honour of becoming a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal had the honour of becoming a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
WASHINGTON — The General Services Administration ascertained Monday that President-elect Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from President Donald Trump’s administration and allowing Biden to co-ordinate with federal agencies on plans for taking over on Jan. 20.Trump, who had refused to concede the election, said in a tweet that he is directing his team to co-operate on the transition but is vowing to keep up the fight.Administrator Emily Murphy made the determination after Trump efforts to subvert the vote failed across battleground states, citing, “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results.” Michigan certified Biden’s victory Monday, and a federal judge in Pennsylvania tossed a Trump campaign lawsuit on Saturday seeking to prevent certification in that state.Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said in a statement that the decision “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”He added: “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”Murphy, a Trump appointee, had faced bipartisan criticism for failing to begin the transition process sooner, preventing Biden’s team from working with career agency officials on plans for his administration, including in critical national security and public health areas.“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official—including those who work at the White House or GSA—with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” Murphy wrote in a letter to Biden.Trump tweeted shortly after her letter was made public: “We will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”Pressure had been mounting on Murphy as an increasing number of Republicans, national security experts and business leaders said it was time for that process to move forward.Retiring Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has repeatedly called for the transition to begin, released a new statement Monday saying that Trump should “put the country first” and help Biden’s administration succeed.“When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do,” Alexander said.Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio on Monday called for Murphy to release money and staffing needed for the transition. Portman, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also said Biden should receive high-level briefings on national security and the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.Alexander and Portman, who have both aligned themselves with Trump, joined a growing number of Republican officials who in recent days have urged Trump to begin the transition immediately. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also urged a smooth transition, saying in a statement Monday that “at some point, the 2020 election must end.”Meanwhile, more than 160 business leaders asked Murphy to immediately acknowledge Biden as president-elect and begin the transition to a new administration. “Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk,? the business leaders said in an open letter to Murphy.Separately, more than 100 Republican former national security officials — including former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte — said in a statement that Trump’s refusal to concede and allow for an orderly transition “constitutes a serious threat” to America’s democratic process. The officials signing the letter worked under four Republican presidents, including Trump.The statement called on “Republican leaders — especially those in Congress — to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election.”Trump had publicly refused to accept defeat and launched a series of losing court battles across the country making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and seeking to overturn the election results.Murphy missed a deadline on Monday set by House Democrats to brief lawmakers about the delay in beginning the transition, which is usually a routine step between the election and the inauguration. A spokeswoman for the GSA said that a deputy administrator would instead hold two separate briefings for House and Senate committees on Nov. 30.In response, the Democratic chairs of four committees and subcommittees said they could reschedule the meeting for Tuesday, but no later.“We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination,” the Democrats said in a letter to Murphy. “Every additional day that is wasted is a day that the safety, health, and well-being of the American people is imperiled as the incoming Biden-Harris administration is blocked from fully preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, our nation’s dire economic crisis, and our national security.”Portman said it was “only prudent” for GSA to begin the transition process immediately.“Donald Trump is our president until Jan. 20, 2021, but in the likely event that Joe Biden becomes our next president, it is in the national interest that the transition is seamless and that America is ready on Day One of a new administration for the challenges we face,? Portman wrote in an op-ed calling for the transition to begin.Murphy's ascertainment will free up money for the transition and clear the way for Biden’s team to begin placing transition personnel at federal agencies. Trump administration officials had said they would not give Biden the classified presidential daily briefing on intelligence matters until the GSA makes the ascertainment official.“Now that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy has fulfilled her duty and ascertained the election results, the formal presidential transition can begin in full force,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. “Unfortunately, every day lost to the delayed ascertainment was a missed opportunity for the outgoing administration to help President-elect Joe Biden prepare to meet our country’s greatest challenges. The good news is that the president-elect and his team are the most prepared and best equipped of any incoming administration in recent memory.”Among those signing the letter from business leaders were Jon Gray, president of the Blackstone private equity firm; Robert Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Inc.; Henry Kravis, the co-chief executive of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., another private equity giant; David Solomon, CEO at Goldman Sachs; and George H. Walker, CEO of the investment firm Neuberger Berman and a second cousin to former President George W. Bush.Matthew Daly, Zeke Miller And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
Instead of offering one or more options, some companies are turning health insurance shopping over to employees.A federal rule change last year stoked this new approach. It allows employers to reimburse workers for coverage they bought without paying a tax penalty.The concept sends employees to individual insurance markets where they can find more choices for coverage. It also protects employers from huge annual cost spikes. But it’s a big change for workers who are used to having their employer give them benefit choices every year.This new approach — known as an Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement or ICHRA — started with coverage plans for this year. More workers will likely see them offered this fall during their company’s annual sign-up window for 2021 coverage.Benefits experts say the idea is drawing interest from employers, but they expect the option to grow slowly over the next few years.“We are seeing much more cautious adoption of it," said Alan Silver, senior director of health and benefits for the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson.Here's how it works: Employees pick a plan that works best for them, sometimes with help from an outside company hired by their employer. Then the employer reimburses them, at least partially, for the cost.Benefits consultants say the accounts can be attractive to companies that have been hammered by insurance costs or want to offer benefits to attract new employees but haven’t been able to afford them.Element Designs, with about 65 employees, switched earlier this year. The Charlotte, North Carolina, custom door maker was facing a 60% price hike for its old coverage plan. That would have followed a 50% increase from the year before.The company couldn’t absorb those hikes. But human resources manager Kymberlee Hernandez said they also couldn’t tell employees in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Hey guys, by the way, we’re not going to have health care this year.”“This was definitely a good alternative for us,” she said.The company is reimbursing employees $500 per month for their coverage and another $300 if they have dependents.Employee Olivia Banks found the new approach daunting at first. But a company hired by her employer, Take Command Health, helped Banks figure out which plans would include her doctors and what sort of expenses she could handle.“The benefit on the other side is a plan that’s tailored more towards you,” said the account manager.The federal government estimates that once employers get used to the new rule, more than 11 million workers and family members will get insurance this way.That’s a relatively small slice of the market for employer-sponsored health insurance, which covered about 157 million people last year, according to the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation.HealthSherpa, a company that helps people find coverage in the insurance marketplaces, said it is working with more than 50 employers to start the coverage switch between this month and January. Separately, it also is helping individuals with ICHRAs find coverage through an app it debuted in July.The coronavirus pandemic has strained some employer budgets and made them start thinking about insurance alternatives, HealthSherpa co-founder Cat Perez said.“It’s definitely picked up as the pandemic has played on,” she said.Like with most insurance plans, shoppers will have to read the fine print when they search individual coverage markets. A plan that seems like a bargain could require customers to pay several thousand dollars in deductibles before most coverage starts or deal with much bigger prescription bills than they are used to.“You’re definitely going to reach into your pocket more,” said Katherine Hempstead, a health care researcher with the non-profit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.The new option is expected to grow first with small businesses and in places where employers think the insurance market offers enough coverage choices.Beth Carter’s marketing agency, Clariant Creative, adopted the approach earlier this year because more typical employer-sponsored health insurance was both unaffordable and an administrative headache.“Finding the right coverage was just ridiculously painful,” said Carter, whose Naperville, Illinois, business has only six full-time employees.New employee Sara Schleicher was drawn to the idea. Previous employers had high-deductible plans that would have exposed her to big medical bills. The 29-year-old marketing specialist wanted something with more protection partially because she likes to ride motorcycles. She wound up with a low-deductible plan.“I feel better knowing that I have insurance even if I don’t need to use it that often,” the St. Augustine, Florida, resident said. “This really has given me access to options that I might not necessarily have had otherwise.”___Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: @thpmurphy___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Tom Murphy, The Associated Press
At a briefing Monday on how COVID-19 is affecting Horizon Health Network, president and CEO Karen McGrath said, "we could easily be overwhelmed with a very few new cases." McGrath said each of the regional Horizon Health centres tries to keep three to five medical beds open, and two to three ICU beds are kept open at each of the five largest hospitals to have room for a surge in COVID-19 patients."That doesn't sound like a very large number and it's not a very large number," said McGrath."So if, in fact, you have seven or eight people being admitted in a very short time, then in addition to everybody else we're providing care for, that small number could really impact the system and we could become overwhelmed really quickly."McGrath said, despite possible COVID fatigue, people should follow provincial guidelines and do what they can to stop the spread of the respiratory virus because only a few cases can impact the entire system."What happens is then we work very hard to get people out of hospital," said McGrath.She said if numbers of COVID-19 patients start to rise the first step is to cancel surgeries.64 staff isolatingMcGrath said 64 Horizon staff members are currently in isolation. She said there are not staff to fill in for these vacancies. "We are actually looking hour by hour as to how we staff particular areas," said McGrath.McGrath described the ICUs, emergency rooms and medical beds as "mission critical," meaning that these areas have to be properly staffed."That probably means when we get to a certain level, we are redeploying staff from other areas," and other services like surgeries are then cancelled. Stan Cassidy outbreakHorizon Health Network and New Brunswick Public Health are investigating a potential COVID-19 exposure at Horizon's Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton.McGrath said that about five patients and five staff who had direct contact with the staff member were tested, along with all other staff. Patients at the centre are also being tested for COVID-19.She said outpatient services have been cancelled for at least a week, while people receiving inpatient care will remain at the centre, but extra precautions are being taken."We have isolated patients within our facilities," McGrath said.She said the health care worker who tested positive for COVID on Saturday was not working at other places within Horizon.
Some Penetanguishene community partners could have a reason to smile this week. Penetang elected officials are coming together Tuesday to discuss community grant requests made by several local non-profits. According to the report, staff is recommending council approve a number of those requests. If council agrees with staff, the Georgian Bay General Hospital will receive $15,000, the Southern Georgian Bay Physician Recruitment will receive $8,500 and $1,000 will go toward Sistema Huronia Music Academy. A further $2,000 will be given to the Midland Penetang District CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). Staff is asking Cultural Alliance's request of $10,000 be deferred until after the non-profit's presentation on Dec. 9. The agenda also includes a number of requests around an increase in budget to extend contract positions. The first one up is the position of junior planner for which staff is asking an additional $25,000 be included in the budget to expand the current part-time position to a one-year full-time contract at a total cost of $57,000. A similar extension request is being made for the current part-time contract for a bylaw enforcement officer. The increase in budget would be almost $32,000, bringing the total cost of the one-year full-time contract to $47,500. A third budget request related to staffing comes after the decision to reopen the arena was approved by council. Staff is recommending that funding for 40 weekly hours for a facility attendant be included in the 2021 operating budget in anticipation of a 2021-2022 ice season. The move would require that $12,270 be included in the 2021 arena operating budget. The staff report says this step will also ensure the town is financially equipped to reopen the arena for a 2021-2022 ice season. A number of departmental draft budget documents included in the agenda are being presented to council for information. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and will be streamed live on the town's YouTube channel. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
With COVID-19 health restrictions putting a hold on public gatherings, there is still some Christmas fun to be had at the Festival of Trees. While the event is usually a three-day festival including the Ladies Holiday Luncheon and the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, Cindy Amerongen, executive director of the Northern Lights Health Foundation (NLHF), said planning the auction alone was a complex task. “At first, we didn’t see how we were going to do it,” said Amerongen. “We knew we couldn’t have the community come in how they’re used to doing.” With health restrictions in mind, the NLHF began exploring larger locations which would allow for social distancing. They settled on the north terminal of the Fort McMurray airport, which fits up to 40 people at a time. People entering the event after booking timeslots online. “Our goal this year was giving people a place to go to and a place to feel like there’s happening for Christmas,” said Amerongen. COVID-19 has highlighted the need for mental health services in the community, said Amerongen, as people struggle with delayed surgeries and isolation. “As time wears on, that loneliness is really setting in for a lot of people,” she said. “It’s something that plays with your mind.” This year, Amerongen hopes this event will help break the cycle of isolation people have felt. The trees can be viewed at the airport’s north terminal until Nov. 28. On Friday, the NLHF announced a drive-through light display called Bright Nights at Abram’s Landing. The event is also a fundraiser for the NLHF and will include a series of Christmas-themed light-up displays. Bright Nights runs from Dec. 6 to 9 and visitors can book a timeslot online. email@example.comSarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
BROCKTON – Mayor Chris Peabody said Tuesday, “There’s a lot of anxiety about rising numbers of COVID-19.” He said that while Grey-Bruce is still Green, looking at the numbers, a move to Yellow will probably happen. He was pleased to note that all the people he saw at the Hometown Christmas Market event in Walkerton on the weekend were following the safety guidelines, including wearing masks. While there’s no meeting of Brockton council this week, Bruce County council is holding a number of committee meetings. Among the topics on the various agendas are development fees.Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
LONDON — Google faces fresh regulatory scrutiny in Britain over plans to revamp its ad data system, after an industry lobbying group complained to the competition watchdog that the changes would cement the U.S. tech giant's online dominance.Marketers for an Open Web, a coalition of technology and publishing companies, said Monday that it's urging the U.K. competition watchdog to step in and force Google to delay the rollout of its “privacy sandbox” scheduled for early next year.The new technology would remove so-called third party cookies that allow users to be tracked across the internet by storing information on their devices, replaced by tools owned by Google. That means login, advertising and other features would be taken off the open web and placed under Google’s control, the group said.The Competition and Markets Authority confirmed it received the complaint.“We take the matters raised in the complaint very seriously, and will assess them carefully with a view to deciding whether to open a formal investigation under the Competition Act,” it said in a statement, adding that if the concerns need urgent attention, it would consider using “interim measures" to stop any suspected anti-competitive conduct pending a full investigation.The complaint follows up on concerns about Google's new system that the watchdog raised in a July report about online platforms and digital advertising. The report recommended the British government adopt a new regulatory approach to governing digital giants making big money from online ads.Google said the new technology will increase privacy for users while also supporting publishers.“The ad-supported web is at risk if digital advertising practices don’t evolve to reflect people’s changing expectations around how data is collected and used," the company said.Google's Chrome is the world's dominant web browser, and many others like Microsoft's Edge are based on its Chromium technology. Google controls more than 90% of the U.K.’s 7.3 billion-pound ($8.8 billion) search advertising market, the CMA said in its July report.Third-party cookies allow ad buyers to more effectively target their ads to web users. Privacy sandbox will deny publishers access to the cookies they use to sell digital ads, which will crimp their revenues by up to two-thirds, Marketers for an Open Web said.The group said Google’s changes will move the digital ad business “into the walled garden of its Chrome browser, where it would be beyond the reach of regulators.” It wants a delay until authorities come up with long term remedies to mitigate Google's dominance over key parts of the web.___For all of AP’s tech coverage, visit https://apnews.com/apf-technology___Follow Kelvin Chan at www.twitter.com/chanmanKelvin Chan, The Associated Press
The CP Holiday Train is a tradition that many hold dear in Medicine Hat. This year, the train is going to have a different look compared to previous iterations. Canadian Pacific is holding a virtual concert this year, so people can still take live music in while not crowding outside with hundreds of others. “Unfortunately because of COVID-19, we had to make the choice to hold the train virtual this year,” said CP spokesperson Salem Woodrow. “The spirit will continue with the Holiday Train at Home Concert.” The concert will launch at 6 p.m. on Dec. 12 on the Canadian Pacific Facebook page. “Even though it’s not in-person, we’re happy to bring the train to communities this year,” said Woodrow. The concert will be headlined by Canadian rock band, The Trews and singer Serena Ryder. Jojo Mason, Logan Staats and Kelly Prescott will also be performing. As is tradition, people will be encouraged to donate to their local food bank as part of the Holiday Train experience. “We know it’s been a hard year for everyone, but we encourage people to donate as best they can this year, and to be as generous as they’re able to be,” said Woodrow. Canadian Pacific will be making donations to food banks in all municipalities that the train usually stops in. The Holiday Train has been around for 22 years, and has stopped all around North America. In its first 21 years, the train has raised more than $17 million and has collected nearly five million pounds of food for food banks. People can find CP on social media platforms by searching for Canadian Pacific.Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
RCMP are looking to speak to a woman who allegedly assaulted an employee of Skaha Lake Liquor Store in Penticton after he had asked her to wear a mask. Penticton RCMP say they responded to a report of an assault at the Skaha Lake Liquor Store on Nov. 21, 2020 at 1:48 p.m. In a post on social media, Skaha Lake Liquor store alleges (with video) that a woman entered the store without a mask and when asked to put one on, she damaged the employee’s cellular phone and spit at the employee. The woman who was wearing a black and pink coloured jacket is described by RCMP as: “It’s extremely troubling an employee who was only following the provincial health orders, was subject to an assault of this nature,” said Sgt. Jason Bayda, Media Relations Officer for the Penticton South Okanagan RCMP. “Spitting at someone is a concern anytime, let alone in the midst of a pandemic.” RCMP are aware of the security footage of the woman making the rounds on social media, and police say they “would like to first provide her an opportunity to come forward and speak to investigators about the matter.” The post on Skaha Lake Liquor Store’s Facebook page also alleges the woman made “racial comments” towards the employee. Penticton RCMP are asking the woman or anyone else who may have information into this matter to call them at 250-492-4300 or to remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
The number of COVID-19 cases among Saskatchewan seniors aged 80 and older is surging far more rapidly than in any other age group as health officials grapple with a growing list of outbreaks in care homes. According to the latest provincial update on Sunday, the cumulative number of cases among people aged 80 and over is 213. That's a 69 per cent increase from only one week before, when cases among that age group numbered 126.By comparison, the average week-over-week increase in the four younger age groups measured by health officials was 30 per cent. On Monday, the number of seniors 80 and older in the province with known COVID-19 infections increased to 231.This surge among the population most vulnerable to COVID-19 comes as health care workers deal with active outbreaks in seven long-term care homes.The latest long-term care home added to the province's daily list of active outbreaks, Parkside Extendicare, is in Regina. When other care homes (including privately owned ones), seniors residences, assisted living facilities and group homes are factored in, 20 homes are now dealing with active outbreaks.34 residents, 4 staff at Luther Special Care Homes infectedThe largest known outbreak at a long-term care home is at the Luther Special Care Home, nestled in Saskatoon's Varsity View neighbourhood.According to an email update sent to families on Sunday night, 34 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, up from 28 on Saturday. Four staff members are also infected and a total of 23 staff members are self-isolating, a care home spokesperson said Monday."Staffing at the care home has become strained, however, we are working with our partners within the health system and our staff as we strive to maintain our high standard of quality care," Ivan Olfert, the home's operations lead, said in an emailed statement. Staffing ratios was already raised as a concern by a family member during a 2019 inspection of the facility. Seniors complex connected to homeLuther Special Care Home is connected to the residential Luther Tower seniors complex.Allan Grundahl, head of the tenants board at Luther Tower, said no tower residents have tested positive for the virus and movement between the tower and Luther Special Care Home is restricted.According to the 2019 inspection, Luther Special Care Home is a spacious facility that includes a secure unit for 49 residents in an older building dating back to 1955 and more than 100 other residents in a newer, three-floor addition. What's yours? CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.
LONDON — Drugmaker AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective, buoying the prospects of a relatively cheap, easy-to-store product that may become the vaccine of choice for the developing world.The results are based on an interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine.AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine as the world waits for scientific breakthroughs that will end a pandemic that has pummeled the world economy and led to 1.4 million deaths. But unlike the others, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries.“I think these are really exciting results,” Dr. Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the trial, said at a news conference. “Because the vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, it can be distributed around the world using the normal immunization distribution system. And so our goal … to make sure that we have a vaccine that was accessible everywhere, I think we’ve actually managed to do that.”The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in one of the dosing regimens tested; it was less effective in another. Earlier this month, rival drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were almost 95% effective.While the AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius (36 degrees to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), the Pfizer and Moderna products must be stored at temperatures approaching minus-70 degrees Celsius (minus-94 Fahrenheit).The AstraZeneca vaccine is also cheaper.AstraZeneca, which has pledged it won’t make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic, has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that put its cost at about $2.50 a dose. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements the companies have struck to supply their vaccines to the U.S. government.All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.AstraZeneca applied for approval of its vaccine candidate in Canada on Oct. 1, under a special process that is allowing Health Canada to review COVID-19 vaccines for use at the same time as the vaccines are finishing their final clinical trials. Pfizer and Moderna have also applied for the rolling-review process.Canada signed a deal with AstraZeneca at the end of September to secure 20 million doses of the highly touted vaccine. The federal government has not said when those doses would be available to Canadians, but they can't be distributed here until Health Canada gives the vaccine the green light for use.Oxford researchers and AstraZeneca stressed they weren’t competing with other projects and said multiple vaccines would be needed to reach enough of the world’s population to end the pandemic.“We need to be able to make a lot of vaccine for the world quickly, and it’s best if we can do it with different technologies so that if one technology runs into a roadblock, then we’ve got alternatives, we've got diversity,'' professor Sarah Gilbert, a leader of the Oxford team, told The Associated Press. “Diversity is going to be good here, but also in terms of manufacturing, we don’t want to run out of raw materials.”AstraZeneca said it will immediately apply for early approval of the vaccine where possible, and it will seek an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization, so it can make the vaccine available in low-income countries.The AstraZeneca trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half-dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month later was 90% effective. Another approach, giving patients two full doses one month apart, was 62% effective.That means that, overall, when both ways of dosing are considered, the vaccine showed an efficacy rate of 70%.Gilbert said researchers aren't sure why giving a half-dose followed by a larger dose was more effective, and they plan to investigate further. But the answer is probably related to providing exactly the right amount of vaccine to get the best response, she said.“It's the Goldilocks amount that you want, I think, not too little and not too much. Too much could give you a poor quality response as well ...,'' she said. "I’m glad that we looked at more than one dose because it turns out to be really important.”The vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that is combined with genetic material for the characteristic spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19. After vaccination, the spike protein primes the immune system to attack the virus if it later infects the body.Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said the finding that a smaller initial dose is more effective than a larger one is good news because it may reduce costs and mean more people can be vaccinated with a given supply of the vaccine.“The report that an initial half-dose is better than a full dose seems counterintuitive for those of us thinking of vaccines as normal drugs: With drugs, we expect that higher doses have bigger effects, and more side-effects,” he said. “But the immune system does not work like that.”The results reported Monday come from trials in the U.K. and Brazil that involved 23,000 people. Of those, 11,636 people received the vaccine — while the rest got a placebo.Overall, there were 131 cases of COVID-19. Details on how many people in the various groups became ill weren’t released Monday, but researchers said they will be published in the next 24 hours.Late-stage trials of the vaccine are also underway in the U.S., Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya and Latin America, with further trials planned for other European and Asian countries.Researchers said they expect to add the half dose-full dose regimen to the U.S. trial in a “matter of weeks.’’ Before doing so they must discuss the changes with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.The AstraZeneca trials were paused earlier this year after a participant in the U.K. study reported a rare neurological illness. While the trials were quickly restarted in most countries after investigators determined the condition wasn’t related to the vaccine, the FDA delayed the U.S. study for more than a month before it was allowed to resume.AstraZeneca has been ramping up manufacturing capacity, so it can supply hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine starting in January, Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said earlier this month.Soriot said Monday that the Oxford vaccine’s simpler supply chain and AstraZeneca’s commitment to provide it on a non-profit basis during the pandemic mean it will be affordable and available to people around the world.“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,’’ Soriot said.British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he felt “a great sense of relief” at the news from AstraZeneca.Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, and the government says several million doses can be produced before the end of the year if it is approved by regulators.Just months ago, “the idea that by November we would have three vaccines, all of which have got high effectiveness … I would have given my eye teeth for,” Hancock said.From the beginning of their collaboration with AstraZeneca, Oxford scientists have demanded that the vaccine be made available equitably to everyone in the world so rich countries can't corner the market as has happened during previous pandemics.Leaders of the world's most powerful nations on Sunday agreed to work together to ensure “affordable and equitable access" to COVID-19 drugs, tests and vaccines.“If we don’t have the vaccine available in many, many countries, and we just protect a small number of them, then we can’t go back to normal because the virus is going to keep coming back and causing problems again," Gilbert said. “No one is safe until we’re all safe.”___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakDanica Kirka And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
TORONTO – The Government of Canada has launched a new initiative to modernize its radioactive waste policy. Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan launched the inclusive engagement process on Nov. 16. and asked the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to lead the process. A press release from NWMO said all of Canada’s low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste is “safely managed today in interim storage.” An integrated strategy will ensure the material continues to be managed in accordance with international best practices over the longer-term. Building on previous work, the NWMO says this strategy represents a next step to identify and address any gaps in radioactive waste management planning while looking further into the future. “This is important work, and we look forward to lending our expertise to make informed and practical recommendations to the Canadian government on a more comprehensive radioactive waste management strategy for low- and intermediate-level waste,” said Laurie Swami, president and CEO of the NWMO. “I want to thank Minister O’Regan for entrusting us to lead this process.” The Government of Canada will engage interested Canadians, including Indigenous peoples, waste producers, owners, and other government levels. Their objective is to elaborate on the existing policy to provide greater leadership on radioactive waste management and ensure that they continue to meet international best practices. A letter sent to Swami by O’Regan said, “I am requesting the NWMO to lead this dialogue and to develop Canada’s Integrated Strategy for radioactive waste for my review and consideration. I believe that the NWMO is uniquely positioned to lead this work as a leader in used nuclear fuel management and public engagement.” O’Regan said the integrated strategy should build on the plan developed by NWMO for the long-term management of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste. The strategy, he said, should include: • A description of the current waste management situation in Canada in terms of current and future volumes, taking into account potential small modular reactor waste, characteristics, locations, and ownership of the waste. • An update on current plans and progress in advancing long-term management and disposal solutions for Canada’s wastes as well as the gaps that must be addressed. • Conceptual approaches for dealing with our current and future radioactive waste inventory, including technical options for long-term management or disposal of the various waste types and options for the number of long-term waste management facilities in Canada. • Considerations regarding the staging, integration, establishment, and operation of long-term waste management facilities. O’Regan stressed the importance that the NWMO carry out this important task in a manner that is open, transparent, and inclusive. He added that it must be built on a solid foundation of trust, integrity, and respect for all Canadians. “The dialogue should not detract from the NWMO’s current mandate to implement Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel, known as Adaptive Phased Management. That mandate is clear, and your progress to date is commendable,” O’Regan said. “This work needs to continue to progress in an effective and efficient manner. I would also emphasize that this dialogue and the resulting Integrated Strategy are not intended to replace other projects currently in progress.” Karine Glenn, strategic project director for the NWMO, said that the organization looks forward to the process. “For more than 50 years, Canadian nuclear technology has been in our lives – powering our homes, making life-saving medical treatments, and bringing safe food to our tables,” said Glenn. “I look forward to this being a process of informed, balanced dialogue about what we must do to ensure that people and the environment are protected from the remaining hazards of this material long after we are gone.” More details regarding the process will be shared in the coming weeks. Interested individuals and organizations will have various ways to participate while respecting public health directives related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Interested parties are invited to sign up for updates at nwmo.ca/radwasteplanning.Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times
Wheatland County’s finances have been impacted in different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the regular county council meeting on Nov. 10, the county’s third quarter unaudited financial statements were presented by Matthew Kurceba, manager of financial services. Figures were presented as of Sept. 30 and compared to values one year prior (Sept. 30, 2019). Regarding the county’s financial assets, the county’s cash position is on par with last year, measured one month after the county’s 2020 tax deadline of Aug. 31. However, taxes and grants in place of taxes receivable (outstanding municipal taxes) is higher as of September 2020 (about $9.7 million) compared to that of last year (about $7.2 million). This increase is mainly due to the economic impact of COVID-19 on county ratepayers, said Kurceba. Accounts payable has increased, from about $11.9 million to about $13 million, representing the amount of remaining education requisition payments and gravel pit repayments. The amount increased from last year due to education requisition payments being higher, due to taxes for non-residential properties from June and September 2020 being deferred until December 2020. Total operating expenses are lower than last year by $4 million. This decrease is due to measures taken by the county to decrease expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Kurceba. A major factor in this was staff reductions, resulting in a reduced total salary figure and less overtime generated. But there were some other reasons why the pandemic reduced county expenses, explained CAO Brian Henderson. Training costs were lower, with many courses either not offered or deferred, he said. Additionally, fuel costs were lower, due to lower-than-expected diesel and gasoline prices.Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Global aviation body IATA is developing a set of mobile apps to help passengers to navigate COVID-19 travel restrictions and securely share test and vaccine certificates with airlines and governments, it said on Monday. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents many of the world's major airlines, plans to pilot the Travel Pass platform by year-end and deploy it for Android and Apple iOS phones in the first half of next year. Airlines are pressing governments to replace traffic-stifling quarantine requirements with systematic COVID-19 testing, with some success.
Sharing is caring, and also a cheap and affordable way to live, according to one Chatham-Kent councillor. On Monday, South Kent Coun. Mary Clare Latimer will be presenting council with a motion that staff investigate the implementation, maintenance and benefits of starting a Chatham-Kent Homeshare Program. A homeshare program is when residents, most commonly seniors, open up their home to those in need of affordable housing. The idea is that an individual will help out a senior with their everyday needs in exchange for no rent or very low rent. “It's a way where anyone can age comfortably and safely in their own home,” Latimer said. “Also I think it really addresses that isolation piece and intergenerational support as well. I really like that piece about it.” Latimer said home sharing happens all the time in an informal way between family or friends. The program would be a more formal way to help connect individuals with someone they might not know. “This may not be for everyone obviously. But it's another tool in the tool box.” Latimer said Chatham-Kent remains a “housing first” champion, as also noted in her motion. There are currently 749 individuals on the waitlist for affordable housing, the majority of which have jobs but spend 30-40 per cent of their income on rent. Latimer said there is a lot of underutilized real estate and infrastructure in Chatham-Kent with a lot of seniors living in houses that have two or three empty bedrooms. “There are a lot of people (seniors) caught. They can't sell their home and buy another home. And they don't want to move into a retirement home because it's too expensive. They can't afford that without selling their home. So they're caught, there's nowhere to go.” Other programs in Sarnia, Burlington and Toronto have been successful, according to preliminary research Latimer has done. Most programs have started through connecting students with seniors. Latimer hopes to use that model and hopes to partner with St. Clair College to pair international students with residents. Latimer does not expect the program will pick up quickly during COVID-19. “But I think it's something we need to have there in our toolbox like I said, because it may be an option where people are at least considering it and they can look at it.” Most programs have leases with clauses in them, such as a probation period, and include the terms of agreement like a normal rent agreement would. An example could be a lease that states the renter pays nothing and in exchange they must mow the lawn, do the groceries once a week and prepare meals everyday. “It's really a fantastic way and economical way to live. And we've gotten away from that. You know our whole culture is to live independently but in other cultures, very much you live together and support each other financially and socially and emotionally.” Latimer said it would be most appropriate to find a community partner to run the program and city staff should only enable it. If passed, staff will be expected to report back to council by January 2021 on the viability of such a program. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
LONDON — Cineworld, which last month closed its cinemas in the U.S. and the U.K., has secured more than $750 million of new financing that it hopes will see it through the coronavirus pandemic.In a statement released Monday, the company said its finances will be bolstered over over the coming months largely from a new debt facility as well as an extension of an existing credit facility.Cineworld closed around 660 cinemas in the U.S. and Britain last month due to a lack of blockbusters as producers postpone releases because of the pandemic, including the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die.”“We look forward to resuming our operations and welcoming movie fans around the world back to the big screen for an exciting and full slate of films in 2021,” said Mooky Greidinger, Cineworld’s chief executive.The group's base case scenario assumes a reopening of cinemas no later than May. In the event of a further delay, it said it expects to retain sufficient liquidity for a number of months longer, but said that may require support from lenders.Despite that caveat, news of the new financing arrangements sent shares shares in the company soaring 17% in London.The hope is that the new money will help the company ride out the pandemic until vaccines are available. Over recent weeks, a number of vaccine candidates have shown promising results.“With vaccine development progressing, this should give investors significantly greater confidence in Cineworld emerging from the crisis, allowing the company to capture demand as it returns with a robust slate of postponed films," analysts at Investec.The Associated Press
Here are the top stories for Monday, Nov. 23: Biden looks to Obama veterans for key staff picks; States move ahead with election certifications; GM to recall 7 million vehicles; White House Christmas Tree arrives in DC.
The Municipality of McDougall currently has two projects for which it would like to apply for funding under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan COVID-19 Resilience Stream. McDougall chief administrative officer Tim Hunt said that if the municipality is approved, it could see $100,000 to support projects. “The two I’d like to move forward with an application for funding is to complete the renovations at the municipal office (and) for accessibility renovations at the Nobel church,” he said during the Nov. 18 council meeting. The municipality is considering taking ownership of the facility as a recreation centre. Hunt said there would be accessibility issues for the entrance, washrooms and general cleanup of the building. “This funding is not going to cover any major renovations we want to do, but it will certainly put us in the position where we can operate the building in a positive (and) respectful manner to the citizens,” he said. Mayor Dale Robinson stated there was flexibility for the money to be moved around depending on the needs of the two projects. Coun. Joel Constable raised the question if there was any thought to replacing the municipal office down the road. “For the amount of money (contractors) were looking for to replace the windows and do some front repairs, it made me think, ‘is it worth doing?’” he asked. The reply from Hunt was, “I don’t see it happening in the very near future … I think this building will last us another few years, for sure.” However, Robinson noted that during the recent wind storm and power outage, it became evident there were some improvements that could be made to the offices. “We have older, outdated electric furnaces heating this building, which is not ideal and we don’t have a generator system that’s capable of powering it,” he said, adding the importance of striking a balance on renovation needs. Council advised staff to move forward with the grant application for the two projects for the Dec. 21 deadline.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Don't worry, he wasn't actually injured.
Canada's seafood industry is breathing a sigh of relief after the signing of a temporary free-trade deal between Canada and the United Kingdom.The agreement announced on the weekend keeps tariffs off Canadian seafood exports — valued at $131 million last year — to the U.K. post-Brexit.Tariffs on Canadian seafood were eliminated under the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement."It cements the access that we've currently enjoyed under CETA. The U.K. is our fifth largest single country export destination, so it is important for our sector and we're pleased that this transitional deal was reached," said Paul Lansbergen, president of the Fisheries Council of Canada."Our analysis was that it would have resulted in about an average of a 10 per cent tariff on our products, and that would certainly be enough to disadvantage us in the marketplace if other countries reached a transitional deal."Industry says it was facing $11M in tariffsThe Fisheries Council of Canada, a non-profit trade association representing seafood harvesters, processors, importers and marketers, said the top seafood exports to the U.K. are salmon (35 per cent), shrimps and prawns (26 per cent), lobsters (25 per cent), and scallops (five per cent).The council said applicable tariffs would have added roughly $11 million on the top four exports in absence of an agreement.The office of International Trade Minister Mary Ng said the deal maintains "a competitive edge and preferential access to the U.K. market" for Atlantic Canadian seafood companies."It's vital for the hard-working people and businesses in the fish and seafood industry who would have faced increased tariffs on their exports to the U.K. once the Brexit period ends," said press secretary Youmy Han in a statement to CBC News.The interim deal is good news for some of Atlantic Canada's biggest seafood companies like Ocean Choice International in Newfoundland and Labrador and Clearwater Seafoods in Nova Scotia.Clearwater 'very pleased' with deal"We are very pleased with the Canada-U.K. trade deal," said Christine Penney, vice-president of sustainability for Clearwater Seafoods, in an email. "The deal will provide a seamless transition for trade between Canada and the U.K. as the U.K. exits the European Union." The deal must be approved by both governments.In Canada's case, legislation to change regulations and laws, including its custom tariff, to comply with the new agreement must be approved by Parliament before the deal can take effect.The Fisheries Council of Canada is urging Parliament to ratify the deal as soon as possible."Canadians working in the fisheries sector supply chain will thank you," the council said in a news release.Negotiations for a permanent free-trade deal with the U.K. are planned for next year.MORE TOP STORIES