Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months in order to boost the number of Canadians being vaccinated. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that means going from a three week interval to a full four months. "NACI recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine up to four months after the first," the committee said in a statement. Prior to this new recommendation, NACI had said that the maximum interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for the Pfizer-BioNTech product should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. Since first doses of all three vaccines have been shown to dramatically increase immunity to the disease, or to significantly reduce the illness associated with contracting COVID-19, the committee said stretching the interval would help protect more Canadians sooner. NACI said that it reviewed evidence from two clinical trials that looked at how effective the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were after a single dose. Those studies, NACI said, showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines started providing some level of protection 12 to 14 days after the first dose. By the time the second dose was administered — 19 to 42 days after the first — the first shot was shown to be 92 per cent effective. Population studies find lower protection Outside of clinical trials, NACI looked at the effectiveness of a single shot of these two vaccines in the populations of Quebec, British Columbia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. NACI said that analysis showed the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine was between 70 per cent and 80 per cent among health care workers, long-term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. "While this is somewhat lower than the efficacy demonstrated after one dose in clinical trials, it is important to note that vaccine effectiveness in a general population setting is typically lower than efficacy from the controlled setting of a clinical trial, and this is expected to be the case after series completion as well," NACI said. The committee said that published data from an AstraZeneca clinical trial indicated that delaying the second dose 12 weeks or more provided better protections against symptomatic disease compared to shorter intervals between doses. Earlier this week, before NACI changed its interval advice, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and countries around the world showed a "miraculous" protection level of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The head of Moderna's Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, said Monday that the company's own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four-week interval. "That being said, we're in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made," Gauthier said. "This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments ... can make their own decisions." Gauthier said she was not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months. 'We have to do it safely and watch carefully' Dr. David Naylor, who has been named to a federal task force charged with planning a national campaign to see how far the virus has spread, said the data have been "very encouraging." "The evidence is there for the concept of further delay," Naylor told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "We [had] trial data from earlier showing that going out from 90 days, a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. So things are triangulating." He said health officials need to pay close attention to the data coming out of other countries to determine if the protection provided by the first dose remains strong four months after it was administered. "We do it because we can cover more people with a single dose of the vaccine, spread the protection, prevent more severe disease and prevent fatalities, and the evidence is clear that that's what you can do if you spread those doses out widely. But we have to do it safely and watch carefully," Naylor told host Vassy Kapelos. Watch: The evidence is there for the 'concept of further delay' of second doses: Dr. Naylor: Storage and transport recommendations also changed Health Canada also announced today that after reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech, it would authorize changes to the way the vaccine is handled in Canada. The new rules allow the vaccine to be stored and transported in a standard freezer with a temperature of between -25 C and -15 C for up to two weeks, instead of the previous requirement that it be stored in ultra-cold conditions of -80 C to -60 C. Vials of the vaccine stored or transported at this higher temperature for no longer than two weeks remain stable and safe and can then be returned to ultra-cold freezers once, said the department.
WASHINGTON — The United States is at a COVID-19 crossroads — and public health officials are worried about which path the country will choose. After a year of more than 513,000 deaths, a devastating economic crisis and restrictions on their personal freedoms, Americans have been basking in a recent torrent of seemingly good news. Daily caseloads are well off their January peaks, President Joe Biden is promising enough vaccine for every U.S. adult by the end of May and state after state is throwing off the shackles of the pandemic. Not so fast, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned Wednesday. "We are at a critical nexus in the pandemic," Dr. Rochelle Walensky told a briefing by the White House COVID-19 response team, her second straight day of waving a red flag. The seven-day average rate of new cases in the U.S. is currently about 66,000, she said — a 3.5 per cent increase over the previous seven-day period, which itself was up 2.2 per cent. And "hyper-transmissible" variants of the virus, including the one known as B.1.1.7, are looming large, "ready to hijack our successes to date." Americans are in a weakened and vulnerable state after having waged war against COVID-19 for the last 12 months, she acknowledged. "Stamina has worn thin, fatigue is winning and the exact measures we have taken to stop the pandemic are now too often being flagrantly ignored," Walensky said. "How this plays out is up to us." As caseloads have come down over the course of the last two months, states and municipalities have gradually eased restrictions. Virginia, Massachusetts and South Carolina are among those that pushed back curfews and lifted limits on indoor dining and large gatherings in recent days. Texas and Mississippi went even further, promising Tuesday to lift all restrictions and mask-wearing mandates by next Wednesday, if not sooner. "It is time!" tweeted Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, as he announced an immediate end to all statewide restrictions. "We need to recognize that none of these orders, in any state, are anything short of unprecedented. They have to end at the earliest possible moment. This is that moment for Mississippi." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his order, which takes effect March 10, is the result of an accelerating rate of vaccinations — 229,000 alone on Wednesday, he said — that is resulting in fewer people in hospital. "We are able to contain COVID and safely allow Texas to open 100 per cent." Biden dismissed those attitudes Wednesday as "Neanderthal thinking." "It's critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science," he said. "I wish to heck some of our elected officials knew it." Prime Minister Justin Trudeau all but ignored questions Wednesday about the shifting perspectives south of the border, focusing on his government's own vaccination timetable. All Canadians who want the vaccine will be able to get it by the end of September, he vowed — maybe sooner if the stars align. But he wasn't about to allow any mixed messages to pull focus away from Canada's vaccination efforts. "Obviously, the pandemic has had a very different course in the United States, with far greater death tolls and case counts, and that has had its own impact on the American economy that Canadians haven't quite felt the same way," he said. "We're going to continue to work to get as many Canadians vaccinated as quickly as possible by following the science and following the best recommendations of our experts." That's what the president is doing, and what people in states where restrictions are being lifted should be doing as well, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. "This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic," Psaki said. She acknowledged the hard-won gains of a difficult year, and how Americans have good reason to start feeling optimistic, whether it's news about vaccines or fully stocked grocery store shelves. "But there's still more work that needs to be done," she said. "We need to remain vigilant." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
No one was harmed after a sour-gas leak on Range Road 92 near Township Road 704 south of Huallen Monday, said Matthew Smith, Wembley Fire Department chief. “There was a significant leak,” Smith said. “We’re glad it went the way it did, and no one was hurt or injured.” Smith said the department received a 911 call from a resident reporting “a dirty vapour or dirty cloud” near an oil-and-gas facility. When the firefighters arrived, they found several pickup trucks belonging to the energy company were on site and the leak had been stopped. Smith said he was unsure how long the leak lasted. The Wembley firefighters checked with residents living downwind from the incident. They reported smelling something funny but no one was ill, he said. Smith encouraged anyone who observes similar incidents related to oil-and-gas facilities to keep a distance and call 911. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Legislators in more than 20 states have introduced bills this year that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams in public high schools. Yet in almost every case, sponsors cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems. The Associated Press reached out to two dozen state lawmakers sponsoring such measures around the country as well as the conservative groups supporting them and found only a few times it’s been an issue among the hundreds of thousands of American teenagers who play high school sports. In South Carolina, for example, Rep. Ashley Trantham said she knew of no transgender athletes competing in the state and was proposing a ban to prevent possible problems in the future. Otherwise, she said during a recent hearing, “the next generation of female athletes in South Carolina may not have a chance to excel." In Tennessee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton conceded there may not actually be transgender students now participating in middle and high school sports; he said a bill was necessary so the state could be “proactive.” Some lawmakers didn't respond to AP's queries. Others in places like Mississippi and Montana largely brushed aside the question or pointed to a pair of runners in Connecticut. Between 2017 and 2019, transgender sprinters Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood combined to win 15 championship races, prompting a lawsuit. Supporters of transgender rights say the Connecticut case gets so much attention from conservatives because it’s the only example of its kind. “It’s their Exhibit A, and there’s no Exhibit B -- absolutely none,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a prominent trans-rights attorney. The multiple sports bills, he says, address a threat that doesn’t exist. There’s no authoritative count of how many trans athletes have competed recently in high school or college sports. Neither the NCAA nor most state high school athletic associations collect that data; in the states that do collect it, the numbers are minimal: No more than five students currently in Kansas, nine in Ohio over five years. Transgender adults make up a small portion of the U.S. population, about 1.3 million as of 2016, according to the Williams Institute, a think-tank at the UCLA School of Law that specializes in research on LGBTQ issues. The two dozen bills making their way through state legislatures this year could be devastating for transgender teens who usually get little attention as they compete. In Utah, a 12-year-old transgender girl cried when she heard about the proposal, which would separate her from her friends. She’s far from the tallest girl on her club team, and has worked hard to improve her times but is not a dominant swimmer in her age group, her coach said. “Other than body parts I’ve been a girl my whole life,” she said. The girl and her family spoke with The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to avoid outing her publicly. Those who object to the growing visibility and rights for transgender people, though, argue new laws are needed to keep the playing field fair for cisgender girls. “When the law does not recognize differences between men and women, we’ve seen that women lose,” said Christiana Holcomb, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the Connecticut lawsuit on behalf of four cisgender girls. One of those girls, Chelsea Mitchell, defeated Terry Miller -- the faster of the two trans sprinters -- in their final two races in February 2020 The ADF and others like it are the behind-the-scenes backers of the campaign, offering model legislation and a playbook to promote the bills most of them with common features and even titles, like the Save Women’s Sports Act. When asked for other examples of complaints about middle or high school transgender athletes, ADF and the Family Policy Alliance, cited two: One involved a Hawaii woman who coaches track and filed a complaint last year over a trans girl competing in girls’ volleyball and track. The other involved a cisgender girl in Alaska who defeated a trans sprinter in 2016, then appeared in a Family Policy Alliance video saying the trans girl’s third-place finish was unfair to runners who were further behind. Only one state, Idaho, has enacted a law curtailing trans students’ sports participation, and that 2020 measure is blocked by a court ruling. Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, notes that in several states with proposed sports bans, lawmakers also are seeking to ban certain gender affirming health care for transgender young people “This is not about sports,” he said. ”It’s a way to attack trans people.” Some states' school athletic organizations already have rules about trans participation in sports: 19 states allow full inclusion of trans athletes; 16 have no clear-cut statewide policy; seven emulate the NCAA's rule by requiring hormone therapy for trans girls; and eight effectively ban trans girls from girls’ teams, according to attorney Asaf Orr of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Texas is among those with a ban, limiting transgender athletes to teams conforming with the gender on their birth certificate. That policy came under criticism in 2017 and 2018, when trans male Mack Beggs won state titles in girls’ wrestling competitions after he was told he could not compete as a boy. While Beggs, Miller and Yearwood were the focus of news coverage and controversy, trans athletes more commonly compete without any furor -- and with broad acceptance from teammates and competitors. In New Jersey’s Sussex County, trans 14-year-old Rebekah Bruesehoff competes on her middle school field hockey team and hopes to keep playing in high school. "It’s all been positive,” she said. “The coaches have been really helpful.” While New Jersey has a trans-inclusive sports policy, Rebekah is distressed by the proposed bans elsewhere – notably measures that might require girls to verify their gender. “I know what it’s like to have my gender questioned,” Rebekah said. “It’s invasive, embarrassing. I don’t want others to go through that.” The possibility that any athlete could have to undergo tests or examinations to prove their gender was among the reasons that Truman Hamburger, a 17-year-old high school student in North Dakota, showed up at the statehouse to protest a proposed ban. “Once you open up that door on gender policing, that’s not a door you can easily shut,” he said. Sarah Huckman, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, ran track and cross country for three years at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, after coming out as trans in 7th grade. Huckman showed great talent in the sprints and hurdles, but was not dominant on a statewide level. In her senior year, she won several events in small and mid-size meets, and had 6th place and 10th place finishes in the Division II indoor state championships. The proposed bans appall her. “It’s so demeaning toward my group of people,” she said. “We’re all human beings. We do sports for the love of it.” ___ Associated Press reporters covering statehouses across the U.S. contributed to this report. David Crary And Lindsay Whitehurst, The Associated Press
FREDERICTON — Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today. They involve two people in their 20s in the Fredericton region and both cases are travel-related, as well as a person in their 50s in the Miramichi region which is under investigation. Officials have identified a list of locations in Miramichi where there may have been public exposure, and a mass testing clinic will be held to determine if there has been any further spread in the area. The clinics will be held tomorrow and Friday at the gymnasium of the Dr. Losier Middle School. There are now 37 active cases in the province and three people are hospitalized, including two in intensive care. There have been 28 COVID-19-related deaths in the province since the onset of the pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Humber- Bay of Islands Independent candidate Eddie Joyce has fired back at Placentia- St. Mary’s Liberal candidate Sherry Gambin-Walsh for comments made in a recent article published in The Shoreline. The Shoreline had asked Gambin-Walsh how two political scandals in which she was invovled may affect her campaign. The first was the complaint she filed against Joyce, then the Liberal Minister of Municipal Affairs, in 2018, in which she accused him of bullying and harassment. Commissioner for legislative standards Bruce Chaulk (who has recently been thrust into the spotlight in his role as Chief Electoral Officer for the current election) filed a report which found Joyce to have indeed broken government’s code of conduct. Following the harassment complaints, Joyce was removed from the Liberal caucus by then premier Dwight Ball. Joyce would go on to run as an Independent in the 2019 election, and win the seat which he formerly held as a Liberal. Gambin-Walsh was also re-elected in the 2019 election, but then, just over a year later, was removed from cabinet in April 2020 as the RCMP launched a criminal investigation into allegations that she leaked cabinet documents. She was swiftly removed from her position as Minister of Service NL though she remained MHA of the district. In September, the RCMP announced that Gambin-Walsh broke cabinet confidentially by leaking information to a senior police officer in the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary but that she would not be charged criminally. Premier Andrew Furey however did not appoint her to cabinet. Gambin-Walsh said while she was fully prepared to answer questions on the door about the RCMP investigation, constituents were more interested to hear about the Joyce situation. “The 2018 situation with MHA Joyce, that got a bit of attention, and people were very curious and did ask me a fair bit about that. They are interested in bullying and harassment though. And they’re happy that I spoke up against it,” said Gambin-Walsh during the initial interview. Joyce, who still denies the allegations of bullying, took exception to the comments, and said that Gambin-Walsh was highlighting one scandal over another. “This was a police investigation about where she leaked cabinet documents about stuff that was happening in cabinet, which broke her oath, which undermined the whole cabinet process and all of her colleagues,” said Joyce. He also challenged Gambin-Walsh on her commitment to a project in the district, specifically the long-awaited Placentia swimming pool. “She should be talking about why she’s not supporting the swimming pool,” said Joyce. In 2015, the provincial government announced a $30 million program for four significant community projects through amendments to the Voisey’s Bay Development Agreement. One of those projects was a pool for Placentia, for which the local Lions Club had been fundraising for a number of years. The pool was to be built as an extension on the Unity PARC Arena. Joyce said the cost for that pool is now estimated to be about $9 million, and criticized Gambin-Walsh, and the provincial government, for not making the project a priority. “She’s not supporting it, the provincial government is not supporting it; the town council are supporting it, the federal government have committed that they will,” said Joyce. The last funding announcement came in 2018, when the province announced joint funding of $7.8 million ($3.6 million in provincial, up to $2.6 million federally, and $1.6 million municipally) this time for a fitness centre, which would incorporate the swimming pool. Gambin-Walsh, meanwhile, in the initial interview with The Shoreline, said that she acknowledged residents’ concerns about the increased cost of the fitness centre. She also, when asked her thoughts on Premier Andrew Furey’s leadership capabilities, noted his commitment to healthy living and that the Placentia centre would become an example of that commitment. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
Protesters attempting to protect some of the last stands of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island are facing arrest if a logging company gets court approval to disband their camps this week. Forestry company Teal-Jones has filed an application with the Supreme Court of British Columbia for an injunction to remove the Fairy Creek blockade at various entry points to its Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46 near the community of Port Renfrew. The region encompasses the pristine old-growth forest at the headwaters of Fairy Creek with yellow cedars thought to be 1,000 years old, as well as other remaining groves on the Gordon River, Camper Creek and in the Upper Walbran Valley. A court decision is likely following an online hearing Thursday, said Kathleen Code, who is helping organize the defence against the injunction on behalf of the blockade residents. Activists from eight different camps have been blocking the logging company’s road building and forestry crews from accessing the area since August, Code said. “We want (the court) to disallow the injunction but that’s a very rare occurrence,” said Code. “So, our plan is to ask for an extension of three weeks, so that we can better prepare our defence.” Video courtesy of the Fairy Creek Blockade The group of forest defenders, the Rainforest Flying Squad, also hopes to file its own cross injunction against Teal-Jones, she said. “It’s a separate legal process that will have us filing an injunction against Teal-Jones themselves and bringing in the B.C. government as a third party,” Code said. “This way, we hope to make them accountable for the decades-long mismanagement of our forests.” Teal-Jones wants the court to prohibit the blockades until at least Sept. 4 and authorize the RCMP to arrest or remove protesters violating the order. The police force would determine when to enforce the potential order. Teal Cedar, a division of Teal-Jones, and its contractors have experience significant business disruption due to the blockades that threaten the company’s right to harvest timber but also the continued operation of its mills, the court application said. The company values the logs in TFL 46 to be worth $9 million, or approximately $19.4 million if turned into manufactured product. Teal Cedar also said it advised the Pacheedaht First Nation of its planned harvesting activities in its traditional territory, and after surveying the cut blocks, the nation told the company it’s permitted to harvest in those areas. However, Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones and some of his family are supporting the blockade and battle to protect the ancient temperate forest, Code said. Should the Teal-Jones application succeed, each individual forest defender will make the decision about whether they will risk arrest in the battle to protect the old-growth forest, she said. “But don't think Teal-Jones is going to waste any time,” Code said, adding the blockade isn’t about halting all forestry operations. “I want to make it really clear. We are not anti-logging,” she said. “We only obstruct areas where the old growth exist. “It's irreplaceable, and once you clear cut it, you have destroyed all of those ecosystems, destroyed the water systems, and you've destroyed the wildlife and their habitats.” Protests are being planned in various communities across the province on Thursday to protect Fairy Creek old-growth forest and in solidarity with the camp activists, Code said. Quadra Island resident Geraldine Kenny said a staggered, COVID-19-appropriate, “Last Stand” protest will be taking place in front of the office of North Island MLA Michele Babchuk in Campbell River all day. Support for the protest is coming in from communities around the North Island, said Kenny, a member of Sierra Quadra. “We want to show MLA Michelle Babchuk that her constituents … have fundamental concerns with regard to the government she represents and its protection of old-growth forests.” The Quadra senior has been trying to protect B.C. ancient temperate rainforests for three decades, and there’s precious little left, she said. Regardless of where people live on Vancouver Island, or in the province, the need to protect the last remaining stands of old growth is critical. “I started in 1987 with the Carmanah and the Walbran (forests), and here I am, a septuagenarian, and I’m still at it,” Kenny said, adding the argument of the necessity of intact forests to maintain biodiversity still holds true. “It’s old hat, and we’ve heard it so many times,” Kenny said. “However, the critical component now is climate change … maintaining old-growth forests is our best security and our best defence against global warming. “So, I want to stand as a forest defender and as a witness so that these trees, this ecosystem is preserved." Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
SHEFFIELD, England — Last-place Sheffield United overcame the sending-off of Phil Jagielka to beat lacklustre Aston Villa 1-0 on Wednesday in what is likely to prove only a consolation victory on its way out of the Premier League. Leading 1-0 thanks to David McGoldrick's close-range strike in the 30th minute, United was reduced to 10 men in the 57th when Jagielka brought down Anwar El Ghazi as the Villa winger charged toward the penalty box. Referee Robert Jones initially gave a yellow a card to Jagielka but changed that to a red after being advised by VAR to look at the incident again on the pitchside monitor. Jagielka was deemed to have denied a goal-scoring opportunity as the last man. Villa piled on the pressure in the final half-hour but, with captain and star midfielder Jack Grealish out because of injury, lacked any creativity and cutting edge to break down the hosts. United's fourth win of the season moved the team onto 14 points, three behind next-to-last West Bromwich Albion but still 12 adrift of safety. Villa stayed ninth, missing the chance to close within two points of the European qualification positions. McGoldrick's goal came when he turned the ball home from inside the six-yard box after meeting a drive by George Baldock that might have been a shot as opposed to a pass. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Jim Hodder is seen in 1985, when the former longtime Liberal MHA announced he was crossing the floor to join the Tories. (CBC) Jim Hodder, whose political career in Newfoundland and Labrador spanned several decades, has died. He was 80. Hodder represented the district of Port au Port in two different stints, and carried the banner of two parties. First elected as a Liberal in 1975, he rocked that party's caucus a decade later by crossing the floor to join the Brian Peckford PCs. A former teacher in Stephenville, Hodder left politics before the 1993 election. He made a comeback, though, in 2003, when he defeated former Liberal cabinet minister Gerald Smith, and helped Danny Williams's Tories regain power. Hodder, who served in cabinet as tourism minister, retired from politics altogether in January 2007, nine months before the next general election. At the time, Hodder cited health concerns as his motivation for leaving. "I have some medical problems and I haven't really been paying attention to them, so I thought I'd better get out ahead of the Grim Reaper," he told CBC at the time. In a statement, PC Leader Ches Crosbie paid tribute to Hodder as someone who was "highly regarded by people on all sides of the House, and loved throughout his district." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
After Mateo Perusse-Shortte, experienced racism while playing his sport, he and his mom decided to plan a hockey diversity group in Quebec.
LONDON — Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it was launching an investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had made a bullying allegation against the Duchess of Sussex. The Times of London reported allegations that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated.” It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, then the communications secretary to Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. He now works for Harry’s elder brother, Prince William. The palace said it was “clearly very concerned” about the allegations. It said in a statement that the palace human resources team “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article” and would seek to speak to current and former staff. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace,” it said. American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year. In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California, and are expecting a second child. The bullying allegations were reported four days before the scheduled broadcast of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, which is anticipated to draw a huge audience. It also comes less than two weeks after the palace announced that the couple’s split from official duties would be final. A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.” The Associated Press
Lawyers for Huawei's chief financial officer said on Wednesday that Joe Biden's election as U.S. president will not undo the political interference in her case, which they say stems from former President Donald Trump's pledge to intervene if it helped the United States extract a more favorable trade deal from China. Lawyers for CFO Meng Wanzhou want her U.S. extradition case dismissed on grounds that Trump's comments soon after her 2018 arrest in Canada meant she would not get a fair trial in the United States.
JUNEAU, Alaska — A state vaccine task force on Wednesday vastly expanded eligibility for people to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in Alaska, adding those 55 to 64 and people 16 and older who meet certain criteria. That criteria includes being considered an essential worker, living in a multigenerational household, being at or at possible high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or living in communities lacking in water and sewer systems, the state health department said in a release. Gov. Mike Dunleavy called expanding eligibility significant in efforts to protect Alaska residents and to help restore the state's economy. State health officials previously emphasized vaccinating those 65 and older. Individuals who have previously been eligible remain so. More than 100,000 first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected for the state and Indian Health Service allocations this month, the department said. Also, 8,900 doses of the one-shot Johnson and Johnson Janssen vaccine are expected to arrive within the next two weeks, the department said. The number of vaccines do not include military allocations or those for programs involving pharmacies and federally qualified health centres. The state's chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said the vaccine supply is not yet sufficient to make it widely available to everyone who wants it. She said it is being offered to groups “who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, who are at risk for severe illness or death or who work in essential jobs." She added: "Some Alaskans may be more vulnerable to this disease than others due to their unique health or life circumstances. Offering vaccine is one step we can take now to help address these inequities.” The Associated Press
The District of Hudson’s Hope is working out the kinks in a new water source and treatment plant that went online in early February. In a Feb. 24 notice to residents, the District says hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels have been higher than anticipated during the commissioning of the new water treatment plant. Temporary changes to water taste, odour, and texture are expected while testing and monitoring is completed, the District said. "The District and its consultant are aware of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) and methane gas in the well water and the treatment plant has been designed to treat for these gases," the notice reads. "The water has been tested and meets all Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines that affect health and safety. All the tests, as of to-date, have passed the Northern Health’s requirements. So be assured that water is safe to drink and use." According to the notice, the treatment plant uses an aerator to strip off the gas from the well water. "This aerator vents to exterior of the building and that’s why residents have noticed the smell outside," the notice states. Mayor Dave Heiberg said there’s no danger to residents, with work already underway to remedy the issues. “We switched from a river system to an aquifer system,” said Heiberg. “Public works guys are down there, as well as consultants and contractors, and they’re trying to fine tune it to the water that we used to have.” The switch to groundwater was prompted by the Site C berm being built along the river. firstname.lastname@example.org Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
Wednesday's return to school for thousands of students and teachers in parts of Newfoundland and Labrador prompted a swirl of emotions, from anxiety to gratitude. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little anxious. but I would also be lying if I said I didn't take a little bit comfort in knowing that we are all in this together," said Jordan Stringer, a teacher at Corner Brook Regional High. "We are all just wading through the unknowns together." Regions outside the Avalon moved to Alert Level 4 on Friday, which meant students could return to schools, after a brief stint of online-only learning. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald moved the province to Alert Level 5 on Feb.12, prompting schools to close and learning to move online. The Avalon region remains in Alert Level 5, and schools remain closed. Fitzgerald has said she will review whether the level can change, and will update the public on March 12. Kaden Gill, a Grade 11 student at Corner Brook Regional High, said while he is happy to see his friends, it's still a precarious situation. "It feels good to see them but its also pretty dangerous at the same time, because if we hit Level 5 again, it's a big ol' mess," he told CBC News on Wednesday. Jordan Stringer, a teacher at Corner Brook Regional High School, wears eye protection and a disposable three-ply mask, which are now mandatory for staff. (Submitted by Jordan Stringer) Stringer said there is a "different vibe" in the school this week, but social and emotional wellness is top of mind for all teachers and staff. He praised the students for navigating an uncharted path amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "They have been truly truly exceptional.… They have been just as kind and understanding to us as staff as, I think and I hope, we have been to them," he said. Students question mix of in-person, solo learning Some classes at 50 schools — 28 in central Newfoundland, 20 in western Newfoundland and two in Labrador — cannot adhere to the updated health and safety protocols for cohorts and physical distancing. Students in those schools will alternate between in-class instruction and assigned work done at home without direct instruction from a teacher. The situation is "not ideal," admitted Newfoundland and Labrador English School District CEO Tony Stack at a media briefing last week when the change was announced. Several students told CBC News they are unhappy with the hybrid model. Laura Adams, a Grade 12 student at Gander Collegiate, said the split scenario doesn't cover as much educational ground. "I don't feel like we're going to get the quality of the instruction," she said. Laura Adams, a Grade 12 student at Gander Collegiate, says she fears her education will suffer because of the mix of in-class learning with days where students are home and expected to do course work on their own. (Garrett Barry/CBC) Adams plans to study medical sciences at Dalhousie University next year, and so completing math, chemistry and biology courses this year is a must. She said her teachers in those subjects have been "amazing," but she feels Newfoundland and Labrador wasn't as prepared overall for online learning as other provinces, including Ontario. Landon Burry, a Grade 12 student at Gander Collegiate, is also heading to Dalhousie University next year. Burry said he wishes classes had remained fully online until all students could return to the classroom, rather than using a hybrid system. "Everyone was set up with Chromebooks. No one was at a deficit with [online learning].… Anyone who was trying was doing well," he said. He isn't convinced that all of the curriculum will get covered under the split model. "I still think we should be online so all of us can get 100 per cent of the information.… Right now we want to prioritize our education over everything else, but I just don't know how its going to work and get all the material down," Burry said. Landon Burry, a Grade 12 student at Gander Collegiate, says people had gotten into a groove of online learning. (Garrett Barry/CBC) The district insisted the full curriculum will be covered. "While students may be attending school in person approximately 50 per cent of the time, they will be provided with followup work and activities that expand on the learning covered while they were in attendance. All curriculum outcomes are still expected to be covered," reads a statement from a district spokesperson to CBC News. "An example: students might interact with new material (videos, readings) at home first, as preparation in advance of the face-to-face time where their teacher can be responsive to learning needs identified and have more active learning — like discussions or project work in presence of the teacher 'coach.'" New PPE rules Students and teachers are returning to classrooms with stricter rules in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, including the more contagious variant. All school staff have to wear a disposable, non-surgical, three-ply mask and eye protection — such as a face shield — at all times when in the classroom and when two-metre physical distancing cannot be maintained. Students in grades 4 to 6 have to wear a mask while seated in class and on the school bus. Students in kindergarten through Grade 3 are expected to wear a mask at all times on the school bus and are encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask during the school day. Students can take off the mask when they're eating or taking part in physical education classes. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
There were two deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the province on Wednesday. Both deaths were in the 80 plus age group and were located in Regina and Saskatoon. The number of deaths related to COVID-19 in the province is now 389. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. This was among 121 new cases reported in Saskatchewan. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 19 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 30 active cases and North Central 3 has 15 active cases. There are currently 153 people in hospital overall in the province. Of the 133 reported as receiving in patient care there are 14 in North Central. Of the 20 people reported as being in intensive care there is one in North Central. The current seven-day average 154, or 12.5 cases per 100,000 population. The high was 312 reported on Jan. 12. Of the 29,059reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 1,431 are considered active. The recovered number now sits at 27,239after 180 more recoveries were reported. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 29,059 of those 7,437 cases are from the North area (3,024 North West, 3,259 North Central and 1,154 North East). There were 1,358doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered yesterday in Saskatchewan bringing the total number of vaccines administered in the province to 81,597. There were 232 doses administered in the North Central zone yesterday. The other zones where vaccines were administered were in the North West, Far North Central, Central East, Far North Central, Far North East, Saskatoon and Regina. According to the province as of March 2, 50 per cent of Phase 1 priority healthcare workers received a first dose. This percentage includes healthcare workers from long term care and personal care home facilities. Pfizer shipments for the week of March 1 have arrived in Regina (3,510) and Saskatoon (3,510). North Battleford (2,340) and Prince Albert (4,680) shipments are expected by end of day March 3. There were 2,588 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on Feb. 28. As of today there have been 582,829 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
WASHINGTON — Republicans opposing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that passed the House have pointed to two transportation projects as examples of pork that would politically benefit Democrats leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Now those projects are out of the bill. Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that a subway extension through downtown San Jose did not meet requirements for inclusion in the bill because it is part of a pilot project. The project was set to receive about $141 million under the bill that passed in the House. The parliamentarians rulings are generally respected by the Senate. Also, the $1.5 million in funding to maintain and operate a bridge connecting Canada and the United States in upstate New York, Schumer's home state, has been removed by Senate drafters of the bill. The projects represent a tiny fraction of the overall bill's cost, but they became popular talking points for Republicans lining up in opposition to the measure, which they says is bloated and unfocused. The subway extension was described as “Speaker Pelosi's pork subway project" even though it is located 50 miles away from her district. “Now that the two projects that Republicans misled the public about in the House bill have been removed, it is unclear how Republicans will justify their opposition to the American Rescue Plan, which has strong bipartisan support among the public," Hammill said. The Senate bill is expected to largely mirror the House-approved package, with the most glaring divergence the Senate’s dropping of language boosting the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly. Democrats are using special rules that will let them avoid GOP filibusters that would require them to garner an impossible 60 votes to approve the legislation. Shortly before Pelosi's office confirmed that funding for the rail project had been removed, Bernice Alaniz of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in California explained that the $141 million slated for the project would help ensure it keeps moving at the planned schedule. Construction is set to begin in 2022. Local and state sources are putting up three-quarters of the funding for the extension, among the highest match rates for similar projects across the country. “It really is an essential transit alternative for a highly congested commute corridor and it serves two large universities — San Jose State and Santa Clara University,” Alaniz said. “So I know some of the criticisms are like, ‘oh, it’s for the high-tech oligarchs.’ But we serve transit dependent workers and we serve a large percentage of students going to these colleges.” The Trump administration boasted of its efforts to fund the rail project when it approved $125 million in federal matching dollars back in 2019. “This Administration is focused on expediting infrastructure projects," said then-Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. She added that the federal investment would help area residents “benefit from these improvements as quickly as possible." Last week, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, described funding to operate and maintain the Seaway International Bridge over the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York as part of an “unrelated liberal wish list." But Schumer said on the Senate floor that the request for funding for the bridge did not come from him and in fact had come from the Trump administration five months ago. He said revenues needed to maintain the bridge had collapsed with no one using the bridge due to the pandemic. “I learned about it being in the bill when I read about in in the newspaper," Schumer said. The coronavirus bill has hundreds of billions of dollars for schools and colleges, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, mass transit systems, renters and small businesses. It also has money for child care, tax breaks for families with children and assistance for states willing to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income residents. Kevin Freking, The Associated Press
CALGARY — The president and country head for Shell Canada says its transition into a provider of cleaner energy is being driven by a network of "agile teams" of employees who are examining between 30 and 40 project ideas at a time. Michael Crothers says the teams formed from employees brought in from various parts of the company are looking at proposals that include the use of hydrogen, biofuels, and wind and solar energy to help the company reduce its environmental impact. Speaking during the online National Energy Roundtable Conference, Crothers said Shell Canada continues to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions but it is also working on solutions to reduce emissions created by its customers when they use its products. He said the company's "macro" plan going forward is to use cash flow from existing businesses to find ways to de-risk new technologies. Shell, the operator and 40 per cent owner of the LNG Canada export terminal now under construction in B.C., sold most of its oilsands assets in Alberta to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. in 2017, although it remains the operator of the Quest carbon capture project northeast of Edmonton. In November, Shell announced a plan to let motorists buy GHG offset credits when filling up at its 1,400 Shell-branded service stations across Canada and, in January, it announced an investment in a waste-to-low-carbon-fuels project in Quebec. "You can see our portfolio shifting from heavy oil to gas to renewables within the last few years," said Crothers. "As the company then shifts from a mega-project mentality to a de-risking of new technology, we need to be a lot more nimble. So within our company, Shell Canada, we've been creating these agile teams." In December, Shell announced Crothers will retire this year and be replaced by Susannah Pierce, currently director of corporate affairs for LNG Canada. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Chatham-Kent’s community has been coming together to tackle homeless, according to the local homeless outreach group, which hopes to see these efforts continue. Some residents in cities across Ontario have raised concerns that their homeless have been forgotten during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is not the case in Chatham-Kent where R.O.C.K. Missions is thrilled with the response it has seen. Renee Geniole, operations co-ordinator for R.O.C.K. Missions, said there has been an uptick in the number of homeless people during the winter months but that has been a trend over the past several years and not solely because of COVID-19. “But definitely the pandemic affected them more because their resources became very limited. They can’t meet anyone in person or access their resources when so many things are closed down, restricted or limited. So it is very hard for them right now,” she said. During these challenges, the community of Chatham-Kent has stepped up from individual residents to local governance, Geniole said. “They put their best forward to be as accessible as they can to help the homeless people,” she said. “This year has been a huge learning curve for the municipality. Now we have a lot of resources to help the community.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, employment and social services converted a portion of the John D. Bradley Convention Centre to a homeless shelter during the first several months of lockdown. They later shifted to using motels and hotels after the Stage 3 reopening allowed the convention centre to resume its normal operations. In December Chatham-Kent council authorized Employment and Social Services to enter into a service agreement with Indwell, a Christian-based affordable housing charity, for one-time funding in the amount of $100,000. The goal is to create 150 affordable housing units for the homeless, which Geniole said will free up R.O.C.K. Missions to focus on other aspects in caring for the homeless. “With the Indwell project coming, that will make a huge difference too because then we can do more wrap-around supports – substance use or mental health – and work as a team to lift up the individual because you can’t just go at it from one point of view.” Since closing the Bradley Centre, 185 individuals required emergency accommodations. During the recent 2021 budget deliberations, several motions requesting cuts be made to affordable housing projects also failed. One aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic that has left some residents concerned is when the homeless, a very vulnerable population, will be able to get their vaccines. Toronto Public Health recently got the green light from the province to include the group in Phase 1 of vaccinations after the city saw outbreaks in shelters. Dr. David Colby, chief medical officer of health, said the homeless population will be vaccinated during Phase 2 of distribution. Phase 1 planning first saw all long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents vaccinated, followed by staff and caregivers in those settings. Planning is still in the works for how the appointment process will work during Phase 2 but Geniole said R.O.C.K. Missions will be involved in getting the word out to the homeless. “I know they want to work with us so they are not forgetting them, which is all we care about,” she said. Geniole said for the most part, Chatham-Kent has been on the same team. “I think we just need to keep doing what we are doing. This year, we were able to identify where the gaps were in the community, where our strengths and what our weaknesses are. So we just have to keep moving forward and keep working together as all the organizations have in the same direction,” Geniole said. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice