The Quebec government is reportedly considering a second lockdown and even a curfew to crush the COVID-19 curve that keeps bending upwards. Mike Armstrong hears from an epidemiologist who says a curfew is needed.
The Quebec government is reportedly considering a second lockdown and even a curfew to crush the COVID-19 curve that keeps bending upwards. Mike Armstrong hears from an epidemiologist who says a curfew is needed.
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Chief Tony Alexis wants to make it clear he does not begrudge Maskwacis the early vaccines the four First Nations received. His concern is about the process in Alberta. Alexis said three meetings last week between chiefs and staff with health officials from both the province and federal government gave no indication that any First Nation would see early arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine doses. They were informed that Elders 65 years and over on reserves would be the next to receive the vaccine. At this point, both long-term care facilities and front line health personnel on reserves had been vaccinated against the coronavirus. On Saturday, the third day of successive funerals on his First Nation, Alexis was told by one of his band members that Maskwacis had received the vaccine. He assured his community member that wasn’t the case, because it hadn’t been discussed at previous meetings. But it turned out that it was the case. “Everybody, whether you're Albertan or Canadian or some different part of the world, everyone is afraid. People are afraid and every leadership I know have been doing their best to keep things calm and try to eliminate the noise.” Alexis said “things like this create that noise. Experiences like this go back to examples like the residential schools, Sixties Scoop, leaving the Indigenous people out of that decision-making table.” A news release issued last night by Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson confirmed Maskwacis received a “limited number of doses” as they “are currently experiencing a serious rise in cases.” The combined population of the four First Nations—Louis Bull, Samson Cree, Montana and Ermineskin Cree—which comprise Maskwacis is 18,000. Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback told the media last Friday that nearly 10 per cent of the community were COVID-19 positive. More than five per cent of the population on Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation has COVID-19. Then yesterday, like everyone else, Alexis heard the announcement from Premier Jason Kenney that a cut by 20 to 80 per cent over the coming weeks in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meant a delay in vaccinating those in the next priority group, including First Nations and Métis Elders. “It’s disappointing. It’s disheartening,” said Alexis, both about the news and not being part of the discussion before the announcement was made. Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras was surprised by Kenney’s announcement. “In terms of the decisions, how things are rolling out, whose decision was it to put a hold on vaccines distribution to First Nations? We don’t know. I really don’t know. Like everybody else, I found out (Monday) morning. The First Nations are the most vulnerable population everywhere, so it doesn’t make sense to me,” said Poitras. Both Poitras and Alexis reference the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and say Health Minister Tyler Shandro needs to comply with it. NACI has “adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences” included in stage one of the COVID-19 roll out. Poitras points to Alberta Health statistics to emphasize the point: 7.1 per cent of First Nations in Alberta have been hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to 4.3 per cent of Albertans generally. After Kenney’s announcement, Poitras began a text conversation with Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller. She said Miller said he was unaware of the decision and did not know how the province had arrived at it. Poitras said she requested information from Miller on the national roll out of the vaccine. “The numbers don’t pan out. That’s the issue,” said Poitras. “If we’re not at that decision-making table, how do we know how many vaccines are being rolled out? How many are actually being distributed to who? Who are the priorities? I know they sent out a priority list, but now they’re changing that, putting First Nations on hold. Without our direct involvement how are we to know exactly what kind of decisions are being made?” Wilson said in his statement that First Nations were “particularly vulnerable.” He points out that Phase 1 will see Indigenous Elders living on reserve and Métis settlements vaccinated at 65 years of age and up while the rest of the Alberta population in that phase has to be 75 years or older. The priority list for Alberta has phase one divided into three timelines beginning in December 2020, with Phase 1B to begin in February 2021 and including First Nations and Métis Elders on reserves and settlements. Phase 2, which spans April to September, says “work to identify sequencing … is underway.” “We value the leaders’ input and measures taken to date by First Nations,” said Wilson. However, both Alexis and Poitras believe that First Nations have not had enough input. “We’ve been trying to keep the people calm. Trying to be supportive, trying to provide proper information. When you hear information coming from the general public and they know more than we do, as leaders being told we’re sitting at this important table. It’s disheartening,” said Alexis. “There needs to be a coordinated response where First Nations are involved and that we’re making these decisions together,” said Poitras. Alexis would like to see not only chiefs directly involved with Alberta politicians in the decision making, but also First Nations experts, such as Treaty 6 physicians James Makokis and Alika La Fontaine, weighing in. “There are experts that the chiefs would listen to their advice and support them at the same time. They would echo where our communities are at. Whether it’s this or anything else in government, our people need to be at those tables and a fair process needs to be put in place that we’re following. Right now what it does, it actually damages that conversation because (the communities) will look at their leadership that they're not doing enough,” said Alexis. He added that if that process isn’t solid and transparent, First Nations may be further ahead by operating on their own and advocating for themselves. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
Regina – By Tuesday, Jan. 19, SGI Canada had already received 1,885 property claims as a result of the Alberta clipper storm that whacked southern Saskatchewan Jan. 13-14. That’s according to Tyler McMurchy, manager, media relations, with SGI. He added that’s for just for one insurer, as SGI is one of many property insurers in the province. A further 386 auto claims were also received – not from people bumping fenders, but from things like trees landing on vehicles, or trailers being blown over. “Those were some pretty crazy winds,” McMurchy said by phone from Regina on Jan. 19. He said claims came from throughout the province, anywhere south of Prince Albert. Regina, Moose Jaw and Weyburn were particularly hit, but so were places like Saskatoon, Radville, Estevan and Milestone. In October, 2017, there had been a similar storm, but McMurchy said, “This past one had higher wind speeds and more trees knocked down.” Environment Canada had reported wind gusts as strong as an EF1 tornado north of Regina. Since it was winter, more outside items like lawn furniture and trampolines had been put away, while other items were frozen to the ground, he noted. There will be some “very large claims” he said, including building damage and farm claims. Adjusters worked throughout the weekend, and by Jan. 19, most of those who had filed claims had initial contact with an SGI adjuster, according to McMurchy. Shingles, roofs, soffits and siding are just some of the damage claims that have come in. “Some neighbourhoods, everyone’s got some shingles missing,” he said. He spoke of limiting further damage, but it may be necessary to get contractors to do that. Hold onto receipts, he noted, and take pictures, both wide angle and closeups. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Nominations are now open for the Province’s highest honour, the Order of British Columbia. The award recognizes and honours British Columbians who have demonstrated an outstanding achievement or excellence and distinction in a field that benefits the people of BC or elsewhere. The Order of British Columbia was first established in 1989 by Lieutenant Governor David Lam, under Premier Bill Vander Zalm. Then, as now, British Columbians are encouraged to nominate inspiring individuals who have created a lasting legacy in their field. “Every year, we have the opportunity to recognize British Columbians whose legacies improve our lives, lift our spirits and support our communities,” said Janet Austin, B.C.’s lieutenant governor, who is responsible for the Order of British Columbia. “I encourage you to nominate those exceptional individuals who exemplify the best of British Columbia.” All nominations are reviewed by an independent advisory council, which is chaired by the chief justice of BC. The nomination deadline this year has been extended to Apr. 9, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All nominations must be received by the Honours and Awards Secretariat by the ninth to be considered for 2021. In addition to the Order of BC, citizens may nominate individuals for another of the Province’s honours, the Medal of Good Citizenship. This award recognizes exceptional long-term service and contributions to their communities without expectation of reward or remuneration. The medal reflects acts of selflessness, generosity, service and contributions to community life. Unlike the Order of BC, there is no deadline and nominations are accepted year round. “In a global pandemic that has turned our lives upside down, so many people in our province have gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of others," said Premier John Horgan. “Now, more than ever, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to recognize and celebrate some extraordinary contributions and achievements by British Columbians.” Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
GEORGETOWN – Holland College's president recalls a time when he struggled to find a job because for every job there was a surplus of workers trying to get it. "I can tell you without any degree of uncertainty that that is not the case anymore," Alexander (Sandy) MacDonald said. These days, industries such as early childhood care, resident care and correctional policing need workers, but either there aren't enough available or there are barriers keeping people from attaining the necessary skills, he said. "I can't think of a single industry on P.E.I. that isn't short on labour." MacDonald is hopeful that the college's new strategic plan will help to counter this with its four guiding principles, which he outlined during a presentation at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown on Jan. 12. The principles are innovative and flexible programming, support and inclusion, environmental leadership and corporate innovation. "Our budget (will be) framed around these four things," he said. The college has already adapted some of its programs around the first principle. Last year, the college's early childhood care program partnered with workplaces so students could start the program and learn the basics, then jump into work while still enrolled in the two-year program. Similarly, students pursuing a Red Seal apprenticeship would normally have to take time off work to attend the college's programming, which could be a deterrent for students who have to prioritize a steady income. Moving forward, Red Seal students will be able to continue working while taking part in virtual education. "(Now) they're earning and learning at the same time," MacDonald said. "It's not that there's anything new in the content, it's just in how we deliver it." As well, the college's bioscience program has partnered with UPEI via a joint program that mixes the college's expertise in applied learning with the university's focus on theory. In addition, an entry-level cook position was added to the college's culinary program as many restaurants don't need a fully-trained chef, MacDonald said. The second principle is about better supporting the college's diverse student base, such as people of ethnicity, people with learning disabilities or people with past traumas or addictions. About $300,000 has been set aside toward one day constructing a student support centre. "We have four counsellors now," MacDonald said. "We probably should have eight." The third principle pertains to responding responsibly to the impacts of climate change, such as by reviewing all programs to see about using greener techniques or by reassessing the possibility of including a transit pass in student union fees. As well, the college recently submitted a report to government outlining a potential centre that would act as a headquarters for P.E.I.'s 24 watershed groups, MacDonald said. The fourth principle, which involves the intent to invest in effective partnerships, opportunities and technologies, has proven challenging. That’s because it requires the college to change or restructure how it operates, such as by framing its budget around the four principals. "Because we want to make sure we're spending every nickel as efficiently as possible," he said. Twitter.com/dnlbrown95 Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian
ATCO began the process of changing out all of the town’s streetlights to LED lights last week as per their agreement with the Town of Swan Hills. There isn’t an exact date available for the end of this project, but it will more than likely take a couple of months to accomplish. The streetlights would usually be switched out when they had to be replaced, but this process is generally haphazard and could take a few years until all of the streetlights in town had been changed out. The Town of Swan Hills entered into the agreement with ATCO to change all of them out at once to avoid having a random spattering of LED streetlights here and there amongst the traditional streetlights for an extended period of time. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
OTTAWA — Canada’s veterans ombudsman is calling on the federal government to reverse restrictions on mental-health services for veterans' families. Ombudsman Nishika Jardine’s demand is in a scathing report released today, a year after Ottawa cut off this federal funding for veterans' families, even when the family member needs treatment because of their loved one’s military service. That move followed outrage over Veterans Affairs Canada having paid for Christopher Garnier’s PTSD treatment while in prison because he was the son of a veteran, even though Garnier had been convicted of killing police officer in Halifax. Jardine’s report quotes several veterans and their family members about the harm those restrictions have done to them and their children, most of whom were receiving support before the change was made without notice. Some of those quoted also question how the government can justify the restrictions when Canadian Armed Forces commanders have repeatedly stressed how supporting military families at home contributes to successful missions abroad. Jardine says reversing the restrictions is a matter of fairness given the unique challenges facing veterans' families, including constant moves, long periods of separation and the stress of living with someone suffering from physical and mental injuries. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Four people have been arrested in connection with the death of Amber Dawn Wood, 38, of Bienfait, Sask. Justin Julien Englot, 29, and Jayden Marie Sanford, 25, both of Regina, have been charged with accessory after the fact to murder and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000. Sanford and Englot made their first appearance in Regina provincial court Tuesday morning. Two other people, both males, are also in custody. They haven't been charged, but police say an investigation is continuing. Wood died after being severely injured Saturday morning at a home on the 700 block of Athol St., police said. Police were called to the scene following a report someone had been shot. Wood was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead. It was the city's first homicide of 2021.
THUNDER BAY — Plans to build a new $50-million police headquarters will remain on hold after members of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board voted to defer their decision on the matter until late April. A motion that was initially presented at the Thunder Bay Police Services Board meeting in December 2020 was re-presented again during the board’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19. The recommendation asked for the board to support the inclusion of $6.1 million gross for land acquisition and the development of tender documents to be included in the 2022 capital budget and construction costs of $55.9 million gross be included in the 2024 capital budget for consideration. HST rebates would lower $6.1 million to $5.6 million and $55.9 million to $50.4 million. The motion was originally deferred back in December after the board’s newest member, Michael Power, had requested an opportunity to meet with police Chief Sylvie Hauth and city officials to review documents relating to the proposed project before casting a vote. On Tuesday, Power told the board he had met with the city’s manager, Norm Gale and city treasurer, Linda Evans to discuss the project. He informed the board as a result of his discussion with city officials there was a need for more engagement with city councillors and the community before passing a motion that would then go before council. “There is more engagement to be done…before we are passing motions or even considering motions like the one that is currently in our package as it relates to the project and then throwing it over the fence to city council,” Power said. “This can’t be done at the end of one meeting,” Power said. “We need to have that strong community engagement and strong engagement with council.” Power said he would assist the board and the chief with that effort over the next 90 days to ensure feedback is received and ready for the April board meeting. Furthermore, Power added the deferral of the motion to April would not compromise the project’s timeline. The motion was updated on Tuesday to state the new proposed police building and funding to begin its construction was deferred until April 20 to allow for more communication of the proposal with city council and the general public. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's youngest daughter, Tiffany, is engaged to be married. The 27-year-old recent Georgetown law school graduate announced her good news on Instagram on Tuesday, her father's final full day in office. She shared a photograph of herself and fiance Michael Boulos posing on the West Wing colonnade at the White House. “It has been an honour to celebrate many milestones, historic occasions and create memories with my family here at the White House, none more special than my engagement to my amazing fiance Michael!” Tiffany Trump wrote. “Feeling blessed and excited for the next chapter!” Boulos, a 23-year-old business executive, also shared the photograph on his Instagram account. “Got engaged to the love of my life! Looking forward to our next chapter together,” he wrote. Tiffany Trump is the president's daughter with Marla Maples, his second ex-wife. She and Boutros have been dating for the past few years and have attended White House events together. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
A class at the North Queens Community School hopes that students and the community alike will soon be skating their way to better health. “As part of the Grade 9 Citizenship program, students were challenged to consider needs in their school community. Together they drafted plans for a service-learning project,” teacher Julie Ramey explained in an email to LighthouseNOW. The students came up with a list of ideas, and ultimately wanted to provide the community and the school with sources of entertainment that are physically active, according to Ramey. “They hope to do this by creating multiple ways that people can be active during and after school. The rink is just one phase of this project,” she said. The class ordered a 10.6 metre by 18.3 metre rink kit from the company EZ ICE, which comes with boards, a liner and all the accessories necessary to install it. While it will be placed on school grounds, the rink will be available for everyone to use. The students were keenly awaiting the arrival of the kit late last week or early this week. Once it is put together, it would be just a matter of adding water and hoping for cooler weather. The project is teaching a few life lessons, according to the Grade 9 students. “Our class is also learning to work together, build new skills and learn how to be active citizens and connect with the community,” said Keegan Mounton, adding that, during these hard times, “it will be nice to create another way for people to get some fresh air and exercise.” Fellow student, Presley Freeman, agreed. “I am excited about this project because it will make a new safe space for families and friends to hang-out and spend time together while doing physical activity,” he said. The cost associated with all phases of the project is about $8,500. The class has received several grants to help cover it and is continuing to explore partnerships with community stakeholders regarding the establishment of an equipment program. Meanwhile, it is also looking for funding to support the maintenance of the ice surface, rubber mats for walkway access, a flooder, hoses and more shovels. However, Ramey is hopeful that a community fundraising campaign will help with any financial shortfalls to purchase extra supplies. The rink will be used by the school during the day and will be open for community use in the evenings and on the weekends. An equipment loan program will be in place to allow students and community members to borrow skates and helmets for after-hours use as well. The project has been entirely student-driven, according to Ramey. She said the class developed operational procedures and task teams to maintain the ice surface, remove snow, make repairs, process loan requests, sanitize equipment and troubleshoot other needs as they arise. The class is also considering the installation of a new basketball net at the back of the school, as part of the project, as well as a Gaga Ball Pit - a boundary made with materials used for a game similar to dodge ball. “I’m always amazed by the ideas that are generated by our Citizenship Education 9 students. This particular group is 16 in number and they have a firm vision for improved physical activity,” said the teacher. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic who was jailed at the weekend, on Tuesday released a video in which he and his allies alleged that an opulent palace belonged to the Russian leader, a claim the Kremlin denied. The allegations, which first surfaced in 2010 when a businessman wrote about them to then-President Dmitry Medvedev complaining of official graft, come as Navalny's supporters urge people to join nationwide protests on Saturday. Reuters reported in 2014 that the estate in southern Russia had been partly funded by taxpayer money from a $1 billion hospital project.
Division 1 and 2 students at the Swan Hills School will participate in an Earth Rangers virtual presentation on January 22, 2021. Crescent Point Energy has sponsored this presentation at no cost to the school. According to information shared by an Earth Rangers representative, the presentation will include: · Real-time broadcasting from the Earth Rangers Centre · Curriculum-linked education information appropriate for grades 1 - 6 · An integration of technology like green-screens, video segments, and multiple camera angles to create a unique and immersive virtual experience · Interactive elements like trivia and a choose-your-own-adventure format to keep students attentive and engaged · Demonstrations by our beloved Animal Ambassadors · Featured local content, including conservation work happening to restore habitat for the Western Bumblebee in Saskatchewan Earth Rangers is a conservation organization that focuses on “instilling environmental knowledge, positivity, and the confidence to take action in every child in Canada.” They offer free programming for children to participate in at school, home, and in the community. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says all long-term care and high-risk retirement homes will receive vaccinations by Feb. 15 despite a shortage of Pfizer vaccines. As Morganne Campbell reports, the backlog is causing a delay in the province's rollout plan.
Steve Fortin and his family survived a harrowing COVID-19 infection and he wants to share it with everyone “because it may save a life.” Fortin, a trucker and musician, said he and his wife started to notice mild symptoms Dec. 22, three days after exposure. “Sniffles, slight cough, and a dry, sore nose,” he wrote, but they weren’t sure if it was sinus problems or a cold. “Here is our mistake, we should have immediately been tested,” Fortin said, adding they were being careful in case they were infected that they wouldn’t spread it. “We are new to the area so we didn't really go anywhere to spread it but I did go to work and went to the store but wore a mask and sanitized regularly and kept a safe distance at all times,” he said. By New Year’s Eve, he and his wife “became terribly ill” with the full laundry list of symptoms. “We couldn’t get off the couch the pain was so bad, fevers and chills almost unbearable,” he wrote, with “stomach ache and diarrhea with no appetite at all. “My wife was vomiting and I was lucky enough not to vomit,” Fortin wrote. “Then we got the call, a friend of ours who works in the medical field tested posted for COVID-19. “Immediately we called the North Bay COVID centre for testing and our results came back positive as well. “My wife, kids, and myself all had COVID-19,” he said, explaining the children had no symptoms. “They didn’t even know they had it but my wife and I were very ill. “Public Health and I back-tracked all our steps to make sure we didn’t come into contact with anyone. They called my work and had employees that were around me tested and thank God they were all negative,” Fortin said. See: Some provinces see positive signs in COVID fight See: Two new COVID cases “My stupidity could have made a lot of people sick. I became so ill I should have been hospitalized but was afraid that I may never see my kids again,” he said. A Public Health nurse called to check and suggested they be hospitalized for treatment and to be more comfortable, he added. “I had every symptom possible and by the second week it started to affect my lungs, nose, and bronchial tube,” Fortin said. “It burned to breathe. One night, I woke up and asked my wife to talk to me because I was sure it may be our last conversation.” Things started to improve after being sick for three weeks and the Fortin family cases were considered resolved Sunday. “I feel much better but still a little weak,” he said, adding praise for the support they received. “As sick as we were, our neighbors were amazing with support and help. My closest neighbor Marcel did our grocery shopping and his wife made our family an amazing meat pie,” he said. “Neighbors were calling to check on us and to offer their help and I must say thank you so much to them” for being there in their time of need. “Sturgeon Falls is the most amazing community we have ever lived in and thank you for accepting us and making us feel so welcomed,” he wrote. He suggests people be diligent and follow Public Health advice: “If you show any cold or flu symptoms don't assume it is. Go get tested, it’s easy, painless, and fast. “Always keep your mask on and practice safe distancing in public. It’s so easy to spread this virus. When you go through a drive-thru or use a debit machine, sanitize immediately before they hand your stuff to you. “When grocery shopping, ask if your cart was sprayed before you use it and if not clean it yourself or request it to be and the most important thing when you’re around friends or family you don't live with, WEAR YOUR MASK. “I made one mistake and almost lost my life so I feel very lucky to be here and just want to help this amazing community in any way I can. Thank you,” he wrote. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
As President Donald Trump entered the final year of his term last January, the U.S. recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Not to worry, Trump insisted, his administration had the virus “totally under control.” Now, in his final hours in office, after a year of presidential denials of reality and responsibility, the pandemic’s U.S. death toll has eclipsed 400,000. And the loss of lives is accelerating. “This is just one step on an ominous path of fatalities,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and one of many public health experts who contend the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis led to thousands of avoidable deaths. “Everything about how it’s been managed has been infused with incompetence and dishonesty, and we’re paying a heavy price,” he said. The 400,000-death toll, reported Tuesday by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of New Orleans, Cleveland or Tampa, Florida. It's nearly equal to the number of American lives lost annually to strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia combined. With more than 4,000 deaths recorded on some recent days — the most since the pandemic began — the toll by week's end will probably surpass the number of Americans killed in World War II. “We need to follow the science and the 400,000th death is shameful,” said Cliff Daniels, chief strategy officer for Methodist Hospital of Southern California, near Los Angeles. With its morgue full, the hospital has parked a refrigerated truck outside to hold the bodies of COVID-19 victims until funeral homes can retrieve them. “It’s so incredibly, unimaginably sad that so many people have died that could have been avoided,” he said. The U.S. accounts for nearly 1 of every 5 virus deaths reported worldwide, far more than any other country despite its great wealth and medical resources. The coronavirus would almost certainly have posed a grave crisis for any president given its rapid spread and power to kill, experts on public health and government said. But Trump seemed to invest as much in battling public perceptions as he did in fighting the virus itself, repeatedly downplaying the threat and rejecting scientific expertise while fanning conflicts ignited by the outbreak. As president he was singularly positioned to counsel Americans. Instead, he used his pulpit to spout theories — refuted by doctors — that taking unproven medicines or even injecting household disinfectant might save people from the virus. The White House defended the administration this week. “We grieve every single life lost to this pandemic, and thanks to the president’s leadership, Operation Warp Speed has led to the development of multiple safe and effective vaccines in record time, something many said would never happen,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. With deaths spiraling in the New York City area last spring, Trump declared “war” on the virus. But he was slow to invoke the Defence Production Act to secure desperately needed medical equipment. Then he sought to avoid responsibility for shortfalls, saying that the federal government was “merely a backup” for governors and legislatures. “I think it is the first time in history that a president has declared a war and we have experienced a true national crisis and then dumped responsibility for it on the states,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care policy think-tank . When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to issue guidelines for reopening in May, Trump administration officials held them up and watered them down. As the months passed, Trump claimed he was smarter than the scientists and belittled experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top authority on infectious diseases. “Why would you bench the CDC, the greatest fighting force of infectious disease in the world? Why would you call Tony Fauci a disaster?” asked Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan. “It just doesn’t make sense.” As governors came under pressure to reopen state economies, Trump pushed them to move faster, asserting falsely that the virus was fading. “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” he tweeted in April as angry protesters gathered at the state capitol to oppose the Democratic governor’s stay-at-home restrictions. “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” In Republican-led states like Arizona that allowed businesses to reopen, hospitals and morgues filled with virus victims. “It led to the tragically sharp partisan divide we’ve seen in the country on COVID, and that has fundamental implications for where we are now, because it means the Biden administration can’t start over," Altman said. “They can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” In early October, when Trump himself contracted COVID-19, he ignored safety protocols, ordering up a motorcade so he could wave to supporters outside his hospital. Once released, he appeared on the White House balcony to take off his mask for the cameras, making light of health officials' pleas for people to cover their faces. “We’re rounding the corner,” Trump said of the battle with the virus during a debate with Joe Biden in late October. “It’s going away.” It isn’t. U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 100,000 in late May, then tripled by mid-December. Experts at the University of Washington project deaths will reach nearly 567,000 by May 1. More than 120,000 patients with the virus are in the hospital in the U.S., according to the COVID Tracking Project, twice the number who filled wards during previous peaks. On a single day last week, the U.S. recorded more than 4,400 deaths. While vaccine research funded by the administration as part of Warp Speed has proved successful, the campaign trumpeted by the White House to rapidly distribute and administer millions of shots has fallen well short of the early goals officials set. “Young people are dying, young people who have their whole lives ahead of them,” said Mawata Kamara, a nurse at California’s San Leandro Hospital who is furious over the surging COVID-19 cases that have overwhelmed health care workers. “We could have done so much more.” Many voters considered the federal government’s response to the pandemic a key factor in their vote: 39% said it was the single most important factor, and they overwhelmingly backed Biden over Trump, according to AP VoteCast. But millions of others stood with him. “Here you have a pandemic," said Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant, "yet you have a massive per cent of the population that doesn’t believe it exists.” Adam Geller And Janie Har, The Associated Press
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.Supporters of the 45th U.S. President gathered in West Palm Beach, Fla. to greet Trump’s motorcade when it arrived in the city.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island's premier says public health orders should soon be eased across the province because of its low COVID-19 infection rate. "At a time when other jurisdictions are experiencing tightening restrictions and increased lockdowns, we are in the very fortunate and enviable situation to be looking at the days ahead to see an easing of restrictions within our borders," Dennis King told reporters Tuesday. But King said it won't be until at least mid-February before the Island re-enters the Atlantic bubble, which allows residents to travel freely between regional boundaries. "At this time, as a province, we are not comfortable moving forward with re-entering the Atlantic Bubble," King said. Health officials in Prince Edward Island reported two new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison said the new cases involved a woman in her 40s who is a contact of a previously reported case, and a woman in her 20s who recently travelled outside Atlantic Canada. She said there are now seven active reported cases on the Island. Morrison, however, said she's concerned by the situation beyond P.E.I.'s borders. "The situation in Canada remains concerning, with over 715,000 cases and 18,000 COVID-related deaths," she told reporters. "Since Jan. 1, New Brunswick reported 372 new cases, Nova Scotia 60 new cases, P.E.I. has had 12 since Jan. 1, and Newfoundland and Labrador reported six new infections. "Our friends and neighbours in New Brunswick are working hard to contain the spread of COVID-19, reporting 89 new cases in the last three days. They currently have over 300 active cases — the most since the pandemic began," she said. P.E.I. has reported 110 COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic. Indoor private gatherings are limited to members of a household plus ten people, while most businesses are still required to operate at 50 per cent capacity. The restrictions are scheduled to remain until Jan. 25. Morrison said that as of Monday, 5,910 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered on P.E.I., including 1,407 second doses. "By the end of this week, everyone living and working in long-term care and community care facilities will have received their first dose of the vaccine," she said. "They will start receiving their second dose next week." Morrison said the anticipated slowdown in the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will have very little impact on the Island. "The Pfizer slowdown means that we may not get a shipment of the product for one week, on Jan. 25. That shipment contains 975 doses. However, we will get two shipments of that same amount in the middle of February," she said. "Given the fact that we have been holding back the second dose of vaccine, and we expect the increased supply in February, we are confident that we have enough vaccine to continue with our original plan." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. — By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton. The Canadian Press
A huge dump of snow at Marmot Basin kicked off this year’s Jasper in January and staff are continuously monitoring conditions as well as keeping up with COVID protocols. Lasting until Jan. 31, Jasper in January includes virtual and private events at the ski resort along with deals on lift tickets. Although COVID-19 has altered the format of the festival and the overall operations of Marmot Basin, staff say the recent snowfall has proven to be a significant boon. “The recent snowfall has been fantastic - we've had 29 centimetres in the last two days - and conditions are absolutely superb,” said Alyssa Golbeck, active content producer, said in an email on Jan. 14. “I can personally attest to the fact that there is still tons of powder and there is some really great skiing up here right now.” Although Saturdays and weekends aren’t as busy as last year, there is a steady flow of skiers from Monday to Friday. With that pace, staff are managing COVID protocols with the visitors. “Business has been good,” said Brian Rode, vice president. “We are now seeing quite a few people who haven’t been to Marmot for a number of years or who haven’t skied for a number of years. Right now, we’ve had more skiers visit this year than last year.” He attributed these numbers to Albertans staying closer to home and the warmer weather. Chalets run at 15 per cent capacity, and Rode said people have been patient and complying with health restrictions. “Outside, people wear masks and naturally spread out when they’re skiing,” he said. Upon arriving to work, staff must sign in and declare they have not come to work with symptoms. “All of our supervisors are talking with and monitoring the staff. Our staff body is healthy,” Rode said, noting staff have a personal responsibility to monitor their health. Golbeck said the avalanche team has been hard at work the past few days, and staff were able to open much of the upper mountain on Jan. 14. Rode said Marmot Basin’s safety team monitors conditions regularly “to ensure all of the runs are safe to ski, without any risk of avalanches occurring.” “To do that, they’ve got patrols in place,” he said. The team makes sure the main runs are ready to use first thing in the morning, then the higher runs are tackled later. Factors to monitor include the amount of snowfall, wind, temperature and moisture content. “All of these affect the type of snowpack we have,” Rode said, adding any runs with an avalanche risk are kept closed until the ski patrol team checks the conditions. They do ski cutting, or “traversing the slope” as Rode called it. “Without fail, they do it in such a way so you can traverse from point to another,” he said. “They ski across the slope. That knocks the air out of it. They start at the top at a safe point - a rock outcrop (for example) - and ski across to the other side. That will give them a good sense of what that slope is like.” That measure sometimes releases the snow without having to use explosive charges. For slopes higher in the alpine region, explosive charges are thrown in and detonated, which knocks the risky snow down. “All slope angles are charted on every single run - 91 of them - some long and (some) short,” Rode said. “Below the treeline, the runs are risk-free of avalanches. The slopes above the treeline, where there’s a risk of avalanches, if the slope doesn’t avalanche, they’ll continue to monitor it, looking for trigger points.” Slopes are only opened once staff determine them as safe. While the scenery may be beautiful, Rode noted boundaries are in place for a reason. “If people stick to runs that are open and don’t go into areas that are closed, they’re safe,” Rode said. With avalanche control, there are temporary closures, but there are other areas around the mountain, outside the ski area boundaries, that are permanently closed. “We don’t patrol those areas,” Rode said. “Some areas are closed because they’re caribou closures. It’s illegal to be in that area.” Rode warned the public not to duck under any ropes or enter these closed areas. “Not only are you putting yourself in danger and the ski patrol team in danger, you’ve established a trail that other people may follow,” he added. Rode said people went outside the boundaries twice this year so far. “We sent a ski patrol in,” he said. “They knew where (they) were going, and that they’d have difficulty going through a particular area.” Wearing snowshoes themselves, the team brought in a pair of snowshoes for the wanderer to wear out. “Often, a person will report to ski patrol that one of their buddies ducked under,” he said. “That’s typically what happens. Invariably, we can determine where they’ve gone.” Rode recalled there have been incidents where it’s dark before people get back to safety, such as one incident a few years ago where a male didn’t get out until the following day. Marmot Basin is also posting a series of videos about avalanche safety at the hill this week, which can be viewed on its Facebook page. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
A union representing health-care workers in long-term care is calling on the province to make vaccines more accessible — just as the province scales back on vaccinations due to a pause in production. SEIU Healthcare wrote to the province asking for paid sick leave for all staff in long-term-care homes and hospitals in order to remove “barriers” to getting vaccines. The union has members working in Hamilton homes such as Grace Villa and Shalom Village — both with large ongoing COVID outbreaks. “We’ve been advocating for paid leave in support of vaccination from the time to consult with a physician, to the time and cost related to travel and transportation, to paid sick days that may be required if someone experiences adverse side effects,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare in an emailed statement. She noted members raised concerns about scheduling, where workers don’t often know when and where they’ll be vaccinated far enough in advance. Language is also a hurdle. “Many long-term-care staff are new Canadians whose first language may be neither English nor French,” Stewart said. “We’re asking for more multilingual communications about the process to establish confidence in the rollout.” Meanwhile, as of Jan. 18, the province says only residents, staff and caregivers at long-term-care homes and “high risk” retirement homes will be eligible to receive the vaccine, as Pfizer pauses work at its Belgium facility to prepare for increased production in future weeks. That means retirement homes not deemed high risk — which were next in line for vaccines — will have to wait. Anyone who already received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is expected to get their second dose on time, though Hamilton’s medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, said Monday that public health is “continuing to work with the province ... to ensure that happens.” The city has administered 13,400 doses so far and aims to wrap up its first phase of vaccine rollout by Wednesday. In an email Monday, the city said there are about 700 eligible workers left to be vaccinated. The news comes the day a new death was reported at Grace Villa, Hamilton’s worst outbreak which has now seen 44 deaths since Nov. 25. Two new resident cases each were reported at Shalom Village (specifically in long-term care), Macassa Lodge and the Cardinal Retirement Residence. Richardson said she’s happy with vaccine uptake so far in long-term-care and retirement home workers. “We were up over 65 per cent vaccine coverage as of the end of last week,” she said. “We’re moving forward quite well.” Richardson said public health has asked homes to work with their staff to schedule their vaccines, but acknowledged language barriers persist and said there’s ongoing translation work to address them. “It’s been a little slower than we would’ve liked on that front,” Richardson said. “That’s absolutely something that we need.” Stewart said the work should happen “immediately.” “Front-line workers have given everything to their communities through this battle with COVID-19. Many have gotten sick. Some have lost their lives,” she said. “We owe it to these workers ... to ensure that vaccines are available and that the barriers that could imperil the vaccination effort are eliminated.” Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator