Loosen restrictions and reopen schools very carefully in Ontario to avoid an unnecessary lockdown, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch.
Loosen restrictions and reopen schools very carefully in Ontario to avoid an unnecessary lockdown, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech - image credit) When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
Another type of COVID-19 vaccine was authorized by Health Canada on Friday. The new vaccines are manufactured by AstraZeneca, and developed in partnership with Oxford University. Canada also approved the Serum Institute of India’s version of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Afterwards, Anita Anand, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement announced that Canada has secured two million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through an agreement with Verity Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc./Serum Institute of India. AstraZeneca has licensed the manufacture of its ChAdOx1 vaccine to the Serum Institute. The first 500,000 doses will be delivered to Canada in the coming weeks. The remaining 1.5 million doses are expected to arrive by mid-May. “The Government of Canada continues to do everything possible to protect Canadians from COVID-19. This includes securing a highly diverse and extensive portfolio of vaccines and taking all necessary measures to ready the country to receive them,” Anand said in a release. “We remain fully on track to ensure that there will be a sufficient supply so that every eligible Canadian who wants a vaccine will have access to one by the end of September. I am grateful for the collaboration of our partners in India to finalize this agreement, and I look forward to continuing to work closely together in the weeks ahead.” The two million doses secured through this agreement are in addition to the 20 million doses already secured through an earlier agreement with AstraZeneca. Health Canada’s authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine allows the Government of Canada to advance its work with AstraZeneca to finalize delivery schedules for the 20 million doses. The application for authorization from AstraZeneca was received on Oct. 1, 2020 and from from Verity Pharmaceuticals Inc./Serum Institute of India (in partnership with AstraZeneca Canada Inc.) on January 23, 2021. After thorough, independent reviews of the evidence, the Department has determined that these vaccines meet Canada’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements. These are the first viral vector-based vaccines authorized in Canada. These are also two-dose regiments and can be kept refrigerated for at least six months. Health Canada’s authorization of the Verity Pharmaceuticals Inc./Serum Institute of India product relies on the assessment of its comparability to the AstraZeneca-produced version of the vaccine.. These vaccines were authorized with terms and conditions under Health Canada’s Interim Order on the importation of drugs for COVID-19 The process allowed Health Canada to assess information submitted by the manufacturer as it became available during the product development process, while maintaining Canadian standards. Health Canada has placed terms and conditions on the authorizations requiring the manufacturers to continue providing information to Health Canada on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccines to ensure their benefits continue to be demonstrated through market use. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will closely monitor the safety. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
En vertu d’une décision du gouvernement de François Legault couvrant tout le Québec, la municipalité de Val-David, comme d’autres municipalités, doit offrir un terrain au Centre de services scolaires des Laurentides (CSSL), pour l’édification d’une école primaire. La municipalité compte présentement sur deux écoles publiques : soit Sainte-Marie (SM, 9 classes) et Saint-Jean-Baptiste (SJB, 15 classes). Deux écoles publiques des-servent une population d’un peu plus de 5 000 personnes. Les maisons d’enseignement accueillent 515 élèves : soit 323 élèves habitant à Val-David et 192 qui proviennent des environs (source : CSSL). Les projections démographiques, présentées lors de la réunion virtuelle du 23 janvier dernier, font passer la population de Val-David à 6 500 en 2035, soit un gain de 30 %. Cette augmentation, reflétée au niveau de la clientèle scolaire, ferait passer de 323 à 420 le nombre d’élèves de Val-David. « Nous aurons besoin de 19 classes, en 2035. L’ajout de 24 classes répond à un besoin régional, que le CSSL doit combler. Les plans sont de fermer la petite école de 9 classes (SM). On se retrouverait alors avec 15 classes (SJB) et 24 classes (possible-ment à la Sapinière), pour un total de 39 classes. Avec ce total, les deux écoles vont pouvoir accueillir entre 850 et 900 élèves », a exprimé l’ancien maire Pierre Lapointe. La mairesse Kathy Poulin a préféré déboulonner les appréhensions. « Le projet d’école est confirmé. En fait, il est en cours depuis 2017. Le terrain visé correspond à la vision (école de nouvelle génération, intégrée dans son milieu et dans son environnement, construite en bois, etc.). Ces qualités ont permis de faire bonifier l’enveloppe monétaire reçue à 30 millions de dollars. L’école occuperait seulement une portion du terrain de la Sapinière », a-t-elle spécifié. L’ex-élu Lapointe se questionne à savoir si une nouvelle école de 24 classes à Val-David est nécessaire. « Poser la question, c’est y répondre. Non seulement ça ne répond pas à un besoin de notre village, mais les dégâts sont à venir. 1) Financier: déjà les avocats sont dans le dossier (La Sapinière). (…) Exproprier un commerce existant, cela coûte très cher. Ce que Val-David devra payer, c’est beaucoup plus que la valeur marchande du terrain. 2) Construire une école dans un cul-de-sac, c’est une aberration en termes de sécurité publique. (…) 3) Il faut une étude d’impact sur la circulation automobile dans un petit village. Le résultat quotidien sera désastreux : Val-David va être bloqué par la circulation automobile », a-t-il prédit. Pour sa part, la mairesse Poulin a décrit le projet de la manière suivante. « La nouvelle école devra respecter le cadre règlementaire de la ville. Nous avons des besoins pour une bibliothèque, un local d’informatique et pour des intervenants. L’école Sainte-Marie ne répond plus aux critères. Plutôt que d’envoyer nos enfants ailleurs, aussi bien faire ça chez nous. » « De même, la circulation fait partie de la planification. Une rue sera aménagée et un rond-point est prévu. On mise aussi sur le transport actif. Il ne faut pas exagérer : ce sera à l’échelle du village. Pas une gigantesque école secondaire de 200 classes. » Ève Ménard, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès
TORONTO — On set they called her "COVID Cathy," or "CC" for short. As the COVID-19 supervisor on the new Toronto-shot CBC series "Pretty Hard Cases," Catherine Lang had to not only help develop pandemic protocols for the production, but also keep a close eye on the cast and crew to ensure they were following them. It can be a tricky position, having to police everyone while trying to prevent positive cases, but Lang says she was determined to keep the mood upbeat. "What I found the hardest about COVID supervising was that it's hard to spend 100 per cent of your day worrying about people's health. And unfortunately, I'm a bit of a worrier," Lang says. "Eating, breathing, sleeping — 24-7 — I couldn't get it out of my mind. Because at the beginning all I could think was, 'What if I do something or don't do something and somebody gets sick?' And that was quite a large stress for me." Lang's position, which is also sometimes called a COVID compliance officer, is a now common one on Canadian film and TV sets. And it's one she predicts will be around for another year or so. The supervisor typically works alongside the producers and a team of medical, health and safety professionals to create COVID protocols using government guidelines and ensure they're adhered to. Both industry and medical professionals can qualify for the position. "They were accepted, but definitely were the sort of hall monitors of the production shoot that can frustrate people when they're trying to do their jobs," Alex Jordan, a producer on Global's "Private Eyes," says of their COVID supervising team. "We had to be very cognizant of the mental health of everyone. To some people's opinion, you're not doing enough. And in some cases, people are like, 'This is too much. You're overkill.'" "Kim's Convenience" star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee says their COVID protocol officer was Cher Merlo, who has a background in film and TV production. She "worked tirelessly" on things like modifying the actors' masks and shields to ensure they would be effective but wouldn't disrupt their hair and makeup between takes. "She had the hardest job on set, because her job was to be the bad guy and to remind them of the protocols and of doing things like sanitizing your hands and wearing your mask and staying two metres apart," Lee says. "Pretty Hard Cases" stars Adrienne C. Moore and Meredith MacNeill say they went to great lengths to help Lang not feel "like a bad guy." "I remember when Cathy gave her first speech at the start, Adrienne and I looked at each other and then gave her the biggest cheer. We were like 'Cathy!'" says MacNeill. "We used to call her COVID Cathy. We were like 'CC, yes, in the house!' The staff knew Lang was "only trying to help," notes MacNeill. "So we approached it, and the whole crew approached it, with a 'thank you.'" Lang had worked as an assistant producer and production manager before becoming a COVID supervisor on "Pretty Hard Cases." Lang says she read everything she could about the virus and "spent many hours on the phone" with producer Wanda Chaffey and executive producer Amy Cameron. The three developed protocols for every department with a consulting physician. "As I would walk through the set, I would see people adjust their masks and pull their shields down. It was very cute," Lang says laughing. Of course, Lang also wore personal protective equipment, since she had to be in more spaces on set than most. She says she "never felt unsafe" but found the thought of somebody getting sick in the workplace "horrifying" and had to learn to stop worrying about things that were out of her control. "Eventually I had to say to myself, 'I can't stop this. I can control what happens in the workplace to an extent, but I can't control what happens outside of the workplace.'" The cast and crew were very compliant, Lang says, noting "everybody really wanted to be safe." Chassey and Cameron were with her every step of the way. In the end, they had no incident of anyone contracting COVID-19 at work, she says. While there were two positive cases, they were contracted outside production, caught through testing and had no community spread. Toronto nurse Meghan McKenna became a COVID supervisor on the CBC series "Coroner" through her employer, the third-party medical consulting firm Oncidium, which provided guidance and support to the show, including a full-time nursing staff. She hadn't worked in film and TV before and was "on a steep learning curve" in that regard as they collaborated with producers, she says. They held mandatory health sessions for everyone on set. One of McKenna's key goals was for the cast and crew to understand the uncertain nature of a pandemic, so if provincial case numbers rose and protocols changed, they would be onboard instead of feeling they were being fed misinformation. She also taught everyone how viruses or bacteria spread through communities, so when pandemic fatigue set in, they understood how to protect themselves and why every single protocol matters. The pressure on the job comes with not wanting to see the production fail, says McKenna. But her experiences working in hospital have taught her she "can't control what people are doing 100 per cent." She also likes the idea that should someone have a medical issue on set, she's able to guide them through it and manage it. McKenna's nursing background and experience in emergency rooms also helped her feel "fine with being the police" on set. "That is such a big part of health teaching, is telling people things they don't want to hear," she says. "I really like the challenge of getting through to someone over time." While producers say "Coroner" had "a few issues" with COVID-19 cases, they weren't on set, were easily contact-traced and had no community spread. And no one had to be reminded of the protocols later in production, McKenna says. "Everyone's helping remind each other," she says. "The crew is all keeping each other safe," adds "Coroner" executive producer Suzanne Colvin-Goulding. "Everybody has adopted the mentality that we are in this together." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said on Monday that Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka had gone back into lockdown due to rising COVID-19 cases and transmission of more infectious variants. Seven other public health units eased restrictions, as they moved down a level in the provincial framework.
Thousands of rare photos and artifacts spanning decades of First Nations and Saskatchewan history will find a new home. Amateur Arcola historian Adrian Paton died last month at 86, leaving behind a treasure trove of historical photos of First Nations in Saskatchewan from around the turn of the century. The collection has passed to family members, who are considering how to share the historical photos with the public and, if possible, repatriate the artifacts to their home communities. "The picture is valuable, but the story behind the picture is what makes it incredible," said his daughter, Val Guillemin. She helped Paton compile his 2018 book, An Honest, Genial and Kindly People, which features photos and stories Paton gathered over three to four decades of research. That research grew to be a valuable source for Indigenous communities piecing together family histories, she said. One of those people was Candace Wasacase-Lafferty, a board member of Wanuskewin Heritage Park and a senior director of Indigenous Engagement at the University of Saskatchewan. She's helping Guillemin find a suitable place for her father's work, whether that's through an exhibit or by repatriating some of the artifacts. Wasacase-Lafferty has personal ties to Paton's work. Her father, who was in residential school, was about eight years old when his mother died. She grew up with few stories about her grandmother. When she found Paton's book, she pored over every turn of the century photo of her home community of Kahkewistahaw First Nation, thinking her grandmother could be there. "I'm like 50 years old and I finally feel I've seen really who I am," she said. Wasacase-Lafferty compared it to an "odd, cold and sad" Plains Cree exhibit at the British Royal Museum she saw 10 years ago, saying Paton's work is an example of how it could be done better. It acts a model of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations, she said. University of the Fraser Valley history professor Keith Carlson, who worked with Paton at the U of S, said the rarity of the documents is also historically significant. Many of the records haven't been preserved elsewhere, he said. Carlson, a former president of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, assisted Paton with his collection. He said Paton's work was notable for investigating archival sources, like old newspaper articles, to track down photos and build histories around the images. That can be a valuable resource for families learning about their histories, including by replicating highly specific details like the designs on regalia in the photos, he noted. That's valuable for people like Ocean Man First Nation Chief Connie Big Eagle. When she visited Paton's house, she lingered in front of an old photo that caught her eye. Paton told her the name of the man in the picture, leading Big Eagle to discover it was a photo of her great-grandfather that she had never seen before. "It was like there was a connection, an understanding or something, of who we come from." Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):10:40 a.m.Ontario is reporting 1,023 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.Health Minister Christine Elliott says of the new cases, 280 are in Toronto, 182 are in Peel Region and 72 are in Ottawa.Ontario says 939 more cases were resolved since the last daily report.More than 17,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the province since Sunday's update.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
NASHVILLE — Rita Fentress was worried she might get lost as she travelled down the unfamiliar forested, one-lane road in rural Tennessee in search of a coronavirus vaccine. Then the trees cleared and the Hickman County Agricultural Pavilion appeared. The 74-year-old woman wasn’t eligible to be vaccinated in Nashville, where she lives, because there were so many health care workers to vaccinate there. But a neighbour told her the state's rural counties had already moved to younger age groups and she found an appointment 60 miles away. “I felt kind of guilty about it,” she said. “I thought maybe I was taking it from someone else.” But late that February day, she said there were still five openings for the next morning. The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation. In some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones, with rural Republican lawmakers in Democrat-led states complaining of “picking winners and losers,” and urbanites travelling hours to rural GOP-leaning communities to score COVID-19 shots when there are none in their city. In Oregon, state GOP lawmakers walked out of a Legislative session last week over the Democratic governor's vaccine plans, citing rural vaccine distribution among their concerns. In upstate New York, public health officials in rural counties have complained of disparities in vaccine allocation and in North Carolina, rural lawmakers say too many doses were going to mass vaccine centres in big cities. In Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama, a dearth of shots in urban areas with the greatest number of health care workers has led senior citizens to snap up appointments hours from their homes. The result is a hodgepodge of approaches that can look like the exact opposite of equity, where those most likely to be vaccinated are people with the savvy and means to search out a shot and travel to wherever it is. “It’s really, really flawed,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who noted there are even vaccine hunters who will find a dose for money. “Ideally, allocations would meet the population’s needs.” With little more than general guidance from the federal government, states have taken it upon themselves to decide what it means to distribute the vaccine fairly and reach vulnerable populations. Tennessee, like many states, has divvied up doses based primarily on county population, not on how many residents belong to eligible groups — such as health care workers. The Tennessee health commissioner has defended the allocation as the “most equitable,” but the approach has also exposed yet another layer of haves and have-nots as the vaccine rollout accelerates. In Oregon, the issue led state officials to pause dose deliveries in some rural areas that had finished inoculating their health care workers while clinics elsewhere, including the Portland metro area, caught up. The dust-up last month prompted an angry response, with some state GOP lawmakers accusing the Democratic governor of playing favourites with the urban dwellers who elected her. Public health leaders in Morrow County, a farming region in northeastern Oregon with one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates, said they had to delay two vaccine clinics because of the state's decision. Other rural counties delayed vaccines for seniors. States face plenty of challenges. Rural counties are less likely to have the deep-freeze equipment necessary to store Pfizer vaccines. Health care workers are often concentrated in big cities. And rural counties were particularly hard hit by COVID-19 in many states, but their residents are among the most likely to say they're “definitely not” going to get vaccinated, according to recent Kaiser Family Foundation polling. Adalja said most of these complications were foreseeable and could have been avoided with proper planning and funding. “There are people who know how to do this,” he said. “They're just not in charge of it.” In Missouri, where Facebook groups have emerged with postings about appointment availabilities in rural areas, state Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, a Democrat from the Kansas City suburb of Independence, cited a need to direct more vaccine to urban areas. The criticism drew an angry rebuke from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who said vaccine distribution has been proportional to the population and critics are using “cherry-picked” data. “There is no division between rural and urban Missouri,” Parson said during his weekly COVID-19 update last week. In Republican-led Tennessee, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey notes that the Trump administration deemed the state’s plan among the nation's most equitable. Extra doses go to 35 counties with a high social vulnerability index score — many small and rural, but also Shelby County, which includes Memphis, with a large Black population. Last week, state officials revealed some 2,400 doses had been wasted in Shelby County over the past month due to miscommunication and insufficient record-keeping. The county also built up nearly 30,000 excessive doses in its inventory. The situation caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate and the county health director to resign. In Nashville, Democratic Mayor John Cooper says the fact that city residents can get shots elsewhere is a positive, even if the road trips are “a little bit of a pain.” “I’m grateful that other counties have not said, ‘Oh my gosh, you have to be a resident of this county always to get the vaccine,’” Cooper said. Nashville educators Jennifer Simon and Jessica Morris took sick days last week to make the four-hour round-trip to tiny Van Buren County, population less than 6,000. They got their first shots there in January, when Republican Gov. Bill Lee was pushing Nashville and Memphis area schools to return to in-person classes. Republican lawmakers even threatened to pull funding from districts that remained online. In-person classes started a couple weeks ago, but the city only began vaccinating teachers last week. “It was scary, frustrating, and feeling really betrayed,” Simon said. ____ Flaccus reported from Portland, Oregon. Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri; Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, N.C., and Carla Johnson in Washington state contributed. Travis Loller, Jonathan Mattise And Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press
(Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press - image credit) Torstar Corp., owner of the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator and other papers, announced on Monday it plans to launch an online casino betting brand in Ontario this year. "We are excited at the prospect of participating in a regulated online Ontario gaming market with a made-in-Ontario product," said Corey Goodman, Torstar's chief corporate development officer, in a news release. After decades of being controlled by a trust owned by the families who founded the Toronto Star in 1892, Torstar was recently bought by an investment company called Nordstar, which promised to maintain the company's focus on producing "world-class journalism befitting the Star's storied history." The Toronto Star has, since its founding, espoused the so-called Atkinson principles, which are named after one of the founding families and broadly focus on advancing progressive causes such as worker protections, civil liberties, and other social justice issues. Torstar's new owners say they are branching into online gambling to help pay for those continuing efforts. "Doing this as part of Torstar will help support the growth and expansion of quality community-based journalism," co-owner Paul Rivett said. Plans contingent on expansion of online gambling market The company cited government data showing Ontarians spend about $500 million a year on online gambling, with the vast majority going to grey market websites domiciled outside Canada, where there is less legal and regulatory scrutiny, and the revenue does little to stimulate the Ontario economy. Under current rules, only the Ontario government itself is licensed to conduct online gambling, but the province's last budget opened the door to expanding the market to other companies some time this year. Torstar says its plans are contingent on those government plans moving ahead. Rivett said it's to everyone's benefit for an Ontario-based company like Torstar to become a player in the province's industry. "We want to ensure the new marketplace is well represented with a Canadian, Ontario-based gaming brand so that more of our players' entertainment dollars stay in our province," he said. Company diversifying revenue models A gaming industry consultant hired by Torstar to advise the company said it's not clear yet how much revenue the new business will generate since the government review process is not complete. "We don't know how big the market is going to be in Ontario yet, because it will depend on the consultation process within government, which is about to happen in the next couple of months," Jim Warren said in an interview with the Canadian Press. "What we do know is that Torstar is looking at diversifying the revenue model of how we fund and pay for reporters, columnists, and editorial staff." The move is also just the latest by Torstar to diversify its business beyond newspapers and into other digital realms. In November, the company launched a parcel delivery service, and then in January partnered with retailer Golf Town to purchase the SCOREGolf brand. Concern about media independence The move is not without its critics. Tom Muench, a city councillor in Richmond Hill, Ont., just north of Toronto, said newspapers are critical to the functioning of a healthy democracy, so it gives him pause that such a prominent newspaper chain may be financially beholden to an outside business to keep its doors open. "I think it's fair to say that if a casino was to pop up in communities say six months ago, many local Torstar-owned papers would write a concerned local story," he told CBC News in an email. He also wonders how those same newspapers would report on it, if any other sort of business were to open an online gambling operation on the side. "If the federal government propped up the media with government tax dollars and now with casinos, how do we assure a strong independent news and media industry?"
Infectious disease experts and COVID-19 modelers are sounding alarm bells of an approaching third wave expected to be driven by more contagious variants of the virus.But while we brace for Wave 3, some are wondering if we ever actually cleared Wave 2, especially in populous areas of the country where transmission has remained more steady.Experts say the definition of what constitutes a "wave" and pinpointing when it's passed isn't so clear.Some say we're on the tail end of the second wave now, as evidenced by the downward trend of cases across the country, while others say ebbs and flows haven't been uniform enough to determine when one wave ends and another begins. Caroline Colijn, a COVID modeler and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, says the word "wave" has been somewhat misleading. Waves of viruses tend to ease up on their own as immunity grows within a population, she says, which we haven't reached yet with COVID.Instead, the ebb and flow of SARS-CoV-2 has been dictated by our own actions, Colijn added, for instance restrictive measures that limit the ability of the virus to spread."This isn't a wave, it's a forest fire," Colijn said. "We turn the hoses off and the flames build up again and we get exponential growth. Then we turn the hoses back on and cases decrease." Colijn, whose modelling predicts steep rises in cases around the end of February in six of Canada's biggest provinces, says the challenge of "wave language" is that when waves recede, people think the threat has ceded with it.But until we reach levels of herd immunity, she says, that's not going to happen."We're not seeing a natural tailing off. We're seeing things drop because of restrictions — those fire hoses we put in front of the fire," she said. "Then we turn the hoses off and we're surprised that this wave is coming back."Canada's top doctors said Friday that eight provinces have reported cases of new COVID variants, with three of them showing evidence of community transmission.Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said there had been 429 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., 28 cases of the variant first identified in South Africa, and one of the variant first found in Brazil.While it sounds like a small number compared to our population, University of Manitoba virologist Jason Kindrachuk says the heightened transmissibility of those variants makes the situation more alarming.Compounding things further is that true prevalence of the variants nationwide is unknown, he added, though some jurisdictions have been doing point-prevalence studies to help determine that. Kindrachuk says one or two cases, when caught early and isolated, aren't too concerning. But danger proliferates as more pop up."You have that initial fire and then sparks start flying ... and that leads to a bunch of small fires," he said. "If those start to catch, you lose the ability to necessarily keep things in control." Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, says the presence of more transmissible variants means people should be more diligent in adhering to current safety measures aimed at slowing the spread of other COVID strains, including limiting contacts, mask-wearing and distancing.The spike in variant cases comes at a time when Canada appears to be "two-thirds of the way down the curve," Tam said, as overall COVID cases fall.Some jurisdictions, like Ontario, have taken that as reason to reopen. Most of the province is moving away from its stay-at-home orders next week, even though projections released Thursday show a potentially rapid rise by late February. Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, says reopening Ontario now could lead to further lockdowns in the province later."I anticipate our numbers over the next two weeks are going to be pretty good, but it's four weeks from now, six weeks from now that I'm most concerned about," he said.Troy Day, a COVID modeler out of Queen's University, says the problem with the variants is that they're still lurking beneath the surface. And they may not truly be seen until they take hold more firmly.Day said he's concerned about a third wave in Canada because places like Britain have shown similar trajectories."Cases go down and you think everything's OK, but underneath is actually an increase in variant cases that will eventually dominate everything," he said.Day says the word wave is "funny terminology," adding he's been hesitant to definitively label the ups and downs of COVID case counts that way."All the waves we've seen are driven largely by what we're doing to control it," Day said. "The more we open up and shut down, the more multiple waves we'll have."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
A study published Wednesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found the risk of death from COVID-19 was 3.5 times higher than from influenza. The numbers put a figure on the severity of the novel coronavirus, which experts have been speaking to since the pandemic began. The study analyzed hospitalized cases of COVID and influenza between November 2019 and June 2020 in seven Toronto-area hospitals, finding that people admitted with COVID-19 were 1.5 times more likely to need intensive care, and stayed in hospitals 1.5 times longer than patients admitted with influenza. The study used data extracted from hospital computer systems to describe details of patients' hospitalizations, says Dr. Amol Verma of St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto. That data included things like demographics, vital signs, laboratory test results, use of hospital resources like ventilators, and outcomes of their hospital stay — whether they died in hospital, needed intensive care, or were re-admitted. The findings from the Canadian study were similar to results recently reported in France and the United States, the CMAJ says. "We can now say definitively that COVID-19 is much more severe than seasonal influenza," Verma said in a release. The study described hospitalizations in Toronto and Mississauga, Ont. — areas with large populations and high levels of COVID-19 — and included all patients admitted to medical services or the intensive care units (ICU) for influenza or COVID-19. There were 1,027 hospitalizations for COVID-19 in 972 patients — some re-admissions were included in the study — compared to 783 hospitalizations for influenza in 763 patients. Those figures represent 23.5 per cent of all hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Ontario during the study period. Most patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had few other illnesses, and 21 per cent were younger than 50 years of age. People younger than 50 also accounted for 24 per cent of admissions to the ICU, the study found. While COVID-19 generally affects older adults more severely, Verma says the study highlights that the illness can also have serious impacts on younger people. The flu hospitalizations included in the study happened mainly from November 2019 to February 2020, Verma says. While COVID hospitalizations from the study occurred mainly from March to June, Verma adds there were some earlier cases in the Toronto area that were also included. Verma says the figures may be "magnified" by low levels of immunity to the COVID virus, compared to that of the seasonal flu. He adds that COVID vaccines should help decrease severity of the infection over time. "There is, unfortunately, also the possibility that variants of the virus could be even more severe," he added. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021. The Canadian Press
COPENHAGEN — The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Monday that there are 329 candidates — 234 individuals and 95 organizations — that were nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by the Feb. 1 deadline. The Oslo-based organization said that it was the third highest number of candidates ever, adding the current record of 376 candidates was reached in 2016. A vast group of people — heads of state or politicians serving at a national level, university professors, directors of foreign policy institutes, past Nobel Prize recipients and members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee — can submit a nomination for the prize. However, the nominees aren’t announced by the very secretive board in Oslo, but those doing the nominating may choose to make it public, raising publicity both for the nominee and the proposer. The Associated Press earlier has reported that the 2021 nominees include exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and two other Belarus democracy activists, Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova; the Black Lives Matter movement; Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny; Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has become a leading voting rights advocate; and former White House adviser Jared Kushner and his deputy, Avi Berkowitz, who negotiated a series of Middle East agreements known as the Abraham Accords. Groups nominated in 2021 include the World Health Organization for its role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic; NATO; Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF; and Polish judges defending civil rights. The U.N. World Food Program won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee announces its annual decision in October. The peace prize and other Nobel prizes are presented Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Five Nobel Prizes were established under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will. A sixth prize, for economics, was created by the Central Bank of Sweden in 1968 as a memorial to Nobel. Each prize carry substantial cash awards that are adjusted each year. In 2020, they came with a 10-milion krona ($1.1 million) cash award — which often is shared — along with diplomas and gold medals. The Associated Press
TORONTO — A few days before the Strumbellas were set to embark on a Canadian concert tour in January 2020, they dropped a bombshell announcement: the entire 14-city run of shows was being postponed as one of the band's own sought treatment for an unspecified illness. The news rocked their fanbase, but lead singer Simon Ward said the decision to cancel came during a crucial time. He was the unnamed member spiralling into a mental health crisis. Over a year later, he’s still digging himself out of it. "I'll be honest with you, it's been the worst year of my life," Ward explained in an interview from his home. "And every day I'm just here, trying to heal and get better." On Friday, the Strumbellas will release "Greatest Enemy," a new single that marks their first effort since Ward faced crippling depression and anxiety. He began writing the song before the six-member band sidelined their touring plans, and the band finished it during a recording session last November. Thematically, "Greatest Enemy" reflects on the overwhelming demons of the mind, but in true Strumbellas fashion, the words are paired with a soaring chorus of perseverance. It’s a formula that did wonders for the band in 2015 when "Spirits" elevated them from a ragtag group of Ontario indie musicians to a Top 40 success story, driven by an unforgettable chorus: "I got guns in my head and they won’t go. Spirits in my head and they won’t go." But the struggles hinted at in "Spirits" became all the more real for Ward as the Strumbellas embarked on a 2019 European tour for their followup album “Rattlesnake." Looking back, Ward says there were signs something was amiss. Sometimes it was as simple as him deciding to hide away in his hotel room when the rest of the group went to dinner together, he said. "It's so easy to isolate yourself when you're having mental health issues," he added. "All you want to do is… not be with other people. So I would stay by myself." But it was after the European leg of the tour wrapped and he returned to Canada that Ward started to realize something more serious was happening. "I started to feel so weird, like total lethargy," he said. "I couldn't get out of bed, dark thoughts, negative thoughts. Thoughts that were really mean to myself. I knew something wasn't right." Ward’s family paid him a visit, and he says that’s when he broke down, confessing to them that he was not doing well. He decided to check himself into a local hospital to seek professional help, receive a mental health assessment and discuss medications. "This has just been a full-on mental health year for me," he said. "(I’m) still in it, still working my way through it and struggling. I'm better now. But, you know, mental health is just such a tricky game. It seems to hang around, come back and float around." Getting the Strumbellas back on their feet will take some time. The band has worked on the early stages of new material in recent months, said guitarist Jon Hembrey. But a near-total shutdown of the concert industry during the COVID-19 pandemic has eased the pressure of getting back on the road. "I wouldn't bet any money on whether there will be shows in the summer," Hembrey said. "It's just too hard to tell." That's left room for the Strumbellas to interact with their fans in creative ways. Last year, they hopped on TikTok for the first time, creating a venue to answer questions about music, and recently for Ward to lend positive encouragement to others dealing with mental health hurdles. “A lot of people are in tough spots right now," he said, reflecting on how the live music industry has ground to a halt. "But everybody's going through it, so honestly make the best of it. We're just trying to make new music, get back in the groove of things and hang out again and see where it goes.” Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
ORLANDO, Fla. — Jonathan Suárez's contact was terminated by Major League Soccer's Orlando City following his arrest last week. The 24-year-old, whose full name is Jonathan Suárez Cortes, and brother Rafael Suárez were arrested Feb. 23 and accused of sexually assaulting a woman, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Major League Soccer suspended the player last week pending an investigation. Jonathan Suárez had been acquired on loan from Mexico's Querétaro last month. Orlando City said in a statement Sunday that Suárez's contract had been terminated “with the defender mutually agreeing to the termination in order to focus on the allegations made against him." ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Les personnes de 70 ans et plus, qui résident dans les MRC de Sept-Rivières, de Manicouagan et de la Haute-Côte-Nord, sont invitées à s’inscrire dès aujourd’hui, à compter de midi, aux prochaines cliniques de vaccination contre la COVID-19. La vaccination débutera la semaine prochaine. Pour ce qui est du bilan, aucun nouveau cas s’ajoute depuis le 26 février, avec quatre cas actifs. Il est possible de prendre rendez-vous par Internet sur la page Québec.ca/vaccinCOVID . Les gens n’ayant pas accès au réseau, ou qui éprouvent des difficultés à l’utiliser, peuvent composer le 1 877 644-4545 pour recevoir de l’aide. Il est également encouragé d’offrir un soutien aux aînés de votre entourage, pour la prise de rendez-vous en ligne, qui est obligatoire et seulement pour la première dose. Les gens ayant déjà reçu une dose seront contactés prochainement par le CISSS de la Côte-Nord, pour planifier leur deuxième rendez-vous. Plus de 17 600 doses des vaccins contre la COVID-19 ont été administrées dans la région jusqu’à maintenant. Voici le bilan en premier jour de mars: Situation sur la Côte-Nord*En date du 1er mars 2021 – 11 hNotez que les bilans régionaux de la Côte-Nord sont publiés du lundi au vendredi. La fin de semaine et lors des jours fériés, nous vous invitons à consulter le bilan national au Québec.ca/coronavirus ou sur le site de l’INSPQ. Le bilan régional sera mis à jour le lundi suivant. Nombre de cas confirmés : 354 Répartition par MRC : Basse-Côte-Nord : 6 Caniapiscau : 8 Haute-Côte-Nord : 26 Manicouagan : 106 Minganie : 17 Sept-Rivières : 191 Cas guéris : 347 (+1) Décès : 3 Cas actifs : 4 (-1) Cas actifs provenant d’une autre région : 0 Hospitalisation en cours : 0 Éclosions en cours :Milieu scolaire (Sept-Rivières) : Moins de 5 Éclosions terminées récemment :Milieu de travail (Caniapiscau) Milieu scolaire (Sept-Rivières) Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
VANCOUVER — Health officials have declared COVID-19 outbreaks at two more Metro Vancouver hospitals after finding evidence the virus was transmitted within a medicine unit at both locations. A statement from Fraser Health says the outbreaks are in single units of Surrey Memorial Hospital and Chilliwack General Hospital. One patient at Surrey Memorial and five patients at Chilliwack General have tested positive for COVID-19. Those units have been closed to admissions, but Fraser Health says other units and the emergency rooms of both hospitals remain open. Information from Vancouver Coastal Health shows a COVID-19 outbreak continues at three in-patient units on three separate floors of the highrise tower at Vancouver General Hospital. The units remain closed to admissions, transfers and visitors after COVID-19 outbreaks were confirmed on those wards, with the first outbreak reported Feb. 21. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
Chatham-Kent restaurants, gaming establishments, cinemas, performing art venues and gyms are able to receive an intake of 50 clients after the provincial government moved the municipality to the Orange Zone. On Friday the Ontario government, in consultation with its chief medical officer of health, announced it was moving nine public health regions to new levels in the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. The change came into effect Monday morning. During the past two weeks, with the Fairfield Park long-term care home outbreak under control, new cases have significantly decreased, prompting the zone change. The move into Orange means Chatham-Kent saw a weekly incidence rate of 25 to 39.9 new cases per 100,000 residents. On Friday, four recoveries and four new cases of COVID-19 were reported, keeping the active total at 17 cases. Limits for organized public events and gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities, where physical distancing can be maintained, has increased to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. Religious ceremonies and weddings can continue to see an indoor occupancy of 30 per cent of a room’s capacity. Fitness or exercise classes can only have a maximum of 10 people and must take place in a separate room. New vaccine on the block Health Canada also announced on Friday that it gave the green light to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine which has an efficacy rate of 62 per cent from 15 days after the second dose was given to the study’s participants. It was authorized for use in individuals 18 years of age and older. "Today's approval of AZO by Health Canada represents a major addition to the armamentarium in the fight against COVID-19. I am very pleased," said Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health. The vaccine will be produced in Ontario and India. The Ontario-produced AstraZeneca vaccine will have 500,000 doses quicker. “There’s been no update in terms of when Chatham-Kent will receive this particular vaccine, but Health Canada produced a statement saying that it will begin being distributed in April,” Colby said. Colby added that the provincial projections for its vaccination schedule are based on only Moderna and Pfizer availability, with more being added, projections will need to be updated. His original timeline for Chatham-Kent was to have the population inoculated by September and to date things have been going on schedule. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
(Shane Magee/CBC - image credit) Police are warning of poor driving conditions in parts of New Brunswick as a storm rolls through the province Monday. The RCMP said on Twitter that SNC Lavalin is recommending motorists stay off a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Saint-Jacques, near Edmundston, and Lower Woodstock. "Driving conditions are extremely poor," RCMP said. Meanwhile, NB-511, the government of New Brunswick's online road conditions map, is indicating roads are either fully or partly covered in snow in most regions north of Fredericton and Moncton. A 33-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Moncton, from River Glade to Dubee Settlement, is also reported to be covered in snow and icy patches. Other roads south of the Trans-Canada Highway are being reported as bare. The advisories come after Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning for the northern half of New Brunswick Monday. The national weather agency said some parts of the province could see between 15 and 25 centimetres of snow Monday into Tuesday. The heavy snow was expected to spread east across central and northern New Brunswick Monday morning with temperatures rising above 0 C in some places by the afternoon, causing some of the snow to melt. Half of New Brunswick is under a snowfall warning today. Snow is expected to taper to flurries by Tuesday morning, with strong westerly winds bringing in a cold air mass. Areas affected include: The Acadian Peninsula The Bathurst and Chaleur region Campbellton and Restigouche County Edmundston and Madawaska County Grand Falls and Victoria County Kouchibouguac National Park The Miramichi area Mount Carleton Stanley, Doaktown and Blackville areas Woodstock and Carleton County Strong wind gusts expected Tuesday Meanwhile, the Acadian Peninsula, Campbellton and Restigouche County, the Bathurst and Chaleur regions can expect to see northwesterly wind gusts travelling up to 90 km/h Tuesday morning into the evening. "Winds are expected to drop below warning criteria by Wednesday morning," Environment Canada said in a statement. "These strong winds may cause blowing snow over exposed areas giving reduced visibilities."
(Katrine Deniset/Radio-Canada - image credit) Aisha Barise says martial arts has always been a source of empowerment. As a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, she says even the naysayers, skeptical of her place in taekwondo and karate, were just fodder for her competitive fire. "Nobody can tell me what to do," she said. "I'm very competitive and it drives me and it motivates me, going out there looking different and then competing." Now, after a string of attacks on six Muslim women in a 10-week span, she is sharing what she knows with other women in self-defence classes organized by Muslim community groups in Edmonton. "There aren't many people who look like me that train in martial arts, that compete in martial arts. So that's why I took this opportunity," she said in an interview before Sunday's class at Markaz-Ul-Islam mosque. The four weekly classes, which began Feb. 21, each host around 24 people after organizers got the go-ahead from provincial health officials, said Noor Al-Henedy, director of communications at Al-Rashid Mosque. They sold out within hours, she said, with requests to add at least six more classes. It's a sign, she says, of widespread concern among the city's Muslim community. "When we look at the bigger picture, there's a huge education piece that needs to be done. Our city has to come together, our province, our country, to fight Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, hatred and racism," Al-Henedy said. 'You are very strong' The recent spate of daytime attacks against Muslim women wearing headscarves dates back to December. A mother and a daughter were assaulted in the parking lot of Southgate Centre on Dec. 8. A week later, a woman was assaulted while waiting for a train at the nearby Southgate LRT station. On Feb. 3, two women were assaulted in separate incidents, one at the University Transit Centre and the other near 100th Street and 82nd Avenue. Then, two weeks later, a Black Muslim woman was threatened at the Century Park LRT. "It cannot be something that's acceptable or something that only pops on the news and is normal. It cannot become the norm," Al-Henedy said. Barise, the instructor, says that while the physical element of self-defence is a given, there's an important psychological dimension as well. "As women we're always taught to not fight back ... to not to do anything, to not act, to not retaliate," she said. But self-defence instills a participant with a sense of their own agency, with the message that "you are very strong and you're very capable," Barise said. Despite the empowering message, Barise says she's still heartbroken to see a group of mostly mothers join a class out of fear for the safety of themselves and their families. "Mothers that genuinely want safety for their kids," she said. "These really vulnerable people were coming here asking for my help, and for me it was such a personal thing for a mother to come here with her kids in order to defend them and empower them."