(Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit) Ontario's public health measures have decreased COVID-19 transmission and have slowed the spread of variants of concern, according to modelling released by the province's advisory group on Thursday. But that good news comes with a caveat. According to the science table, variants of concern like B117 are continuing to spread and cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions will likely increase soon. Still, the province's latest projections come with a less dire tone than in recent weeks, with a smattering of positive news among warnings to remain vigilant. The full document appears at the bottom of this story. For one, the data suggests that lockdowns and focused vaccination in long-term care homes have rapidly reduced infections and deaths in those facilities. Doctors also predict the pandemic will likely recede again in the summer. But there are troubling statistics too. Ontario's overall test positivity rate was at 3.1 per cent on Feb. 20, but Peel Region was much higher at 7.1 per cent, as was Toronto at 5.6 per cent and York Region at 5.3 per cent. Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario's science advisory group, said "care" and "caution" are particularly critical in the next several weeks to help curb the rapid spread of variants of concern. "The next few months are really key to maintaining our gains and to achieving a declining pandemic in the summer," Brown said. "A better summer is in sight if we work for it now." Variants of concern continue to spread quickly in Ontario, the data shows, and are projected to likely make up 40 per cent of the province's cases by the second week of March. The science table says the next few weeks will be "critical" for understanding the impact of these variants, and that there "is a period of remaining risk" before the pandemic likely hits a lull in the summer months. The modelling also noted a new milestone, with more than 1,886 deaths reported in the second wave, surpassing the 1,848 deaths in the first. Number of active infections rises Ontario reported another 1,138 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as the number of active infections provincewide increased for the first time in more than six weeks. Brown said the new increase in the large public health units shows a trend in the wrong direction. The upward climb was small — in total, there were just 21 more active cases Wednesday than on Tuesday (10,071 compared to 10,050) — but could be notable given that, until now, infections marked as resolved have outpaced newly confirmed cases every day since Jan. 12. The new cases in Thursday's update include 339 in Toronto, 204 in Peel Region and 106 in York Region. Thunder Bay also saw another 44 cases. The local medical officer of health there told CBC News that residents should prepare to go back into the grey "lockdown" phase of the province's colour-coded COVID-19 restrictions. Thunder Bay is currently in the third-strictest red "control" phase. Other public health units that logged double-digit increases were: Ottawa: 64. Waterloo Region: 56. Simcoe Muskoka: 44. Halton Region: 40. Hamilton: 37. Windsor-Essex: 33. Durham Region: 28. Eastern Ontario: 20. Brant County: 19. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 18. Niagara Region: 12. Southwestern: 11. (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.) The seven-day average of new daily cases increased for a fifth straight day to 1,099. Ontario's lab network completed 66,351 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and reported a test positivity rate of two per cent. According to the province, there have been a total of 449 cases involving the coronavirus variant of concern first identified in the United Kingdom. That is 54 more than in yesterday's update. There have also been 11 cases of the variant first found in South Africa, and two linked to the variant identified in Brazil. Researchers from the University of Guelph and University of Waterloo independently ran modelling simulations based on Ontario's most recent reopening plan, with stay-at-home orders possibly lifted in Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound on March 8. The results suggest that the spread of the variant, which has been shown to be more contagious, could have profound effects on case numbers in latter half of March. School-related cases The Ministry of Education also reported another 83 school-related cases: 70 students, 12 staff members and one person who was not categorized. There are currently 18 schools closed due to the illness, about 0.4 per cent of those in the province. In a news release issued late Wednesday, Toronto Public Health said that there are eight schools within the health unit where at least one case is, or is most likely, due to a variant of concern. "The affected individuals and cohorts have been dismissed from school with guidance based on their level of risk. TPH has followed up with close contacts in affected class cohorts and has recommended testing," the release said. Public health units also recorded the deaths of 23 more people with COVID-19, pushing Ontario's official toll to 6,916. Meanwhile, the province said it administered 19,112 doses of vaccines yesterday, the second-most on a single day so far. As of 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, 255,449 people had received both shots of a vaccine. WATCH | Ontario's vaccine rollout likely to be accelerated:
NEW YORK — The exclusion of The Weeknd's “Blinding Lights" at the 2021 Grammy Awards shocked many, but he's in good company: Prince's “When Doves Cry" never scored a nomination either. Here's a look at every Billboard No. 1 hit of the year since 1958, Grammy-nominated or not. NOTE: Songs with an asterisk represent tracks that earned a Grammy nomination; songs with two asterisks won a Grammy. ______ 2020: The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights” 2019: Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2018: Drake, “God’s Plan” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2017: Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2016: Justin Bieber, “Love Yourself” (asterisk) 2015: Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2014: Pharrell Williams, “Happy” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2013: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, “Thrift Shop” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2012: Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2011: Adele, “Rolling In the Deep” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2010: Kesha, “Tik Tok” 2009: Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2008: Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, “Get Low” (asterisk) 2007: Beyoncé, “Irreplaceable” (asterisk) 2006: Daniel Powter, “Bad Day” (asterisk) 2005: Mariah Carey, “We Belong Together” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2004: Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, “Yeah!” (asterisk)(asterisk) 2003: 50 Cent, “In Da Club” (asterisk) 2002: Nickelback, “How You Remind Me” (asterisk) 2001: Lifehouse, “Hanging by a Moment” 2000: Faith Hill, “Breathe” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1999: Cher, “Believe” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1998: Next, “Too Close” 1997: Elton John “Candle In the Wind 1997” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1996: Los del Río, “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” 1995: Coolio, “Gangsta’s Paradise” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1994: Ace of Base, “The Sign” (asterisk) 1993: Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”(asterisk)(asterisk) 1992: Boyz II Men, “End of the Road” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1991: Bryan Adams, “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1990: Wilson Phillips, “Hold On” (asterisk) 1989: Chicago, “Look Away” 1988: George Michael, “Faith” 1987: The Bangles, “Walk Like an Egyptian” 1986: Dionne Warwick & Friends, “That’s What Friends Are For” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1985: Wham!, “Careless Whisper” 1984: Prince, “When Doves Cry” 1983: The Police, “Every Breath You Take” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1982: Olivia Newton-John, “Physical” (asterisk) 1981: Kim Carnes, “Bette Davis Eyes” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1980: Blondie, “Call Me” (asterisk) 1979: The Knack, “My Sharona” (asterisk) 1978: Andy Gibb, “Shadow Dancing” 1977: Rod Stewart, “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” 1976: Wings, “Silly Love Songs” 1975: Captain & Tennille, “Love Will Keep Us Together” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1974: Barbra Streisand, “The Way We Were” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1973: Tony Orlando and Dawn, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” (asterisk) 1972: Roberta Flack, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1971: Three Dog Night, “Joy to the World” (asterisk) 1970: Simon & Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1969: The Archies, “Sugar, Sugar” 1968: The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (asterisk) 1967: Lulu, “To Sir with Love” 1966: SSgt. Barry Sadler, “Ballad of the Green Berets” 1965: Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, “Wooly Bully” (asterisk) 1964: The Beatles, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (asterisk) 1963: Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, “Sugar Shack” 1962: Acker Bilk, “Stranger on the Shore” (asterisk) 1961: Bobby Lewis, “Tossin’ and Turnin’” 1960: Percy Faith, “Theme from A Summer Place” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1959: Johnny Horton, “The Battle of New Orleans” (asterisk)(asterisk) 1958: Domenico Modugno, “Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)” (asterisk)(asterisk) Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska — The Alaska Marine Highway System is working to finalize the sale of its fast ferries to an overseas bidder, officials said. Mediterranean-based catamaran operator Trasmapi SA offered about $4.6 million for the M/V Fairweather and M/V Chenega ferries, CoastAlaska reported Wednesday. The offer was less than half the $10 million reserve price set by the state. Bids were opened Jan. 13, and a state procurement officer at the time said a lower price could still be negotiated. John Falvey, general manager of the state-run ferry system, told the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday that the state has “a responsive bidder” and that officials were continuing to work to close the deal. Alaska commissioned the fast ferries in the mid-2000s. They were popular because they completed voyages in about half the time as conventional ships. The ferries were taken out of service in 2015 and 2019. The marine highway system cited rising fuel costs and poor performance in rough seas. The amount the state is seeking for the purchase of the ferries was not clear. The price for the 235-foot (72-meter) catamarans when they are first sold is $68 million. Trasmapi operates ferries between mainland Spain and the country's island of Ibiza. The Spanish company also offered about $411,000 for a pair of diesel engines, which cost about $3 million new. “The two swing engines which are in our warehouse and hermetically sealed containers, unused, they were also part of the sale,” Falvey said. The Associated Press
TORONTO — A new alert system that police recently used to find two missing girls received endorsement from the country's police chiefs on Thursday.The system, known as the Child Search Network, allows police to put out information on a missing child via a website and smart-phone app. Members of the public can then offer tips by clicking on the name or picture of the child. Supt. Cliff O'Brien, with Calgary police, called the network run by the non-profit Missing Children Society of Canada "super impressive.""The more people in our community that are looking instead of just the police, the better it is," O'Brien said. "It's great that all law enforcement is going to come together with our communities to help rescue kids."The network aims to alert the public — especially those in a specific location — to missing children deemed at high risk, but who are not in the kind of imminent danger needed to trigger an Amber Alert. The network began testing in September 2019, with just a few police services as early adopters.Now, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have given the system its blessing. The association is urging all police services across the country to adopt and implement the new network as a standard resource in all high-risk missing children investigations.The society's Rescu website and phone app allows users to view all active cases by geographic region. Names, photographs and other relevant data are available.Users can register to receive text alerts on their cellphones specific to cases in their area. The faster a child is found, the more likely they can be returned unharmed to safety, data indicate.Police services across Canada received 40,425 reports of missing children or youth — about half of all missing-person reports, federal data show. About three-quarters of the young people involved were runaways.A few weeks ago Calgary police were able to find two 14-year-old girls reported as missing and designated as high risk after an alert via the network. Tips began coming in within hours of the first alert."Within 24 hours, we were able to locate and safely return this second girl to her family," O'Brien said. "The first 14-year-old girl, within three days of that, we were also able to find her and return her to her loved ones."Amanda Pick, CEO of the Missing Children Society of Canada, said the technology and system now in place will help in the rescue of vulnerable children."We have a network that is able to be used in every single community by every single police service for the sole purpose of protecting children and finding a child as fast as possible," Pick said.Over the past year, the society's Rescu website has received about 4,500 visits and close to 800 users have subscribed to receive text alerts, the organization said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — “Caste,” Isabel Wilkerson's exploration of racism in the United States, and “The Dead are Arising,” an acclaimed biography of Malcolm X, are among this year's nominees for awards presented by the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project. The project announced Thursday that Wilkerson is a finalist for the Lukas Book Prize, along with Becky Cooper's “We Keep the Dead Close,” Seyward Darby's “Sisters in Hate,” Barton Gellman's “Dark Mirror” and Jessica Goudeau's “After the Last Border.” The Lukas project, based at Columbia University's journalism school and named for the late investigative journalist, also announced nominees for the Mark Lynton History Prize and the Lukas awards for works in progress. The awards honour “literary grace and commitment to serious research and social concern.” Winners will be announced March 24. Winners of the Lukas Book Prize and Lynton history prize receive $10,000 each. The project awards two works in progress, each worth $25,000. “The Dead are Arising,” which won the National Book Award last fall, is a finalist for the Lynton prize. The book was co-written by Les Payne, who died in 2018, and daughter Tamara Payne. Other Lynton nominees are Martha S. Jones' “Vanguard,” Geraldine Schwarz's “Those Who Forget,” Walter Johnson's “The Broken Heart of America” and Dwayne Betts' “A Question of Freedom.” Finalists for the work-in-progress awards are David Dennis Jr.'s “The Movement Made Us,” Emily Dufton's “Addiction, Inc.,” Channing Gerard Joseph's “House of Swann,” Casey Parks' “Diary of a Misfit” and Elizabeth Rush's “The Mother of All Things.” The Associated Press
BERLIN — The head of the German Bishops' Conference said Thursday that the country's Roman Catholic church is suffering from a “scandalous image” amid mounting anger over the Cologne archbishop's handling of a report on past sexual abuse by clergy, but he defended its overall record in addressing the issue. The Cologne archbishop, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, faces discontent after keeping under wraps for months a study he commissioned on how local church officials reacted when priests were accused of sexual abuse. Woelki has cited legal concerns about publishing the study conducted by a law firm. He has commissioned a new report, which is supposed to be published March 18. There has been criticism within the German church of Woelki. The head of the German Bishops' Conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, has described the crisis management in Cologne as a “disaster” but said earlier this week that the conference has no “sovereignty” to intervene. After a regular meeting of the country's bishops, Baetzing said Thursday that they take the effects on the church “very seriously.” A Cologne court this month announced that it was raising the number of appointments available for people seeking to formally leave the church to 1,500 from 1,000 starting in March, amid strong demand. “Every person who leaves the church hurts, and we perceive it as a reaction to a scandalous image of the church that we are currently delivering,” Baetzing said at a news conference. “Certainly, there are things in the Cologne archdiocese that need to be cleared up,” he said. “But focusing solely on the archbishop of Cologne would be short-sighted.” Baetzing said he can say “with a good conscience” that Germany's bishops stand by their pledge to get to the bottom of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. “A lot of good things have already happened,” he said, with successful investigation efforts taking place “in the shadow of Cologne.” Revelations about past sexual abuse have dogged the church in Germany and elsewhere for years. In 2018, a church-commissioned report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were 13 or younger when the abuse took place, and nearly a third of them were altar boys. In January, a new system drawn up by the church to compensate abuse survivors took effect. It provides for payments of up to about 50,000 euros ($60,760) to each victim. Under a previous system in place since 2011, payments averaged about 5,000 euros ($6111.) The Associated Press
(CBC - image credit) Six Prince Edward Islanders are being honoured by the Governor General's office for their service to others, with their names appearing Thursday on a list of 98 recipients of the Meritorious Service Decoration. They are: Carolyn Bateman said receiving the honour has been "a little surreal, nothing I ever expected that's for sure." In an interview with CBC News: Compass's Louise Martin, Bateman said when she received the email about the award she thought it was a hoax. Bateman recalled how she and teRaa both had children with autism, and started the Autism Society. As the children grew up, the women had to figure out how best to support them as adults. There's nothing like putting a mother in a corner! — Carolyn Bateman "Once they left the school system there was nothing for them to do, no place to go, no place to live if their parents were aging," Bateman said. Her son Adam was "very bright" and graduated high school, Bateman said. "We just thought he deserved more than sitting at home all day, he needed a life. And others like him needed a life too," she said. "There's nothing like putting a mother in a corner!" So they started the Stars for Life Foundation, a home for adults with autism. Adam Bateman is now 39 and enjoys volunteering and socializing, she said. Much has been learned about autism since then and with robust fundraising, the foundation continues to be a success. Bateman was also named to the Order of P.E.I. in 2016. Betty Begg-Brooks is one of six people from Prince Edward Island being honoured by the Governor General of Canada's Office for their work helping others. "Honourees announced today have undertaken a variety of inspiring initiatives to support the most vulnerable in their communities," said a news release from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. It continues: "Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to extraordinary and unprecedented times, and many Canadians rose to the challenge to support and help others." More from CBC P.E.I.
(Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit) The executive director of the Downtown Mission says a new emergency shelter for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 is opening up to the city's most vulnerable. Rev. Ron Dunn said on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning that people will begin moving to the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre on Thursday. "My staff are going to be staffing it mainly and so many of them are going to be reporting there this morning," he told host Tony Doucette. Clients are expected to start moving in Thursday afternoon. The opening of the shelter was prompted by large COVID-19 outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness in Windsor-Essex. As of Wednesday, there are 81 cases among clients and staff at the Downtown Mission, and 34 related to an outbreak at the Salvation Army shelter. The city's existing isolation and recovery shelter had become full amid the outbreaks, creating a scramble to accomodate those affected. Windsor's International Aquatic and Training Centre is being transformed into an emergency shelter. When the city announced that a second space would be opening up to respond to the crisis, officials initially said Wednesday would be the target date but as of that afternoon, it had still not opened and the city gave no indication of why the opening was delayed or when it may be opened. The Mission's two main locations were shut down officially by order of the health unit earlier this week, though the organization had already taken that step and moved into the former Windsor Public Library site on Ouellette Avenue. Dunn said on Windsor Morning that screening measures and other protocols were in place prior to the outbreak and the Mission was in contact with city officials and the health unit on outbreak plans. Nonetheless, Dunn said he felt it was inevitable that someone at the shelter would contract COVID-19. Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for the region, has previously noted the vulnerabilities within the homeless population to COVID-19, and challenges in preventing transmission.
MUSKOKA LAKES — Norah Fountain is used to wearing many hats as the executive director of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges and longer workdays for Fountain, as local business owners have turned to the chamber for guidance in an uncertain time. Advocacy quickly became a focus for the chamber in the early days of lockdown, Fountain explained, because, “we knew right away there would be businesses who would fall through the cracks.” The chamber helped to get the Muskoka Business Recovery Fund off the ground, which has received $750,000 from the District of Muskoka and an additional $2.1 million from the federal government. Still, the chamber has its own business to operate and this year will be different. The Township of Muskoka Lakes has pulled back on its financial support for the chamber, to the tune of $20,000, “to keep their budget in line,” Fountain said. As a result, the Port Carling Visitor Information Centre will not open this summer. The chamber will receive $27,000 from the Township to maintain its operations, which this month include a virtual job fair as well as outreach to attract Canadian travellers. “We are their front line tourism arm,” Fountain said, of the chamber’s 24-year relationship with the Township. “We put the money right back into the local economy.” COVID-related questions meant the chamber was “inundated with phone calls,” according to Fountain who has worked on developing resources like a set of COVID guidelines businesses can use as they reopen. As well, the chamber has provided hiring assistance for seasonal workers and helped local businesses move into e-commerce. The chamber also began a Facebook group, Muskoka Lakes Resiliency to connect businesses and extend their reach, posting the menus of local restaurants to encourage takeout business. Fountain also raised the idea of assembling a Muskoka Recovery Task Force to help aid businesses now dealing with coming back to a COVID economy after also suffering losses in the 2019 floods. Some of the chamber’s 312 members fast-tracked their annual renewals to help provide stability for the chamber, as revenue-generating events have been cancelled. And, new members like CrossFit Muskoka have joined, “because they’re seeing our advocacy work,” Fountain said. Not everyone has been able to make it through COVID-19, said Fountain, who called it “heartbreaking” that Clevelands House Resort will not be offering accommodations this summer. It is the impact this year will have on local business owners that Fountain is thinking of as she looks further ahead. “We’re actually concerned about what 2021 will look like.” Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
NEW YORK — Stephen King doesn't think of himself as a horror writer. “My view has always been you can call me whatever you want as long as the checks don't bounce,” King told The Associated Press during a recent telephone interview. “My idea is to tell a good story, and if it crosses some lines and it doesn't fit one particular genre, that's good.” Readers may know him best for “Carrie,” “The Shining” and other bestsellers commonly identified as “horror,” but King has long had an affinity for other kinds of narratives, from science fiction and prison drama to the Boston Red Sox. Over the past decade, he has written three novels for the imprint Hard Case Crime: “Joyland,” “The Colorado Kid” and “Later,” which comes out this week. He loves sharing a publisher with such giants of the past as James M. Cain and Mickey Spillane, and loves the old-fashioned pulp illustrations used on the covers. At the same time, he enjoys writing a crime story that is more than a crime story — or hardly a crime story at all. “Joyland" is a thriller set around an amusement park and could just as easily be called a coming-of-age story. “The Colorado Kid” has a dead body on an island off the coast of King's native Maine, but otherwise serves as a story about why some cases are best left unsolved. “It's the beauty of the mystery that allows us to live sane as we pilot our fragile bodies through this demolition derby world,” he writes in the book's afterword. His new novel has a lot of crime in it but, as King's narrator suggests, it might actually be a horror story. Jamie Conklin is looking back on his childhood, when he was raised by a single mother, a New York literary agent. Like other young King protagonists, Jamie has special powers: He not only can see dead people, but when he asks them questions, they are compelled to tell the truth. “Later” also features a bestselling novelist and his posthumous book, and a police detective who for a time is the girlfriend of Jamie's mother. The 73-year-old King has written dozens of novels and stories, and usually has three to four ideas that “are half-baked, kind of like an engine and no transmission." He doesn't write ideas down because, he says, if something is good enough he's unlikely to forget it. For “Later,” he started with the idea of a literary agent who needed to get her late client's manuscript finished, and thought of having a son who communicates with the dead. He then decided the mother needed a companion. “And I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to make the love relationship female.' Then I thought to myself, ‘Cop,’ and the cop is dirty and everything fell into place," he says. King, who publishes most of his work with Simon & Schuster, is part of the founding story of Hard Case Crime. Back in 2004, Charles Ardai and Max Phillips were launching a line of books to “revive pulp fiction in all its lurid mid-century glory." Hoping for some publicity, they wrote to King and asked for a blurb. A representative for the author called and said King did not want to write a blurb for Hard Case Crime; he wanted to contribute a book. That became “The Colorado Kid.” “I sat on the other end of the phone while this sank in and tried to sound cool, like this was the sort of phone call I got every day and twice on Fridays,” Ardai wrote in an introduction to “The Colorado Kid,” which came out in 2005. “But inside I was turning cartwheels.” King's passions also include politics and current events, and over the past few years he regularly tweeted his contempt for President Donald Trump. But he doubts that Trump's loss to Democrat Joe Biden will have an effect on his work. Fiction has been an “escape” from politics, he says, not a forum. And though he has written a famous novel about a pandemic, “The Stand,” he passed on a chance to write about COVID-19 in a work of fiction coming later this year, “Billy Summers." He originally set it in 2020, but decided instead on 2019. Toward the end of “Later,” Jamie observes that his writing has improved as the story went along, “improved by doing, which I suppose is the case with most things in life.” Asked during the interview to evaluate his own writing, King, the baseball fan, likens himself to an aging but resourceful pitcher. “I've gotten better in some ways, but you lose a little of the urgency. In my 40s, the ideas were like people jamming into a fire door to get out. There were so many ideas, and you couldn't wait to get to the typewriter and the words would pour out,” he says. “Nowadays, you're almost feeling people are looking over your shoulder and they're apt to be a little more critical. You slow down a little bit. I'm aware I'm getting older. You lose the blazing fastball and start to count more on your changeups and curves and be a little more careful and mix them up.” Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
TURIN, Italy — Torino’s Serie A match against Sassuolo on Friday was postponed because of a rising number of coronavirus cases in the club. Serie A’s governing body agreed on Thursday to postpone it until March 17. Seven Torino players have tested positive for COVID-19 as well as two members of staff. The more contagious variant that emerged in England has been identified in some cases. Three Torino players tested positive in the buildup to last Friday’s match at Cagliari. Amid reports of more possible cases, the local health authority ordered the temporary closure of the club’s training ground in Turin on Tuesday and instructed all the players and coaching staff to self-isolate at their homes and await further tests. Torino is next due to fly to Rome for a match at Lazio on Tuesday. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The authorities expect to have 70% of the population vaccinated by the end of the summerView on euronews
NEW YORK — Robert Irwin has long acted as a voice for animals. Now he's actually voicing an animal. The 17-year-old son of the late conservationist Steve Irwin is lending his voice to a character on the popular animated children's TV show “Bluey.” “I’ve had so many hilarious and awesome and scary and fun and exciting adventures with animals. But I’ve never gotten to actually be an animal before or be the voice of an animal,” he tells The Associated Press from his native Australia. The Brisbane-produced “Bluey,” which centres on an eponymous 6-year-old Blue Heeler pup, her sister Bingo and their parents, Chilli and Bandit, has in just a few years grown into a worldwide phenomenon. The show has been praised for its ability to speak honestly about parenting and childhood, with realistic dialogue and creative games. It won an International Emmy Kids Award for best preschool program. It's available on Disney Channel, Disney Junior and DisneyNOW. In the upcoming season two episode called “The Quiet Game,” Irwin voices a clerk named Alfie on his first day at work in a toy store when Bluey, Bingo and Bandit come in looking for a birthday gift for a friend of the kids. The trouble is that dad has earlier persuaded his kids to play silently and their fierce commitment has now backfired, forcing him to use charades to figure out which toy to buy. That's when Alfie comes it, expertly translating the kids' clues. “Alfie, you rock star!” says dad after the right toy is picked. Irwin, who works at Australia Zoo, a 700-acre facility on the continent's Sunshine Coast established by his “Crocodile Hunter” dad, tapped into his knowledge of dingoes at the zoo and his own pet pug to get into character. “I feel like I have a lot to draw from,” he said. “I definitely know the mind of a dog quite well. And it was fun to sort of step into those shoes.” Irwin says Blue Heelers — also know as Australian Cattle Dogs — are an iconic breed from the outback who are smart and natural herders. “They’re really these amazing, intelligent, loyal working dogs,” he said. “If you’re going to adopt a Blue Heeler, you definitely want to be ready for for a very energetic dog.” Irwin, who was only 2 when his father died in 2006, has continued Steve Irwin's work protecting wildlife and education efforts about the environment, together with his mom, Terri, and sister, Bindi. He usually makes documentaries, but leapt at the chance to reach a different audience with “Bluey” and expand his family's voice. “For me, it feels like an immense honour and and a responsibility in a way, but not a burden in any sense. It feels like a privilege to be able to continue this legacy,” he said. “It feels like the most amazing honour every day to make sure that the incredible work that my mum and dad started continues, especially after we lost dad. I know that for us, our biggest priority was to make sure that everything that he lived and died for continues.” ___ Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Anchorage Health Department has arranged two mobile clinics to provide coronavirus vaccinations specifically targeting members of Alaska's community of Pacific Islanders. The clinics scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday this week were the first targeting a specific community since the pandemic began, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The focused clinic strategy was used by the department during past illness outbreaks. There were about 160 appointments available for the two clinics, officials said. “In order to make sure some of these other groups get access, we basically created some private clinics,” said Christy Lawton, Anchorage’s public health division manager. “We’ll still serve people who are eligible but we’re not getting the message out the same way.” The clinics were advertised via word of mouth among Pacific Islanders rather than the usual appointment sites accessible to the public, officials said. “The minute any appointments go on those, they go like hotcakes. People with time to sit at a computer and refresh get them,” Lawton said. The targeted clinics were possible because Anchorage health officials had discretion in the use of monthly vaccine supplies from the state, allowing the city to do “pocket allocations” like the Pacific Islander clinics. “Our charge from the CDC and state is to achieve equity access for Alaskans,” Anchorage Health Department epidemiologist Janet Johnston said, referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The strategies to be able to do that have to vary and be as diverse as the people we are trying to vaccinate." Officials said the clinics also were made by possible with the assistance of community leaders such as Lusiana Hansen, president of the Polynesian Association of Alaska. "Our communities have less access to health clinics, doctors, and also transportation,” Hansen said. “Our people, they gather in churches and congregations. It’s the easiest and the fastest way for us to get the vaccine.” The majority of the state’s Pacific Islander communities live in Anchorage, where nearly half of people age 60 and over have been vaccinated, data show. More than a third of Alaska Native or American Indian people have been vaccinated through a separate Indian Health Service allocation for tribal members, employees and household members. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus will reopen high schools, gyms, pools, dance academies and art galleries on March 1 in a further, incremental easing of the country’s second nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the government said Thursday. Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said easing the six-week-old lockdown should proceed “slowly, cautiously and in a controlled manner.” He warned that the situation could easily get out of hand again as the country’s infection rate remains slightly above safety limits set by the European Union’s disease prevention agency. According to Ioannou, the number of infections now stands at 164.3 per 100,000 people. Middle school students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 8, Ioannou said, signalling the reopening of all schools after weeks of online instruction. Primary schools are already holding in-person classes. But the minister made it clear that twice-daily excursions requiring SMS approval and a 9:00pm-5:00am curfew will remain in effect. “We'll do without certain things for the next two or three months, some measures will carry on until there's (sufficient) vaccination coverage which is estimated to happen by June," Ioannou said. A ban on public gatherings also continues to apply despite growing public fatigue that culminated with thousands demonstrating last weekend in the capital to protest the restrictions, alleged police heavy-handedness and corruption. Police didn’t intervene in that protest, but used a water cannon, pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse a much smaller group of left-wing demonstrators a week earlier. One young woman required surgery for an eye injury following a blast from the water canon. The force’s actions triggered a public outcry and prompted a probe to determine whether riot police used disproportionate force. On Wednesday, Amnesty International urged Cypriot authorities to lift what it called “an unlawful and disproportionate blanket ban” on demonstrations. Amnesty International Greece and Cyprus official Kondylia Gogou said police made “unnecessary and excessive use of force" during the earlier protest. She said the violence was also part of a “deeply worrying pattern" in Cyprus where “human rights are coming under sustained attack." ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) Parts of B.C.'s South Coast woke up to a surprise hit of winter weather on Thursday morning, but Environment Canada says the snowfall has now mostly ended. The unexpected accumulation brought a warning for the morning commute as police urged drivers to be careful. New Westminster police reported it had responded to several collisions due to messy, slippery road conditions. Environment Canada said up to three centimetres fell in parts of the Lower Mainland, but areas like Richmond and parts of Burnaby avoided the localized band of snow. More wild weather is still expected for the region, too. Later Thursday, the weather agency issued a wind warning for much of Metro Vancouver and the southern Gulf Islands, saying gusts of 70 to 90 kilometres an hour can be expected early Friday morning. Winter storm warnings are in effect for the Coquihalla Highway and Highway 3 from Hope to Princeton via Allison Pass. There's also a snowfall warning in place for Highway 3 from Paulson Summit to Kootenay Pass. Footprints in the snow at 11th Avenue and Quebec Street in Vancouver early Feb. 25. Environment Canada says it will be mainly cloudy tonight and windy at times, with a low near 3 C. Conditions are expected to clear tomorrow, with a high of 8 C, but strong northwesterly winds are also forecast.
A Gravenhurst High School graduate with her eye set on a future in the field of law is this year’s recipient of a $5,000 bursary granted by the Muskoka Lakes Association. Makayla Smith-Lagrandeur, who will begin the law clerk program at Georgian College in Barrie in the fall, was on her way home from shopping for her first vehicle when she got the news. “I got a call saying I’d won the bursary,” she explained. “The amount that’s given each semester will pay for my semester term.” Unsure what post-secondary education will look like in the age of COVID-19, Smith-Lagrandeur still plans to move to Barrie, whether the first year of college takes place virtually or in the classroom. “It would take a lot to adjust to online learning,” she said, but the advantage is that, “I can learn at my own pace.” Studying law has always been the focus for the honours student, whose goal is to become a family lawyer and open a Muskoka law firm to serve her home community. Until then, she plans to spend her summer clocking hours at Bala Freshmart, where she currently works part time. A resident of Wahta Mohawks Territory, Smith-Lagrandeur served as a student delegate for the Indigenous Education Advisory Committee and a delegate for youth leadership at the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians conference in 2018. “Makayla’s application to the MLA was exceptionally well written, organized and thoughtful,” the MLA said in a statement, adding her teachers noted her work as a peer tutor helped motivate other students and organize workspaces. The Muskoka Lakes Association awards its annual bursary to a student who demonstrates financial need to continue post-secondary education. The bursary is part of an initiative by the community programs committee and is now in its eighth year. Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
(Submitted by The Front Yard Flower Co. - image credit) Flower vendors are worried B.C.'s COVID-19 rules for farmers' markets could lead to greenhouses full of blooms going to waste. Farmers' markets are considered an essential service and have been allowed to continue operating throughout the pandemic. However, non-food vendors like potters, jewelry and soap makers and flower sellers are excluded from in-person sales. This rule was lifted for a time last summer before being reinstated in December. Flower farmers plan months ahead, ordering seeds and growing plants throughout the winter, said Rachel Ryall, who owns River and Sea Flowers in Ladner. "We planted the current flowers that will be blooming over the next month back in September and October, assuming things would be alright to sell them again," Ryall said. "I can't stop them from flowering. They're coming." Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition urging non-food vendors be allowed back. She has sold her flowers at the Vancouver Farmers Market for years and says the market has maintained strict rules throughout the pandemic to keep visitors and vendors safe. Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and she's worried about lost sales and wasted blooms — she says she's not equipped for large-scale delivery across the Lower Mainland. "I feel like maybe we've been forgotten, because we're not vegetable farmers, we're kind of a smaller segment of vendors," Dykstra said. Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition asking that non-food vendors be allowed back. Laura Smit, executive director of Vancouver Farmers Market, says although she is grateful the province has permitted markets to continue operating, it's never been made clear why non-food vendors aren't allowed. The farmers' market has been working since December to bring back non-food vendors, and she says if the rule is not overturned, it will have a big impact on the bottom line for flower vendors in particular. "Their product is absolutely seasonal," Smit said. "It's not something that is shelf-stable and can sit around to be sold later on in August. Literally the spring time is when these flower farmers are planning for, preparing for, and they don't understand why they can't come to market and we don't either." Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and Rose Dykstra is worried about lost sales and wasted blooms if she can't bring them to the market. In an email to CBC News, the B.C. Ministry of Health said the rule is in an effort to keep the risk of COVID-19 transmission down, and added that non-food vendors can do online sales and pick-up orders. "The reason that food vendors are allowed is that farmers' markets are essential food and agriculture service providers," a spokesperson said. "The B.C. government will continue to listen to feedback from the community and stakeholders and adjust our response to support businesses as needed." Soap also not allowed — during a pandemic It's not just flower farmers who are concerned. Shea Hogan hopes he will be able to sell his natural bar soap at farmers' markets again this spring. The owner of PoCo Soap Co. says farmers' markets used to be a big part of his business and a way to build relationships with customers. He says it's ironic that, as a non-food vendor, he can't sell soap in a pandemic. He believes buying items from an outdoor farmers' market is among the safest ways to shop. "It was frustrating because other than being arbitrary and general, we're being told to wash our hands with soap and water," Hogan said. "And as a maker and seller of soap, to not be allowed to sell soap somewhere seems ... extra weird."
Hospitality industry veteran Ken Loudon will be the new executive director of the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association (GPRTA), the organization announced last week. Loudon will begin in the position March 1. “I’m excited to take on the leadership of a vital organization,” Loudon said. “This position enables me to serve our community at a greater level and be part of a team that’s here for the betterment of our region, businesses and area residents.” GPRTA in a non-profit marketing group intended to promote the Grande Prairie area and support local businesses. Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, the city and county of Grande Prairie, the Municipal District of Greenview and Saddle Hills County are GPRTA members. The municipalities pay a $2.25 per capita annual membership fee, said Johnathan Clarkson, GPRTA board president. The previous executive director was Terry Dow, who stepped down in December, Clarkson said. Previously, Loudon was the regional manager of the Grande Prairie/Wood Buffalo YMCA of Northern Alberta for five years. Loudon is a city resident, Clarkson said. Loudon also worked in the hotel and casino industries and served as a director on the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce board, Clarkson said. As well, Loudon is a past president and board member of GPRTA in the 2000s, according to the group. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
LONDON — Britain announced further sanctions Thursday against members of Myanmar’s military for their part in the coup that ousted the country’s elected government. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said six more top generals face sanctions for serious human rights violations, in addition to 19 others previously listed by the U.K. The new round of sanctions targets Myanmar’s State Administration Council, which was set up following the coup to exercise state functions. The measures immediately ban the generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, from travelling to Britain and will prevent U.K. businesses and institutions from dealing with their funds or economic resources in Britain. The British government added that it will ensure U.K. businesses do not trade with Myanmar’s military-owned companies. The government has said it was ending aid programs that sent money to the Myanmar government but that aid would still reach “the poorest and most vulnerable in Myanmar.” The U.K. is the ex-colonial ruler of Burma, as Myanmar was formerly known. The Myanmar military seized power on Feb. 1 and detained national leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy figures. The Associated Press