With meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
With meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
Beverly Millar has sold all the copies of her new book, The Homefront: My Memories of World War Two, 1939-1945 and the proceeds are going to a good place. Millar realized $630 from the sale of her book and, as planned, she handed over all the proceeds to the P.E.I. chapter of Make-A-Wish Canada. “It’s one of my charities,” said Millar. “Did you know there are 37 children waiting to have their wishes granted?” That number has increased since the publication to 41, a record high for the province in the 34-year history of the chapter. More than 4,000 wishes are pending across Canada. Make-A-Wish P.E.I. has been actively granting Item Wish requests throughout the pandemic. "Though most of the world has shut down, the hope of a wish has remained essential!" wrote Jennifer Gillis, from the P.E.I. chapter in an email. Homefront is Millar’s last book, she says. Her eyesight has declined, making it increasingly difficult to write. The autobiographical collection was a gift from the heart for her children, an account of her time living in western P.E.I. during the Second World War. Millar passes on her thanks to everyone who purchased a copy and made a donation. Alison Jenkins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Journal-Pioneer
Ontario Premier Doug Ford regularly refers to his local MPPs as “champions”. Introducing riding representatives at his now discontinued daily briefings, Ford heaped praise on the work local Progressive Conservatives do for their communities. In Mississauga and Brampton, a recent vote at Queen’s Park has left municipal officials and constituents wondering why Ford’s MPPs don’t listen to those they’re supposed to “champion”. On Monday, PC MPPs in Brampton and Mississauga voted with their party to strike down an NDP Bill to give workers in Ontario permanent and pandemic-specific paid sick days. The vote was a direct contraction of requests made by the cities the MPPs are elected to represent. Paid sick days are something the Official Opposition has been pushing for months. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and his Mississauga counterpart Bonnie Crombie have also been making the demand continually, with workplace transmission in Peel Region a major barrier to bringing the pandemic under control. It’s a major reason why Peel, unlike most of Ontario, remains under a stay-at-home-order. Dr. Lawrence Loh, the Region’s medical officer of health, the man tasked with managing pandemic response in Ontario’s hardest hit area, has vocally backed the calls. Research completed by Peel Public Health illustrates the impact of not having paid sick days in the region. Workplaces, many of which remain open in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga, have been a major source of the novel coronavirus transmission in Peel. Between August and January, 66 percent of all confirmed community outbreaks in the region took place in workplaces. In August, workplace transmission was the most common likely source of infection that resulted in spread within households. The threat is especially pervasive in Peel because of the number of essential jobs the area hosts and due to the large percentage of residents who work in these sectors, including those who have to commute outside the region. A series of major highways, Toronto Pearson Airport and large corridors of industrial zoning have created an ideal nexus in Peel for viral infection and spread. Essential workers makeup a significant portion of the population. According to the 2016 census, manufacturing employed more Peel residents than any other sector, including jobs that are deemed essential to keep supply chains running. Roughly 90,000 Peel residents worked in the manufacturing sector. Other job categories dominated by essential workers are common in Peel. In 2016, there were 69,920 residents working in transportation and warehousing; 59,270 in healthcare and social assistance; 44,755 in construction; and 42,205 in accommodation and food services. “This pandemic has highlighted the fact that lack of access to paid sick days is a health hazard,” Peel Public Health wrote in the briefing that accompanied its research into workplace cases. Between August and January, a total of 1,993 people who later tested positive for COVID-19 reported going to work for one or more days after their symptoms began to show. The figure represents roughly 25 percent of all cases through the period, meaning one in four went to work infectious. Discussing the data, Loh has pointed out this is probably an underestimate. Despite reassurances from health officials collecting the data, it is likely some chose not to admit to authority figures they went to work while infected. Of all the data collected by Peel Public Health, one statistic stands out. Eighty individuals reported to work between August and January after their positive result had been reported to public health and they were confirmed to have the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Armed with these statistics, Peel’s mayors and medical officer of health have been begging for paid sick days. With the GTHA Mayors providing ample media attention to voice the reality for hundreds of thousands of their constituents, they had hoped to be heard by now. But they have been ignored and even the region’s local, governing MPPs have tuned out. The Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, tabled by the NDP and struck down with the help of seven Peel based PC MPPs Monday, would have offered workers 14 paid sick days during the pandemic. It also suggested seven paid days after the pandemic is over. “If Peel’s Conservative MPPs hadn’t helped the Ford government block the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, workers in Brampton and Mississauga could have had paid sick days when they woke up today,” NDP Deputy Leader and Brampton Centre MPP, Sara Singh, said. “Instead, people in Peel are returning to jobs in health care and food processing without that support, doing essential work while the government turns its back on them, again.” The Pointer reached out to all seven PC MPPs to ask them to justify their vote and if they listened to Loh’s advice as the local medical expert. Staff members at the offices of Mississauga—Lakeshore MPP Rudy Cuzzetto, Mississauga—Malton MPP Deepak Anand, Mississauga Centre MPP Natalia Kusendova and Mississauga—Streetsville MPP Nina Tangri answered phone calls confirming they had received questions, but did not provide responses. The remaining MPPs, Associate Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria (Brampton South) Amarjot Sandhu (Brampton West) and Sheref Sabawy (Mississauga—Erin Mills) did not answer messages left by email and voicemail. Kaleed Rasheed (Mississauga East—Cooksville) did not vote. “I’m very disappointed in our Mississauga provincial members of parliament,” Crombie said at a Wednesday press conference. “They know how important sick days are. This should not come down to ideological differences — we need to do the right thing.” It’s not the first time questions have been raised about Peel’s MPPs. In 2018, Sarkaria and Sandhu felt the wrath of their community after they skipped a vote pushing to bring a third hospital to Brampton. The Progressive Conservatives’ official party line on introducing paid sick days is that they duplicate a benefit being offered by the federal government, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). Communications staff for the PC government have blanketed social media with the position, saying paid sick days already exist and that the NDP is muddying the waters. But the experts in Peel take issue with the idea CRSB solves the issue. Peel Public Health says the benefit’s usefulness is “limited” by duration, delayed release of funds and “lack of linguistic cultural support for applicants”. “Eligibility criteria further limit the ability of programs such as CRSB and Employment Insurance to address COVID-19 transmission in the workplace,” Peel Public Health wrote in its research. “The whole COVID-19 thing is a jigsaw puzzle, but this is one really big piece that continues to be missing in my estimation,” Loh said at Mississauga’s weekly press conference, referring to the need for paid sick days. In the legislature, the message is being ignored by the ruling PCs. Despite recently posting screenshots of a virtual briefing with Loh, the region’s MPPs have not acted on his advice. “Local leaders like Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, and Peel Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh recognize that paid sick days are a vital public health measure to keep workers safe in Brampton’s essential workplaces,” Singh said in the legislature Wednesday. “But this government ignores them again and again, refusing to take action to stop this virus, keep workers safe and end the cycle of lockdowns.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
County council agreed to support a movement for improvements at long-term care (LTC) homes, though disagreed with local advocates’ desire to end for-profit homes. Council voted to write a letter of support for the Haliburton-CKL (City of Kawartha Lakes) Long-Term Care Coalition. The advocacy group is joining with others across the province to push for improvements, including amending the Canada Health Act to include LTC, guaranteeing four hours of direct care per day for residents, stronger enforcement and a culture change. Councillors spoke in favour of those ideas. But the coalition’s desire to end private LTC did not garner support and was specifically excluded in the resolution. “The first four points that you have, I think, are a bold initiative and a great start,” Coun. Brent Devolin said. “The supply going forward, will public initiatives alone be enough to look after all of us?” Coalition co-chair, Bonnie Roe, cited the Ontario Health Coalition, a province-wide organization also calling for the end to for-profit long-term care. Its May 2020 analysis found COVID-19 deaths in homes with outbreaks were higher in private (nine per cent) versus non-profit (5.25 per cent) or publicly-owned (3.62 per cent). The Canadian military also released a report about terrible conditions at homes it intervened in last May, which prompted the province to start an independent commission. Four of those homes were privately-owned. “There are some for-profits that are excellent, but generally speaking, they do not follow the standards,” Roe said. “People are asking, ‘why are there private profits attached to us as a society caring for our elders’?” co-chair, Mike Perry, said. “Why was that ever seen as a profit-making venture?” Warden Liz Danielsen said the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus has identified LTC as a priority. But she added the caucus is not yet in favour of ending private facilities. Coun. Carol Moffatt said she can attest to the challenges of eldercare and there is a drastic need for better support for health workers. “More people to do the job,” Moffatt said. “We also maybe need to be careful of what you wish for in terms of potential downloading. How do we all as a province push for the changes that are required, without it going off the cliff and then landing in the laps of municipalities for increased costs?” Perry thanked council for the support. “There’s so much common room and so much common ground for this moving forward,” he said. “That’s where we find hope in all this tragedy recently." Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
HALIFAX — Premier Iain Rankin says Nova Scotia should have enough COVID-19 vaccine to give all residents at least one shot by the end of June. Rankin told reporters today following his first cabinet meeting as premier that his estimate is based on new federal government guidelines about increasing the interval between first and second doses of vaccine. He says he will likely have more details about the province's plan at Friday's COVID-19 briefing. The province is to get 13,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine next week, which will complement Nova Scotia's vaccine supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health officials are also announcing that restrictions on restaurant operating hours and sporting events will be lifted in Halifax and its surrounding regions on Friday morning. Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today, all in the Halifax area. Two involve contacts of previously reported cases and the third is under investigation. The province has 29 active reported cases of the disease. Residents of long-term care homes in the Halifax area are still limited to receiving visits from two designated caregivers. Officials say the restrictions for long-term care residents will remain in place in the region until March 27. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre seeks to help bridge the gaps between people with its first-ever online exhibition launched Feb. 27. Titled “Connection,” the show presents submissions from its members, featuring a wide array of mediums. Besides a physical gallery still viewable at the centre under additional public protocols, it is also available on the centre’s website, with a guided virtual tour. Curator Laurie Jones said she learned about the format from the Ontario Society of Artists and it was a way to improve access. “Not everybody’s comfortable yet with being around, especially in public spaces,” Jones said. The exhibition is an annual salon show, drawing from local talent, Jones said. The pandemic prompted the move to an online addition – and the theme for the show itself. “It came up out of my own cravings for connections and missing people,” Jones said. “In many ways, we’re looking for alternate ways to connect.” Artist Rosanna Dewey’s exhibition piece depicts one of those ways. It is an oil painting entitled “Zoom Room” depicting a call on the online meeting platform. She said the show’s theme was poignant. “It’s so hard to be connected,” Dewey said. “It really made me think about what was going on and what my connections were.” She said she had some skepticism about the online concept but found it turned out appealing. “You want to be able to get up close to the artwork and you get more of a sense of the piece,” Dewey said. “But I found that people were still interested. People still needed to go and experience art, even if it was through a Zoom format.” Arts and Crafts Festival on pause But the community will miss one big way to connect with art in the summer. The Haliburton Art and Craft Festival – the gallery’s flagship event and fundraiser – is cancelled for the second straight year due to the pandemic, Jones said. She said it would be too logistically challenging to ensure safety amidst the pandemic. “We don’t want to introduce any risk to our volunteers or staff or vendors or patrons,” Jones said. “Maintaining sanitary conditions would be impossible.” Jones said the centre needs to decide early to inform artists and give them time to plan. She said there might be alternate programming, but that is being worked out. For now, the Rails End is still putting on exhibitions and bringing arts to the community. “We’re not trying to sell anything. We’re trying to provide an experience,” Jones said. “Hopefully, they feel the connection with the creative arts.” “Connection” runs until April 17 and is available at the centre itself or railsendgallery.com. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
There are five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, pushing the province to more than a thousand total cases since last March. Of the cases, four are in the Eastern Health region. All of the new cases in the Eastern Health region are either close contacts of previous cases or travel-related. There is a new positive case in the Western Health region, and it's related to international travel. There have been 33 new recoveries. The total number of active cases is now 121, while the total number of cases in the province in the past year is now 1,002. There are eight people in hospital. Of these patients, two are in intensive care. Meanwhile, passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 8996 that departed Halifax and arrived in St. John's on Thursday, Feb. 25 should call 811 to arrange to get a COVID-19 test. Positive case closes Trepassey Community Health Clinic One of the new cases announced on Thursday in the Eastern Health region is a health-care worker at the Trepassey Community Health Clinic. Contact tracing by Public Health officials is underway. The clinic is closed for the day, following a positive test for the virus, according to a media release from Eastern Health. Since testing positive, the person has been isolating themselves at home. Patients who have appointments at the clinic will be rebooked and anyone who requires immediate care should call either the Ferryland Health and Community Service Clinic at 709-432-2930 or the St. Mary's Health Centre at 709-525-2980. Anyone who has one symtpom of COVID-19 can complete the online self-assessment tool at www.811healthline.ca to arrange testing. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
LONDON — U.K. authorities have launched an investigation into Apple's App Store over concerns it has a dominant role that stifles competition and hurts consumers. The Competition and Markets Authority said Thursday it was looking into “suspected breaches of competition law" by Apple. The announcement adds to regulatory scrutiny of the iPhone maker's app distribution platform, which is also the subject of three antitrust probes by the European Union's executive Commission. Apple said the App Store is “a safe and trusted place for customers” and a “great business opportunity for developers.” The investigation was triggered in part by complaints from app developers that Apple will only let them distribute their apps to iPhone and iPad users through the App Store. The developers also complained that the company requires any purchases of apps, add-ons or upgrades to be made through its Apple Pay system, which charges up to 30% commission. “Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway," Andrea Coscelli, the authority's CEO, said in a statement. “So, complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice – potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps – warrant careful scrutiny." The watchdog said it would consider whether Apple has a “dominant position" in app distribution for Apple devices in the U.K., and, if it does, whether the company “imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers” that results in less choice or higher prices for consumers buying apps and extra. Apple said it looked forward to explaining its App Store guidelines to the U.K. watchdog. “We believe in thriving and competitive markets where any great idea can flourish," the company said by email. “The App Store has been an engine of success for app developers, in part because of the rigorous standards we have in place — applied fairly and equally to all developers — to protect customers from malware and to prevent rampant data collection without their consent." The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday made it harder for longtime immigrants who have been convicted of a crime to avoid deportation. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion for a 5-3 conservative majority that ruled against a Mexican citizen who entered the U.S. illegally and has lived in the country for 25 years. The man, Clemente Avelino Pereida, had been charged in Nebraska with using a fraudulent Social Security card to get a job and convicted under a state law against criminal impersonation. Not all criminal convictions inevitability lead to deportation, but Gorsuch wrote for the court that Pereida failed to prove he was not convicted of a serious crime. Under immigration law, “certain nonpermanent aliens seeking to cancel a lawful removal order must prove that they have not been convicted of a disqualifying crime,” Gorsuch wrote. In a dissent for the three liberal justices, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the court instead should have ruled for Pereida because he was convicted under a law that includes serious offences, falling into the category of crimes of moral turpitude, and less serious ones. “The relevant documents in this case do not show that the previous conviction at issue necessarily was for a crime involving moral turpitude," Breyer wrote. Immigrants with criminal convictions who are facing deportation can ask the attorney general to allow them to remain in the country, if the conviction wasn't for a serious crime and they have lived here at least 10 years, among other criteria. Based on Thursday's ruling, Pereida can't seek that relief. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the case because she had not yet joined the court when the case was argued in October. The Associated Press
Political leaders in New Caledonia on Thursday agreed new terms for the sale of Vale's nickel business, including a majority stakeholding for local interests, seeking to resolve unrest over the planned sale. The deal signed by pro-independence and loyalist leaders in the French Pacific territory also cited a "technical and industrial partnership" with Tesla, under which the electric car company would source raw materials for batteries. Brazilian miner Vale's decision last year to sell its nickel mine and processing plant to a consortium including Swiss commodity trader Trafigura sparked fierce opposition from pro-independence groups.
Draft French legislation that would have impinged upon the freedom to circulate images identifying police officers has been watered down by senators after violent street protests forced a government climb-down. Lawmakers involved in a re-drafting of the provision said the new wording safeguarded press freedoms while seeking to protect law enforcement agents from becoming the target of attack. "We've started from a blank page, we've completely re-written the article," Senator Marc-Philippe Daubresse from the opposition centre-right told a news conference.
Heart inflammation is uncommon in pro athletes who’ve had mostly mild COVID-19 and most don’t need to be sidelined, a study conducted by major professional sports leagues suggests. The results are not definitive, outside experts say, and more independent research is needed. But the study published Thursday in JAMA Cardiology is the largest to examine the potential problem. The coronavirus can cause inflammation in many organs, including the heart. The research involved professional athletes who play football, hockey, soccer, baseball and men's and women's basketball. All tested positive for COVID-19 before October and were given guideline-recommended heart tests, nearly 800 total. None had severe COVID-19 and 40% had few or no symptoms — what might be expected from a group of healthy elite athletes with an average age of 25. Severe COVID-19 is more common in older people and those with chronic health conditions. Almost 4% had abnormal results on heart tests done after they recovered but subsequent MRI exams found heart inflammation in less than 1% of the athletes. These five athletes all had COVID-19 symptoms. Whether their heart problems were caused by the virus is unknown although the researchers think that is likely. They were sidelined for about three months and returned to play without any problems, said Dr. Mathew Martinez of Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. He's the study’s lead author and team cardiologist for football's New York Jets. Two previous smaller studies in college athletes recovering from the virus suggested heart inflammation might be more common. The question is of key interest to athletes, who put extra stress on their hearts during play, and undetected heart inflammation has been linked with sudden death. Whether mild COVID-19 can cause heart damage ‘’is the million-dollar question,’’ said Dr. Richard Kovacs, co-founder of the American College of Cardiology’s Sports & Exercise Council. And whether severe COVID-19 symptoms increase the chances of having fleeting or long-lasting heart damage ‘’is part of the puzzle,’’ he said. Kovacs said the study has several weaknesses. Testing was done at centres affiliated or selected by each team, and results were interpreted by team-affiliated cardiologists, increasing the chances of bias. More rigorous research would have had standardized testing done at a central location and more objective specialists interpret the results, he said. Also, many of the athletes had no previous imaging exams to compare the results with, so there is no way to know for certain if abnormalities found during the study were related to the virus. ’’There is clearly more work to do but I think it is very helpful additional evidence,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, president-elect of the American Heart Association. Dr. Dial Hewlett, a member of a COVID-19 task force at the National Medical Association, which represents Black physicians, said the study ‘’is extremely timely.’’ Hewlett is a deputy health commissioner for New York's Westchester County and advises high schools and colleges on when to allow young athletes to return to play after COVID-19 infections. ‘’I’m grateful that we are starting to get some data to help guide us in some of our decisions,’’ Hewlett said. ___ Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press
Disney is expanding its catalogue of Disney princesses, this time taking inspiration from Southeast Asian cultures in Raya and the Last Dragon, releasing on Disney+ for $34.99 in Canada, with a subscription.
The Peace River Regional District will be going ahead with plans for a new public library in Chetwynd, after board directors voted in favour of issuing requests for proposals for design and construction at their Feb. 25 meeting. The new library is a joint effort between Area E and Chetwynd. A lean-to style building is being floated as one possible option. Costs are capped at $5 million. “This has been going on for awhile, we’re trying to get costs down to something we can afford,” said Director Dan Rose. “We’ve got floor plans and ideas of what it might look like, so they’re not starting from scratch.” He added the library has extensive experience working remotely as a satellite office. "We’re certainly willing to accommodate as many communities as we can, with our services. I’m sure we could make agreements with everybody on how to do that,” said Rose. Fort St John Mayor Ackerman agreed a regional approach could be a good move for libraries in the Peace. “I’m totally open to having that conversation, even though the library in Fort St John is not a municipal library,” said Ackerman. “If you’re suggesting a regional library, I’m on that bandwagon.” Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead says the city will lend a hand if Chetwynd needs. “I appreciate how busy it is in Chetwynd right now. If they have any trouble at all in locating a site or land for this Chetwynd Public Library, we’d be happy to help facilitate that partnership with them, and construct it in Dawson Creek,” said Bumstead, jokingly. email@example.com Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
The dining room in Katie Rioux's Quebec City restaurant has been closed since the fall, and she expected her business would remain a takeout-only operation for weeks to come, if not longer. On Wednesday, though, the owner of Café Krieghoff received some unexpected good news. Premier François Legault announced he was scaling back health restrictions in several regions, allowing Rioux and countless other restaurant owners to serve customers sitting inside for the first time in five months. "Honestly, we could not have gotten better news than this," said Rioux, who also promised to do her part to ensure Quebec City does not go back to being a red zone. "As restaurant owners, we will do everything we can. I think the population is also on our side." Café Krieghoff owner Katie Rioux can't wait to serve sitting customers at her Quebec City restaurant for the first time in five months. (Radio-Canada) However, some public health experts say the Quebec government's decision to roll back restrictions to this extent is too hasty. Following March break, the Quebec City region will be joined by the Eastern Townships, Mauricie-et-Centre-du-Québec and Chaudières-Appalaches as the latest to be downgraded from red to orange zones. In these regions, gyms and show venues will be allowed to reopen, houses of worship will be able to take in as many as 100 people at a time. The government is also dropping the requirement that all primary school students must wear a medical grade mask. The nightly curfew remains, but will kick in at 9:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. "I would have preferred to wait until at least one week after the holiday week, because then we would be able to see the impact of the vacation on the increase of cases everywhere in Quebec," said Dr. Cécile Tremblay, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal. "We know that people from Montreal travel to other regions, and we won't know the result of that until two weeks from now." The race between variants and vaccines Legault's announcement came a day after Health Minister Christian Dubé and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda held a news conference of their own, during which they warned Quebecers about the growing spread of coronavirus variants. "The ocean is calm at the moment ... but underneath there are sharks," Arruda said, "and I'll tell you what those sharks are: they're the variants." The decision to remove restrictions in places outside of the greater Montreal area seems to reflect data showing that variants are gaining more ground in Montreal than elsewhere in the province. On Wednesday, Legault said spikes in cases and hospitalizations were expected in and around Montreal, and those projections played a major role in the government's most recent announcement. But Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the province is squandering a golden opportunity to deal a crushing blow to the virus. Seniors arrive for their COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press) With more and more Quebecers set to get vaccinated, Baral says the government should focus on its inoculation campaign while limiting contacts as much as possible, in an effort to keep the spread of variants under control. "For us to be loosening restrictions now, is too premature. We don't want to be reactive, we want to be proactive for once," Baral said. "At this point, it's more of a virus versus vaccine race, and we really want to make sure that we're pushing the vaccine segment to win, as opposed the variant segment." The province's latest projections for the spread COVID-19 appear to reinforce the importance of winning that race. According to the mathematical modelling published by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) on Thursday, lowering the province's collective guard could provoke a rapid spike in new infections that could reach between 3,000 and 4,000 cases per day. It also seems possible, perhaps even likely given the presence of infectious variants, that Quebec will experience a third wave. Sticking with the low-socialization and low-contact measures that were in place from January and February might not entirely prevent another peak this spring in terms of daily infections, but it could keep hospitalization numbers and fatalities low. Marc Brisson, the director of the Université Laval mathematical modelling group that conducts the INSPQ's COVID-19 forecasts, said the model doesn't account for the government's latest announcement, but does include increased inter-regional travel and social contacts from March break. "If we can accelerate vaccination ... and follow public health guidelines, then at that point our model is saying we could stay at a number of cases that would be relatively stable. However, if vaccination slows down and there's more contact, then a third wave is predicted," he said. There is some good news in the projections, however. The model supports the government's contention that there are two distinct epidemiological realities in Quebec: greater Montreal, and the rest of the province. The fact there is lower community spread outside the province's largest urban agglomeration means it's less likely the variant strains will spread. "The race is how many vulnerable people we can protect with vaccination and ... can that variant infect the most vulnerable among us?" he said. The key, Brisson concluded, is continued adherence to public health measures, which "would buy time for the vaccine to take its effect."
WASHINGTON — A key Senate committee on Thursday approved the nomination of New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland to be interior secretary, clearing the way for a Senate vote that is likely to make her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Haaland's nomination, 11-9, sending it to the Senate floor. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland, who won unanimous backing from committee Democrats. Murkowski, a former chair of the committee, said she had “some real misgivings” about Haaland, because of her support for policies that Murkowski said could impede Alaska's reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. But the senator said she would place her “trust” in Haaland's word that she would work with her and other Alaskans to support the state. Her vote comes with a warning, Murkowski added: She expects Haaland “will be true to her word” to help Alaska. Haaland was not in the committee room, but Murkowski addressed her directly, saying, "I will hold you to your commitments.'' “Quite honestly,'' Murkowski added, ”we need you to be a success.'' Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Maria Cantwell of Washington state both called the committee vote historic, and both said they were disappointed at the anti-Haaland rhetoric used by several Republicans. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the panel's top Republican, and other GOP senators have repeatedly called Haaland's views “radical” and extreme. Heinrich said two interior secretaries nominated by former President Donald Trump could be called “radical” for their support of expanded drilling and other resource extraction, but he never used that word to describe them. Under the leadership of Cantwell and Murkowski, the energy panel has been bipartisan and productive in recent years, Heinrich said, adding that he hopes that tradition continues. The committee vote follows an announcement Wednesday by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that she will support Haaland in the full Senate. Her vote, along with Murkowski's, makes Haaland’s confirmation by the Senate nearly certain. The panel's chairman, Sen. Joe Manchin, announced his support for Haaland last week. Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, said Thursday that he does not agree with Haaland on a variety of issues, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but was impressed by the strong endorsement by Alaska Rep. Don Young, a conservative Republican who is the longest-serving member of the House and has forged a strong working relationship with the liberal Haaland. As a former governor, Manchin also said he knows how important it is for a president to have his “team on board” in the Cabinet. “It is long past time to give a Native American woman a seat at the Cabinet table,'' he said. Interior oversees the nation’s public lands and waters and leads relations with nearly 600 federally recognized tribes. Barrasso, who has led opposition to Haaland, said her hostility to fracking, the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other issues made her unfit to serve in a position in which she will oversee energy development on vast swaths of federal lands, mostly in the West, as well as offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Barrasso said a moratorium imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands “is taking a sledgehammer to Western states’ economies.? The moratorium, which Haaland supports, could cost thousands of jobs in West, Barrasso said. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
Jerty Gaa is one of the nearly 500,000 women in Canada who remain unemployed amid the pandemic. She found herself on hiatus from her job as a hotel attendant in Vancouver when lockdown measures were introduced last spring. Then, months later, another blow. At the end of July, she says she and most of the other staff at the hotel were let go. According to the most recent job numbers from Statistics Canada, as of the end of January, Canada's economy had 858,000 fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic. But those losses are not being borne evenly across the board Women — especially ones who weren't earning much to begin with — are bearing the brunt of the job losses, as they made up a majority of the work force in hard-hit sectors like hospitality, retail and food. According to a new analysis by RBC published Thursday, nearly 100,000 working-age Canadian women have completely left the workforce since the pandemic started, which means they aren't even trying to get a job any more. The figure for men is more than 10 times smaller — a sign that on the whole, they are not feeling quite so gloomy about their prospects. While some parts of the economy are reopening, public-facing, high-contact jobs — like those in the hotel industry — are still languishing, or at the very least trying to change the way they operate on the fly. That often means running with fewer staff, and the longer that goes on, the more likely it is those jobs are gone forever, according to Dawn Desjardins, one of the authors of the RBC report. "The longer these women are out of the labour force, the greater the risk of skills erosion, which could potentially hamper their ability to get rehired or to transition to different roles as the economy evolves," the report says. Structural change For Gaa, it's been almost a full year without a job. While she is hoping to go back once the hospitality sector opens up, she doesn't know when it'll happen or if she will manage to get her old job back once the sector recovers. A masked waitress moves among the tables on an outdoor restaurant patio in London, Ont. Women with jobs in the food industry have been particularly hard hit during this pandemic. (Colin Butler/CBC) Despite working overnight shifts for 11 years, Gaa only received eight weeks' worth of severance. She says she was told that was the maximum employees can get with the pandemic. "I expect that I'm going to retire there. I work so hard. I do what I can do and try to do my best, working overnight shifts. It's not easy," Gaa said. "We do our job and this is what we get. They don't care about us." She's still holding out hope she'll be able to get her job back once vaccines are distributed and things return to normal. The 54-year-old says she's taking things one day at a time and is hoping not to have to switch careers at her age. A job change at this point would mean a pay cut from about $27 an hour to something closer to the minimum wage of $15 an hour, she says. That's not enough for her to live on. Gaa said she's had to dip into her retirement savings and didn't want to tell her kids, as she thinks of herself as pretty independent. One of her daughters, who works in the casino industry, has also been forced out of work. Uneven recovery It's not just different industries being hit unevenly, either. The RBC report shows that the job losses are worse for members of certain demographic groups, too. Mothers, visible minorities, young people and new immigrants are all disproportionately impacted. Winny Shen, an associate professor at Schulich School of Business who studies inclusion in the workplace, worries career interruptions like the ones we're seeing now might signal to employers that women are less committed. She says that can have repercussions on a company's willingness to spend money on retraining. Coming out of the pandemic, there might also be a tendency for companies to tighten the purse strings in general, Shen says. There might be issues with understaffing — asking people to do more with fewer people as a way to cut costs. A long-term issue Almost a year since that initial lockdown, a sizeable number of Canadian women are at risk of their skills atrophying, Desjardins finds. "There could be changes underway that are more structural in nature, that are going to be more long-lasting," she said. She says economists even have a name for it — they call it the scarring effect. She says some of the skills you have diminish when you're not using them. "The longer you're out, the harder it is sometimes to get back into those networks— to hear this place is happening or these are the jobs that are in demand," Desjardins said. Valentina Dzeoba, who lives in Thunder Bay, Ont., was downsized from a manufacturing job before the pandemic hit and has since decided to retrain as a hairdresser. (Valentina Dzeoba) The economist points to a few areas of potential job growth, like child care, remote working or digital sales. "Knowing how to participate in the digital economy is really essential," Desjardins said, adding that both the government and business will have a role to play in moving people into training programs. Forced to pivot Valentina Dzeoba has also been unemployed for more than a year. The Thunder Bay, Ont. resident was let go due to downsizing at the local Bombardier plant before the pandemic. For a while, she was working one day a week helping people retrain to find work, but says jobs in the community are hard to come by. Like many people, Dzeoba has pivoted, going from manufacturing to retraining as a hairdresser. She says it's something she's always been interested in, and that the change has been beneficial. "I'm in the business of making people feel good," said Dzeoba. "I love it." Desjardins said the country needs everyone to continue working to ensure a prosperous economy. She said that if women participated at the same rate as men, it would add $100 billion to Canada's GDP every year. To find secure jobs, women will likely need more digital skills or look in fields like child care, suggests economist Dawn Desjardins. (Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images) She said that as a result, everyone enjoys a bigger piece of the economic pie. "We want everyone who wants a job to have a job." Jerty Gaa said she's happy to have received the Canada emergency response benefit as well as unemployment insurance. But at the same time, she said, "people are going to be happier if we keep our jobs." She wants to know what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier are doing to prevent permanent layoffs. Hairdresser-in-training Dzeoba says she was nervous about starting over. But it turned out everyone in her program was nervous, too. When she's done training, Dzeoba thinks she'll be able to get a job — hopefully under a senior stylist, so she can keep learning. For other women considering a major shift, she suggests networking and reaching out to employment centres. "There's a lot to be depressed about, but there is help out there," said Dzeoba.
Apple could face an EU antitrust charge sheet in the coming weeks after a complaint by rival Spotify that it unfairly pushed its own music streaming service, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The European Commission could send the statement of objections setting out suspected violations of the bloc's antitrust rules to Apple before the summer, one of the people said. The case is one of four opened by the EU competition enforcer against Apple in June last year.
County of Haliburton council decided not to up its 15 per cent corporate emissions reduction target despite staff presenting options for higher goals. It targets a 15 per cent reduction in emissions from 2018 levels by 2030. But McKay presented other options such as increasing that figure to 30 per cent to align with federal and provincial targets, or 45 per cent to follow the best science and help further limit global warming. McKay provided examples of similar municipalities aiming for different goals, from Sault Ste. Marie at 10 per cent to the District of Muskoka targeting a 50 per cent reduction by 2030. “We are seeing unprecedented levels of action by all levels of government, shifting from incremental action toward transformative action,” McKay said. “Experts are warning us this is the critical decade to maintain a livable climate … A 45 per cent reduction is one that is based in science. "Cutting our emissions essentially in half would require bold leadership but we would not be alone in this endeavour.” Councillors expressed concerns about upping the target. Deputy warden Patrick Kennedy said the County faces pressure with more people moving to the area permanently. “Fifteen (per cent) is still an admirable goal to achieve with what’s coming,” Kennedy said. Coun. Carol Moffatt said the municipalities passed budgets and she would want more information on financial implications before approving a higher target. “I would like a multi-year rough projection of what it’s going to do to our budget so we can plan and prepare for it adequately, as opposed to taking a leap of faith for the good of the world,” Moffatt said. “We need to do both.” Environment Haliburton! vice-president Terry Moore said he was upset by how the conversation played out. “The financial budget, they’re not going to matter much when we don’t have a climate that’s conducive to civilization,” Moore said. He said there is not enough of a community movement on the issue versus a place like Muskoka. He lamented the County’s approach to finish a corporate plan before beginning consultations for a separate community plan. “There is nowhere near enough pressure. Council’s not going to lead on this,” Moore said. Warden Liz Danielsen said council will look for more information from McKay as she continues her work. “We’re all recognizing it is a moving landscape,” Danielsen said. “Just because we’re not making a change today, does not mean we won’t do that down the road, and even not too long from now.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander