SpaceX's newly launched Dragon capsule arrived Monday at the International Space Station with four astronauts aboard. The station will be their home until the spring.
SpaceX's newly launched Dragon capsule arrived Monday at the International Space Station with four astronauts aboard. The station will be their home until the spring.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
CALGARY — One child asks for a coat for her dog in case her family gets evicted. Another girl hopes Santa can bring her pet medication he needs. Another wishes for enough dog food.A charity that provides subsidized pet care, including food hampers and medical treatment, for low-income residents is receiving Christmas letters from children asking for help for their furry friends.Parachutes for Pets in Calgary has delivered 2,000 pet food hampers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. But demand, especially during the second wave of the pandemic, is taking its toll on both the organization and those receiving help."Instead of Santa I wanted to write to you guys. My dog Badger is really cute and my best friend. He needs pills or he gets really, really sick. Could you bring me his pills for my Santa gift? I've been really good and so has he," reads a letter signed Hanna and Badger.The organization says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week that normally would have gone to Santa."My Christmas wish this year is a coat for my dog Max. Mom says we can't pay rent after this month and I want Max to be warm if we have to stay in our car," wrote Kaylee."I have a warm coat and I think one would be good for him to stay warm. Please tell Santa this is my only wish. Merry Christmas."Melissa David, who founded the charity, said the messages from the kids are heartbreaking."Instead of writing to Santa, they've written to us. Their Christmas wish is either for their dog to get medication and their dog to get food, so they don't have to share their meal with them."David said the charity referred Kaylee's mom, who was at risk of being evicted, with an agency to deal with her rent arrears.She said the charity made it through the first wave of the pandemic, but the resurgence of COVID-19 in the last months has resulted in demands coming at a "fast and furious rate.""This second wave is going to cripple us. The amount of additional homeless with pets and domestic violence incidents involving pets is astronomical," David said.People are still donating food items, she said, but there's also a need for cash, which is in short supply."This (pandemic) in addition to everyday challenges that are still here, such as cancer and illness, is really making it difficult for people to keep their pets at a time they can't afford mentally to lose them."David said she is reaching out in desperation since there are limits on what help the charity can arrange."We were passed over for most COVID grants because animals were not considered essential."There are also messages asking for help from physically abused women who are afraid to leave their pets behind."They want to take their pet with them. They're at the lowest of lows and they don't leave with anything but the clothes on their back. And if that pet stays, statistics are 80 per cent that it will be tortured or killed or used as some sort of revenge by the abuser."The head of the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter said crisis calls between April and September were up nearly 65 per cent compared with the year before.Shelter CEO Kim Ruse confirms many women stay where they are for fear of their pets being harmed. "Not having a place for pets to go often stops women from leaving abusive and dangerous situations," Ruse said. "Many are unaware that there are options for keeping pets safe while finding safety for themselves and their children."She said the agency does have pet-friendly rooms to accommodate small animals."Allowing pets in the shelter will help provide emotional and healing support for women and their children during their stay."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020\-- Follow @BillGraveland on TwitterBill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Preventing and controlling the spread of infection is all in a day's work for Dr. Natalie Bridger. In the early weeks of the year, well before COVID-19 commanded complete attention, she was focused on preparing for a pandemic she knew was going to hit North America. She's not just a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, but also the clinical chief of infection prevention and control with Eastern Health. She and her team are responsible for ensuring infections don't spread through hospitals in eastern Newfoundland. "I guess that put us in a good position to lead the way through COVID, or help lead the way, I should say," said Bridger."We were working hard to prepare between January and March. There's no doubt about that. But I wasn't certain that we were going to see cases. And then I guess when we did start seeing cases in March, everything changed." > I think people in health care are burnt out, but pushing through with hope that there is an end in sight. \- Dr. Natalie BridgerBridger shifted from planning for coronavirus cases to response mode, and her actions during the pandemic have now been recognized with a Pediatric Chairs of Canada (PCC) 2020 COVID Leadership Award."I was totally shocked to hear that I'd won to be honest. I guess it's meant a lot because I was nominated by a few of my colleagues at the Janeway. And I think that it caused a lot of reflection for me and for my team about about how far we've come since January," Bridger told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show. According to a release from MUN's Faculty of Medicine, Bridger was nominated for going above and beyond to provide safe and high-quality health care. In one example given, she advocated for appropriate personal protective equipment for health-care workers when confronted with dubious deliveries.She also managed testing and quarantines for health care workers who were exposed to COVID-19, and "answered texts and emails at all hours with calm professionalism, knowledge and wit."A stressful part of the job for Bridger has been trying to figure out best practices while battling the misinformation and uninformed opinions found on social and mainstream media.Saying no to Facebook"It does make it difficult because a lot of people just don't know who or what to believe. So, honestly, I got off Facebook, I just couldn't handle it anymore. That was probably cowardly, but it became just too overwhelming and stressful to be on social media and to deal with this professionally."Bridger is feeling optimistic about the prospect of a vaccine for COVID-19, and her stress levels are under control because there hasn't been any evidence of community spread with the recent spate of travel-related cases of coronavirus in the province. LISTEN | Natalie Bridger describes how a team effort helped prepare for and manage coronavirus, during an interview with Ramraajh Sharvendiran: "We're a little ways away from actually having vaccines in people's arms or legs. And so while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I don't think we can use that as a way to back off from from the extreme amount of discipline that's been shown by Newfoundland and Labrador."Bridger is quick to point out the team effort involved in keeping people safe during a pandemic — one that can come with a high price for people on the front lines."Oh, my goodness, everyone is burnt out. Every single person who works in health care … they're stressed out," she said."Health care is complicated at the best of times. And when you add in this extra layer of this unknown illness that you could catch, you could spread, it could do a lot of harm to people in your family. That adds a whole layer of stress that that I've never encountered before. So I think people in health care are burnt out, but pushing through with hope that there is an end in sight." Bridger will received the PCC 2020 COVID Leadership Award during a virtual ceremony on Dec. 11.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Despite the Ford government’s recent attempts to increase standards of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, a co-chair of Pioneer Manor’s Family Council said that while it’s nice, it’s too little too late. “The announcement about increasing personal care to four hours per day is great. But’s it’s all of the other details around it that make absolutely no sense,” said Terry Martyn, who also sits on Ontario’s Northeast Family Council Network. “Nothing will come into effect for another four to five years. That’s not good enough. Residents need more care right now.” On Nov. 2, Ford announced that the provincial government would provide additional funding in the 2020 budget to increase average daily direct care from 2.75 to 4 hours per resident by 2024-25 in a move that was met with both praise and criticism. “This is a bold step on a big issue,” said Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge Ontario, a non-profit association that represents more than 36,000 long-term care residents and more than 8,000 seniors in housing units across the province. “Almost without exception, any report or study looking at the challenges in providing safe, quality care to seniors living in long-term care has pointed to the need for more staff. There is absolutely nothing that could have a more direct and positive impact on the quality and enjoyment of life for residents than more staff.” The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), which has been advocating for increased standards of care for more than 20 years, would like to see something more substantial. “We are happy that the minimum care standard is finally, belatedly, adopted as policy but we cannot allow this to be the way that this government tries to shut down the legitimate criticism about their inadequate response,” said executive director Natalie Mehra. “We desperately need staff in the homes now. It is in this government’s power to do more. Why will they not do it?” The province has also announced it is launching a new recruitment program called the Ontario Workforce Reserve for Senior Support that would train and deploy resident support aides (RSA) to work in long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The province is hoping that those who are unemployed or have been displaced from the retail and hospitality industries or administrative roles as well as students in education programs will take advantage of the opportunity. “COVID-19 has amplified persistent staffing challenges in the long-term care sector, highlighting the need for immediate action,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, minister of Long-Term Care. “I encourage those who are looking for new opportunities or those who have been displaced during the pandemic to consider working in a long-term care home. This will not only be personally satisfying work, but it will also help out our frontline staff and greatly improve the quality of life for our seniors.” But while it seems that the provincial government has finally heard the voices calling for change, Martyn still isn’t impressed. “RSAs do not help get residents up in the morning, dressed, and bathed – that’s the direct care that we need and only PSWs do that,” he said. He doesn’t believe that the government’s actions address the real need for a concrete recruitment plan to hire more PSWs in Ontario – and he’s not alone. “The NDP, alongside families, frontline workers, and experts, have been fighting (to increase personal care standards) for literally years, including introducing the bill that would make it the law in Ontario four times since 2016,” said MPP Teresa Armstrong, the NDP critic of long-term care. “Prior to the pandemic, we all heard heartbreaking stories of seniors dehydrated, injured without explanation, left to develop bedsores, and not being given the time or the help to eat, dress themselves, bathe or even get to the bathroom. A revolving door of underpaid, part-time workers, like PSWs, have been run off their feet for years.” Since the pandemic started, conditions in long-term care facilities seem to have gotten worse,, critics say. The Service Employees International Union estimated that nearly 30 per cent or 7,500 of the nurses and PSWs they represent left their jobs since the start of the pandemic. Martyn added that adequate, full-time work as a PSW is difficult to come by – many PSWs work multiple part-time gigs at more than one long-term care home, something that increases the possibility of spreading COVID-19. Dot Klein, the co-chair of the Sudbury Health Coalition, said that almost 2,000 long-term care residents and staff died during the first wave of the virus this year. According to Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission, 55 per cent of the province’s long-term care facilities experienced an outbreak of the virus during the first wave, and about 75 per cent of all COVID-related deaths in Ontario were in long-term care. “Some common characteristics among the most impacted homes were: location in communities with high infection rates, insufficient leadership capacity, pre-existing and COVID-related staffing shortages, and a lack of strong infection prevention and control measures, including difficulty cohorting and isolating positive residents, often because of limitations of the physical environment,” said a letter written by the Commission on Oct. 23. The letter was addressed to Minister Fullerton, and it outlined five recommendations for the provincial government to follow to prepare for the second wave of COVID-19 this fall. The first item on that list is increasing the supply of PSWs and ensuring that recruitment efforts address the need for various staff to meet the increasingly complex needs of residents. “The issue with staffing shortages is the same everywhere in Ontario. Long-term care homes are funded by the Ontario government depending on how many residents they have and what kind of care they need,” said Martyn. “They are given a certain level of funding to hire PSWs, and that’s it. They cannot hire more PSWs above that number unless they have excess money or profits in the bank. It’s impossible to do that.” The Ontario government announced $405 million in funding for the province’s long-term care homes to help with operating pressures due to COVID-19 in late September. The funding can be used for infection prevention and containment measures, staffing supports, and purchasing additional supplies and PPE. The government also announced that it would extend the $3 per hour pay raise for PSWs until March 2021. “The bottom line is that the Ford government’s approach is piecemeal, does not include a robust recruitment strategy, and does not address the longstanding problems in working conditions,” said the OHC. “The Ford government’s approach is far less and far later than the program launched by the government of Quebec four months ago in which the province itself drove recruitment, hiring 10,000 PSWs (the Quebec equivalent), paying them for training and providing a wage of $26 per hour.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
A Brampton college student is accusing his school of mishandling his complaint about a fellow student after it dismissed anti-Sikh comments the man made to him during an online class, referring to the statements simply as "historical fact." Prabhjot Singh, 25, says he was making a presentation via Zoom to his immigration class at CDI College in Mississauga in October when he was interrupted by another student. "He jumped into my presentation and he said all the people from Punjab are frauds," Singh told CBC News from his Brampton home.Singh says the student then referred to the killing of thousands of Sikhs in India 36 years ago following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards."'I know you are Sikh, you are from Punjab. Did you forget how you guys were slaughtered in 1984?"' Singh quotes the student as saying. He says the remarks were all the more hurtful because some of his relatives were killed in the violence.'Nobody can forget what happened'"Nobody can forget what happened," Singh explained during the interview with CBC News. "Family members ... seeing a person burned alive." Singh says he felt threatened, and that the instructor in the class made no attempt to intervene and stop the verbal attack."I was feeling ashamed, I was feeling ... a victim of harassment," he said. But when Singh lodged a formal complaint with CDI College, he says he received a call from the school's educational manager, Mary Liideman, who said that the student was making comments about a "historical fact." Singh also filed complaints about the student's remarks with Peel Regional Police and with the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO).The WSO says it wrote to the college explaining the significance of the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, "and the serious nature of the threats made against Prabhjot Singh." CDI, a private, for-profit career college with 23 campus locations across Canada, replied that an internal investigation "determined that although culturally insensitive remarks were made, there were no direct threats" to Singh.The WSO's vice president for Ontario, Sharanjeet Kaur, calls what happened to Singh outrageous,"however it is equally shocking that CDI College would dismiss threats that reference the 1984 Sikh Genocide as 'historical fact' and merely 'culturally insensitive.'"1984 attacks called a 'genocide'The sectarian bloodshed started after the Indian Army launched an attack on Sikh militants in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a site sacred to Sikhs. Gandhi's subsequent murder led to a wave of bloody reprisals. India has said fewer than 3,000 people died in the attacks against Sikhs, but some Sikh leaders say the number is closer to 10,000.In Canada, Crown lawyers at the Air India bombing trial stemming from the 1985 attack that killed 329 people on a flight from Montreal to New Delhi, alleged it was the work of Sikh militants who were seeking revenge for the temple attack and the post-assassination violence. In 2018, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Canada to declare the killings a genocide — saying there is clear evidence the 1984 attacks on Sikhs by Hindus were not spontaneous, but rather organized by the government. College reopening investigationAfter CBC News contacted CDI about Singh's story, the college said in a statement it's reopening its investigation."Upon reflection it is clear that this did not properly address Mr. [Prabhjot] Singh's concerns," wrote Rodney D'Souza, the associate regional director of operations for CDI in central Canada.The student who made the remarks was sent a warning letter, the college says. He and Singh have since graduated from the Mississauga campus, but the college says it nonetheless "will be following up with staff disciplinary action for lack of appropriate action and sensitivity when the incident occurred."D'Souza added that while what happened was an isolated incident, regular mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all staff will also be instituted."We feel it is extremely important for all staff and instructors to be aware of how they can best support their students and fellow colleagues through any distressing or inappropriate situations that may arise."
JERUSALEM — The Israeli government on Thursday urged its citizens to avoid travel to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing threats of Iranian attacks.Iran has been threatening to attack Israeli targets since its chief nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated last Friday near Tehran. It accuses Israel, which has been suspected in previous killings of Iranian nuclear scientists, of being behind the shooting.Israel has not commented on the killing. But Fakhrizadeh has long been on Israel's radar screen, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying at a 2018 news conference about Iran's nuclear program: “Remember that name.” Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons — a charge Iran denies.In recent months, Israel has signed agreements establishing diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab states of the UAE and Bahrain — its first normalization deals with Arab countries in a quarter century.The agreements, brokered by the Trump administration, have generated widespread excitement in Israel, and thousands of Israeli tourists are scheduled to travel to the UAE for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah this month.That may change following Thursday's warning.“In light of the threats heard recently by Iranian officials and in light of the involvement in the past of Iranian officials in terror attacks in various countries, there is a concern that Iran will try to act in this way against Israeli targets,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s National Security Council.It also advised against travel to Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Kurdish area of Iraq and Africa.Israel's military is well prepared to deal with the threats of Iranian troops and their proxies in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Israeli media say the government also has beefed up security at embassies around the world.But protecting Israeli travellers, conspicuous and spread out at countless hotels, restaurants and tourist sites, represents a different type of challenge.“This is going to be a nightmare, and I really hope that both governments, UAE and Israel, are co-ordinating and doing the best they can to safeguard those Israelis,” said Yoel Guzansky, a former Israeli counterterrorism official who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.“I’m really worried that that something might happen, and especially now because of the context of Fakhrizadeh, because Iran is really looking for revenge,” he added. He spoke before the travel advisory was issued.The Israel Airports Authority estimates that about 25,000 Israelis will fly to the UAE this month on the five airlines now plying the route between Tel Aviv and the Gulf state’s airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Celebrities, entrepreneurs and tourists already have been flocking to Dubai.With the coronavirus appearing to be under control in the UAE, it is one of the few quarantine-free travel options for Israelis during the coming Hanukkah holiday vacation, adding to its appeal. At a time when few people are travelling, Israeli visitors speaking Hebrew could be extra conspicuous.Israel this week also signed a tourism agreement with Bahrain.Amsalem Tours, an Israeli travel agency, said that there was “very serious” demand for travel packages to Dubai but did not provide specific figures.Iran and its proxies have targeted Israeli tourists and Jewish communities in the past. Agents of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group bombed a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, killing six and wounding dozens. That year, Israel also accused Iran of being behind attacks targeting Israeli diplomats in Thailand and India. Iran and Hezbollah also bombed the Israeli Embassy and Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, claiming the lives of scores of civilians.Concerns for the safety of Israelis in Dubai also is not without precedent. In 2000, an Israeli ex-colonel was kidnapped by Iranian proxy Hezbollah and held captive in Lebanon until he was released in a prisoner exchange in 2004.Today, Dubai, famous for its glittering shopping malls, ultra-modern skyscrapers and nightlife, is a crossroads for travellers from around the world, including many nations that do not have relations with Israel. Iran maintains a major presence in Dubai, due to historical and current trade ties, and Dubai is believed to be a major station for Iranian intelligence services. The family of a California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile says he was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai just a few months ago.In a possible sign of Emirati security concerns, travel agencies in countries across the Middle East and Africa say the UAE has temporarily halted issuing new visas to their citizens. With tens of thousands of Iranians working or doing business in the UAE, Iran is also among the countries facing the visa restrictions.Israel had already had a travel warning in place advising citizens against nonessential travel to the UAE. Similar “basic concrete threat” advisories are in place for visiting other Arab states with which Israel has peace treaties. But the language of Thursday's warning was especially tough.The UAE, for its part, is known for its strict security. Dubai, home to 3.3 million people in 2019, with just over 3 million of them foreigners, has published major crime statistics that are among some of the lowest in the world.Before Israelis began arriving, Dubai held a highly publicized drill of a police SWAT team storming a replica metro car in October and suggested facial-recognition technology could be implemented at stations along its driverless track. Experts already believe the UAE has one of the highest per capita concentrations of surveillance cameras in the world, a system that’s only grown amid the coronavirus pandemic.And despite the recent tensions, Iran may be hesitant to strike on Emirati soil, wanting to maintain its economic interests there. The UAE meanwhile has gone out of its way to say it wants to de-escalate tensions in the region despite its own suspicions over Iranian behaviour. It called the killing of Fakhrizadeh a “heinous assassination.”In an interview before Thursday's advisory was issued, Pavel Israelsky, co-founder of Salam Dubai, said the boom in his UAE-based Israeli tour operator’s bookings was “significant” ahead of the Hanukkah holiday. While a handful of Israeli clients cancelled over security concerns, he said, “I can say that the UAE is one of the most secure places in the world in terms of the resources they invest in security.”“I don’t think there’s cause for worry,” Israelsky said. “Today, no place is really safe.”___Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed reporting.Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
The developers of Canada's COVID Alert app fixed a glitch last week that left some users without exposure notifications for much of November.An update to the app released on Nov. 23 said it would fix a "bug causing gaps in exposure checks for some users." Without the patch, some Canadians running the app would not have been notified if they came in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.It's unclear how many people missed exposure notifications due to the glitch. But it does raise the prospect that certain users weren't advised to self-isolate or seek a COVID-19 test in a timely manner, potentially delaying diagnosis."For two weeks, the app basically didn't work" for those users, said Urs Hengartner, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo.He and others on social media said their devices had not performed any exposure checks from Nov. 9 to 23. The process — when a smartphone receives codes from a central server and verifies whether the user was potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 — is supposed to take place several times a day. WATCH | How the COVID Alert app worksThe problem appears to have first been reported by commenters in the Google Play Store as early as Nov. 12. That's 11 days before it was fixed."I noticed today that COVID Alert has done no exposure checks for the last two weeks," a user wrote in Apple's App Store on Nov. 20. "What good is this?"Users are urged to check their app store (the Google Play Store for people with Android devices and Apple's App Store for those with iPhones) to ensure their app is now up to date. Users who haven't installed the latest update — version 1.1.2 — could still be missing exposure checks. COVID Alert is designed to take note when two users spend at least 15 minutes less than two metres apart. If a user later tests positive for COVID-19, they can use the app to anonymously notify contacts of potential exposure. COVID Alert has been downloaded more than 5.5 million times and is touted by federal officials as a tool to help slow the spread of the virus. The app is active in the Northwest Territories and all provinces except Alberta and B.C.During the two-week period in November when some users reported the malfunction, 1,182 people used the app to report a positive test in Ontario alone, according to provincial data.COVID-19 infection rates continued to rise across much of the country during that time. Ontario, for example, announced lockdown measures in its two most populous regions, and P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador both announced on Nov. 23 they would withdraw from the Atlantic bubble due to increasing case counts elsewhere in the region.Bianca Healy, a spokesperson for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which houses the app's development team, confirmed in an email Thursday evening that "on some devices, if the app was not opened by the user for an extended period of time, COVID Alert would stop checking in the background for the random codes that would trigger a notification that a user may have been exposed to COVID-19. This bug has now been fixed."Healy said the app's built-in privacy features prevent federal officials from knowing how many users may have been affected."We encourage Canadians to update COVID Alert as soon as possible," she wrote. "They can also open the app to ensure that COVID Alert is checking for potential exposures."Hengartner, the computer science professor, said it is "a little concerning that it took two weeks to fix this bug." He said both he and his wife experienced the same issue.He called it "a fatal bug for this kind of system," as it defeats the purpose of the app entirely.It's unknown what caused the glitch, but Hengartner said he suspects it was an error in a previous COVID Alert update.Users weren't immediately warnedSmartphone users can choose to automatically receive app updates or download them manually. Apple's App Store lists 14 updates for COVID Alert since its initial release in July. The Canadian Digital Service, the federal agency responsible for developing the app, tweeted a message on Nov. 26 asking users to make sure they have the latest COVID Alert update. "This will ensure your app is doing what it's supposed to do, and you're not missing any checks or notifications," the message read.The tweet did not mention that the scenario it described was real and posed a potential risk to some users. It's unclear what other steps the federal agency took to alert users of the importance of the latest update.Hengartner stressed the problem should not discourage Canadians from installing COVID Alert.However, Kelly Bronson, a Canada Research Chair in science and society, said the episode does highlight how the app could provide users with a "false sense of security." She pointed to "automation bias," a human tendency to rely on automated decision-making, which can reduce personal vigilance.Bronson, who serves on the Global Pandemic App Watch program at the University of Ottawa, which tracks the uptake of similar tools around the world, warned the apps "are not a panacea.""I think it's really important that people know the limitations of these technologies," she said.
An Alabama man who spent World War II repairing bomb-damaged trains in France recovered from a fight with COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday on Thursday. Major Wooten left a hospital in Huntsville, Alabama on Tuesday. (Dec. 4)
Health-care workers feel muzzled and alone: Study Colleen Romaniuk Health-care workers in Ontario are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, but according to a new study, they are feeling “sacrificed” and “violated” by their employers and the provincial government. Researchers affiliated with the University of Windsor in collaboration with CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union co-authored a report titled “Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19.” Health-care workers represent 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the province, according to the study, a number that is much higher than the global rate of 14 per cent. Due to fear of reprisal, those on the frontlines are extremely hesitant to speak out – but those who participated in the study told a story of “dismal” working conditions and “unrelenting” stress. “Health-care workers in Ontario are suffering from much higher rates of COVID-19 infection than the general public,” said Dr. James Brophy, one of the lead authors of the new study. “While we are all facing COVID-fatigue and worry, health-care workers are suffering disproportionately from serious psychological distress. They are burning out from overwork, fear and anxiety.” Led by Dr. Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, the study examines in-depth, anonymous interviews conducted with 10 health-care workers who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout Ontario. The respondents, who work in facilities that range from small northern-rural to large urban, were contacted by phone in April and May. Frontline workers, including PSWs, RNs, RPNs, and custodial and clerical staff, all reported feeling unprotected and unsupported in their place of work. “We have lost about 100 staff who have either taken a leave of absence because of fear or have taken a leave to go work other jobs. We have a few who have taken early retirement,” said a participant in the study. “When I leave this interview, I’m heading into work and I’m going to work 44 out of the next 60 hours. I’ve prepared enough food for six meals and they’re in two shopping bags right now. That’s what it’s doing to me.” Some interviewees reported going home to cry after their shifts, sleeping in separate bedrooms away from their spouses, and experiencing increased social isolation because they fear infecting their family and friends. “The words on the page cannot convey the level of emotion we heard in the voices of healthcare workers we interviewed,” said Brophy. “We did not expect to hear the degree of anger and desperation that came out. The stories they told us were tinged with anger, frustration and fear.” There are a number of factors that contribute to the distress of health-care workers in the province, including inadequate protection against the virus, government failings, and barriers to exercising their agency. The study suggests that the provincial government, for example, has not applied the “precautionary principle” identified by the SARS Commission in 2006 which stipulates that, when in doubt, policies should err on the side of caution. “An ongoing debate that has direct impact on health-care workers’ safety is whether or not the virus can be transmitted through airborne particles,” said the study. “The evidence has grown that SARS-CoV-2 can indeed become aerosolized through coughing, sneezing, or even just breathing.” These tiny, aerosolized particles can breach surgical masks, according to Brophy. Researchers have recommended the use of N95 masks or powered air-purifying respirators for more adequate protection. Surgical masks are still considered safe for use in a health-care setting under most circumstances, although the health-care workers that participated in the study expressed some skepticism. “I had an infected patient on one of my shifts. I had my own N95 mask and I had my own goggles, and I had my own hair cover and I made sure I double gloved,” said an interviewee. “I put the cheap level two mask over top of my N95.” The study suggests that the government’s policy was probably “supply-based rather than science-based.” Another contributing factor is the health-care workers’ lack of recourse when it comes to addressing these challenges. Employers generally don’t allow their workers to speak publicly about their experiences at work, and, according to reports, the Ministry of Labour has been unhelpful. “All the frontline workers fear reprisal. We are told, ‘You can’t talk to the media. You have to send your manager to talk to them. We have corporate relations. You can’t be outside holding signs',” said one individual. “It’s just a travesty and these issues need to be said and people need to know what’s really going on.” Another said that they were “disheartened” by the Ministry of Labour during the pandemic. “They’ve totally taken the employers’ side and not the workers. There is no consultation with any frontline worker,” they said. “The ministry is not showing up to calls. They’re doing a lot of phone calls, but it’s not how they should be working. They still need to be out there on the frontlines. They should use PPE and come out to the hospital if we’re saying it’s not safe.” Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union and co-author of the study, explained that health-care workers have a limited right to refuse unsafe work. “They can’t refuse if it would result in a danger to a patient or resident,” said Hurley. “The evidence shows that in every case when the Ministry of Labour was called in, they did not support the workers.” To address these issues, the study recommends increasing staffing levels, adequate PPE and protective administrative and engineering controls, increased mental health supports, and reinvestment into a “weakened public health-care system.” There also needs to be a chance in workplace culture so that health-care workers concerns will be heard, respected, and addressed. “Health-care workers' health and wellbeing is essentially being sacrificed. We all need to pay attention to their pleas during this frightening time,” said Dr. Margaret Keith. “Not only does their wellbeing matter, but we also need to realize if they are not being kept safe, they can’t properly care for their patients or residents.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
CALGARY — It seems like a no-brainer to use clean-burning hydrogen to offset the environmental negatives of natural gas for warming homes, but pilot projects to do just that starting next year illustrate nothing is simple about this trendy new energy source.As companies consider ways to commercialize hydrogen as a cleaner alternative fuel and projects advance in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and Markham, Ont., most observers concede it will take time and government support to overcome its cost competitiveness issues and lack of infrastructure."All hydrogen is not created equal," says Tahra Jutt, director of the clean economy program for B.C. with environmental think tank The Pembina Institute and co-author of a hydrogen primer published in July.“If you blend the lowest carbon hydrogen, you're going to get a much better outcome in terms of climate benefit."Hydrogen has many advantages as an energy source. When it burns it leaves only water behind — no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. It can be used for high-energy-intensity applications such as trucking, shipping and steelmaking. It can be compressed for energy storage and transportation. It's non-toxic and dissipates quickly when released.But there are disadvantages, too. Its low ignition temperature and nearly invisible flame when burning pose potential safety issues. Concentrated hydrogen can damage metal, requiring enhanced protection for pipelines. The act of creating hydrogen requires energy, whether to tear apart water molecules with the electrolysis method or breaking down natural gas molecules through thermal processes which themselves create greenhouse gases."The economics in our view for blue and green (hydrogen) are challenged right now but support will increase, costs are bound to come down, so (it's) another good opportunity for us to capitalize on our infrastructure," said Al Monaco, CEO of pipeline company Enbridge Inc., on a recent conference call, echoing the cautious stance taken by many industry leaders.Almost all of the hydrogen created in Canada today is considered "grey," created by burning fossil fuel and then used in industrial processes such as refining petroleum or producing fertilizer. Pembina estimates it costs between 91 cents and $1.42 per kilogram to make.If the carbon dioxide and other pollutants from making grey hydrogen are captured and stored, it becomes "blue" hydrogen, but the cost jumps to between $1.34 and $1.85 per kilogram."Green" hydrogen is separated from water using only renewable electricity and, while it is the most environmentally benign, it is also the most expensive at between $3 and $5 per kilogram, according to Pembina.Utility subsidiaries of Enbridge and Atco Ltd. are embarking on plans to inject hydrogen into the natural gas stream leading to home furnaces and water heaters in Markham and Fort Saskatchewan. Electricity can’t be stored as is, but at Enbridge’s power-to-gas facility in Markham it is used to create hydrogen from water that can be stored until eventually being turned back into electricity with Enbridge's 2.5-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell when needed.Markham's hydrogen is considered green because it is made with intermittent renewable electricity. The facility opened in 2018 after investments of $4.5 million by an Enbridge partnership and $4 million by the federal government. Its operation is supported by a three-year contract from Ontario’s electric system operator to supply surplus renewable power.The system works to level out energy availability but when more hydrogen is created than can be stored, it has to be vented, says Cynthia Hansen, president of gas distribution and storage for Enbridge.A partial solution is to blend the surplus at about two per cent into the local natural gas stream to reduce its overall GHG emissions, a $5.2-million project (with $221,000 from the federal government) expected to begin for about 3,600 customers starting next summer.Atco, meanwhile, is building a $6-million hydrogen blending project backed by $2.8 million in Alberta provincial grants and expected to be operational in early 2022. It is to deliver about five per cent hydrogen in the gas stream to about 5,000 homes in Fort Saskatchewan, a small city just northeast of Edmonton, with the hydrogen coming from an unnamed local supplier."When it starts up it will be grey and then it will transition to blue as the supply in the area builds out,” said Jason Sharpe, Atco's general manager of natural gas, estimating it will take two to three years for blue hydrogen to become available.The Fort Saskatchewan area, with its refineries and petrochemical facilities, is ground zero for carbon capture and storage in Alberta.Shell Canada's Quest project, opened in 2015, has injected more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide into underground storage from its oilsands upgrader.The recently completed Alberta Carbon Trunk Line is a pipeline system designed to collect CO2 from industrial sites in the region and take it to mature oilfields where its permanent storage also results in enhanced oil recovery.The global market for hydrogen could easily triple from current levels of about $200 billion per year by 2050 as countries adopt its use as a decarbonization strategy, according to GLJ, a prominent Calgary energy resource consulting firm.Canada is well-positioned to become an exporter into this growing market because of its current and potential production, GLJ said.Pembina's Jutt, however, says hydrogen usage should be targeted. While it may make sense to use it for home heating in some regions, that application doesn't necessarily make sense in B.C., where energy from renewable hydroelectric sources is potentially more environmentally friendly.Much is riding on promised federal and provincial government regulatory, strategic and financial commitments to hydrogen, as well as other alternative fuels that can help Canada meet its goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, she added."Businesses will do what's right for them from an economic perspective but I think everyone's looking to government for signals that it's good to invest in these things — hydrogen being one of many fuels that we'll need to reach our 2050 goals."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:ENB, TSX:ACO)Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
There is a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon. But first, winter. We've been hearing the warnings for weeks. It's going to be a long, hard few months. People who live in Canada fashion themselves as cold weather warriors — able to withstand -20 C temperatures. This year, that could be an especially good thing. The advice from medical experts is to resist retreating indoors where COVID-19 is much more easily transmitted. Bundle up, mask up if necessary, and get outside as much as possible. "You know, if you've ever wanted to learn broomball, this is your chance," said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital and an assistant professor at McGill University. But what about masks in winter? Do they still work if they get wet? Do you really need to wear them outside anyway? Here's some advice for how best to tackle the coming winter pandemic months.Will my mask work if it gets wet and/or freezes?The short answer is probably not. Oughton, officials from Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States pretty much agree that once a mask gets wet, it's no longer fully effective. And that's why you should always have back-up masks.There is no concrete, scientific data on mask efficacy in cold weather. However, when you breathe through a mask in cold conditions, the moisture from your warm breath collects on the mask. It tends to stay warm enough on the inside due to your body temperature to remain liquid, but will freeze on the outside. WATCH | Why health experts recommend three-layer masks: That leads to two mask issues Oughton said: they become harder to breathe through; and become less effective at "capturing respiratory droplets and preventing them from leaving the proximity of someone's mouth and nose."But that doesn't mean they are completely useless, according to Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University. "Masks offer a little bit more [protection], particularly in those settings where people are bunched up outdoors, where there may be a bit more risk of transmission."Oughton said if you are going to wear a mask outdoors in the cold for a long period of time, you should have two or three back-ups, so you can keep a dry one on.And most important: make sure the mask is cloth. The paper kind — the surgical style ones — degrade and tear far more easily when they get wet, said Oughton. Do you really need a mask out in the cold? It depends on the circumstances. Being outdoors while observing proper distancing measures is "really, really protective" on its own, according to Chagla. He said the documented cases of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 have involved situations like barbecues or people watching a sports event, gathered together for longer periods of time.For activities like going for a walk in your neighbourhood or skating on a not-too-crowded rink, he said the risk of transmission is very low. But he does advise that if you are going in and out of stores, or getting on and off transit while doing errands, it is best to just keep the mask on the whole time to minimize touching the mask and potential contamination. The advice is the same if you are planning to gather with others over the holidays for an outdoor gift exchange or short visit. If you can maintain distance, you should be fine as long as there is no eating and drinking or singing, all of which create more droplets in the air. If you're going to be closer, exchanging gifts perhaps, best to put on a mask. Is a scarf a good alternative to a mask?No. Medical experts point out that there is too much variation in scarves and neck gaiters for them to be used as masks. Stitching can be too loose and the material too thin to be an effective barrier to potentially infected droplets — both going out or coming in.But both physicians agree it might keep your mask from freezing and therefore be more comfortable for the wearer to put a scarf up over it.Cold temps bring runny noses. Here's how to deal with that joy when you're wearing a mask. Unfortunately, people tend to pull their mask aside or off when they sneeze or cough, which kind of defeats the purpose of it, Chagla said. "It is horrible to sneeze in a mask," he said. "I give you that." But he urges people to make sure they are in an area away from people if they are going to pull it off to sneeze, or even to blow their nose, as that is one of the best ways to spread infection. And be careful when you pull your mask aside to blow your nose. Don't let it get snotty, both doctors say, and after blowing your nose, sanitize your hands before you replace your mask. So with all the issues with masks, is it best just to stay indoors this winter?The resounding answer to this one is no. On the contrary. "The indoor stuff is like a hundred times more worrisome than the outdoor stuff," Chagla said. He cites factors including poor ventilation, crowded rooms, people being together for prolonged periods of time, eating and drinking together. He said this year, people are going to have to change the way they think about socializing if they don't want to just get stuck for months with the people they live with or having nothing but virtual get-togethers. "I think we have to start changing our attitudes and saying the outdoors is going to be the way. We just have to make it appropriate for people to do it."Municipalities across the country are coming up with guidelines for outdoor activities, such as skating, to make sure they don't get too crowded. Many are restricting the number of people allowed on the ice at any given time in order to better maintain a safe distance between skaters, with some bringing in online pre-registration to book ice time.If you go, change your skates in the car or out on a bench, rather than in a public hut, Oughton said.Among other outdoor measures, Toronto is also adding an additional 60 kilometres of paved recreational trails and pathways with snow maintenance and is encouraging communities to apply for permits to build and maintain new rinks. The City of Calgary is also adding to its outdoor options with the North Glenmore Ice Trail, where people can skate 730 metres of connected track and the installation of fire pits in key spots around the city.Todd Reichardt, a Calgary parks manager, said the plans should enable people to maintain social distance and make the most of the season. "There's something about being outside when it's cold and you smell like wood smoke," he said. "It just puts a smile on people's faces." In Manitoba, ski resorts have been working on plans to make skiing a safe pandemic activity, while Montreal is setting up cross-country ski trails at each of the city's large parks, as well as trails for snowshoeing and walking. We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca, and we'll answer as many as we can.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in reshuffled his cabinet on Friday as his approval rating sank to a record low amid a backlash over housing policies, rising coronavirus cases, and a scandal involving the justice ministry and top prosecutors. Moon nominated new ministers of interior, health, land and housing, and gender as he sought to refresh his administration, with roughly two years of his presidency to run. Limited to a single term, and holding a small parliamentary majority, there is no obvious risk to Moon's presidency, but the drop in ratings, a resurgence of coronavirus cases and nagging domestic controversies could make it harder for him to fulfil his agenda.
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kick-start your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 4 ...What we are watching in Canada ...Premier Doug Ford is expected to unveil Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine task force today.Ford said yesterday the team is being finalized and the province will be ready to distribute the vaccine whenever it arrives.The task force will include medical, information technology, and logistics experts.Earlier this month, the province announced retired Gen. Rick Hillier will lead the task force. Health Minister Christine Elliott says the team will also include a bioethicist who will make recommendations about who should receive access to the vaccine first. The province's chief medical officer of health has also said some regions of the province could be moved today into further restricted measures in the province's pandemic response.\---Also this ...Statistics Canada will say this morning how Canada's job market fared last month as COVID-19 case counts rose along with a new round of public health restrictions.The labour force has clawed back about three-quarters of the three million jobs lost during lockdowns in March and April.The country has seen six consecutive months of job increases since then, but the pace of gains slowed between September and October.Expectations for November is that the country will eke out another gain.\---What we are watching in the U.S. ...Joe Biden says he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president, stopping just short of the nationwide mandate he's pushed before to stop the spread of the coronavirus.The move marks a notable shift from U.S. President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to a politicization of the issue. That's made many people reticent to embrace a practice that public health experts say is one of the easiest ways to manage the pandemic, which has killed more than 275,000 Americans.The president-elect has frequently emphasized mask-wearing as a "patriotic duty" and during the campaign floated the idea of instituting a nationwide mask mandate, which he later acknowledged would be beyond the ability of the president to enforce.Speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper, Biden said he would make the request of Americans on inauguration day, Jan. 20."On the first day I'm inaugurated, I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction" in the virus, Biden said.Biden also said he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay on in his administration, "in the exact same role he's had for the past several presidents," as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the nation's top infectious-disease expert.\---What we are watching in the rest of the world ...Four people died following an explosion in a silo that holds treated biosolids at a wastewater treatment plant near the southwest England city of Bristol, police said Thursday.Three Wessex Water employees and one contractor died in the incident, which is not being treated as terror-related, Avon and Somerset Police Chief Inspector Mark Runacres said at a media briefing. A fifth person was injured during the explosion at the plant in the industrial area of Avonmouth, but the injuries are not considered life-threatening, Runacres said."The fire service led the rescue operation but sadly, despite the best efforts of all those involved, we can confirm there have been four fatalities," he said.Runacres would not speculate on the cause of the explosion. He said it took place in a silo holding organic matter from sewage before it "is recycled to land as an organic soil conditioner."He said the explosion did not create any ongoing concerns for public safety.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "our hearts go out" to the victims and their families.\---On this day in 2008 ...Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean granted an unprecedented request from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to suspend Parliament until late January, a move that avoided a non-confidence vote set for Dec. 8, that would have brought down the minority Conservative government.\---In entertainment ...Quebec pianist and composer Andre Gagnon has died at the age of 84 from Lewy body disease, a neurodegenerative disorder.During a career spanning 40 years, Gagnon embraced many styles from baroque, to classical and disco.Born in Saint-Pacome-de-Kamouraska, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River on Aug. 2, 1936, Gagnon composed from the age of six. After attending the Montreal Conservatory of Music, he studied in Paris after obtaining a grant from the Quebec government.The following year, in 1962, the jack-of-all-trades musician became Claude Leveillee's official accompanist until 1969. He also worked with other singers, including Jacques Blanchet, Pierre Calve, Renee Claude, Claude Gauthier, Pauline Julien, Pierre Letourneau, Monique Leyrac.\---ICYMI ...Just days after the discovery of a large party in one of its rental properties, Airbnb says it has a plan to curb New Year’s Eve parties this year while Canada works to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.In addition to its ongoing ban on parties, Airbnb now says guests will need a history of positive reviews on its app to reserve an entire home for New Year’s Eve in Canada. The policy also extends to the U.S., Mexico, Australia, the U.K., France and Spain."We believe this plan will help prevent large gatherings while supporting the type of safe, responsible travel that benefits guests, hosts and the neighbourhoods they call home," the company said. Airbnb is making an exception for one-night bookings made up to Tuesday, based on data that suggest bookings made before early December rarely involve parties.\---This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020The Canadian Press
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Public Health Sudbury & Districts decreased on Thursday as no new cases were reported, and one case was declared resolved. There are now seven active cases of COVID-19 in the region. According to the health unit’s weekly summary, five new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last seven days and 11 were resolved. Of the new cases, two were close contacts of a confirmed case and two were travel related. The investigation into the exposure category of the 5th case remains ongoing. All five cases were in Greater Sudbury. Public Health's territory also takes in Espanola, Manitoulin Island and the District of Sudbury. “By end of day on December 2, contact tracing information was available for all 5 of the new cases," Public Health said in its weekly report. "Through our investigation, we identified 30 people who had high-risk close contacts with these cases. That is an average of 6 high-risk close contacts per case, which is consistent with last week. “Public Health follows up directly and regularly with every high-risk close contact to monitor them for symptoms, ensure they are self-isolating, and make recommendations for testing according to provincial guidance.” The seven-day incidence rate was 2.5 per 100,000 compared to 9.1 in the previous week. The percent positivity was 0.3 per cent compared to 0.5 per cent last week. Public Health Sudbury and Districts remains in the Yellow-Protect category of the provincial COVID-19 response framework. While Sudbury didn't report any new cases, the same can't be said for the rest of Ontario. Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 14 new deaths due to the virus. In her message to the community, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe reminded the public about staying safe as the holiday season approaches, and to treat everyone with kindness. “For some of us, the upcoming winter holidays are a time to celebrate and connect with friends and loved ones. For many, the holidays also can be stressful – and this year, especially so. Remember, you are not alone. Reach out to friends, loved ones, or connect with local agencies and resources,” she said. “Treat yourself with kindness and respect and offer the same to others who may need support. This pandemic is not a forever-thing, but the lives we touch can be. Share a smile (behind the mask), practice patience, and lend a hand when it is least expected.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Navigating school this fall has meant a host of new challenges for learners with disabilities, with both students and families often having to advocate anew to receive the same supports and accommodations they received before the pandemic.Rana Nasrazadani completed her undergraduate degree at Toronto's York University in January, so she escaped last spring's sudden pivot to emergency remote learning. This fall, however, as she began her graduate studies, she's found things more difficult and impersonal.Gone are the commute to campus and vibrant in-person group work with classmates. In their place are lectures on Zoom, no break between home and school, and online collaborative sessions kept to a short time frame to prevent video-conferencing overload. Where Nasrazadani previously had in-person conversations with professors about her accessibility and accommodation requirements, "this year, it was mostly just reading the syllabus by myself and then just seeing where I might need more support," she said."Now you're just sending an email and just letting them know ahead of time."WATCH | What some students with disabilities faced this fall But it's been hard to anticipate and plan for everything, said Nasrazadani, so she's just going through the experience and raising concerns along the way. She's personally had good responses from her professors this term, but some of her peers have not. "For the most part, it seems like most students, including me, have to take initiative on their own to to figure out what we need," said Nasrazadani, also an accessibility and education advocate who serves as a student representative for Ontario's K-12 education standards development committee.She's concerned about stories she's hearing from peers — and from younger students and families — not getting what they need or unable to access the same educational supports they had before the pandemic, fuelling worries that learners with disabilities are being impeded from moving forward with their education."Making sure that students are still being able to get what they need during this time is is integral," Nasrazadani said.'It just hasn't really measured up'Sahvana Downes and her nine-year-old son Jaxson, who is attending virtual school in Toronto this fall, have not had a good experience this term. The youngster, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), could count on "a lot of support and a lot of resources" at school prior to the pandemic, said Downes. "Frankly, those have not translated into virtual learning and into his virtual classroom," she said. "I expected the same quality education, the same consistency that we see in physical school in the virtual schools and it just hasn't really measured up." The stress and anxiety of falling behind is weighing on Jaxson, she said.He "worries about, when he returns to school [in-person], if he's going to be caught up or if he's going to be behind.... That's absolutely my worry as well."Inconsistency between online classrooms has been frustrating for Downes, a child and youth worker for an autism support program who is currently at home overseeing Jaxson and two other children in virtual school. Where she saw little change after flagging concerns about her son's situation, "the other two students I'm working with, their teachers have made like a really good effort to create these accommodations for children. But the problem is that is teacher-specific and those are not board-wide implementations."Thanks to her prior work experience in education, she's been able to make adjustments to Jaxson's schooling — cutting down on his screen time, for instance, and adapting assignments to be done offline — but she acknowledges that not every parent has the ability to supervise, support or advocate for their child in the same way. "The general attitude is like this year doesn't count. It counts to me, it counts to my son and it counts to a lot of children." 'Don't wait until all this is over'The pandemic has indeed shifted more weight and responsibility onto the shoulders of families of students with disabilities and learning challenges, according to Delphine Rule.The Toronto mom of three has turned her experience researching supports for her sons Toby and Liam — who have learning disabilities, ADHD and anxiety — into an educational advocacy services organization. Access to Education shares resources for learners with disabilities and aids families trying to figure out education plans.The pandemic has forced "these experts, these people who work with our children and support us as families ... to move their systems online," Rule said.This has often meant parents or other in-home caregivers have in turn become de facto facilitators for online lessons, therapy sessions, workshops or meetings. Rule, for instance, has added tech troubleshooter to the list of jobs she juggles. "Our kids are having to learn and we're having to support them — and that can raise everybody in the house's anxiety." Rule also pointed out that not every support translates to our current pandemic reality of online video sessions, which some families might not be able to access in the first place."For those kids for whom it works, it can be beneficial," she said."Every household is going to be different, every child is going to be different ... not all kids can access it the same way."WATCH | Don't wait until after the pandemic to seek help, says educational services advocate Despite difficulties at the moment, however, Rule encourages families and students to speak up about educational concerns with teachers and administrators at school, as well as to press on with learning support services, even if they're not exactly operating as usual. "If you are thinking you need to get on a list for something, don't wait for all of this to be over: contact those agencies, contact the services that you want," she said."Many of these agencies and clinics and places that offer support for students are open through referral or are open through email or phone to at least start conversations.... It doesn't hurt to have a conversation." For Edmonton parent Amanda Whiting, the recent years of experience in her daughter's education ultimately led to home-schooling this fall.Amber Whiting, 13, has ADHD, dyslexia and health issues that require periodic hospital visits. Though she progressed quickly in a specialized school and had been working through the challenges of integration into a regular classroom last year, the family's struggle with remote learning this past spring sealed the deal. "In an ideal world, every child would get to learn the way that they learn best and the way that they can be most successful in their learning," Whiting said."We've been so lucky to have such great teachers for Amber over the years and yet, at the same time, she's a unique individual. Whether it's during a pandemic or not, she needs to learn in a way that's unique to her."Nasrazadani, the accessibility and education advocate, is working to share student voices with the provincial education committee, as well as two subgroups she's also participating in."We're all going through a pandemic, so it is difficult. But I do hope that professors and those at schools understand that students are trying their very best navigating this time."
City officials say they'll continue to keep a close eye on Ottawa's increasingly crowded malls to make sure holiday shoppers are following public health protocols.Bylaw officers will be out in force patrolling shopping centres and big box stores across the city, a city spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. They'll also be on hand to respond to any complaints.Customers are "reminded to practice physical distancing from others and to ensure their masks are worn properly," the statement said.Business owners, too, are being reminded to follow protocols aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19."As we head into the holiday shopping season, we encourage business owners to review their current practices and make any necessary changes to ensure they are creating a safer shopping experience," an Ottawa Public Health (OPH) spokesperson said in an email. Shoppers thronged Ottawa's major malls last weekend in search of Black Friday deals, and the crowds are expected to continue through Christmas and Boxing Day."We did see some good traffic on Black Friday and leading up to that. I think people are trying to get their shopping out of the way," said Brian O'Hoski, general manager at Rideau Centre. Both Rideau Centre and St. Laurent Shopping Centre have hired extra security guards to enforce mask rules, and have posted pandemic rules and regulations throughout. More signs show shoppers which way to walk, and where to stand to wait their turn to enter busier stores. "There's footprints outside each store, and then there's an overflow line for some of those busier stores," said Kristina Sparkes, marketing coordinator at St. Laurent Shopping Centre. "We're also asking people to use a bit of courtesy and common sense."Both O'Hoski and Sparkes recommend customers visit during non-peak hours to avoid crowds and long waits.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is on the brink of a new stay-at-home order that would close businesses and curb travel in regions that could see hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new rules that take effect Saturday, designed to keep local health systems from collapsing under the weight of skyrocketing COVID-19 caseloads. Previous restrictions were based on infection rates in counties.The new order divides the state into five broad regions and restricts those with intensive care unit bed capacity below 15%. On Thursday, Newsom said four regions — all but the San Francisco Bay area — could meet that threshold “within a day or two.”California’s virus hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled since mid-October and now stand at 8,240, including 1,890 in intensive care units. The Department of Public Health reported 19,437 deaths since the start of the pandemic, including 220 health care workers.“If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see our death rate climb, more lives lost,” Newsom said.Affected regions must close hair salons, barber shops and movie theatres, ban restaurant service except for takeout and delivery, shutter playgrounds, and limit retail stores and shopping centres to 20% customer capacity.The new stay-at-home order will last at least three weeks, cutting sharply into the most profitable shopping season and threatening financial ruin for businesses already struggling after 10 months of on-again, off-again restrictions and slow sales because of the pandemic.“This means no income for the rest of the year,” said Lam Nguyen, who owns a nail salon in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights. “I’m sad and scared, not only for myself but all my friends with nail and hair salons. A lot of us are in debt.”Amy Lovece, a hairstylist who rents a chair at Salon 544 in downtown San Luis Obispo, said she already lost about half of her yearly income.“It’s sad that (Newsom) keeps closing us down. It’s unnecessary because salons are not the problem,” said Lovece, 56. “For the ones who are following the rules, it’s just not fair. I just go between home and work. I don’t go to parties or bars and I just want to keep working.”Lovece said she was angry that the county was grouped in the Southern California region with counties hundreds of miles away with far greater demands for ICU beds. Only one out of 53 ICU beds in San Luis Obispo county was occupied with a COVID-19 patient as of Thursday.The order is the latest balancing act as the state tries to slow the exploding infection rate — blamed on people gathering outside of their households — without further crashing the economy.After California closed all but essential businesses in March, the state lost 2.6 million jobs in two months. About 44% of those jobs returned when restrictions were eased as people heeded social distancing and mask-wearing precautions and new cases fell dramatically.But by fall people were congregating more for holidays and celebrations, while cooler weather drove them inside, where the virus flourishes. California is now averaging nearly 15,000 newly reported cases daily.Public health officials warn that the toll from Thanksgiving gatherings could start to swamp hospitals by Christmas.In the last month, the state imposed restrictions in 52 of the state’s 58 counties, including asking people not to leave the state and implementing an overnight curfew for all but essential trips, such as getting groceries.But it hasn't worked because data shows people are ignoring the rules, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top public health officer, acknowledged Thursday.“We of course had hoped and wanted to see more from that already, but we haven’t,” he said.The state might not need such a broad shutdown if it had better data on where people are being infected, said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health.Are stores and nail salons chiefly to blame or should restrictions be focused elsewhere? Lack of that knowledge reflects “a failure of public health," Klausner said.He likened the current approach to shutting down food production, restaurants and grocery stores because of a salmonella outbreak.“That’s not the way we traditionally work in public health,” he said.Some counties also have bucked the rules, following cues from state and local elected officials who have criticized the governor for going too far.Shannon Grove, Republican leader in the state Senate, criticized Newsom on Thursday for continuing “to disrupt life as we know it without releasing the full data behind his decisions.”But in Los Angeles County, the nation's largest with 10 million residents, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that his department would be conducting “targeted enforcement on super-spreader events." The sheriff previously said he had relied on voluntary compliance with health orders.Even state government has felt the impact. Newsom and his family are self-quarantining at home after three of his children were exposed to an infected person. Two staff members in the governor’s office have tested positive for COVID-19 but hadn’t been in contact with Newsom, the office said.Beginning Monday, state government offices will close for three weeks except for those involved in “critical functions” such as public safety, prisons, social services and unemployment insurance claims processing, according to a Human Resources Department email sent to department leaders, the Sacramento Bee reported.Newsom acknowledged the difficulty in following the rules. But he urged people to stay vigilant and said progress is being made on a vaccine.“There is light at the end of the tunnel," he said.___Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco contributed to this report.Adam Beam And Kathleen Romayne, The Associated Press
Premier Blaine Higgs' concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten the long-term financial support New Brunswick receives from Ottawa has turned out to be prophetic, a new report by a national think-tank shows.Ben Eisen and Milagros Palacios of the Fraser Institute released a study Thursday suggesting contractions in the economy caused by the pandemic and other forces are flattening economic differences across the country and hastening the creation of new have-not provinces. The new order would dilute the federal government's critical $21 billion equalization program – New Brunswick's most important source of support. "It's a fundamentally transformative change," Eisen said in an interview."Where there used to be a big gap between the so-called haves and have-nots, I'm not even sure that bifurcation makes sense any more."Five have-not provinces are currently eligible for money under the program's formula, including Manitoba, Quebec and all three Maritime provinces.As Canada's poorest province, New Brunswick is receiving a record $2.2 billion in equalization funding this year, 10.7 per cent of the entire federal funding pool. The amount to New Brunswick has grown by $502 million in the last four years, an amount boosted in part when Ontario stopped receiving money two years ago. But as quickly as equalization payments can escalate for poor provinces when national economic disparities are growing, they can also recede, either by a poor province getting richer or rich provinces getting poorer. Eisen said economic data has been revealing a steady "convergence" between rich and poor provinces for several years that has accelerated during the pandemic, moving some like Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario close to requalifying for equalization money. He claimed changes are so dramatic it is not out of the question that Alberta will become a have-not province in this decade, a development with major implications for provinces currently in the equalization pool."There's a set amount of equalization dollars. If a new province becomes eligible for equalization payments, what's left for the other provinces that were receiving them before goes down," said Eisen."If you think of everyone eating a pizza and one more person comes and sits down, that's obviously less for the people who were there before. Equalization is no different." Tombe is an associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary and one of Canada's leading experts on equalization.He calls research behind the new study "top notch," but says it is difficult to predict what will happen in the near term."Forecasting these days is tricky, to say the least," Tombe said in a message Thursday.Equalization is based on three-year rolling averages of economic activity and works from a formula completely in the hands of the federal government, which can change the formula as it wishes. The formula also has protections built in to shield the poorest of provinces and, according to Tombe, that means equalization cuts are less of a threat to New Brunswick than to Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba."Those (with economies) furthest from the national average will tend to gain relative to those closer to it," Tombe said. "Hence Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick aren't as likely to be adversely affected." Higgs has been expressing concern since last spring about the federal government's ability to sustain funding of the equalization program and the effect Alberta's economic troubles might have on how the formula works.> Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'we won't worry about that today.' Well, for me, I'm very worried about it. \- Premier Blaine Higgs"I'm very concerned about next year and our transfer payments, because I don't know what's left in the federal government," he said in May."Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'well, we won't worry about that today. We'll worry about that tomorrow or the next day,' or maybe someone believes they'll never have to worry about it. Well, for me, I'm very worried about it and very concerned."Eisen believes it's likely more provinces will qualify for equalization, and that provinces in the program should prepare for what that could mean."It's important to recognize this is a development that could very well affect the budgets of Maritime provinces," he said.
A unique housing project in Surrey, B.C., to support veterans and first responders got a boost from the provincial government Wednesday.The province is putting forward funds to support 91 affordable housing units for veterans with disabilities in the Legion Veterans Village, as well as a rehab centre for veterans."It means a tremendous amount," says Tony Moore, the president of the Whalley Legion Branch 229.The Whalley Legion is one of the main partners in the Legion Veterans Village, a development that will include nearly 500 units of market housing, health-care supports including a PTSD and brain injury clinic, and Legion facilities.The affordable housing units, said Moore, will address a dire need in the community."We have lots of veterans out there that are on the street and other places that need accommodation and a place to live," he said. Being located in Whalley makes it even more pertinent, he says. "We were known as the Legion on Skid Row for a while because we had 135a [Street] behind us," he said."We felt there was a need for it. And by God, we were working at it and we're going to get there."The ambitious project, with an estimated price tage of $312 million, is one of the first of its kind in Canada for a legion. It's something that doesn't faze Moore — too much."I worry about it every night when I go to bed. But, you know, we've had so many inquiries from across Canada," he said. "I hope by everything that's good that we can get more Legion Veterans Villages built across Canada."Construction of the development is already underway. Moore is hoping the development will open on November 11, 2022.