Police have shut down a north-end Halifax intersection to investigate the discovery of a dead body in the bushes outside a wine and beer store.In a news release sent around 7:30 a.m. Monday, Halifax Regional Police advised of a "traffic disruption" at the intersection of Lady Hammond Drive and Robie Street, "due to an ongoing police matter."About 30 minutes later, the police force issued an update, saying they were still on the scene "for what was reported as a deceased person outside and near the intersection."Police said the investigation is in the early stages and offered no other details.As of the time of the last police update, traffic was being detoured around the scene.MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — The coronavirus vaccine inching toward approval in the U.S. is desperately anticipated by weary Americans longing for a path back to normal life. But criminals are waiting, too, ready to use that desperation to their advantage, federal investigators say.Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other drug companies racing to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. The goal: to prepare for the scams that are coming, especially after the mess of criminal activity this year with phoney personal protective equipment, false cures and extortion schemes.“We're all very excited about the potential vaccine and treatments,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with Homeland Security Investigations. “But I also caution against these criminal organizations and individuals that will try to exploit the American public."No vaccine has yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has approved the first treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral drug remdesivir. With vaccines and treatments both, it has warned about the potential for fraud.“The FDA is particularly concerned that these deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm,” the agency said in a recent statement.The drug companies are to have safeguards and brand-protection features in place to help avoid fraud, but that may not be available until the second generation of vaccine because everything is operated on such an emergency basis, said Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, a company that works as a bridge between the government, businesses and consumers. She said that makes it more important to educate health care providers on what the real thing looks like.“When you have anything in high demand and limited supply, there is going to be fraud,” she said. Desperation will drive people around normal channels.Meanwhile, investigators are learning about how the vaccine will be packaged and getting the message out to field agents, creating a mass database of information from more than 200 companies, so they can be prepared to spot fakes and crack down on dangerous fraud. They are monitoring tens of thousands of false websites and looking for evidence of fake cures sold online.Earlier this year as cases exploded, hospitals and governments grew short on masks, gloves and other protective gear. Scams grew, too. Tricksters preyed on unwitting citizens to hand over money for goods they'd never receive.Homeland Security Investigations started using its 7,000 agents in tandem with border, FDA and FBI officials to investigate scams, seize phoney products and arrest hundreds of people. The effort is headquartered at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a government watchdog aimed at enforcement of its international trade laws and combating intellectual property theft.The agency has already analyzed more than 70,900 websites suspected as being involved in some type of COVID-19 fraud. Millions of fake or unapproved personal protective equipment products and antiviral pharmaceuticals were seized. Homeland Security Investigations made more than 1,600 seizures of products worth more than $27 million and made more than 185 arrests.Home test kits, for example, were only recently made available to the public in the past few weeks. But investigators seized tens of thousands of fake kits in the months before. On the dark web, scammers were selling domain names like “coronaprevention.org," attractive to counterfeiters. In the U.S. alone, more than 1,000 fake websites a day have been removed during the pandemic.A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases have topped 13 million in the U.S. and many cities have started restricting movement again as the country heads into winter. The pandemic has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide, more than 266,000 of them in the U.S., according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But Francis and other investigators are worried that desperation will make Americans more susceptible.If the FDA allows emergency use of a vaccine, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year.Gen. Gus Perna, in charge of the government’s efforts to distribute the vaccine, said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” the government was prepared to distribute the vaccine within 24 hours of approval. There’s a stockpile of the prospective vaccine itself plus kits of needles, syringes and alcohol swabs needed to give the dose. The secret stash is watched by armed guards.“We have taken extraordinary precaution in this area,” he said. "It’s such a commodity to us, we’re taking the full steps to make sure that the vaccine’s secure.”Who is first in line has yet to be decided. But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the hope is that enough doses are available by the end of January to vaccinate adults over age 65, who are at the highest risk from the coronavirus, and health care workers. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-diseases expert, said it may take until spring or summer before anyone who is not high risk and wants a shot can get one.States already are gearing up for what is expected to be the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. First the shots have to arrive where they’re needed, and Pfizer’s must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 70 degrees Celsius. Moderna’s vaccine also starts off frozen, but the company said it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days, easing that concern.Governments in other countries and the World Health Organization, which aims to buy doses for poor nations, will have to decide separately if and when vaccines should be rolled out broadly.Meanwhile, Homeland Security investigators and others are trying to send the message now to the public before the vaccines are approved and begin distribution. They say people should only get a vaccine from an approved medical provider. They shouldn't respond to calls seeking personal information. And they shouldn't click on social media posts purporting to sell cures.“If it sounds too good to be true, it is," Francis said.Colleen Long, The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — With nothing on their agendas for months to come, music festival organizers in Belgium want to use their know-how to help the country's coronavirus vaccination campaign.The Belgian government has set a goal of vaccinating about 70% of the country's population, about 8 million people, when approved COVID-19 vaccination shots become available.As the vaccines are expected to arrive in multi-dose vials for shots to be administered all on the same day, Belgium health authorities are planning to vaccinate people in groups as much as possible. The task will pose many logistical challenges, including the creation of vaccination centres that festival organizers say they can help set up.Enjoying a strong reputation in the music world, Belgian festival experts have proven experience in both building huge pop-up structures and in crowd management.With the music industry hit hard by the pandemic's economic, several festivals in the French-speaking region of Wallonia and the Brussels area have created a federation to better defend their interests. They have a large network of technicians who are currently unemployed and are ready to help out.“Our sector has been at a standstill for many months, and our many staff are eager to bring their creativity and dedication to the fight against coronavirus," said federation president Damien Dufrasne.One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported some 577,000 confirmed cases and more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus.Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said COVID-19 vaccinations could start in the European Union's 27 nations before the end of December. The commission, the EU’s executive arm, has agreements with six potential vaccine suppliers and is working on a seventh contract. The deals allow it to purchase over 1.2 billion doses, more than double the population of the EU.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakThe Associated Press
A new council was sworn in in La Ronge with three councillors returning to the table and three new councillors joining them for the 2020-24 council term. Jordan McPhail and Hugh Watt have been re-elected, with Joe Hordyski returning to council following a mayoral loss in 2016, and Abby Besharah, Viviana Ruiz and Ryan Veteri joining them as new councillors as well as new mayor Colin Ratushniak. This will be McPhail’s second term on council after first being elected in 2016 and his first as the deputy mayor. The deputy mayor is chosen by the council, and McPhail said he was honoured that his fellow councillors were chosen. There is a learning curve when you join municipal politics, he said, so now that he understands how the council works and operates, he has hit his stride. McPhail was first encouraged to run by community members who thought we would be a good person for the job. Being solutions based and community-focused with a focus on grassroots activism, McPhail’s interest in politics was already there, so he decided to take their advice, and that of his family and friends, and dive into municipal politics. The 2016 term was a “trial by fire,” he said, since everyone was new to the table except for the former mayor Ron Woytowich. Joining him at the table this term are a diverse group of people who want to bring a new perspective and a focused plan for La Ronge’s future to the council. “We have a very good, strong group of people that have very thoughtful discussions that are mainly focused on the policy and the strategic direction of our community. I'm very optimistic for the next four years.” Veteri has been a long time volunteer in the community, he said, so getting this seat on council has been very exciting. Living in La Ronge since he was a teenager, Veteri said he has seen La Ronge at its worst years and wanted to contribute to making the community better. As an advocate for the homeless, Veteri said he wants more programs like scatter sites and food banks. The council needs to start taking better care of those in need in their community, he said, and a community project that would see tiny homes built for housing would be something that Veteri would like to work towards. “We could reach out to the provincial and federal government and press them for funding for such a project to happen.” Veteri is honoured to have the support of the people of La Ronge. He will work hard for his community, he said, and he will be readily available to address people’s concerns either through Facebook, email or phone. Besharah has lived in La Ronge since 2013 and has worked as an urban and regional planner for the last seven years, she said. Being elected to council and becoming part of the decision-making process will be a welcome change, however, she has always pushed for positive change within the government. With her background in government bureaucracy, Besharah saidshe hopes to help inform fellow council members about government policy so they can make informed decisions. Besharah was interested in how diverse this coming council team was in terms of diverse voices at the table. The last council was “pretty homogeneous,” she said, with men in similar fields making up the council. With the new council having a more diverse look to it, Besharah is expecting some lively debates about what is best for the town coming their way, she said. As an advocate for public spaces, Besharah said there is plenty the town can do to improve spaces for people to increase physical activity among the residents and beautify spaces to attract more tourism. Looking forward to the next term, Besharah said that more needs to be done to deepen communication between the town and its residents.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
MLAs both new and re-elected will begin a two-week fall sitting Monday, which will likely be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Saskatchewan Party government's election promises.Monday's sitting begins with the Speaker election at 10 a.m. CST and a speech from the throne delivered by Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty at 2 p.m.The speech will be debated and voted on in the days that follow.Following the Oct. 26 election, the governing Sask. Party enters the sitting with 48 members, while the NDP has 13.Pandemic responseWith the province experiencing a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past month, policy announcements by the government will likely be overshadowed by its response to the pandemic.The NDP opposition has asked for a three-week "circuit breaker" shutdown and a plan to compensate those affected.Moe said again last week he preferred targeted measures as opposed to anything that shut down portions of the economy.On Friday, the province's most recent set of restrictions went into effect, which includes suspension of sports, gathering limit restrictions and an expansion of the mask mandate.Election promisesAfter announcing his cabinet shuffle on Nov. 9, Premier Scott Moe said his government would use the sitting to introduce legislation, including bills, to keep its campaign promises.The Sask. Party made $849 million in promises during the October campaign, including: * A two-year home renovation tax credit. * A one-year 10 per cent SaskPower rebate. * A three-year tax reduction for small businesses. * Create 750 licensed home-based child care spaces. * Provide funding to kids living with autism up to the age of 12. * Cover the cost of glucose monitoring up to 18 years old. * Reduce seniors' ambulance costs by 50 per cent. * Increase the post-secondary Sask. Advantage scholarship to $750/ year.It also promised to bring back two programs cancelled in 2016, the active families benefit and the community rink grant. Speaker election The sitting will begin with the election of the Speaker. Saskatchewan Party MLA Mark Docherty has held the position since March 2018. He has put his name forward again and faces five of his caucus colleagues who are also vying for the position: Lisa Lambert, Hugh Nerlien, Greg Ottenbreit, Randy Weekes, and Nadine Wilson.The election will be conducted by secret ballot.The Sask. Party has 11 new MLAs, while the NDP has six.On Nov. 9, Moe shuffled his cabinet, with notable changes including Paul Merriman as Health Minister, Dustin Duncan as Education Minister, Lori Carr as Minister of Social Services and Gord Wyant as Minister of Justice.Finance Minister Donna Harpauer is the deputy premier and Nicole Sarauer is the NDP's deputy leader.All MLAs will have to wear a mask while inside the legislature. Plastic barriers have been erected between desks inside the chamber.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Russia came under renewed pressure Monday to explain the nerve agent attack on opposition figure Alexei Navalny as the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog got underway amid measures aimed at reining in the spread of coronavirus.Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia, and was flown to Germany for treatment two days later. His allies accused the Kremlin of poisoning its fiercest opponent. Tests carried out by labs in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons established that Navalny was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.The organization's director-general, Fernando Arias, told Monday's meeting that according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, “the poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is a use of a chemical weapon.”A group of 56 nations issued a statement as the start of the annual meeting of the OPCW's member states urging Moscow to disclose “in a swift and transparent manner the circumstances of this chemical weapons attack.”Russia, which denies involvement in Navalny's poisoning, reacted bullishly in its written statement to the conference.“Instead of trying to look into what had happened, Germany and its allies resorted to megaphone diplomacy, unleashed a mass disinformation campaign against Russia and started to demand some ‘independent international investigation’ under the auspices of the OPCW,” Moscow's statement said.In October, Moscow asked for OPCW experts to visit Russia to provide “technical assistance” in its investigations. Arias said talks are underway to define “all the legal, technical, operational and logistical parameters in order for this visit to take place.”The European Union has imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over the poisoning. Moscow responded earlier this month by announcing that it had adopted sanctions against a number of German and French officials.The OPCW's annual meeting has been broken into two parts amid the coronavirus pandemic. Two days of talks this week will focus on approving the proposed 71.74 million euro ($86 million) annual budget for 2021. The second half of the meeting will take place next year.Mike Corder, The Associated Press
The Crown was to close its murder case against a Fort Liard, N.W.T., woman on Monday, but a mysterious issue that arose last week may prevent that.Selena Lomen is on trial for second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her partner, Danny Klondike, two years ago in Fort Liard.At the end of Friday's proceedings in Northwest Territories Supreme Court in Yellowknife, the judge asked the prosecutors if they intended to finish their case on Monday. Lead prosecutor Duane Praught said that had been the plan, but that the Crown had "received some information" about one of the witnesses in Fort Liard on Thursday."We're still trying to figure out what to do with this information," said Praught. He did not elaborate on what information had been received, but said he had passed it on to Lomen's lawyer, Peter Harte.RCMP forensic expert testifiesMost of Friday was spent questioning one witness, Cpl. Amy Doan, an RCMP forensic expert who photographed and examined Klondike's and Lomen's duplex, where Klondike was found dead on Oct. 28, 2018.Doan said bloody shoe prints on the floor of the duplex matched the shoes Lomen was wearing when she walked into the RCMP station later that morning and confessed to stabbing her partner to death.Lomen tried to plead guilty to manslaughter at the beginning of the trial, but the prosecutor did not accept the plea.Though Lomen has confessed, much of the Crown's case has focused on proving she is the one who killed Klondike.Doan testified for hours about photos she took of the crime scene, the technique she uses to compare footprints to the treads on shoes, and how those techniques applied in this case.Doan testified she found some injuries on Lomen. She had a bruised knee, a cut on the palm of her right hand and bruising on both forearms.She said Lomen had no recollection of how she got the injuries.The trial enters its third week on Monday in Yellowknife. One of the last pieces of evidence the prosecutors plan to present is a video Doan took of the bloody crime scene.The Crown had planned to play the video in court on Friday, but did not because it failed to get an order banning its publication.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is putting a call out for Islanders to find their old phones and consider donating them. The phones would go to clients of the My Place Housing First program, run by the CMHA. Some of the clients of the program had told staff that securing a reliable cellphone was a challenge for them, said Tessa Rogers, a housing support worker with the CMHA.The program works with those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, trying to get them into more secure and stable housing situations. "A big part of this is weekly meetings with our clients, getting them into stable housing, but then also connecting them with different resources in the community and, you know, potential employers, things like that," she said."In order to do this effectively, it's very beneficial typically if they have a cellphone, just so you can reach them easily." The organization sometimes has trouble contacting clients, having to call neighbours or friends to get in touch with them, said Rogers. "Some of our clients have reported to us, you know, it's very challenging to book my appointments with you folks, book my appointments with my doctor, various community resources, just because they don't have that reliable communication tool," she said. Keeping connectedAny phone can be donated, said Rogers. Anything from an old brick, all the way up to the latest and greatest — it just needs to hold a charge and not have a shattered screen, she said. "Some of them are looking for something that they can just, you know, quickly answer and have a phone conversation," Rogers said. > Our goal is to meet clients where they are and, you know, connect them to those community resources. — Tessa Rogers, CMHA"And then some of our other clients are looking for something that's more up to date that they can use their social media on and maybe play games to reduce some isolation." The ability to use the internet is important, not only for reducing isolation in the time of COVID-19, but also to be able to access resources if public health measures tighten in the province. "If something does come up with the second wave, and having to shut down, this would allow those clients to still, you know, utilize those resources, whether it be Zoom meetings, Skype, anything like that," she said. Always a needRogers said they've had a number of people already reach out and offer to donate phones. All of the phones will be cleaned, sanitized, and staff will ensure that no data is left on them before passing them on. When the client gets that phone, if the phone gets a plan and how it's paid for is decided on a case-by-case basis, said Rogers. "Our goal is to meet clients where they are and, you know, connect them to those community resources. So a few of our clients are already connected with those resources. Some have it within their budget already. If not, it might look like us advocating for them," she said. "Some of our clients might not even necessarily want a phone plan and just want a phone that they can use with Wi-Fi. So it's really just meeting that client where they are and kind of assessing their needs and working with them to meet that goal." Rogers said there's no set number of phones they're looking for, because they constantly have new clients and there's always a need. More from CBC P.E.I.
NEW YORK — The co-author of the million-selling “Game Change” has a book of his own coming about the 2020 election. Simon & Schuster announced Monday that John Heilemann is working on a “dramatic, first-hand account” of Joe Biden's victorious campaigns over his Democratic Party rivals in the primaries and over President Donald Trump in the general election. Heilemann had collaborated with Mark Halperin on “Game Change,” about the 2008 race, and on “Double Down,” about 2012. Halperin has since faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment. He was dropped by Showtime, where he and Heilemann hosted the political series “The Circus,” and a planned book by the two authors on the 2016 campaign was cancelled by Penguin Press. Heilemann's new book, currently untitled, draws on three decades of covering the former vice-president, who was Barack Obama's running mate in 2008 and 2012. The publication date is not yet scheduled. “I first met Joe Biden in 1986 when I was in college and he was getting ready to run for president the first time, and I’ve been following his ups and downs, his triumphs and tragedies, ever since,” Heilemann said in a statement. “The story of how, against all odds and against the apocalyptic backdrop of America in 2020, Biden rallied in the winter of his life to defeat Trump — and, in the eyes of many, to save the country — is one of the great political tales of this or any age, and I’m thrilled to have a chance to tell it.” Screen rights have been acquired by Showtime, where Heilemann still hosts "The Circus." The HBO adaptation of "Game Change" won five Emmys and three Golden Globe awards. Heilemann is national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC and co-founder of the political video platform The Recount. He is also the author of “Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era,” which came out in 2001. His current project adds to the list of books expected on the 2020 race, which includes works by Maggie Haberman of The New York Times and by Ryan Lizza of Politico and co-writer Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine. Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
An 80-year-old man who is visually impaired and received a $13,000 bill from Virgin Mobile is no longer on the hook for the large sum."I think right now they could be doing a little better, but I'm satisfied with that," said Willie Guerard, who lives in Amherstburg, Ont. "They're not going to get my best wishes, you know what I mean?"Guerard and his wife, Yvonne, who by their own admission are not tech-savvy, told the CBC earlier this month that they don't really even use the internet on their phone.They said it was their understanding that their service would be cut off if their account balance reached $200 in any given month, so they were surprised when they received two bills, for approximately $5,000 and $7,000, respectively.Virgin Mobile said it had removed spending caps such as those after the pandemic began up until the beginning of July but it continued to charge for any costs for overages people incurred.Guerard and his wife said they contacted Virgin Mobile after receiving the large bill and were told they had to pay it. It was only after CBC made inquiries published in a web story earlier this month that the company took a second look at the massive bill."At least they're paying attention now. Before that I couldn't get nobody [to look into it], I just got the runaround," Guerard said.Significant reductionInitially, Virgin Mobile said that Guerard, who was an active data user, had twice requested to increase the amount of data on his account and consented to it. The company was unaware of Guerard's visual impairment and that it would be significantly reducing the outstanding balance in his account.Last week, they said they'd reduced the amount he owed to what his usual monthly bill would have been."We took another look at Willie's account and couldn't verify that he received the notice about removing spending caps during COVID," a written response from the company read.Guerard said after he called them, he found out the amount he now owes is $281, which he plans to pay. But he said he'll only be doing so once he gets it in writing.
Peel Regional Police are forecasting a $16.7 million increase in spending for 2021, the bulk of which will service a spike in salaries and benefits, and the addition of 27 officers. The budget, presented at a police board meeting Friday, calls for $462.5 million in total spending in 2021, a 3.8 per cent increase or a $316 per capita bump in the annual tax levy. The spending increase comes at a time when police services across Canada and south of the border have seen outcry over police violence and systemic anti-Black racism lead to calls to defund police in favour of non-police alternatives and community programs. Peel police will spend $5.2 million on hiring the 27 new officers, while other salary and benefits costs will eat up another $11.4 million of the increase. After it was endorsed by the board Friday, the budget will now go to Peel Regional Council for final review and approval in early 2021. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who is on the seven-member Peel Police Services Board, lauded police Chief Nishan Duraiappah for seeking to reallocate millions of dollars toward areas of public concern. “Thank you for putting emphasis on areas that are a concern to the community, whether it’s street racing, mental health, whether it’s human trafficking,” Brown said. The service says it saw more than $2 million in unforeseen costs this year as a result of the pandemic. It will draw on reserve funds to cover any COVID-related shortfalls. Looking ahead, Peel police is also calling for $597 million in capital upgrades –– to be funded from capital reserve funds –– it says will be needed over the next decade. It includes an anticipated $307 million for land and new facilities, $153 million for information and technology advancements, and $76 million for vehicles. At the board meeting Friday, Duraiappah also discussed a summary of the year’s crime trends: Gun crime and homicides trending down Peel is seeing a decline in gang and gun activity so far this year, and is also tracking a decrease in homicides, Duraiappah told the police board Friday. Nevertheless, he dubbed the service’s Project Siphon, which ended with more than 800 charges against 88 people earlier this month, the “largest in the service’s history.” The arrests led to what police say is the dismantling of a prominent Peel-area gang, the seizure of dozens of guns and arrests over three homicides and one attempted murder. So far this year, Peel police have seized 363 firearms, Duraiappah said, noting that “91 per cent of the handguns seized that are traceable came from the United States,” up from the 74 per cent in 2019. “We do have a plan to bolster our gang response,” Duraiappah said. “We know a dedicated gang team is one we need for the new year.” But intimate partner violence is still common So far this year, police have responded to 90 shootings and 14 homicides, five of which were linked to intimate partner violence. That continues a trend that also saw more than a third of the region’s 34 homicides last year linked to intimate partner-related disputes. “It’s still the top three calls that we have each day,” the chief said. “We need to turn the dial on this,” he said, adding that it’s a priority to lower the number of repeat offenders. This year, the service is averaging about 50 calls a day for intimate partner disputes and in response, Duraiappah said the service has created a dedicated intimate partner and family unit with 48 officers who will soon start working out of a hub dedicated to those calls. Rethinking mental health crisis calls Peel’s three dedicated Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams responded to 1,700 calls between their introduction in January and October, with only 22 per cent of those calls ending in someone being apprehended, a report to the board said. But police field about 16 daily calls for mental health distress, and the bulk of those calls still land in police hands, Duraiappah said. “We know it’s understaffed,” he said, adding that the rapid response teams can’t respond to that volume of demand — “they do about a third of them, so two-thirds are still being done by uniformed officers.” “Our goal is to have eight on the rapid response team,” he added. Under existing provincial law, only police have the power to apprehend a person experiencing a mental health crisis and take them for treatment. A near-record year for traffic deaths So far this year, Peel has seen a significant increase in vehicle-related deaths, at 38, up from 23 all of last year. Since 2010, only two full years have recorded more motor vehicle-related fatalities: 41 in 2018 and 40 in 2016. “We’re sadly at one of the highest levels of fatal motor vehicle collisions this region has ever seen,” the chief said. The chief also mentioned a troubling bump in stunt driving charges. Police laid 719 charges for stunt driving, to date, up from 332 over the same time frame in 2019.Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Financial therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin of Ann Arbor, Michigan, specializes in helping people deal with their anxieties about money. But since the pandemic started, Bryan-Podvin has been hearing more about guilt than fear.Several people who still have jobs and financial security felt guilty about having been spared while others suffered, says Bryan-Podvin, author of “The Financial Anxiety Solution.”“I would start to hear things like, ‘I shouldn’t be complaining — my partner has it so much worse,’ or ‘I can’t even believe I’m telling you this because so-and-so in my neighbourhood lost their job,’” she says.The feelings clients expressed and the language they used were almost identical to what Bryan-Podvin hears from people with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health disorder that can be triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.“What I started to see was survivor guilt,” Bryan-Podvin says. “They feel like they somehow didn’t deserve what they have.”GUILT CAN TURN INWARDSurvivor’s guilt is a symptom of PTSD, often felt by people who wonder why they lived while others died. While financial survivor’s guilt isn’t an official psychological diagnosis, Bryan-Podvin says that recognizing the similarities has helped her treat clients who are struggling.People experiencing this kind of guilt may feel sad or even hopeless, she says. They may have obsessive thoughts, wondering why they were spared or what they might have done differently to protect others. They may feel paralyzed, numb or burned out.“Survivor guilt is like any other type of stress,” she says. “It can impact your sleep, it can impact your parasympathetic nervous system, it can impact your ability to fully rest in the present.”Recognizing what you’re experiencing can help you cope, says certified financial planner Edward Coambs, a marriage and family therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina. One reason people feel survivor’s guilt is because we’re hard-wired to want justice and fairness, he says.“That’s really what’s getting activated,” Coambs says. “Like, how is it fair that I still have my job but this segment of the market no longer has their job?”Not everyone feels bad about inequities, of course. But those who do can experience financial self-shaming, where they feel that it isn’t OK to have money, jobs or opportunities that are denied to others, Coambs says. At the extreme, they may give away too much, volunteer to be furloughed or otherwise put themselves at financial risk because they feel guilty.“It’s not your fault what’s happened to this other person,” he says. “Sometimes survivor guilt can be about taking on more responsibility than is appropriate.”COPE IN WAYS THAT HELP OTHERSA more productive approach is to look for sensible ways to help others, therapists say. That may be working at a food bank, donating to a cause, helping someone update their resume or making introductions that could help them find a job.“Some level of service, some level of giving back tends to help us feel better,” Bryan-Podvin says. “It’s about knowing that you’re taking steps and you’re taking action to help.”But be careful about going overboard. Some people may rush in with referrals and networking suggestions when a jobless friend is still in shock, for example. Maybe your friend just needs an empathetic listener right now.When your goal is to alleviate your guilt, it’s easy to miss what the other person actually needs, Coambs says.Also, resist the urge to share the setbacks you’ve experienced, Bryan-Podvin says.“It’s better to say, ‘I’m so sorry that happened. That must be really hard,’” she says.MAKE ROOM FOR GRATITUDEAnother way to cope with financial survivor’s guilt is to start noticing and appreciating the positives in your life.“Turn the ‘g’ in guilt to gratitude,” says financial therapist and CFP Preston D. Cherry of Lubbock, Texas. Research shows that writing gratitude lists, keeping a gratitude journal or just contemplating what you’re grateful for can lower stress, improve sleep and make relationships better.Feeling bummed out about layoffs and economic turmoil is normal, but experiencing sadness and guilt for weeks at a time is not, Bryan-Podvin says. If you can’t sleep, you’re too distracted to work or you keep forgetting important things, like what time your kids need to be in online classes, consider getting professional help. The Financial Therapy Association is one place to look for referrals. (Cherry and Coambs are board members.)“If your ability to function is so impacted, whether it’s financial survival guilt or just the trauma of being alive right now, therapy is not a bad idea,” she says.______________________________-This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lizweston.RELATED LINK:NerdWallet: How to Cope With Financial Anxietyhttps://bit.ly/nerdwallet-financial-anxietyLiz Weston Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
When looking at the daily updates and numbers of COVID-19 cases in Alberta, there's a theme that's easy to spot — Calgary's northeast has a serious problem. Calgary-Upper NE is one of 132 "local geographic areas" (or LGAs) that the province uses in reporting COVID-19 cases. It covers the bulk of the northeast quadrant, including newer communities that sit north of McKnight Boulevard, as well as a portion that stretches down to where 16th Avenue N.E. meets Deerfoot Trail. Around 115,000 people call the upper northeast area of Calgary home. The number of active COVID-19 cases there surpassed 1,000 last week, a number not seen anywhere else in the province at any time during the pandemic. As of Sunday, there were 1,194 cases. That's double the numbers seen earlier in the month. For many weeks now, the northeast has secured the unenviable position of being the number one spot in Alberta for active cases. So what's driving such extreme numbers in one part of the city? On the front lines People who live and work in the northeast say there are many reasons that make their communities easy pickings for a virus that thrives on density and easy opportunities for transmission. Those opportunities vary from residents working public-facing, low-income jobs with no opportunity to work from home, to a culture of large, multi-generational households in densely populated neighbourhoods. "It is a concern. Many people in this part of the city are working multiple jobs on the front lines and they're in contact with a lot of people," said Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal. "There's a higher risk to exposure, but I think everybody's doing their best to ensure they're being safe, but more importantly keeping others safe. "Social distancing and wearing masks is important, but we've still got a lot of work to do." Many said they thought the types of jobs worked by those living in the northeast could represent the number one factor behind the high COVID-19 numbers. "The biggest reason is the majority of people are immigrants and newcomers and they are doing blue-collar jobs," said Dan Sidhu, a realtor with his own weekly Punjabi radio show who has called the northeast home for 25 years. "Lots of people work at places like Cargill and Lilydale or furniture factories. They're doing housekeeping and cleaning jobs around the city. There are also transport workers, truckers and taxi drivers." Sidhu said many people in the northeast don't have the luxury of working from home and are more exposed in their day-to-day lives. "We have to go out to work to make our living and pay our bills. We don't have much choice," Sidhu said. Multi-family households In addition to employment, there are also large multi-family households made up of South Asian immigrant families that settle around each other in northeast communities. "The majority of families here are joint families. Seniors live with them, mother-in-laws and father-in-laws, mothers and fathers and children. You can easily have six or seven family members," said Sidhu, adding that COVID-19 spreads to a greater number of people once it finds its way into a family setting. Others talk quietly about the possibility that some cultural factors unique to South Asian communities could give COVID-19 more opportunities to take hold. Some of those factors mentioned include: a stigma in the community around being sick and telling others. a deeply embedded culture of hospitality. meal sharing and inviting guests into the home. a tradition of large family gatherings and events like weddings and birthdays along with a busy calendar of religious events. in some cases, language barriers limiting information around best practices when it comes to health measures. Languages spoken commonly in the home in the northeast include Punjabi and Urdu. Filipino families speak Tagalog along with others who speak Spanish and Vietnamese at home. Some can't communicate in English at all. Worried about being blamed Some residents said they are worried about being stigmatized, criticized and blamed for the rising number of cases from people in other parts of the city and province. A few said they're embarrassed by the high case numbers and say they are victims of circumstance, and do not want to be blamed for personal negligence or for not taking the virus seriously enough. The northeast of the city is also where many newcomers and refugees settle in the days and weeks after arriving in Canada. It's where the cost of living is cheapest and where jobs and many vital supports exist, including the Centre for Newcomers. "We see a disproportionate number of newcomers working in industries where they'd have a much higher rate of being in contact with somebody that has COVID," said Anila Lee Yuen, CEO of the Centre for Newcomers. "They find jobs in retail, service industries, health-care and long-term care facilities and that [increases] the likelihood." Lee Yuen said newcomers tend to be around larger volumes of people, both at home and at work. "You've got people coming from cultures that are very collective in nature so the entire community is built around that," she said. "You have a more densely packed population, so even when people are adhering to the best possible safety protocols, there could still be issues." She said housing density and a reliance on transit and car sharing also need to be taken into account, along with larger family cohorts than other parts of the city. Language barriers can also make official information harder to access. "The ethno-cultural media and the settlement agencies and other agencies have done a wonderful job of getting that information out there, especially through social media," said Lee Yuen. "It does come translated from the government and it is widespread, but the bigger issue is people are confused about the rules and what they can and can't do. But that's in the general population too." Lee Yuen said the whole concept of cohorts and bubbles took time for many Albertans to understand, but for non-English speaking Albertans, it's even more challenging. Religion and worship Religion is a big part of the fabric of life in northeast Calgary's South Asian community, and with worship comes large gatherings. Throughout 2020, places of worship have been open with limited capacity, enhanced safety measures and at times closed altogether. Under the most recent measures announced by the provincial government on Saturday, churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship are allowed to operate at only one-third of their capacity with mandatory masking in place. Previously, the limit had been one-third of regular attendance. Major religious events and celebrations from Ramadan to Eid and Diwali have all looked a lot different this year. Some places of worship are now going above and beyond the requirements laid out by the province. "We're not even letting anyone sit. We're going even further in what we're doing in that they come, they pray and they go right away," said Amanpreet Singh Gill with the Dashmesh Culture Centre, a large gurdwara where thousands of northeast Sikhs go to pray. "We are trying our best and people are following it. We encourage everyone to be safe. Social interactions are dangerous and we encourage everyone to limit gatherings like weddings too." The centre is also taking prayers online for those staying away, streaming on social media. Mosques have been doing the same thing with live prayers, sermons and programs from local imams, who said Friday prayers are the only in-person worship being permitted. Prayers typically last less than 15 minutes. COVID-19 experiences More cases in the quadrant bring more stories and accounts from people who have had COVID-19. Jayanta Chowdhury contracted COVID-19 along with his family at a Christian prayer meeting in March that turned into a "superspreader" event, leading to at least 34 positive cases, all stemming from one overseas pastor from Singapore. Chowdhury spent nearly 50 days in hospital, 25 of them in a coma on a ventilator. Now he's hoping his story can help others do the right things. "Many people don't believe COVID is going to hurt them. They just think it's like a cough and a cold," said Chowdhury. "What is lacking in the northeast is people are not aware of the fact of how serious this is and how it will affect your life. They are not serious about it. They just think, 'I don't know anyone who is COVID-positive, so it won't happen to me.'" Chowdhury said he sees many people from the South Asian community not wearing masks in public or wearing them incorrectly. He's not alone, although some also point out that people make the same mistakes all over the city. Others regularly complain on social media about seeing the same thing in local stores and restaurants, along with a lack of proper physical distancing, evident in many photos posted online of gatherings and small events with people stood shoulder to shoulder, some wearing masks and others often not wearing one or wearing one incorrectly. The table may not display fully on mobile devices or small screens. In that case, you can also click here to open a standalone version in a new browser tab. "I went to a McDonald's in the northeast the other day. There were four men standing there chatting, no masks," Chowdhury said. "They wear their masks under their chin. But what about the people they are putting at risk? "Who's going to take care of them? In my case, my whole family was positive. Let's say the dad and mom dies, we don't have relatives to look after our kids. They don't understand the height and depth of the issue." Chowdhury said for more than a week he felt fine with no symptoms. He went to church, shopping malls and grocery stores, completely unaware he had contracted the virus. It wasn't until the ninth day that serious symptoms quickly started appearing and four of his group were hospitalized. One of the group died. "I walked into Peter Lougheed hospital and passed out. When I woke up I thought it was the same day. It had been 25 days and I had been on a ventilator," Chowdhury said. WATCH | COVID-19 survivor Jay Chowdhury, in an earlier interview in August, talks about how he's still recovering months after leaving hospital Chowdhury said he has good days and bad days as he continues to recover. He is back at work, but every day is an unknown. "It hurts when I see the community going to a grocery store, still picking up produce, sniffing it and putting it back. People could be carrying COVID home," he said. "Some people don't care about the community, they only think about themselves and what they believe." Seeking help and protection The community is increasingly looking to the provincial government for help and protection. Like everywhere else in the city, the majority of residents stick to the rules, but cases in the northeast continue to rise. Last week, Premier Jason Kenney appeared on the popular northeast South Asian-focused radio station RED FM, interviewed by host Rishi Nagar. Kenney acknowledged the problem with COVID-19 in the northeast, referencing big family gatherings as a particular concern. He spent time outlining news rules and guidelines, including enforcement. "Our research is clear that by far the single largest source of COVID-19 is private social functions and at-home gatherings," said Kenney, adding it wasn't about "pointing fingers." Kenney also commented on Alberta's continued snubbing of the federal contact tracing app. "Their app is not a contact tracing app," he told listeners. "All it does is to indicate if maybe you were in the vicinity of somebody with COVID at some point in the past two weeks with no additional information." Irfan Sabir, the NDP's lone MLA in the northeast representing the riding of Calgary-McCall, said the real problem in the northeast is the province's contact tracing system — which he said is completely overwhelmed and no longer functioning. "We have a government that doesn't know where 85 per cent of cases are coming from. We are left to rely on our observations and speculate," Sabir said. "Government is failing by not investing in contact tracing and not sharing recommendations from Dr. Hinshaw, not listening to Dr. Hinshaw." "They need to step up and take this seriously. Put in place evidence-based, data-based measures. It's long past due." Sabir said northeast residents were already feeling abandoned after a huge hailstorm devastated multiple communities in the summer, leaving thousands of homes with shredded siding, damaged roofs and broken windows — many of which are still unrepaired heading into winter with no meaningful financial help from the province, despite pleas from residents. "The government needs to step up and take this outbreak seriously and do everything they can to contain this spread," he said. Rajan Sawhney, Alberta's minister of community and social services and UCP MLA for Calgary-Northeast, said her government has provided some funding for community organizations to help combat the spread of COVID-19 by raising awareness of the risks among newcomer communities and seniors' groups. She addressed her constituents in Punjabi via a Facebook video over the weekend. "Clearly, we have to do more and it's going to be a multi-level government approach to this, to spread as much awareness as we can about the new measures introduced by the premier," Sawhney said. "It's important that we break those measures down step by step in different languages, and work with our community partners and faith-based institutions." Sawnhey said her main concern is northeast communities facing stigma and shaming as case numbers continue to climb. "There shouldn't be any finger pointing, blaming, stereotyping or shaming, or thinking that somehow residents in northeast Calgary are not as concerned about their health or about following these measures," said Sawnhey. "It's just a different dynamic, and a different way people live."
In 1979, Pink Floyd released hit album, "The Wall." (Nov. 30)
SURREY, B.C. — Surrey RCMP say a man is dead following a shooting in Fleetwood Sunday evening. They say officers responded to a shooting call around 7:40 p.m. in front of a shopping complex at the corner of 152 Street and Fraser Highway. They say paramedics also attended and provided aid to a wounded man, but he died at the scene. Investigators say the victim is known to police and that they believe he was targeted. No names or suspect information was immediately released. The Mounties say they're assisting the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team with the case and are asking anyone who witnessed the incident or has pertinent video surveillance or dash-cam video to contact them. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
Canada's budget deficit is forecast to hit a historic C$381.6 billion ($293.9 billion) on COVID-19 emergency aid, with the federal government eyeing C$100 billion in stimulus to be rolled out once the virus is under control, the finance department said on Monday. The forecast deficit is 11.2% higher than projected in July, mostly due to C$25.1 billion in new COVID-19 and recovery spending, along with higher emergency support costs. "We are living through a very virulent second wave of the coronavirus and I think we all know winter will be difficult," Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters.
Shelburne Council’s recent 1.6 per cent residential tax increase projection may be un-appealing to residents in the short term, but Councillor Steve Anderson says its much need-ed for responsible future planning. Anderson noted that Shelburne has several major infrastructure projects that must be dealt with and these projects are very costly.Steve said not having a tax increase just to appease voters is, in his mind, not responsible.Somewhere down the line, someone is going to have to pay for that lack of an increase. What’s important is that you’re able to show the public that they are getting value out of that tax increase, according to Steve. Having the best underground water and sewage pipes in the world does not appease the public, they cannot see underground in-frastructure. It is something they expect to be there, it is a given. A dog park or a tennis court is something tangible that they can appreciate and use. This budget is doing that with money being put to-ward the cricket pitch, community garden, res-toration of Jack Downey Park and even a tennis court. These are tangible projects that residents have asked for and make the tax increases more palatable, while allowing Council to deal with the big infrastructure issues. In addition, the new bus service in town will be expanding and there are plans for a major marketing push to make everyone aware of the service. Apparently, the Shelburne stop, is the most popular in the entire system. With this push, comes plans for more fre-quent service and even weekend runs. In addi-tion, Go Transit discussions are still on the ta-ble with the support of Solicitor General, MPP Sylvia Jones. The reception from Go was very positive.At the moment, the two proposed routes, by the advocates, are both not viable.None of the proposed roads are built to handle the traffic and they are not owned by the Town. Amaranth is dead set against any route running through their roads and ultimately, it is a Pro-vincial decision, not a Town one.Recent talks with MPP Sylvia Jones left things somewhat murkier still, as she said that first Shelburne needed to get the County on board before involving her office. The Coun-ty most recently were less than enthusiastic to proceed saying they would prefer to wait until a County Municipal Comprehensive Review, (MCR), was completed, before moving forward. That study and any subsequent decision would easily put construction 10 years away or more.A10 ORANGEVILLE CITIZEN | NOVEMBER 26, 2020 Shelburne Councillor comments on need for tax increasePeter Richardson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
Quebec ski hills are gearing up for what could be a challenging season, especially for those located in COVID-19 red zones where restrictions are tighter.A handful of hills opened this weekend with new measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus.Skiers will have to wear face coverings inside at all times, as well as on the chair lifts and while waiting in line.There are more than 40 hills located in red zones. At those locations, there will be no eating or drinking inside the lodges.People can go inside to warm up or use the washroom, then it's right back outside.Despite the new rules, the association representing the ski hills says people are happy to be out on the mountains."The mood is relief and joy because we're back on the boards and we're able to go down the hill," said Yves Juneau, president of Quebec's association of ski areas."So, you know, putting the ski boots outside your car, not being able to go inside for the après, these are little sacrifices that people are willing to make, because at the end of the day, what really matters is to be able to go out on the slopes. And that's how people felt. They were happy."He said hills are adapting as best they can to the new circumstances."You will have food counters that are outdoors, for instance, so people can actually have something to eat outside. You will have fireplaces so that, you know, if you can't go inside, at least you'll be able to stay warm around the fireplace. Some ski areas have added temporary buildings or camps, things like that," he said.He added that skiers will need to reserve their lift ticket in advance at most ski areas, in order to manage the amount of people congregating at any given time.Juneau said businesses lost millions when they were forced to close abruptly at the start of the pandemic last spring.This season, many are hoping to make up for that lost revenue and provide a place for people to exercise safely outside."We live in a time when people need hope, and going outside and doing your favourite outdoor sport, that provided hope this weekend," he said.
Food bank usage across Ontario was already increasing in the year leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, says a new report. Then came a further surge in demand as people grappled with unemployment, closures, and loss of income throughout the pandemic. Feed Ontario's annual hunger report released on Monday analyzes food bank usage across the province, makes recommendations, and also looks at the impact of the pandemic on food banks and vulnerable populations. Following a year where people made 3.2 million visits to food banks, the number of first-time food bank visitors spiked by 26.5 per cent during the first four months of the pandemic, the report says. "That means that we're seeing brand new people who have never come to our services, and those who have already accessed our services experiencing further difficulties in life than they've already had to deal with," said executive director Carolyn Stewart. "It's extremely concerning for us."Before the pandemicBetween April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, the report said 537,575 people accessed food banks — an increase of 5.3 per cent over the previous year — and that one third of those visitors were children. Total visits amounted to 3,282,500, which is up 7.3 per cent from last year.Feed Ontario lists a lack of affordable housing, insufficient social assistance programs, and a growth in precarious employment (like part-time and casual work) as the top three drivers of food bank usage.Ontario also has the highest number of minimum wage workers in the country, Stewart added, noting precarious work has been greatly impacted by the pandemic. The report says 65.7 per cent of food bank visitors cite social assistance as their primary source of income. There has also been 44 per cent more employed people accessing food banks over the past four years. "As these numbers continue to grow, it really creates concerns for us that the income is not keeping up with what everyone needs to afford their most basic cost of living," Stewart said. "Things are becoming increasingly out of reach for everyone."Paying for housing means no financial cushionPrior to the pandemic, people were already living with the extreme stress that comes with living in poverty, stretching dollars and potentially being unable to make ends meet, Stewart said.Around 86 per cent of food bank visitors are rental or social housing tenants spend most of their monthly income on housing. Feed Ontario notes this makes it near impossible for low-income people to have savings or a "financial cushion" to offset losses during times of emergency.Coupled with a year that prompted further anxiety and called for additional expenses — like PPE, staying home for health reasons, and the loss of social services — "hundreds of thousands of people" were without the means to afford basic needs. The top three reasons people would skip meals was to help afford rent, utilities, and phone or Internet bills, the report says."I think it's extremely problematic. No one should have to make those choices. Those are impossible choices for anyone to have to make," said Stewart. Surge in demandDuring the first two months, access to food and meal support also became the number one reason people called Ontario 211 — the community and social services help line.Stewart said this might have been out of fear these essential services would be closed. But food banks have been working around the clock, she said, with limited resources and staff to meet pandemic guidelines. None have shut down. They've implemented new emergency food support programs, and upped the amount of food provided to reduce number of visits. Some also put in a home delivery service and opened a drive-thru service. Here's a look at how demand increased at different centres across the province once the pandemic hit: * The Daily Bread Food Bank in the GTA serviced nearly 20,000 people a week. * The Mississauga Food Bank saw a 120 per cent increase in first time users. * Ottawa Food Bank had 400 per cent more calls from people needing food support. * The Unemployed Help Centre in Windsor had double the amount of households access their services. * The Salvation Army in Owen Sound saw over 400 people in the first nine days of the pandemic, which is near the number of people it would service in a month. * Community Care West Niagara in Lincoln had a 20 per cent increase in those using their services. * A Sudbury Food Bank agency saw a 150 per cent jump in people accessing emergency food support.Eviction, financial challengesIn September alone, there was 10 per cent more visits to food banks compared to the same time last year. When Feed Ontario surveyed around 200 food bank visitors in September, it found one out of two food bank visitors said they were worried about facing eviction or defaulting on their mortgage in the next two to six months.One participant said, "Everything is hard. Paying rent is hard, going to the doctor is hard, accessing groceries and food are hard. Everything is so much harder now."Over 90 per cent were also navigating extreme financial challenges due to the pandemic and incurring a significant amount of debt. Ninety-three per cent of respondent were borrowing money from friends and family, accessing payday loans, or using a credit card to help pay bills. Though Feed Ontario doesn't collect data related to race, immigration or refugee status, it notes that Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by poverty and food insecurity, and are three times more likely to be food insecure than non-racialized households. Support from provincial and federal governments helped food banks meet an initial surge at the start of the pandemic, said Stewart. But as these supports wound down through summer and into fall, the numbers have increased again. The supports showed that "investing in income supports for individuals can provide that essential safety net that people need," she said. Stewart pointed to the 2008 recession where food bank usage went up by almost 30 per cent over two years. "It's never gone back down," she said, adding that the network is "quite fearful" that without those supports food bank use will grow "exponentially" over the coming months."While food banks do their very best with very little to meet the need in their communities, and they do incredible work, they do not replace good, public policy," she said. "We are not a solution to poverty." Feed Ontario says it's calling on the provincial government to: * Provide immediate support to low-income families, including developing a rent relief or payment program for tenants facing rent arrears or eviction. * Reinstate the emergency benefit for social assistance recipients. * Align Ontario's social assistance rates with the national standard set by CERB. * Develop stronger labour laws and policies, like reinstating paid sick days and quality jobs with a livable wage.
Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths. Since first emerging nearly a year ago in China, the virus has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide.Moderna is one of several companies to have already submitted partial data to a "rolling review" process offered by Health Canada. Rather than presenting regulators with a complete package of trial results, the would-be vaccine-makers file data and findings as they become available. Canada has been looking at Moderna's first results since mid-October.Canada has a different approval process than the United States and European countries, meaning that Moderna and Pfizer do not have to apply or reapply at each step. Instead, they have to submit their newest data and findings.Moderna created its shots with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and already had a hint they were working, but said it got the final needed results over the weekend that suggest the vaccine is more than 94% effective.Of 196 COVID-19 cases so far in its huge U.S. study, 185 were trial participants who received the placebo and 11 who got the real vaccine. The only people who got severely ill — 30 participants, including one who died — had received dummy shots, said Dr. Tal Zaks, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company's chief medical officer.When he learned the results, “I allowed myself to cry for the first time,” Zaks told The Associated Press. “We have already, just in the trial, have already saved lives. Just imagine the impact then multiplied to the people who can get this vaccine.”Moderna said the shots’ effectiveness and a good safety record so far — with only temporary, flu-like side effects — mean they meet requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use before the final-stage testing is complete. The European Medicines Agency, Europe’s version of FDA, has signalled it also is open to faster, emergency clearance.WHAT COMES NEXTThe FDA has pledged that before it decides to roll out any COVID-19 vaccines, its scientific advisers will publicly debate whether there’s enough evidence behind each candidate.First up on Dec. 10, Pfizer and BioNTech will present data suggesting their vaccine candidate is 95% effective. Moderna said its turn at this “science court” is expected exactly a week later, on Dec. 17.RATIONING INITIAL DOSESIf the FDA allows emergency use, Moderna expects to have 20 million doses ready for the U.S. by year’s end. Recipients will need two doses, so that’s enough for 10 million people.Pfizer expects to have 50 million doses globally in December. Half of them — or enough for 12.5 million people — are earmarked for the U.S.This week, a different panel of U.S. experts, established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will meet to decide how initial supplies will be given out. They're expected to reserve scarce first doses for health care workers and, if the shots work well enough in the frail elderly, for residents of long-term care facilities. As more vaccine gradually becomes available in coming months, other essential workers and people at highest risk from the coronavirus would get in line. But enough for the general population isn't expected until at least spring.Outside the U.S., Zaks said significant supplies from Moderna would be available later, “in the first quarter” of next year.“Obviously we are doing everything in our power to increase the capacity and accelerate the timelines,” he said.Both Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines are made with the same technology, using a piece of genetic code for the “spike” protein that studs the virus. That messenger RNA, or mRNA, instructs the body to make some harmless spike protein, training immune cells to recognize it if the real virus eventually comes along.ASTRAZENECA CONFUSIONAstraZeneca last week announced confusing early results of its vaccine candidate from research in Britain and BrazilThat vaccine appears 62% effective when tested as originally intended, with recipients given two full doses. But because of a manufacturing error, a small number of volunteers got a lower first dose — and AstraZeneca said in that group, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective.Experts say it’s unclear why the lower-dose approach would work better and that it may just be a statistical quirk.A larger U.S. study of the AstraZeneca candidate still is underway that should eventually give the FDA a better picture of how well it works. The FDA has said any COVID-19 vaccine would have to be at least 50% effective.Meanwhile Britain’s government will have to decide whether its U.K. data is sufficient for an early rollout there.STILL IN THE PIPELINEJohnson & Johnson also is in final-stage testing in the U.S. and several other countries to see if its vaccine candidate could work with just one dose.Both the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines work by using harmless cold viruses to carry the spike protein gene into the body and prime the immune system.The different technologies have ramifications for how easily different vaccines could be distributed globally. The AstraZeneca shots won't require freezer storage like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.Candidates made with still other technologies are in late-stage testing, too. Another U.S. company, Novavax Inc., announced Monday that it has finished enrolling 15,000 people in a late-stage study in Britain and plans to begin recruiting even more volunteers for final testing in the U.S. and Mexico “in the coming weeks.”Vaccines made by three Chinese companies and a Russian candidate also are being tested in thousands of people in countries around the world.____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.Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press