State Department spokesperson Ned Price says "the path for diplomacy remains open" with Iran despite reports that the country is threatening to not abide by protocols set under 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. (Feb. 17)
State Department spokesperson Ned Price says "the path for diplomacy remains open" with Iran despite reports that the country is threatening to not abide by protocols set under 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. (Feb. 17)
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool’s woeful home form is developing into a full-blown crisis after Chelsea’s 1-0 victory on Thursday inflicted a fifth straight league loss at Anfield on the Premier League champions — the worst run in the club’s 128-year history. With Liverpool's title defence already over, this was billed as a battle for a Champions League place and Mason Mount’s 42nd-minute goal lifted Chelsea back into the top four. Chelsea’s previous win at Anfield, in 2014, effectively ended the title hopes of Brendan Rodgers’ side. This one was a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a top-four finish under Jurgen Klopp. Klopp’s side is four points adrift of Chelsea and with Everton and West Ham also ahead. Liverpool has now gone more than 10 hours without a goal from open play at Anfield. The hosts failed to register an effort on target until the 85th minute and Georginio Wijnaldum’s weak header was never going to beat Edouard Mendy. They have taken one point from the last 21 on offer at home since Christmas and scored just two goals, one of which was a penalty. None of Liverpool's established front three — Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino — impressed but the sight of Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer, being substituted just past the hour mark was baffling. The Egypt international certainly thought so as he sat shaking his head, having been replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Chelsea, by contrast, looked full of threat with Timo Werner — a player Liverpool was interested in but decided it could not afford last summer — a constant problem. Despite one goal in his previous 17 league outings, he caused problems with his movement, drifting out to the left then popping into the middle to give Fabinho a real headache on his return to the side. The Brazil midfielder, replacing Nat Phillips after he became the latest centre back to pick up an injury, was partnering Ozan Kabak in Liverpool’s 15th different central-defensive starting partnership in 27 league matches. Faced with a statistic like that, it is perhaps understandable why there was a lack of cohesion at the back and Werner should really have profited. He fired one early shot over and then failed to lift his effort over Alisson Becker, back in goal after the death of his father in Brazil last week. Even when Werner did beat Alisson, VAR ruled the Germany international’s arm had been offside 20 yards earlier in the build-up. Liverpool’s one chance fell to Mane but Salah’s first-time ball over the top got caught under his feet and Mane missed his shot with only Mendy to beat. Chelsea was still controlling the game and caught Liverpool on the counterattack when N’Golo Kante quickly sent a loose ball out to the left wing, from where Mount cut inside to beat Alisson having been given far too much time to pick his spot. All five of Mount’s league goals have come away from home. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel spent the first five minutes of the second half screaming at his players to press harder and play higher up the pitch but Liverpool’s players were equally vocal when Firmino’s cross hit the raised arm of Kante from close range. No penalty was awarded. Andy Robertson cleared off the line from Hakim Ziyech after Alisson parried Ben Chilwell’s shot as Chelsea continued to look more dangerous. Klopp’s attempt to change the direction of the game saw him send on Diogo Jota for his first appearance in three months, along with Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jota’s first touch was a half-chance from a deep cross but he was not sharp enough to take it. Werner, meanwhile, was doing everything but score as Alisson’s leg saved another shot as he bore down on goal. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
One person has died after a camper van caught fire at a park in Victoria early Thursday. Victoria police were called to Beacon Hill Park downtown shortly after 8 a.m. PT. Firefighters were already on scene trying to put out the flames in a camper van with red and silver stripes. One person was found dead, according to a statement from police. Alex Painter witnessed the fire Thursday morning and is organizing with other van dwellers to provide fire safety equipment to those who can't afford it.(Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC) Alex Painter lives in a van that was parked nearby and says he awoke to the sound of city staff trying to wake the occupant of the burning van. "By the time I actually got out of my van, there were six-foot flames shooting out the roof," he said Painter, a member of a #Vanlife group said after the fire this morning he and several other members have been discussing buying smoke detectors and mini fire extinguishers to hand out to people living in their vehicles who can't afford them. 'Honest dependable man' William McDougall was a friend of the man who died. He says his friend's death is a tragedy made worse by the fact he was waiting to get housing that never came.(Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC) William McDougall knew the deceased. He said his friend was in his 50s and had spent his life as a merchant marine sailor. "He was an honest dependable man that you could trust and had your back when you needed it," said McDougall, fighting back tears. McDougall says his friend's death is tragic, made worse by the fact he was waiting to get housing that never came. "He got on all the lists with Pacifica Housing and B.C. Housing and he would phone them every week. And he really did want a place and he was always disappointed when it didn't come through," said McDougall The force's major crime unit is now investigating. No further information was released.
Vancouver's parks board is taking action to control the increasing numbers of messy and aggressive Canada geese. A statement from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation says it is developing a management plan to reduce the number of geese in city parks, beaches and on the seawall. The board is particularly concerned about humans feeding the birds, saying it brings flocks of geese to high-traffic areas such as Stanley Park and the beaches of English Bay and Sunset Beach. A key part of the management plan asks residents to identify Canada goose nests on private property so they can be removed or the eggs can be addled, and left in the nest so adults continue to brood, rather than lay again. The board estimates Vancouver's population of more than 3,500 Canada geese grows every year because the habitat is ideal and the birds have no natural predators. Several Okanagan cities are asking permission to cull growing flocks of Canada geese that foul area beaches and parks, but Vancouver's board says egg addling, a measure supported by the SPCA, is its only control measure. In addition to calling for public help in identifying nests, which can be on roofs, balconies or in tall, topped trees, the park board is urging people not to feed Canada geese. “Supplemental feeding by humans can also contribute to geese being able to lay more than one clutch of eight eggs per season; meaning that if one clutch does not hatch, they can replace it," the statement says. "In nature, without food from humans, this wouldn’t happen." Canada geese have inefficient digestive systems and the parks board says the birds produce more excrement for their size than most other species. The park board says it hopes to step up egg addling, saying wildlife specialists believe the practice must be tripled in order to cut Vancouver's goose populations. A web page has been created on the City of Vancouver website to report the location of nests so they can be removed or the eggs can be addled. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
One of Canada's top public health officials sought to reassure Canadians today that a recommendation from a federal vaccine advisory committee to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses is a sound one. Yesterday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months due to limited supplies. Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the advice is based on real-world data that shows doing so would lead to more people being protected from COVID-19 in a shorter time period. "This recommendation is based on clinical trial reports and emerging real-world evidence from around the world. Data shows that several weeks after being administered, first doses of vaccines provide highly effective protection against symptomatic disease, hospitalization and death," Njoo told a technical briefing today. Confusion over conflicting advice Njoo's comments appeared to be addressing the confusion created by the fact that NACI's recommendation conflicts with those issued by Health Canada when it granted regulatory approvals for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Regulatory documents provided by Health Canada upon approval of each vaccine state that the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech should be taken three weeks after the first, the second Moderna shot should come four weeks after the first, and the second AstraZeneca dose should be delivered between four and 12 weeks after the first. All of those recommendations are in line with the product monograph provided by the manufacturers. Adding to the confusion, NACI recommended on Monday against giving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people 65 and older, although Health Canada has authorized it for use in adults of all ages. But Njoo said the discrepancies can be explained by the fact that Health Canada is a regulator and NACI is an advisory body made up of medical experts. "You have likely noticed that NACI's recommendations are sometimes different, possibly broader or narrower than the conditions of vaccine use that Health Canada has authorized. As the regulator, Health Canada authorizes each vaccine for use in Canada according to factors based on clinical trial evidence, whereas NACI bases its guidance on the available and evolving evidence in a real-world context, including the availability of other vaccines," Njoo said. "What we expect is that NACI recommendations will complement — not mirror — those of Health Canada." WATCH: Njoo comments on NACI recommendation to delay second COVID-19 vaccine doses The issue burst into the open on Monday when B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Some medical experts questioned that decision. Canada's chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, said doing so without proper clinical trials amounts to a "population level experiment." Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., told the Washington Post that the science doesn't support delaying a second dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. He said there isn't enough evidence to determine how much protection is provided by one dose of those vaccines, and how long it lasts. Despite those warnings, several provinces followed Henry's lead and even more have indicated they intend to stretch the dosage interval. While it appeared to some at the time that Henry was moving faster than the science, Njoo said that NACI's experts briefed provincial medical officers of health over the weekend on the results of their analysis before releasing their recommendations publicly. NACI concluded that stretching the dosing interval to four months would allow up to 80 per cent of Canadians over the age of 16 to receive a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June, without compromising vaccine effectiveness. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. As for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Njoo said it is safe and that evidence shows it provides protection against very serious disease and death in people of all ages. He said Health Canada has a rigorous scientific review process and only approves vaccines that meet high standards for safety, efficacy and quality. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said expert advice will continue to change as more data becomes available from ongoing mass vaccination campaigns, and she urged provinces and territories to consider recommendations and evidence from both bodies when making decisions about their vaccine strategies. "The messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message and it never changed, but that's not what science does," said Sharma. Decision on Johnson and Johnson imminent At today's briefing, health officials also indicated that a regulatory decision on whether to approve Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine is expected soon. "The review of the Johnson & Johnson submission is going very well, it's progressing, and we're expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days. I would say in the next seven days or so," said Sharma. The company has said its vaccine is 66 per cent effective at preventing moderate to severe illness in a global clinical trial, and much more effective — 85 per cent — against the most serious symptoms. Canada has agreed to purchase up to 38 million doses if it is approved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for use in that country last Saturday. The approval of a fourth vaccine would give a significant boost to Canada's vaccine rollout. Johnson and Johnson's vaccine is widely seen as one of the easiest to administer because it requires only one dose and can be stored for long periods of time at regular refrigerator temperatures. Njoo said additional vaccines, coupled with the NACI recommendation on dosage intervals, could allow Canada to meet the goal of inoculating all adults who want a vaccine "several weeks" before the current target date of the end of September. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading Canada's COVID-19 vaccine logistics, said that while more vaccines would be good news, the current target remains the end of September.
Hinton’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is encouraging Hintonites to get outside in the spring air and visit a neighbour as part of the new Saturday Driveway initiative. For those who want to participate, all they have to do is set up some lawn chairs and maybe a propane campfire in their front yard and wait for a neighbour to come by for a visit. People can freely decide if they’d like to go walking around their neighbourhood on a Saturday afternoon or evening with a curiosity if they’ll encounter a host. “The number one goal is always going to be social connection. We recognize that we’re having less in-person conversations than we probably did prior to the pandemic. We just appreciate how important it is to talk to other people,” said Lisa Brett, FCSS community connections coordinator. Secondly, the initiative is about building neighbourhoods, Brett added. FCSS hopes this neighbourhood project will help strengthen trusting relationships between neighbours. “A lot of us don’t know our neighbours. So this is an opportunity to introduce ourselves and if we do know our neighbours then this is an opportunity to build on that,” Brett said. The Saturday Driveway initiative kicks off this Saturday, March 6, and FCSS hopes to promote it for the next three months. Brett hopes the initiative will help individuals get used to the idea of hanging out in their front yard on Saturday afternoons and evenings, being neighbourly, and respecting COVID-19 restrictions. Hinton’s FCSS reached out to St. Albert who had a similar project early in the pandemic, and they shared their positive experience and resources. Brett noted the initiative can play an important role in combating isolation that has become more prevalent the past year. “I recognize you can be isolated and not feel lonely. In other scenarios people feel lonely where they’re feeling more empty and separated and that emotion can be quite powerful,” Brett said. Positive interactions among neighbours can also help individuals feel safer in their neighbourhood and realize they can rely on a neighbour in an emergency, she added. She hopes the idea will help the community stave off loneliness, foster connection, and boost happiness in a time where everybody is pulling back due to government mandated COVID-19 restrictions. People can now gather with a group up to 10 while social distancing and wearing masks. “It’s just really about sparking an idea in people rather than telling them what to do. This might only attract certain people or certain personalities but the outcomes are unknown. It’s a hopeful project, it’s about kindness and being welcoming to all people,” Brett said. The Town offers posters to promote the initiative and also one that individuals could hang on their door or mailbox to let others know when they will be hosting a Saturday Driveway event. Hintonites can participate on their own and self-manage their driveway event. “There’s a lot of freedom and liberty involved as long as they recognize that we’re still under COVID-19 [restrictions],” Brett said. RCMP and Fire Department are aware of the project and COVID-19 restrictions were also considered when putting the concept together. A portable fire pit is permissible but if someone chooses to have a real fire, they must read the fire bylaw link on hinton.ca/fcss and adhere to its fire safety precautions. Posters to participate are available at the FCSS office to pick up or for print from the Town of Hinton website. The principle way to know if someone is hosting a Saturday Driveway is that a participant is visibly set up in their driveway or front yard welcoming neighbours to stroll by and have a chat. Being masked and remaining six feet apart must be part of the interactions. Currently, outdoor gatherings allow up to 10 people. Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice
York Region’s vaccination rollout to all residents 80 years of age and older hit a snag within two hours of its launch on Monday morning with approximately 20,000 appointments snapped up within the first two hours. By noon on Monday, Patrick Casey, Director of Corporate Communications for the Region of York, said that the 20,000 appointments booked on March 1 accounts for the current supply of vaccines in the Region and, as more vaccines become available, they will resume booking appointments for this demographic. This week, the Region and local hospitals began offering vaccines to those born in or before 1941 at several clinics across the community, including Newmarket’s Ray Twinney Complex, operated by Southlake Regional Health Centre; Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, operated by Mackenzie Health; and at Markham’s Cornell Community Centre. As they prepared for Monday’s rollout, two additional community clinics were opened the Richmond Green Sports Centre in Richmond Hill and, come Wednesday, March 3, at Georgina Ice Palace. “With support from our hospital partners and additional vaccine supply, we are very pleased to open more clinics ahead of schedule,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health. “We understand there is a large volume of interest for vaccines and we thank everyone for their patience as we expand opportunities as vaccine becomes available.” Those who were unable to book one of the 20,000 slots on Monday will have to exercise some additional patience until further supply rolls in. “At this time, residents are urged to remain patient and will be notified as more appointment bookings become available,” said Mr. Casey. In his weekly update on COVID-19, Dr. Kurji hailed the Region’s efforts in getting vaccine registration up and running before the Province’s registration system is formally launched later this month. “We have certainly come a long way. After receiving permission from Retired General Hillier and the Province, York Region is moving forward with our COVID-19 mass immunization plan,” he said. “To be eligible, you must be 80 years of age or older, and be a resident of York Region. However, I must stress these vaccinations are by appointment only. Walk-in appointments are not available. Please do not attend a clinic without booking an appointment. Residents who are not able or comfortable booking an online appointment are encouraged to seek support from a family member, friend or caregiver who can assist with the booking. “We understand there is a lot of interest for vaccines in this priority group, but we ask for your patience. We expect our website will experience higher than normal volume and we apologize in advance for any delays you experience. If you do experience a delay, please do not call us or the hospitals as it will cause more delays. Please just wait and try again later. To ensure vaccines will be available for all those 80 years of age and older, please do not make more than one appointment or appointments at multiple clinics.” Immunization, he added, is the best way to protect ourselves from the virus. “We continue in Phase 1 of the Provincial vaccine distribution plan,” he continued. “To date, we have invited health care workers in the highest and very high priority groups and now residents 80+ for vaccination. Vaccine supplies are becoming steadier and with the recent approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we expect the supply to increase. York Region has been planning ahead to ensure we can get as many vaccines into many people’s arms as quickly as possible when adequate vaccine supply is available. As vaccine supply increases, more clinics across York Region will open. “We know residents are anxious and eager, but we ask for your patience as we immunize those who are most vulnerable and at highest risk of acquiring COVID-19.” For more on how to register for your appointment, or how to help others who may not be able to access the portal themselves, visit York.ca/Covid19Vaccine. As of Tuesday, March 2, Aurora has seen a total of 951 cases of COVID-19, 32 of which remain active. There have been 879 recoveries and 40 deaths. Of the remaining active cases, 30 are attributed to local transmission and close contact, and 2 to workplace cluster. At press time, there were zero reported cases of COVID-19 in long-term care settings. Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
This year the War Amps Key Tag Service will be celebrating its 75th anniversary. Launched in 1946, the Key Tag Service was developed to provide returning war amputee veterans work for competitive wages and generating funds for the associations’ programs like the War Amps Child Amputee Program (CHAMP), by providing service to Canadians. To date, the Key Tag Service has returned more than 1.5 million sets of lost keys to their owners and continues to employ amputees and people with disabilities. The Key Tag Service is free, but donations enable the association to operate its many programs for amputees, children and veterans. “I was born a left arm amputee and was enrolled in The War Amps Child Amputee Program at a very young age,” explained War Amps Regional Representative Christine McMaster. “The CHAMP Program helped me connect with other amputees like myself. Together we helped each other. Together we learned that we could do anything and our amputation was not going to stop us.” Each key tag has a confidentially coded number that allows the finder of lost keys to call the toll-free number on the tag or place them in any Canadian mailbox, and the War Amps will return the keys to their owner, free of charge. The War Amps Key Tag Service is not supported by government grants and its many programs benefitting amputees, veterans and children are made possible through the public’s support and donations. The War Amps Child Amputee Program, or CHAMP, offers comprehensive services such as financial assistance for artificial limbs, regional seminars and peer support to child amputees and their families. “We’d like to thank the public for helping to make the Key Tag Service a success,” said spokesperson Rob Larman, Graduate of the Association’s Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program. “Your support funds essential programs for children, veterans and all amputees across Canada.” The War Amps 2021 Key Tags will be mailed to Eastern Ontario residents distributed to residents in the K postal code zone beginning March 8th. Residents interested in donating to the War Amps can do so by visiting waramps.ca or by calling 1 800 250-3030. Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
Julien Longhi décrypte certains processus d'argumentation clefs et usages de termes qui rythment la vie politique.
Ontario says pharmacies in three public heath units, including Toronto, will begin giving out COVID-19 vaccines next week. Health Minister Christine Elliott says many of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses expected to arrive in the province will go to the pharmacies for the pilot program. Canada received 500,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca this week and Ontario has said those doses will be given to people between the ages of 60 and 64. Elliott says the province is currently updating its vaccine rollout, based on the expected Oxford-AstraZeneca doses as well as a national panel's recommendation that the interval between vaccine shots can be stretched to four months. She says the updated immunization plan will be shared "imminently." The Ontario Pharmacists Association says the vaccination pilot will begin with approximately 380 pharmacies in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex health units. CEO Justin Bates says pharmacies will use their own booking systems to make appointments, likely starting with people between the ages of 60 and 64, and the program will eventually scale up. The report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Health experts are concerned the general public may be focusing on the wrong figures when analyzing the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. And they worry that will lead to unnecessary hesitancy at a time when Canada's inoculation rollout needs to ramp up. The recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and the shot by Johnson & Johnson that could be next in line for authorization, showed 62 and 72 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID-19 infections in their respective clinical trials. Compared to the 95 per cent effectiveness of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, it seems like a glaring difference. But experts stress that when it comes to preventing COVID hospitalization or death, data from trials showed all four vaccines were perfect. "Those are the outcomes that Canadians ought to be focused on, because that's really what we care about preventing," said Charles Weijer, a bioethicist at Western University. Weijer says he understands why the public is gravitating towards those figures, since we're used to efficacy in terms of treatments for disease. A cancer treatment that's 95 per cent effective would be preferable to one that's 60 or 70 per cent, he said, but vaccines and other public health interventions need to be analyzed differently. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Mississauga, Ont., says efficacy in a trial is calculated by comparing the number of people who got COVID after receiving a vaccine to the number of those who got it after being given a placebo. Many of those who did become infected after getting a vaccine in the trials experienced mild illness, according to the data, which Chakrabarti says isn't a big concern. Getting hung up on the wrong figures can be problematic, he adds, if it leads to a perception that the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are inferior. "When you look at deaths and hospitalization, it doesn't matter if it was Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna, it was freaking amazing" Chakrabarti said. "Thousands of participants in the treatment arm of the trials, and not a single person died, not a single person was hospitalized." Chakrabarti says the timing of the trials may have impacted efficacy, with Pfizer and Moderna testing its product when the COVID burden was relatively lower in parts of the world. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, meanwhile, had their trials later when circulation was increasing, and more transmissible variants were spreading at a rapid pace. While that could mean the efficacy of mRNA vaccines in preventing infection is lower than 95 per cent, Chakrabarti says it doesn't change the zero hospitalizations and deaths shown in their trials. Those will be the key numbers going forward, he says. While case numbers may continue to increase through Canada's vaccine rollout, restrictions could lift as deaths and hospitalizations drop. "Right now we have three tools that prevent death and hospitalization that can help us get out of this situation," Chakrabarti said. "So my message is just get whichever vaccine you can get first." Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said this week that it didn't recommend the AstraZeneca jab for those over the age of 65, arguing the trials didn't offer enough efficacy evidence in that age group. Health Canada said days earlier that real-world data suggests the shot is effective in older populations. France and Germany, which didn't initially recommend AstraZeneca for seniors, have since reversed that decision. Weijer says while the messaging with AstraZeneca may have taken a step back this week, there's opportunity moving forward to present other vaccines in terms of the metrics that matter most. Weijer says the ease of a single-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson's could be "hugely important" for Canada's vaccine rollout. But people need to be willing to take it. "If individuals are thinking, 'Well, I'm gonna hold out for a vaccine that I perceive to be better,' that's a mistake," Weijer said. "The key is getting all of us vaccinated as quickly as possible." Chakrabarti anticipates some will dismiss the AstraZeneca jab, adding that those responsible for administering the vaccine need to set up Plan Bs to make sure doses aren't wasted. While he's concerned the "well has been poisoned" around AstraZeneca, Chakrabarti says it's up to public health messaging experts to reverse that going forward. "If we put these vaccines on a level playing field and look at the same important metrics, they are all performing the same," he said. "That's what the messaging should be." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
FREDERICTON — Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today. Three of the cases are in the Edmundston region, while the Moncton and Miramichi regions each have one new case. There are now 36 active cases in the province and three patients are hospitalized, including two in intensive care. A recently reported presumptive case of a variant in the Miramichi region has been confirmed by Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory to be the B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom. Mass testing clinics have been set up in the Miramichi area to determine if there has been any further spread of the virus. Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been 1,443 confirmed cases in New Brunswick and 28 COVID-19-related deaths, This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Current promotional program fees for Hinton’s pool at the recreation centre have been reduced by 50 per cent until at least April 6, 2021. On April 6, Council will review the fees and make adjustments as they see fit. The recent increase in fees made it difficult for some families to afford using the facility, stated council during the regular council meeting on March 2. The fees were implemented by administration to make up for lost revenue due to COVID-19 restrictions only allowing one household to use the pool area at a time. “A full facility rental rate is very cost prohibitive. The daily rates are established on more than one to three occupants in the pool or other recreation facility at a time. It’s not enough to offset the cost of operating,” said CAO Emily Olsen. Administration created the promotional program to allow at least some costs to be recouped through an additional fee. Daily rates stay the same but the program offsets the costs of lifeguards on duty, administrative staff, and minimizes the losses seen with the daily rate, Olsen explained. “It was a creative response or solution to allow opening under the restrictions as best as we can to promote health and wellness in the community and allow for families and individuals to utilize the facility,” said Olsen. Reservation fees for 30 minute increments were $10 for pass holders and $20 for non pass holders. This will now be half the price. Currently, there are half hour or one hour time slots available at the pool from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm and 6:30pm to 7:30pm. To abide by provincial COVID-19 restrictions, these reservations allow one individual or one household access to the entire main pool and steam room for fitness purposes. “I appreciate the work that administration has put into opening the facility and trying to come up with an operating plan and pricing that keeps it within the 2021 budget, but we also have some unallocated MOST funds that I feel might be able to offset these additional costs,” said Coun. Tyler Waugh. Council made a direction to recoup lost revenue from the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) Program. The Town of Hinton, along with many other municipalities, received funding through MOST from the provincial government to help offset the COVID-19 related losses for 2020. A portion of the MOST funds was put into a reserve and council is set to make a decision on how to use these funds in April. Not all councilors were immediately on board with spending MOST dollars on subsidizing the pool rates as there are several other initiatives that require support from the funds. “I certainly struggle with limiting the types of people that have access to a public facility, especially one that encourages better physical and mental health. That said, I’d rather be open than closed, I like that we’re going to have an opportunity to get some data on usage and potentially more creative solutions down the road as restrictions continue to change,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson. He suggested looking at the data to discount certain time blocks at the pool that see less usage. Mayor Marcel Michaels stated that many families were priced out of using the facility, and that making a decision on lowering the rates was pressing. By lowering the rate, the pool may also see better usage, he added. Without a report or knowing the financial repercussions of lowering the rates Coun. Trevor Haas and Coun. Albert Ostashek felt it was difficult to slash the rates in half at this meeting. Olsen noted that while it will have a financial impact, it’s unclear what that impact will be. “We’re looking for a price point that can hit the economic reality of the citizens in our community and I think that’s what we’re struggling to find,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn. High rates won’t generate any usage and revenue in the facility, Maguhn added. Olsen added that Step three of Alberta’s plan to lift restrictions is also set for three weeks from now, which may change restrictions for the pool. Laura Howarth, Hinton director of community service noted that the Town offers support for families that need support. “We work with FCSS or people contact us directly. Please encourage families that you are aware of that really want to come to the rec centre but it’s not affordable, and any other time it’s not affordable either, we definitely have the opportunity and are willing and supportive of those families,” Howarth said. To reserve a spot at the pool, register online at hinton.ca/rec or contact Customer Service at 780-865-4412. Reservations have to be made one day prior to the time slot. Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice
There are now seven more cases at the Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC). The cases are still contained to the same unit where the initial 14 were identified over the weekend, said Richard Dionne, president of the CNCC Local 369. The corrections officer said he could not share the total number of inmates in that wing, but noted that the area remains isolated. "I don't know the full count and I can't give it to you anyway for security reasons," said Dionne, speaking to MidlandToday. He said he was thankful that no staff cases have been identified at this time. "Hopefully, it stays that way," said Dionne. "The health unit came in the other day to offer voluntary staff testing. I don't know how many staff got tested, but none of those that did, to my knowledge, have come back positive." He said the same safety protocols are being followed with staff wearing increased PPE when interacting with inmates and those incarcerated being provided with masks if needed. "There haven't been any additional measures put into place right now," said Dionne. As for the virus possibly spreading in the air, he said, every unit functions independently in terms of ventilation. "I'm very hopeful we can contain it to the one unit and not have it spread to the entire institution," Dionne said, adding the stress level among staff remains high. "The workload has increased just based on the way that the operation changes because we're limiting day-room use and following protocol around higher use of PPE. And it's also the same for inmates, he added. "They just get more and more frustrated being locked down," Dionne said. "Increased cell time is never good for anyone. That's been put out there by a number of professionals that time locked in the cell by yourself or with one other person isn't beneficial." A request for comment from the province was not received by publication time. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador's chief electoral officer is defending a decision to hand-deliver some special ballot kits to people in his St. John's neighbourhood. Bruce Chaulk says he doesn't see any problem delivering ballots to about six people, including Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie and Liberal Finance Minister Siobhan Coady. He says he noticed the addresses were on his way home and didn't go out of his way. Elections NL moved to special mail-in ballots after cancelling in-person voting on Feb. 12, following a surge in COVID-19 cases in the capital region. Memorial University of Newfoundland political science professor Amanda Bittner says the optics are bad. She says some rural residents fear they may not be able to deliver their ballots on time while Chaulk is hand-delivering ballots to people who live in his upper-middle-class neighbourhood. Ballots must be postmarked by March 12, and Chaulk says some people are hand-delivering theirs to Elections NL to make sure they are received on time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are setting aside some of the billions of dollars planned in short-term transit spending to help municipalities further green their bus fleets. The hope is that the $2.75 billion in traditional grant money will dovetail with the $1.5 billion an infrastructure-financing agency is supposed to invest toward the same cause. Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna says the grant money is supposed to help cover the upfront cost of purchasing electric buses to replace the diesel-powered ones rumbling through Canadian streets. She says federal funding has helped cities buy 300 buses and the government hopes the funding will help them add 5,000 zero-emission buses over the next five years. But she acknowledged there are added costs that need to be addressed, including having charging stations on transit routes and in existing depots. The Liberals are hoping cities then turn to the Canada Infrastructure Bank to finance the cost of the remaining work. The bank's chief executive, Ehren Cory, says the energy savings expected from not having to buy diesel could, for instance, be used to pay off a low-interest loan from his agency. "It's quite a from-the-ground-up reinvestment and the savings will pay for a lot of that, but not for all of it," he said, via video link. "That's why the combination of a grant from the government, a subsidy, combined with a loan against savings together will allow us to get the most done, allow us to make wholesale change quickly and do so at minimal impact to taxpayers." Garth Frizzell, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, welcomed the funding as a way to speed up work in cities to replace diesel buses. "We are already putting more electric vehicles on our streets, and this major funding to electrify transit systems across the country will reduce GHG emissions, boost local economies, and help meet Canada’s climate goals," he said in a statement. McKenna made the same connections multiple times during an event Thursday in Ottawa, where she stood near the city's mayor, Jim Watson, with Cory and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne joining by videoconference. Joanna Kyriazis, senior policy adviser at Clean Energy Canada, noted that the investments could help the country's six electric-bus manufacturers scale up to compete internationally. “As Canada develops its battery supply chain — from raw metal and mineral resources to our North-America-leading battery recycling companies — we must build the market for electric vehicles and their batteries at home," she said in a statement. The Liberals are promising billions in permanent transit funding as part of a post-pandemic recovery, including $3 billion annually in a transit fund starting in five years. Cities have seen transit ridership plummet through the pandemic as chunks of the labour force work remotely. Demand for single-family homes well outside urban cores suggests some workers are expecting remote work to become a more regular fixture of their post-pandemic work lives. McKenna said her thinking about public transit hasn't been changed by that shift, saying her only thought is that Canada needs more and better systems. It's up to cities and transit agencies to set routes and priorities, she said. "The reality is many of our essential workers have no other option than to take public transit. And I think we've recognized how important it is for people to be able to get around in a safe way," McKenna said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
The Nunavut government reported 10 new COVID-19 cases in the territory, according to a news release issued Thursday. All the cases are in Arviat, which now has 14 active cases. There have also been four recoveries. "Now that they've had this period of curfew the numbers are dropping," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said in an update to media, Thursday afternoon. "I know today is not the news that everyone wanted to hear. But remember it was 25 cases on Thursday last week, 14 today, [and] still no evidence of uncontrolled transmission," he continued. "So if things continue on this way we can look at working with the hamlet to ease some of the measures next week." Arviat has seen, by far, more cases than any other community in the territory since the start of the pandemic. The hamlet has had 325 of the territory's total 369 confirmed cases. The territory says everyone currently infected is doing well and isolating at home. Contact tracing is ongoing. There is no evidence of community transmission or of vaccine failure, Patterson said. Failure would mean that someone contracted COVID-19 two weeks or more after being vaccinated. The territory is not sharing how many people have been vaccinated in the community. 'Reach out to friends and family by phone, text and virtually' "Arviat — lockdown has been long and tiring. I know how hard you're working and how difficult this has been. For those with COVID-19, please remain isolated and stay focused on protecting your loved ones and community," said Premier Joe Savikataaq in a statement. "All Nunavummiut are rooting for Arviarmiut, and we are here to support you. Reach out to friends and family by phone, text and virtually. Let's get the spread of the virus under control with positivity and determination." In a statement accompanying Thursday's release, Patterson said health teams are still working "around the clock" in Arviat to trace the links between the cases. Patterson says health authorities could start working with the hamlet to ease restrictions in Arviat as early as next week.(Beth Brown/CBC ) "Isolation and participation in the test, trace and isolate process are our best defenses and must be taken seriously. I want to remind Arviarmiut the importance of cooperating with all public health measures to keep your friends, family, and community safe." Rapid testing kits are being sent to at-risk and isolated communities like Arviat and Sanikiluaq, as well as to communities with an elder care home. There have been 2,419 negative tests in Arviat as of Thursday. So far, 8,628 Nunavummiut have received at least one dose of the Moderna vaccine, and 5,125 Nunavummiut have received at least two doses. Territory aims to finish second dose clinics in April Vaccine clinics in the territory are ongoing. The territory said it has received 2,6000 doses so far. Community clinics for second doses will extend into next month. "We'll have enough doses to vaccinate 75 per cent of the population by the end of the month, but we won't have two clinics in every community by the end of March. There will be some going into April," Patterson said. This was always going to be the case, he said, because the last shipment is expected to arrive partway through the month. Nunavut's Minister of Health Lorne Kusugak will have an announcement about further vaccination plans on Friday in the Legislative Assembly. Residents who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can call their health centre for an appointment, the territory says. Kusugak extended the territory's public health emergency until March 18. Kusugak said Thursday that the government is working to avoid burn out for its health staff in Arviat, and to support the mental health of resident in lockdown. Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call the COVID-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or immediately notify their community health centre right away, and isolate at home for 14 days. People are asked not to go to the health centre in person.
BOSTON — Distance running, traditionally one of the world's most genteel sports, has been roiled by an ugly mid-pandemic squabble over who should get a shot at a coveted Boston Marathon medal. Rival camps in the running world began snapping at each other's heels this week. It began after the Boston Athletic Association, which still hopes to hold a truncated in-person edition of the planet's most prestigious footrace in October, said it will award medals to up to 70,000 athletes if they go the distance wherever they are. Practically within minutes of the BAA's announcement greatly expanding its virtual version of the race, a boisterous social media maelstrom ensued. On one side: Runners who've spent years training to qualify to run the real thing, including some who complain that mailing medals to people who run the 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometres) in Dallas or Denver will cheapen the iconic Boston experience. “A dagger through the heart to someone who has worked hard to finally earn the qualifying standard,” one runner, Mark Howard of Salisbury, North Carolina, groused on Twitter. On the other: Pretty much everyone else, including the plodding masses and runners who raise millions for charities, who counter that anything that helps the 125-year-old marathon survive the COVID-19 crisis is worthwhile. “A virtual Boston race that invites everyone is a reason to celebrate,” said Maria Arana, a marathoner and coach in Phoenix. “It in no way takes away from my personal Boston Marathon experience or anyone else’s.” The bickering seems to have caught many off-guard, if only because road racing has long had a reputation as a kind and egalitarian sport. It's one of the few disciplines where ordinary amateurs compete in real time on the same course as elite professionals, and where trash-talking is rare. As four-time Boston champion Bill Rodgers famously said: “Running is a sport where everyone gets along.” A notable exception to that gentility was the 1967 race, when race director Jock Semple ran after Kathrine Switzer — the first woman to run with an official bib number — and tried unsuccessfully to pull her off the course. It also comes as the Boston Marathon and other big-city races are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic and looking for creative ways to keep runners engaged online. The BAA put on a virtual version of the marathon last year, after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to first postpone its usual April running to September, and then cancel in-person racing altogether. But that was limited to athletes who had already qualified to race or had registered as charity runners. This time, the first 70,000 people aged 18 or older who sign up and pay a fee will be able to earn a finisher's medal simply by covering the classic distance wherever they happen to be. They don't even need to run — they can walk. “For the first time in our history, most everyone will have the opportunity to earn a Unicorn finisher’s medal,” BAA president and CEO Tom Grilk said in a statement. Grilk said the in-person race, if it comes off as scheduled on Oct. 11, will have a reduced field to help keep athletes and spectators safe. Typically the Boston field is capped at around 30,000; the BAA hasn't said how much smaller it will be this autumn. Josh Sitzer, a San Francisco runner who's qualified for the Boston Marathon three times, initially was among those who trashed the idea of giving out 70,000 medals as “a blatant money grab.” “Respect yourself and the game. Don’t do Boston unless you earn it,” he tweeted. Then he had a change of heart, tweeting: “I was wrong. It's not the same as the actual Boston Marathon, and it doesn't devalue” the experience of those who meet strict qualifying standards for a chance to line up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. It's been a bad look, acknowledges Erin Strout, who covers the sport for WomensRunning.com. “If there ever was a time to put our elitism and cynicism aside, it’s now,” she wrote in an opinion piece. “Let’s welcome each other in, cheer each other on, and seize the opportunity to bring back running bigger, better, and more inclusive than it was before.” ___ This story has been corrected to delete a reference to a $70 entry fee for the virtual marathon; organizers say they haven't yet decided on entry fees. ___ Follow AP New England editor Bill Kole on Twitter at http://twitter.com/billkole. William J. Kole, The Associated Press
YELLOWKNIFE — Residents of the Northwest Territories who are from Norman Wells and Fort Simpson can now self-isolate at home if they leave the territory. A previous public-health order required anyone who left N.W.T. to isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River or Inuvik. The territory's chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, says the order was changed because Norman Wells and Fort Simpson both have a wastewater surveillance program to test for COVID-19. The two communities also have adequate medical resources to support new infections. Kandola says only residents of Normal Wells and Fort Simpson will be allowed to self-isolate there. They must also submit a self-isolation plan to the territory's public-health office. There are currently two active cases of COVID-19 in the territory. The Canadian Press