A beautiful day for skating in Goulais Bay, ON.
A beautiful day for skating in Goulais Bay, ON.
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says 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 in order to boost the number of Canadians being vaccinated. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that means going from a three week interval to a full four months. "NACI recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine up to four months after the first," the committee said in a statement. Prior to this new recommendation, NACI had said that the maximum interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for the Pfizer-BioNTech product should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. "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. Since first doses of all three vaccines have been shown to dramatically increase immunity to the disease, or to significantly reduce the illness associated with contracting COVID-19, the committee said stretching the interval would help protect more Canadians sooner. NACI said that it reviewed evidence from two clinical trials that looked at how effective the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were after a single dose. Those studies, NACI said, showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines started providing some level of protection 12 to 14 days after the first dose. By the time the second dose was administered — 19 to 42 days after the first — the first shot was shown to be 92 per cent effective. Population studies find lower protection Outside of clinical trials, NACI looked at the effectiveness of a single shot of these two vaccines in the populations of Quebec, British Columbia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. NACI said that analysis showed the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine was between 70 per cent and 80 per cent among health care workers, long-term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. "While this is somewhat lower than the efficacy demonstrated after one dose in clinical trials, it is important to note that vaccine effectiveness in a general population setting is typically lower than efficacy from the controlled setting of a clinical trial, and this is expected to be the case after series completion as well," NACI said. The committee said that published data from an AstraZeneca clinical trial indicated that delaying the second dose 12 weeks or more provided better protections against symptomatic disease compared to shorter intervals between doses. Earlier this week, before NACI changed its interval advice, 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. Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and countries around the world showed a "miraculous" protection level of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The head of Moderna's Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, said Monday that the company's own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four-week interval. "That being said, we're in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made," Gauthier said. "This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments ... can make their own decisions." Gauthier said she was not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months. 'We have to do it safely and watch carefully' Dr. David Naylor, who has been named to a federal task force charged with planning a national campaign to see how far the virus has spread, said the data have been "very encouraging." "The evidence is there for the concept of further delay," Naylor told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "We [had] trial data from earlier showing that going out from 90 days, a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. So things are triangulating." He said health officials need to pay close attention to the data coming out of other countries to determine if the protection provided by the first dose remains strong four months after it was administered. "We do it because we can cover more people with a single dose of the vaccine, spread the protection, prevent more severe disease and prevent fatalities, and the evidence is clear that that's what you can do if you spread those doses out widely. But we have to do it safely and watch carefully," Naylor told host Vassy Kapelos. Watch: The evidence is there for the 'concept of further delay' of second doses: Dr. Naylor: Storage and transport recommendations also changed Health Canada also announced today that after reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech, it would authorize changes to the way the vaccine is handled in Canada. The new rules allow the vaccine to be stored and transported in a standard freezer with a temperature of between -25 C and -15 C for up to two weeks, instead of the previous requirement that it be stored in ultra-cold conditions of -80 C to -60 C. Vials of the vaccine stored or transported at this higher temperature for no longer than two weeks remain stable and safe and can then be returned to ultra-cold freezers once, said the department.
Prince Harry's wife Meghan has accused Buckingham Palace of "perpetuating falsehoods" about her and her spouse, saying the royal couple would not be silent in telling their story. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, made the comments to American talk show host Oprah Winfrey in an interview about why they quit their royal roles that is due to be broadcast on U.S. television on Sunday. An advance excerpt of the interview was released on Wednesday, hours after Buckingham Palace said it was "very concerned" about reports in the Times newspaper that assistants working for Meghan two years ago had been bullied by her.
The U.S. economic recovery continued at a modest pace over the first weeks of this year, with businesses optimistic about the months to come and demand for housing "robust," but the job market showing only slow improvement, the Federal Reserve reported on Wednesday. "Economic activity expanded modestly from January to mid-February for most" of the Fed's 12 regional districts, the U.S. central bank said in its latest "Beige Book" compendium of anecdotes about the economy. The Fed, however, reported that the labor market, which remains about 10 million jobs short of where it was before the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, was not gaining as much traction as had been hoped.
The Fort Nelson First Nation and the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality are voicing their support for a proposed wood pellet facility after a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report criticized the project, which involves cutting down vast tracts of forest and turning them into pellets for export overseas. Most wood pellets are made with waste materials like branches and trees that can’t be used to produce lumber, combined with milling byproducts such as wood chips and sawdust. But Peak Renewables doesn’t have access to byproducts and plans to log whole trees for pellets, which would be shipped overseas and burned to produce heat and electricity. The report said the plan would not do enough to support Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, but those communities disagree. Last year, the First Nation signed an equity agreement with Peak Renewables to ensure it has a say in logging activities and plant operations. “Without talking to us, conclusive statements about Fort Nelson First Nation’s forestry projects have been made by groups that are far removed from our territory,” Chief Sharleen Gale said in a Feb. 23 news release. “These statements totally fail to take into account the livelihoods of our people and our extensive land stewardship work.” The Narwhal requested an interview with the Fort Nelson First Nation but did not receive a response prior to publication. Northern Rockies Mayor Gary Foster told The Narwhal the majority of community members welcome the proposed pellet plant, which will create jobs and economic stimulation in a town that has suffered over a decade of recession. “There’s always going to be a few people in any community that are going to be opposed,” he said in an interview. “And we have a few of those. But honestly, I would be shocked if it was more than five per cent of the population.” As The Narwhal recently reported, the province is currently considering a proposal from Canfor to transfer its logging licence to Peak Renewables, which would give the pellet company logging rights to over 500,000 cubic metres of wood per year. The public has until March 3 to comment on the proposal. Fort Nelson residents have been struggling since 2008, when the city’s two mills shut down. The ensuing recession saw people lose their homes and businesses. For the past 13 years, the region has had very little commercial forestry activity. There have long been calls for more jobs in the region. According to Peak Renewables, the proposed project would create 60 jobs at the plant, 300 logging jobs and 150 secondary jobs in related industries like maintenance and equipment supply. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report said the plant would only employ around 50 people and compared that to the 600 people who were employed between the two Fort Nelson mills. Foster told The Narwhal an apples-to-apples comparison is misleading, as mills are increasingly turning to automation, which means fewer jobs are created. “If those same mills existed here today, they would not be employing anywhere near the number of people they had employed then,” he said. As part of its plans to build the pellet facility, Peak Renewables bought the pair of closed mills from Canfor for around $10 million last year. Ben Parfitt, resource policy analyst for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and author of the report, said he is worried the project will lead to unsustainable logging and won’t provide the economic stimulus needed. “From a jobs perspective and from a forest health perspective, this is not going to take the region in the direction that I think it wants to go with, which is to ensure that there is a maximum number of jobs at the local level that help to stimulate the local economy and that they have good healthy forests now and in the future to work with,” said Parfitt, who is also a freelance contributor to The Narwhal. In a news release circulated with the report, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Conservation North and Stand.Earth called on the province to delay its decision and consider other uses for the forest that could create more jobs while using less wood. But the Fort Nelson First Nation said the licence transfer and proposed pellet plant align with its long-term goals to stimulate the economy and rebuild the local forest industry. “Our partnership allows us to own these opportunities, to create sustainable jobs and to chart a sustainable course for future generations,” Gale said in the statement. “The partnership is committed to both existing and future local value-added opportunities. This is reconciliation in action.” The nation and the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality also manage B.C.’s largest community forest, which was set up in 2019 and includes a licence to log over 200,000 cubic metres per year. In her statement, Gale called out critics for ignoring the benefits the pellet plant would bring to the region. “Public statements by people far removed from our community and the project have wholly failed to mention the project’s strong commitment to the development of both existing and future local value-added businesses, including Fort Nelson First Nation forestry tenures and the Fort Nelson First Nation community forest partnership with the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.” Parfitt emphatically agreed that the Fort Nelson First Nation should control decisions made on its territory. He said his recommendation is for the province to hand over management of the entire Fort Nelson timber supply area to the Indigenous community and its local partners. The nation could then proceed with supporting Peak’s pellet plant or pursue other options. The province has never done this before and Fort Nelson’s harvestable forest is the second-largest in B.C. The timber supply area spans nearly one million hectares, which is about twice the size of P.E.I., from which over 2.5 million cubic metres of trees can be harvested every year. “There is nothing stopping the provincial government from turning the entire TSA over to the First Nation and to the non-Indigenous community in the region in order for them to have a substantial building block for figuring out what a new forest industry in the region could look like.” But Gale said its choice to partner with the pellet company and support the licence transfer is an inherent right. “Since Canada forced us onto reserves and claimed our land for themselves, we have been told how we should live in our own territory. We unquestionably hold the best knowledge of our territory and an unalienable right to self-determination and to freely pursue our economic, social and cultural development in our lands.” Foster said the biggest barrier to rebuilding a forest-based economy in Fort Nelson is the nature of the forests themselves. “We have valuable conifer in amongst not very valuable aspens,” he said. “In order to get at that conifer, you have to remove the aspen and you have to find a place for it — you can’t ship it down the rail line because it doesn’t have much value.” He said this is where Peak Renewables comes in. The company would log both trees, using the lowest-value and waste material for its pellet production. “Once you free up that conifer, then you’ve got a wood of sufficient value that you can ship out or manufacture into higher-value commodities,” Foster said. Peak Renewables told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that it would make sure trees that can be used for other purposes won’t be ground up for pellets. “We expect that the younger, high-quality aspen will go into either veneer or furniture stock, with any remaining material (branches and tree tops) being used for pellet production.” Peak Renewables added it would support local operations whenever possible. “[Spruce] will firstly go to the small independents in Fort Nelson and surrounding area, and then to other mills to support jobs in northern B.C. It just makes financial sense to try to use the logs as close as possible to where they are harvested.” Foster said without a facility like Peak’s proposed pellet plant, it wouldn’t be economically feasible to log the high-quality wood. “This is a first step and it’s a very important first step.” The proposed logging licence transfer has other critics. In a Feb. 22 article for Canadian Biomass, Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, said buyers of B.C. pellets are concerned about the proposal and logging intact forests to produce pellets won’t be well-received in the marketplace. “To put it bluntly, there is no market for pellets from the logging of vast forests for the sole purpose of pellet production,” he wrote. “WPAC does not support wood pellet manufacturing proposals that are predicated on the large-scale harvesting of forests for the sole purpose of pellet production.” Gary Fiege, president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada Union, which represents forestry workers, told The Narwhal there are better options. He said the aspen could be logged for oriented strand board, or OSB, adding that a mill to manufacture this product in nearby Fort St. John recently announced it was reopening after shutting down in 2019. OSB, which is similar to plywood, is widely used in construction and known for its structural strength. Fiege said if the aspen were used to produce OSB, it would not only provide more direct jobs at a mill, it would also stimulate the local and regional economy. But after 13 years with no proposal to restart the mills, locals are ready for an alternative. “The Fort Nelson First Nations and the Northern Rockies have been very clear [we will] make sure that our forests are sustainable, that we don’t over-log this area,” Foster said. “I’m very optimistic that as this takes hold, we will see more and more value-added [manufacturing] come into the community.” Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
OTTAWA — Two prominent Jewish advocacy groups are voicing anti-Semitism concerns ahead of a public conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.The heads of the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Board of Deputies of British Jews say Corbyn is "toxic" and that the planned livestream talk between him and Ashton risks pulling New Democrats in a direction "antithetical" to Canadian values.Corbyn was booted from the British Labour party in October amid accusations he had weakened efforts to stamp out anti-Semitism.The party has been grappling with allegations anti-Semitism was allowed to fester under Corbyn, a longtime supporter of Palestinians and a critic of Israel who led the party for almost five years from 2015. Ashton has been promoting the March 20 chat, which will be hosted by Progressive International, an organization launched in 2018 by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Canadian author Naomi Klein and other progressive politicians and activists.Ashton and the NDP did not respond immediately to requests for comment.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.—With a file from The Associated Press The Canadian Press
FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick government has ordered a review of mental health crisis care following the suicide of a teenager who waited eight hours at a hospital emergency room without being helped. Health Minister Dorothy Shepard says she has asked Norm Bosse, the province's child, youth and seniors' advocate, to conduct a review, although the terms have not been set. Lexi Daken, 16, took her own life on Feb. 24, less than a week after seeking help at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton. Shephard says the regional health authority has also been asked to identify possible improvements and report back by the end of the month. Green Leader David Coon was seeking a public inquiry into the care Lexi received and says urgent action is needed. Chris Daken, Lexi's father, says he hopes her death is not in vain and that it prompts government to make changes that will help others in the future. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Yankees manager Aaron Boone is taking a leave of absence from the team to get a pacemaker and intends to return to work in a few days. New York said the procedure was likely to be performed later Wednesday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida. Boone said in a statement the medical team is “confident that today’s surgery will allow me to resume all of my usual professional and personal activities and afford me a positive long-term health prognosis without having to change anything about my way of life. I look forward to getting back to work in the next several days.” The 47-year-old is entering his fourth season as Yankees manager. The team started the exhibition season Sunday and was scheduled to play its fourth game on Wednesday night against Toronto in Tampa. “As many of you know, I underwent open-heart surgery in 2009, and I wanted everyone to understand where I’m at regarding the procedure that’s taking place today,” Boone said. “Over the last six to eight weeks I’ve had mild symptoms of lightheadedness, low energy and shortness of breath. As a result, I underwent a series of tests and examinations in New York prior to the beginning of spring training, including multiple visits with a team of heart specialists. While the heart checkup came back normal, there were indications of a low heart rate which, after further consultations with doctors in Tampa, necessitates a pacemaker." Boone said “my faith is strong, and my spirits are high. I’m in a great frame of mind.” “During my short-term absence, I have complete trust that our coaches, staff and players will continue their training and preparation at the same level as we’ve had and without any interruption," he said. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was expected to address the situation later Wednesday. Boone played in the major leagues from 1997-2009 and was an All-Star for the Yankees in 2003, the year his 11th-inning home run off Boston's Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series won the pennant for New York. He is a third generation major leaguer, whose grandfather Gus, father Bob and brother Bret also played in the big leagues and whose nephew Jake is a minor leaguer in the Washington organization. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Ronald Blum, The Associated Press
Toronto police say a man who was in a position of authority with the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program has been charged with sexual assault. The force says the man was with the cadet program in Toronto in November 2019 and allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl. They say the 27-year-old man surrendered to police on Feb. 24 and is no longer in his position of authority. Police say the man faces charges that include sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a young person. He is scheduled to appear in court on April 12. Police say there may be other alleged victims. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
Collège Boréal’s practical nursing program will be available in Hearst and Kapuskasing earlier than expected. The two-year program is currently available in Sudbury, Timmins and Toronto. Feb.16, the college announced the expansion of the program to all of its seven campuses including Hearst, Kapuskasing, Nipissing and Windsor. Originally, the program was supposed to be available starting September 2022. The decision to advance the program in Hearst, Nipissing and Kapuskasing to September 2021 was made taking into account the ongoing pandemic and the dire need for healthcare professionals in northern communities, said Collège Boréal’s director of Nipissing campus Rachel Quesnel. “We’re answering the call from our communities. Our communities spoke loudly, so we’re just making sure we can help with the dire need for healthcare professionals right now,” she said. “We already had a need for professionals before COVID, so we can understand that with COVID it has precipitated that need.” The program in Windsor will go ahead as initially planned in 2022 in order to undertake renovations and get the labs prepared, Quesnel said. Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com
CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Prince Edward Island say there is no evidence of widespread community transmission and the health orders that closed schools and most non-essential businesses for three days will end at midnight Wednesday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison told reporters that health officials haven't identified the source of an outbreak on the Island. But, she said, officials believe "there is a link" between the cluster of cases in Summerside and Charlottetown that led them to impose a three-day lockdown. "All new cases detected over the weekend are linked to other cases and close contacts or to travel outside of the province," Morrison said. "We are not seeing unlinked cases and there is no evidence of widespread community transmission." Premier Dennis King said the 11,000 COVID-19 tests conducted since the weekend provide confidence restrictions can be eased. "These are decisions we are comfortable in making because of the information we have gained through the testing," King said Wednesday. "We encourage Islanders to remain extremely vigilant and to continue to practise public health protocols, not just for your own safety but for the safety of all Islanders," he added. Morrison reported one new case of COVID-19 Wednesday, involving a woman in her 20s who is a close contact of a previously reported case. The woman has mild symptoms and is self-isolating. Morrison said results from about 800 tests are still pending, so there may be more positive cases. There are 22 active reported cases in the province — the highest number since the start of the pandemic. She said the three-day modified red alert gave officials time to determine the extent of the outbreak and to interrupt the chain of transmission. Starting Thursday, the province returns to the circuit-breaker measures announced last Saturday, which will remain in place until 8 a.m. on March 14. Each household can identify up to six consistent individuals to gather with. Organized gatherings are limited to 50 people and include concerts, worship services, movie theatre viewings, weddings and funerals. Fitness facilities, museums, libraries and retail stores can operate at up to 50 per cent of standard operating capacity. Morrison said the province expects to get the first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the next week. King said he spoke to the prime minister Tuesday and told him P.E.I. will gladly accept the newly approved vaccine. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Jasper is another step closer to seeing the Connaught Drive Affordable Apartments become reality following a decision by municipal council at their March 2 regular meeting. Council approved installation of utility services to the GC, GB and GA parcels in 2021 in conjunction with the construction of a 40-unit apartment building, a modular construction containing 32 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom suites. The project represents the first phase for lands identified to host new affordable housing in the community. Council also directed administration to develop the borrowing bylaws required to fund Connaught site utility services, to a maximum of $3.647 million and present them at a future regular council meeting. Administration will also allocate $350,250 in the 2021 budget for upfront project costs for the Connaught Drive Affordable Apartments, subject to approval of a Rapid Housing Initiative grant applied for by the Jasper Community Housing Corporation. At the start of council’s discussion, Coun. Bert Journault said he was opposed to spending the money to extend the services to parcel GA, noting that it was unfair to saddle the taxpayer with the costs. “But I certainly support the proposal for the development of that area,” Journault said. “That’s a late property. It will provide our community with a lot of houses.” Deputy mayor Helen Kelleher-Empey noted all the work should be done simultaneously as the area had many residents and two hotels. “I know it’s a lot of money up front but if we’re going to tear up the west end of Connaught I think we should do the work all at once,” Kelleher-Empey said. “Let’s do the work. Let’s get it done and safe (for) the residents and the businesses on that end of town, to not be doing this piece by piece. Do it at once. It saves money in the end.” Coun. Paul Butler agreed with Journeault initially, while Coun. Jenna McGrath pointed out that administration said parcel GA is important for technical reasons. Chief administrative officer Bill Given said the recommendation is built on the requirement to reduce and eliminate the risk of water stagnation via a dead ending, which would make installing utilities for just sites GB and GC more challenging and costly if not impossible. He also noted an additional challenge is about firefighting capacity. “In order to maintain the appropriate volume of water required for fire flows for the hydrants and for high density housing, as is likely on GB and GC parcels, we need to have a high volume of water coming into the sites,” Given said. “This is not about encouraging or supporting development on GA. It is about maintaining appropriate fire flows.” A table showed that servicing just parcel GC would total about $1,840,434, while servicing all three sites at the same time would cost an additional $1,806,666 for a total of $3,647,100. In contrast, if a phased approach is taken, additional incremental costs of $211,100 would be required. By servicing all three parcels at once, $211,000 would be saved and there would be support for private sector interest in near term development on parcel GB. As well, disruption would be minimized to Connaught Drive. The annual debt servicing costs on a $1.8-million debenture over a 25-year term are about $97,500 and about $195,000 on a $3.6-million debenture over a 25-year term. Wastewater Treatment Plant Council directed administration to enter into contract negotiation with Aquatera Utilities Inc. for a 10-year operating contract of the Jasper Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Since Jan. 27, 2020, the WWTP has been operated by a contracted service provider (EPCOR) under a one-year service agreement. The agreement was extended until June 30, 2021 to complete the RFP process and ensure an orderly transition. A standard services agreement (SSA) was included in the RFP to help proponents refine their services proposals while mitigating the risk of misunderstanding and disagreement during final contract negotiation. “This is a substantial contract,” said Mayor Richard Ireland. The SSA contract will be negotiated and ratified by council and utility rates will need to be adjusted annually. Administration doesn’t anticipate an increase of utility rates for the 2021 year. Canada Healthy Communities Initiative Council carried a motion to approve the submission of an application to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative for up to $250,000 for improvements to public spaces within the townsite. The improvements include a streetscape plan, sidewalk improvements, planters, benches, wayfinding improvements and a patio grant. Applications must be submitted by March 9. Review committees will start meeting to make decisions on March 10 and all applicants will receive results by April 30. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
TORONTO — Veteran Canadian strawweight Randa (Quiet Storm) Markos will face Luana Pinheiro at UFC 260 on March 27. It will mark the 17th UFC fight for the 35-year-old from Windsor, Ont., who made her debut in the promotion in December 2014. Markos (10-10-1) has lost three straight and four of her last five, dropping her record in the UFC to 6-9-1. Markos lost a decision to Japan's Kanako Murata last time out in November. Pinheiro (8-1-0) is making her UFC debut after posting a first-round KO win in November over Stephanie Frausto in Dana White's Contender Series. The 27-year-old Brazilian has won her last six outings. The main event at the UFC's Apex production facility in Las Vegas sees Stipe Miocic (20-3-0) put his heavyweight title on the line against No. 1 contender Francis (The Predator) Ngannou (15-3-0). Miocic won by unanimous decision when they met at UFC 220 in January 2018, There are two other Canadians on the UFC 260 card. Flyweight Gillian (The Savage) Robertson, a native of Niagara Falls, Ont., who makes her home in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., faces Miranda (Fear The) Maverick and Quebec middleweight Marc-Andre (Power Bar) Barriault takes on Morocco's Abu (Gladiator) Azaitar. Robertson and Miranda were supposed to meet Feb. 13 at UFC 258 but the Canadian had to withdraw due to a non-COVID-related illness. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
PRAGUE, Czech Republic — The political crisis in Slovakia deepened on Wednesday after a member of the ruling coalition demanded a reconstruction of the Cabinet. The crisis was triggered by a secret deal to acquire Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine orchestrated by the country’s prime minister despite disagreement among his coalition partners. Richard Sulik, head of the Freedom and Solidarity party, said the situation in the coalition is so serious that “we can hardly continue this way.” “It’s evident we haven’t succeeded in the fight against the pandemic,” Sulik said. His party said unspecified changes in the government are needed for the coalition to continue. Sulik has often clashed with Prime Minister Igor Matovic over how to tackle the pandemic but the current crisis is the most serious problem the coalition has faced. Matovic has defended the deal to acquire 2 million Sputnik V vaccines, saying it will speed up the vaccination program in one of the European Union's countries hit hardest by the pandemic. But it was condemned by Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok, who was nominated to the post by Sulik’s party and who said the vaccine was a tool in Russia’s hybrid war against the West. Korcok said the purchase cast doubts on his country’s clear pro-Western orientation. Another coalition partner, the For People party, didn’t rule out an option to leave the coalition. The head of that party, Deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remisova, said any vaccine needs approval from the EU’s drug regulator. Matovic acknowledged on Wednesday that he acquired the Russian vaccine against the will of his partners but urged them not to use the conflict to destroy their coalition. “As the prime minister, I think it's my duty to do the maximum to save the lives and health of people in Slovakia,” he said in a video message. Remisova met Sulik and other leaders — including another critic of the Sputnik V deal, President Zuzana Caputova — over the crisis Wednesday. After the meeting, Sulik said his party was “by no means” in favour of early elections. Parliament speaker Boris Kollar, the leader of the fourth coalition party, We Are Family, called on his partners to put aside their disputes and negotiate a way to move forward. Kollar invited representatives of all the four coalition parties to meet later Wednesday. Pro-Western Matovic struck a deal last year to govern with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party; the conservative For People, a party established by former President Andrej Kiska; and We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that is allied with France’s far-right National Rally party. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Karel Janicek, The Associated Press
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is sharing a quarantine cell in central Russia, allies said on Wednesday, revealing his location for the first time since he was moved from jail in Moscow last week to serve a 2-1/2 year sentence in a penal colony. The whereabouts of Navalny, 44, had been a mystery since he left jail in Moscow. His lawyer Vadim Kobzev told Reuters he had met Navalny at the Kolchugino jail in the Vladimir region northeast of Moscow.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced federal funding for innovation in Canada totalling some $518 million CDN.
BARCELONA, Spain — Two untimely coronavirus jabs have dealt another blow to the reputation of Spain's royals. The sisters of Spanish King Felipe VI acknowledged Wednesday that they got COVID-19 vaccine shots during a visit to the United Arab Emirates to see their father, the former monarch who has faced financial investigations at home. The vaccination by the king’s sisters was widely criticized across Spain. The two women would not have been eligible yet to get COVID-19 vaccinations in their home country. In a statement published by leading newspaper La Vanguardia and other media, the Infantas Elena, 57, and Cristina, 55, said they were “offered the possibility” of receiving the vaccines while in Abu Dhabi to visit their father, former monarch Juan Carlos I. The sisters said they agreed to accept the vaccines “with the goal of obtaining a health passport” that would allow them to regularly visit their father, who left Spain in August amid investigations into alleged financial wrongdoing. Their statement came a day after the Spanish online newspaper El Confidencial reported their vaccinations. Spain is still only administering vaccines to the very elderly and essential workers, before working its way down to younger age groups. A handful of public officials, including the nation's top military commander, have been forced to resign after they were caught jumping the vaccination queue. The sisters of Spain’s King Felipe VI are no longer part of the official royal household, which said that the 53-year-old Felipe, Queen Letizia and their two daughters have not yet been vaccinated. Juan Carlos’ move to the UAE, where he has been photographed there in a luxurious hotel, has only further sunk his once-high standing back home. More recently, Spain has been rocked by protests following the imprisonment of a rap artist, in part for having refused to pay a fine for insulting Juan Carlos. “In Spanish society there is a debate about the usefulness of the monarchy that is growing each time the Royal House offers up a new scandal,” said Pablo Iglesias, a government minister and leader of the junior, far-left party in Spain’s left-wing coalition government. Health Minister Carolina Darias, from the senior, Socialist partner of the governing coalition, made a distinction between Felipe and his sisters. “This country needs exemplary behaviour," she said. “I look to our majesties for that, because they are waiting just like the immense majority of Spaniards for their turn.” The conservative Popular Party that leads the parliamentary opposition limited its defence of the royals to saying that the infantas had “not stolen a vaccine from any Spaniard.” __ Follow all AP stories on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic. Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — Besieged by sexual harassment allegations, a sombre New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized Wednesday, saying he “learned an important lesson” about his own behaviour around women, but he said he intended to remain in office. “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said at a Wednesday press conference. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.” Cuomo said he will “fully co-operate” with the state attorney general’s investigation into sexual harassment allegations. Attorney General Letitia James is in the process of selecting an outside law firm to conduct an investigation into the allegations and produce a report that will be made publicly. Cuomo had avoided public appearances for days as some fellow Democrats call for him to resign. Before Wednesday's press conference, the governor last spoke to reporters during a teleconference call on Feb. 22. His last media briefing on video was Feb. 19. He hadn't spoken publicly since giving New York Attorney General Letitia James a referral to investigate claims that he sexually harassed at least two women in his administration. One former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, said Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life and asked whether she would be open to a relationship with an older man. Bennett rejected Cuomo’s attempted apology, in which he said he’d been trying to be “playful” and that his jokes had been misinterpreted as flirting. Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent at the end of a meeting, and once suggested they play strip poker while aboard his state-owned jet. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations. And another woman, Anna Ruch, told The New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her at a September 2019 wedding. Cuomo started Wednesday's press conference focusing on the latest data on the coronavirus pandemic. He highlighted a disproportionately high number of hospitalizations in New York City, news that the state is receiving an initial shipment of 164,000 doses of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that three vaccination sites will temporarily shift to 24/7 operations. __ This story has been updated to correct the day of the press briefing. It was on Wednesday, not Tuesday. Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador is extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months. Public health officials said Wednesday the change will help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey says the decision is a game changer for the province's vaccination prospects. British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry raised eyebrows Monday when she announced her province will delay the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to four months. Henry said Monday she expected the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to issue a statement in the coming days aligning with B.C.'s decision. Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today and say all are linked to previously reported infections. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenian authorities on Wednesday deployed snipers in the parliament building as thousands of protesters rallied nearby, and launched a criminal probe against a top opposition leader amid the country's spiraling political crisis. Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the Armenian capital Wednesday to demand the prime minister's resignation, amid a heavy presence of security forces. Nikol Pashinyan has faced opposition demands to step down since he signed a November peace deal that ended fierce fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in which Azerbaijan routed the Armenian forces. The political tensions escalated last week when the military’s General Staff demanded Pashinyan's resignation, and he responded by firing the chief of the General Staff, Col. Gen. Onik Gasparyan. On Wednesday, about 10,000 opposition demonstrators rallied outside the parliament building at a time when Pashinyan arrived to attend a session. As part of tight security measures, security agents armed with sniper rifles took positions in the building's windows and on its roof and remotely controlled stun grenades were placed in a park outside. Vazgen Manukyan, a veteran politician whom the opposition named as a prospective caretaker prime minister, denounced the security measures as an attempt by Pashinyan to scare his opponents. The country's top investigative agency said Wednesday it has accused the 75-year-old Manukyan, who served as prime minister in 1990-91 when Armenia was still part of the Soviet Union and served as defence minister when it became independent, of making calls for the seizure of power and violent change of the constitutional order. The prime minister's order to dismiss the chief of the General Staff is subject to approval by Armenia’s largely ceremonial president, Armen Sarkissian, who has refused to endorse it. Some legal experts argued that the order would take effect automatically following Sarkissian's failure to contest it in the nation's high court, but others pointed to legal caveats that could allow the top military officer to stay on. Manukyan, the opposition leader, warned that if Pashinyan manages to force the military chief out, the army would likely disobey the prime minister. As part of manoeuvring to defuse the political crisis, Pashinyan offered to hold a snap parliamentary vote later this year but rejected the opposition's demand to step down before the vote and let a caretaker successor take the helm. Pashinyan has faced opposition demands to resign since Nov. 10 when a Russia-brokered peace deal ended six weeks of intense fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. The agreement saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century. Pashinyan, a 45-year-old former journalist who came to power after leading large street protests in 2018 that ousted his predecessor, still enjoys wide support despite the defeat in the fighting that lasted 44 days and killed more than 6,000. He has argued that the peace deal was the only way to prevent Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. Russia has deployed about 2,000 peacekeepers to monitor the peace deal. ____ Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. By Avet Demourian, The Associated Press
York residents 80 and older can book appointments to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. York began taking appointments Monday, and you can book yours by visiting york.ca/COVID19Vaccine Approximately 20,000 appointments were booked across all five current COVID-19 vaccination clinics. “This is great news for many of our most vulnerable residents and another step forward in bringing an end to the pandemic through vaccination,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson. “The health and well-being of our residents continues to remain a priority and we thank public, private and health-care partners for their major role in helping to protect some of our most vulnerable residents.” Residents 80 years of age and older who are not able or comfortable booking an online appointment are encouraged to seek out a support person (caregiver, family member or friend) who can assist in booking this appointment on their behalf. York Region Public Health is working with our local health-care partners to provide COVID-19 vaccines for this newly eligible priority group at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital located in the City of Vaughan, operated by Mackenzie Health; Cornell Community Centre located in the City of Markham, operated by Eastern York Region North Durham (EYRND) Ontario Health Team (OHT), and Ray Twinney Recreation Complex located in the Town of Newmarket, operated by Southlake Regional Health Centre. “This is a very positive step forward. We are moving aggressively to vaccinate as many as possible within the province’s identified priority populations as vaccine supply becomes available,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health. “We are being as nimble as we can using different delivery models depending on the supplies of vaccines and the groups we need to immunize.” Walk-in appointments are not available; please do not visit a vaccination clinic without an appointment – you will be turned away. The team at Southlake Regional Health Centre is ready and well equipped to administer COVID vaccines. Not only are staff backed by months of preparation and procedures, the current vaccines are proving effective. Staff and medical experts are confident they have the situation well in hand, and can ably spring into action should a third wave arrive. As of Feb. 25, Southlake was treating 15 COVID-19 patients, with five in critical care beds. Dr. Charmaine van Schaik, co-medical lead, Vaccine Management Committee at Southlake Regional Health Centre, is eager to get the process rolling. While the hospital has no control over vaccine rollout, they’re administering both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The majority of long-term care residents, staff and front-line hospital workers have received both the first and second doses. Both are two-shot doses and the main difference is storage. The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept very cold, and requires special refrigeration, while the Moderna vaccine isn’t as temperature sensitive. Dr. van Schaik pointed out there have been very few adverse reactions to the vaccine, and staff are well equipped to handle any reactions. The mRNA vaccines, she explained, basically send instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of the “spike protein” found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. It triggers an immune response, teaching our bodies to fight. Dr. van Schaik said it’s not yet known whether follow-up or annual shots are necessary. The research and monitoring is still ongoing. Time will tell just how long the immune response stays in our bodies and whether it wears off. Initially, there were fears that those with certain food allergies couldn’t take the vaccines, but Dr. van Schaik said that’s not true. The only allergy is to the “recipe” of the vaccine, which contains Polyethylene gylcol. She said a common pain reliever such as Tylenol contains this substance. Research continues on vaccines aimed at children. So far, the research has concentrated on adults and seniors. There’s no question the answers will come, given the rapid pace of vaccine research. Dr. van Schaik noted the majority of recipients are grateful and positive to receive the vaccine. Citizens and staff are all getting more used to the procedure and efficacy of the vaccines. “We’re really happy to be getting more and more people vaccinated,” she said. They’re excited about getting the vaccine out to the greater population, especially vulnerable seniors, and “those who need it.” The vaccine, she stressed, is not a cure, but it does prevent or lessen the severity of the illness. What we don’t know is whether vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus. That’s why existing health measures are required and still enforced. While treatment opportunities continue to improve, masks may be with us for some time. Those with compromised immune systems should always wear them. Dr. van Schaik said York’s numbers have been stabilizing, but many do expect a third wave. She said they believe it will be similar to the current wave, led primarily by the more contagious variants. The key is for medical practitioners to be nimble and respond quickly. With York’s accelerated rollout, and experienced practitioners at the helm, residents are in good hands. Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel