Highlights of this day in history: 'War of the Worlds' spooks Americans on Halloween Eve; A deadly mudslide hits Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch; Muhammad Ali beats George Foreman in the 'Rumble in the Jungle'; Comedian Steve Allen dies. (Oct. 30)
Highlights of this day in history: 'War of the Worlds' spooks Americans on Halloween Eve; A deadly mudslide hits Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch; Muhammad Ali beats George Foreman in the 'Rumble in the Jungle'; Comedian Steve Allen dies. (Oct. 30)
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
Health-care workers feel muzzled and alone: Study Colleen Romaniuk Health-care workers in Ontario are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, but according to a new study, they are feeling “sacrificed” and “violated” by their employers and the provincial government. Researchers affiliated with the University of Windsor in collaboration with CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union co-authored a report titled “Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19.” Health-care workers represent 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the province, according to the study, a number that is much higher than the global rate of 14 per cent. Due to fear of reprisal, those on the frontlines are extremely hesitant to speak out – but those who participated in the study told a story of “dismal” working conditions and “unrelenting” stress. “Health-care workers in Ontario are suffering from much higher rates of COVID-19 infection than the general public,” said Dr. James Brophy, one of the lead authors of the new study. “While we are all facing COVID-fatigue and worry, health-care workers are suffering disproportionately from serious psychological distress. They are burning out from overwork, fear and anxiety.” Led by Dr. Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, the study examines in-depth, anonymous interviews conducted with 10 health-care workers who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout Ontario. The respondents, who work in facilities that range from small northern-rural to large urban, were contacted by phone in April and May. Frontline workers, including PSWs, RNs, RPNs, and custodial and clerical staff, all reported feeling unprotected and unsupported in their place of work. “We have lost about 100 staff who have either taken a leave of absence because of fear or have taken a leave to go work other jobs. We have a few who have taken early retirement,” said a participant in the study. “When I leave this interview, I’m heading into work and I’m going to work 44 out of the next 60 hours. I’ve prepared enough food for six meals and they’re in two shopping bags right now. That’s what it’s doing to me.” Some interviewees reported going home to cry after their shifts, sleeping in separate bedrooms away from their spouses, and experiencing increased social isolation because they fear infecting their family and friends. “The words on the page cannot convey the level of emotion we heard in the voices of healthcare workers we interviewed,” said Brophy. “We did not expect to hear the degree of anger and desperation that came out. The stories they told us were tinged with anger, frustration and fear.” There are a number of factors that contribute to the distress of health-care workers in the province, including inadequate protection against the virus, government failings, and barriers to exercising their agency. The study suggests that the provincial government, for example, has not applied the “precautionary principle” identified by the SARS Commission in 2006 which stipulates that, when in doubt, policies should err on the side of caution. “An ongoing debate that has direct impact on health-care workers’ safety is whether or not the virus can be transmitted through airborne particles,” said the study. “The evidence has grown that SARS-CoV-2 can indeed become aerosolized through coughing, sneezing, or even just breathing.” These tiny, aerosolized particles can breach surgical masks, according to Brophy. Researchers have recommended the use of N95 masks or powered air-purifying respirators for more adequate protection. Surgical masks are still considered safe for use in a health-care setting under most circumstances, although the health-care workers that participated in the study expressed some skepticism. “I had an infected patient on one of my shifts. I had my own N95 mask and I had my own goggles, and I had my own hair cover and I made sure I double gloved,” said an interviewee. “I put the cheap level two mask over top of my N95.” The study suggests that the government’s policy was probably “supply-based rather than science-based.” Another contributing factor is the health-care workers’ lack of recourse when it comes to addressing these challenges. Employers generally don’t allow their workers to speak publicly about their experiences at work, and, according to reports, the Ministry of Labour has been unhelpful. “All the frontline workers fear reprisal. We are told, ‘You can’t talk to the media. You have to send your manager to talk to them. We have corporate relations. You can’t be outside holding signs',” said one individual. “It’s just a travesty and these issues need to be said and people need to know what’s really going on.” Another said that they were “disheartened” by the Ministry of Labour during the pandemic. “They’ve totally taken the employers’ side and not the workers. There is no consultation with any frontline worker,” they said. “The ministry is not showing up to calls. They’re doing a lot of phone calls, but it’s not how they should be working. They still need to be out there on the frontlines. They should use PPE and come out to the hospital if we’re saying it’s not safe.” Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union and co-author of the study, explained that health-care workers have a limited right to refuse unsafe work. “They can’t refuse if it would result in a danger to a patient or resident,” said Hurley. “The evidence shows that in every case when the Ministry of Labour was called in, they did not support the workers.” To address these issues, the study recommends increasing staffing levels, adequate PPE and protective administrative and engineering controls, increased mental health supports, and reinvestment into a “weakened public health-care system.” There also needs to be a chance in workplace culture so that health-care workers concerns will be heard, respected, and addressed. “Health-care workers' health and wellbeing is essentially being sacrificed. We all need to pay attention to their pleas during this frightening time,” said Dr. Margaret Keith. “Not only does their wellbeing matter, but we also need to realize if they are not being kept safe, they can’t properly care for their patients or residents.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Three Ottawa-area conservation authorities fear major changes proposed by the Ontario government could cost them their voice in development decisions, particularly when it comes to environmentally fragile watersheds.The province began its review of the role of Ontario's 36 conservation authorities a year and a half ago, but the "sweeping" proposals tucked inside an omnibus budget bill tabled Nov. 5 still "shocked" the general manager of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA).> It is much worse and it goes much further than we ever would have anticipated. \- Sommer Casgrain-Robertson, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority"It is much worse and it goes much further than we ever would have anticipated," said Sommer Casgrain-Robertson. "These changes are so numerous and so significant that it really goes to the heart of what conservation authorities do and how we function."While the legislation would affect their budgets, mandates and boards of directors, Casgrain-Robertson's biggest concern relates to a conservation authority's diminished role in cases where there are concerns about flooding, soil erosion or altering waterways.The changes aim to "streamline" the development permit process, allowing the minister to decide on permit applications and even override a conservation authority's decision. The bill also allows for appeals to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.Casgrain-Robertson said RVCA staff make local decisions based on science, and she fears development permit applications in watersheds could now become politicized."We are not an impediment to development," Casgrain-Robertson said, noting the RVCA approves upward of 95 per cent of development permits and cut wait times by half last year.Government aiming for more accountabilityThe Rideau Valley, Mississippi Valley and South Nation conservation authorities have joined counterparts across Ontario in calling on the government to withdraw the proposals for more work.But Ontario's minister of the environment, conservation and parks said a minister's power to take part in the permit process "will be rarely used, if at all," and wouldn't "step outside of the science".Fixes were needed because the appeal process wasn't working, Jeff Yurek told CBC Sudbury earlier this week."What we heard through our consultation was that conservation authorities throughout the entire province were lacking in accountability, transparency and consistency," he said. The changes to Bill 226 worry Ottawa city council, too, because the boards of conservation authorities would be made up solely of municipal councillors, rather than a mix of councillors and residents with expertise, ostensibly to provide better oversight over the spending of tax dollars.City staff said if the changes go through, nearly every council member would need to take a seat on the board of a conservation authority, and take on the workload associated with it.The Association of Municipalities of Ontario also told the government it had a "growing number of serious concerns," especially "at a time when the public is very concerned about climate change and increased flooding and storm events."Ontario's standing committee on finance and economic affairs held a hearing on Bill 226 earlier this week, and is expected to consider amendments in the coming days.
A Brampton college student is accusing his school of mishandling his complaint about a fellow student after it dismissed anti-Sikh comments the man made to him during an online class, referring to the statements simply as "historical fact." Prabhjot Singh, 25, says he was making a presentation via Zoom to his immigration class at CDI College in Mississauga in October when he was interrupted by another student. "He jumped into my presentation and he said all the people from Punjab are frauds," Singh told CBC News from his Brampton home.Singh says the student then referred to the killing of thousands of Sikhs in India 36 years ago following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards."'I know you are Sikh, you are from Punjab. Did you forget how you guys were slaughtered in 1984?"' Singh quotes the student as saying. He says the remarks were all the more hurtful because some of his relatives were killed in the violence.'Nobody can forget what happened'"Nobody can forget what happened," Singh explained during the interview with CBC News. "Family members ... seeing a person burned alive." Singh says he felt threatened, and that the instructor in the class made no attempt to intervene and stop the verbal attack."I was feeling ashamed, I was feeling ... a victim of harassment," he said. But when Singh lodged a formal complaint with CDI College, he says he received a call from the school's educational manager, Mary Liideman, who said that the student was making comments about a "historical fact." Singh also filed complaints about the student's remarks with Peel Regional Police and with the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO).The WSO says it wrote to the college explaining the significance of the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, "and the serious nature of the threats made against Prabhjot Singh." CDI, a private, for-profit career college with 23 campus locations across Canada, replied that an internal investigation "determined that although culturally insensitive remarks were made, there were no direct threats" to Singh.The WSO's vice president for Ontario, Sharanjeet Kaur, calls what happened to Singh outrageous,"however it is equally shocking that CDI College would dismiss threats that reference the 1984 Sikh Genocide as 'historical fact' and merely 'culturally insensitive.'"1984 attacks called a 'genocide'The sectarian bloodshed started after the Indian Army launched an attack on Sikh militants in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a site sacred to Sikhs. Gandhi's subsequent murder led to a wave of bloody reprisals. India has said fewer than 3,000 people died in the attacks against Sikhs, but some Sikh leaders say the number is closer to 10,000.In Canada, Crown lawyers at the Air India bombing trial stemming from the 1985 attack that killed 329 people on a flight from Montreal to New Delhi, alleged it was the work of Sikh militants who were seeking revenge for the temple attack and the post-assassination violence. In 2018, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Canada to declare the killings a genocide — saying there is clear evidence the 1984 attacks on Sikhs by Hindus were not spontaneous, but rather organized by the government. College reopening investigationAfter CBC News contacted CDI about Singh's story, the college said in a statement it's reopening its investigation."Upon reflection it is clear that this did not properly address Mr. [Prabhjot] Singh's concerns," wrote Rodney D'Souza, the associate regional director of operations for CDI in central Canada.The student who made the remarks was sent a warning letter, the college says. He and Singh have since graduated from the Mississauga campus, but the college says it nonetheless "will be following up with staff disciplinary action for lack of appropriate action and sensitivity when the incident occurred."D'Souza added that while what happened was an isolated incident, regular mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all staff will also be instituted."We feel it is extremely important for all staff and instructors to be aware of how they can best support their students and fellow colleagues through any distressing or inappropriate situations that may arise."
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is on the brink of a new stay-at-home order that would close businesses and curb travel in regions that could see hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new rules that take effect Saturday, designed to keep local health systems from collapsing under the weight of skyrocketing COVID-19 caseloads. Previous restrictions were based on infection rates in counties.The new order divides the state into five broad regions and restricts those with intensive care unit bed capacity below 15%. On Thursday, Newsom said four regions — all but the San Francisco Bay area — could meet that threshold “within a day or two.”California’s virus hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled since mid-October and now stand at 8,240, including 1,890 in intensive care units. The Department of Public Health reported 19,437 deaths since the start of the pandemic, including 220 health care workers.“If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see our death rate climb, more lives lost,” Newsom said.Affected regions must close hair salons, barber shops and movie theatres, ban restaurant service except for takeout and delivery, shutter playgrounds, and limit retail stores and shopping centres to 20% customer capacity.The new stay-at-home order will last at least three weeks, cutting sharply into the most profitable shopping season and threatening financial ruin for businesses already struggling after 10 months of on-again, off-again restrictions and slow sales because of the pandemic.“This means no income for the rest of the year,” said Lam Nguyen, who owns a nail salon in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights. “I’m sad and scared, not only for myself but all my friends with nail and hair salons. A lot of us are in debt.”Amy Lovece, a hairstylist who rents a chair at Salon 544 in downtown San Luis Obispo, said she already lost about half of her yearly income.“It’s sad that (Newsom) keeps closing us down. It’s unnecessary because salons are not the problem,” said Lovece, 56. “For the ones who are following the rules, it’s just not fair. I just go between home and work. I don’t go to parties or bars and I just want to keep working.”Lovece said she was angry that the county was grouped in the Southern California region with counties hundreds of miles away with far greater demands for ICU beds. Only one out of 53 ICU beds in San Luis Obispo county was occupied with a COVID-19 patient as of Thursday.The order is the latest balancing act as the state tries to slow the exploding infection rate — blamed on people gathering outside of their households — without further crashing the economy.After California closed all but essential businesses in March, the state lost 2.6 million jobs in two months. About 44% of those jobs returned when restrictions were eased as people heeded social distancing and mask-wearing precautions and new cases fell dramatically.But by fall people were congregating more for holidays and celebrations, while cooler weather drove them inside, where the virus flourishes. California is now averaging nearly 15,000 newly reported cases daily.Public health officials warn that the toll from Thanksgiving gatherings could start to swamp hospitals by Christmas.In the last month, the state imposed restrictions in 52 of the state’s 58 counties, including asking people not to leave the state and implementing an overnight curfew for all but essential trips, such as getting groceries.But it hasn't worked because data shows people are ignoring the rules, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top public health officer, acknowledged Thursday.“We of course had hoped and wanted to see more from that already, but we haven’t,” he said.The state might not need such a broad shutdown if it had better data on where people are being infected, said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health.Are stores and nail salons chiefly to blame or should restrictions be focused elsewhere? Lack of that knowledge reflects “a failure of public health," Klausner said.He likened the current approach to shutting down food production, restaurants and grocery stores because of a salmonella outbreak.“That’s not the way we traditionally work in public health,” he said.Some counties also have bucked the rules, following cues from state and local elected officials who have criticized the governor for going too far.Shannon Grove, Republican leader in the state Senate, criticized Newsom on Thursday for continuing “to disrupt life as we know it without releasing the full data behind his decisions.”But in Los Angeles County, the nation's largest with 10 million residents, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that his department would be conducting “targeted enforcement on super-spreader events." The sheriff previously said he had relied on voluntary compliance with health orders.Even state government has felt the impact. Newsom and his family are self-quarantining at home after three of his children were exposed to an infected person. Two staff members in the governor’s office have tested positive for COVID-19 but hadn’t been in contact with Newsom, the office said.Beginning Monday, state government offices will close for three weeks except for those involved in “critical functions” such as public safety, prisons, social services and unemployment insurance claims processing, according to a Human Resources Department email sent to department leaders, the Sacramento Bee reported.Newsom acknowledged the difficulty in following the rules. But he urged people to stay vigilant and said progress is being made on a vaccine.“There is light at the end of the tunnel," he said.___Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco contributed to this report.Adam Beam And Kathleen Romayne, The Associated Press
City officials say they'll continue to keep a close eye on Ottawa's increasingly crowded malls to make sure holiday shoppers are following public health protocols.Bylaw officers will be out in force patrolling shopping centres and big box stores across the city, a city spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. They'll also be on hand to respond to any complaints.Customers are "reminded to practice physical distancing from others and to ensure their masks are worn properly," the statement said.Business owners, too, are being reminded to follow protocols aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19."As we head into the holiday shopping season, we encourage business owners to review their current practices and make any necessary changes to ensure they are creating a safer shopping experience," an Ottawa Public Health (OPH) spokesperson said in an email. Shoppers thronged Ottawa's major malls last weekend in search of Black Friday deals, and the crowds are expected to continue through Christmas and Boxing Day."We did see some good traffic on Black Friday and leading up to that. I think people are trying to get their shopping out of the way," said Brian O'Hoski, general manager at Rideau Centre. Both Rideau Centre and St. Laurent Shopping Centre have hired extra security guards to enforce mask rules, and have posted pandemic rules and regulations throughout. More signs show shoppers which way to walk, and where to stand to wait their turn to enter busier stores. "There's footprints outside each store, and then there's an overflow line for some of those busier stores," said Kristina Sparkes, marketing coordinator at St. Laurent Shopping Centre. "We're also asking people to use a bit of courtesy and common sense."Both O'Hoski and Sparkes recommend customers visit during non-peak hours to avoid crowds and long waits.
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Public Health Sudbury & Districts decreased on Thursday as no new cases were reported, and one case was declared resolved. There are now seven active cases of COVID-19 in the region. According to the health unit’s weekly summary, five new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last seven days and 11 were resolved. Of the new cases, two were close contacts of a confirmed case and two were travel related. The investigation into the exposure category of the 5th case remains ongoing. All five cases were in Greater Sudbury. Public Health's territory also takes in Espanola, Manitoulin Island and the District of Sudbury. “By end of day on December 2, contact tracing information was available for all 5 of the new cases," Public Health said in its weekly report. "Through our investigation, we identified 30 people who had high-risk close contacts with these cases. That is an average of 6 high-risk close contacts per case, which is consistent with last week. “Public Health follows up directly and regularly with every high-risk close contact to monitor them for symptoms, ensure they are self-isolating, and make recommendations for testing according to provincial guidance.” The seven-day incidence rate was 2.5 per 100,000 compared to 9.1 in the previous week. The percent positivity was 0.3 per cent compared to 0.5 per cent last week. Public Health Sudbury and Districts remains in the Yellow-Protect category of the provincial COVID-19 response framework. While Sudbury didn't report any new cases, the same can't be said for the rest of Ontario. Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 14 new deaths due to the virus. In her message to the community, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe reminded the public about staying safe as the holiday season approaches, and to treat everyone with kindness. “For some of us, the upcoming winter holidays are a time to celebrate and connect with friends and loved ones. For many, the holidays also can be stressful – and this year, especially so. Remember, you are not alone. Reach out to friends, loved ones, or connect with local agencies and resources,” she said. “Treat yourself with kindness and respect and offer the same to others who may need support. This pandemic is not a forever-thing, but the lives we touch can be. Share a smile (behind the mask), practice patience, and lend a hand when it is least expected.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
CALGARY — One child asks for a coat for her dog in case her family gets evicted. Another girl hopes Santa can bring her pet medication he needs. Another wishes for enough dog food.A charity that provides subsidized pet care, including food hampers and medical treatment, for low-income residents is receiving Christmas letters from children asking for help for their furry friends.Parachutes for Pets in Calgary has delivered 2,000 pet food hampers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. But demand, especially during the second wave of the pandemic, is taking its toll on both the organization and those receiving help."Instead of Santa I wanted to write to you guys. My dog Badger is really cute and my best friend. He needs pills or he gets really, really sick. Could you bring me his pills for my Santa gift? I've been really good and so has he," reads a letter signed Hanna and Badger.The organization says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week that normally would have gone to Santa."My Christmas wish this year is a coat for my dog Max. Mom says we can't pay rent after this month and I want Max to be warm if we have to stay in our car," wrote Kaylee."I have a warm coat and I think one would be good for him to stay warm. Please tell Santa this is my only wish. Merry Christmas."Melissa David, who founded the charity, said the messages from the kids are heartbreaking."Instead of writing to Santa, they've written to us. Their Christmas wish is either for their dog to get medication and their dog to get food, so they don't have to share their meal with them."David said the charity referred Kaylee's mom, who was at risk of being evicted, with an agency to deal with her rent arrears.She said the charity made it through the first wave of the pandemic, but the resurgence of COVID-19 in the last months has resulted in demands coming at a "fast and furious rate.""This second wave is going to cripple us. The amount of additional homeless with pets and domestic violence incidents involving pets is astronomical," David said.People are still donating food items, she said, but there's also a need for cash, which is in short supply."This (pandemic) in addition to everyday challenges that are still here, such as cancer and illness, is really making it difficult for people to keep their pets at a time they can't afford mentally to lose them."David said she is reaching out in desperation since there are limits on what help the charity can arrange."We were passed over for most COVID grants because animals were not considered essential."There are also messages asking for help from physically abused women who are afraid to leave their pets behind."They want to take their pet with them. They're at the lowest of lows and they don't leave with anything but the clothes on their back. And if that pet stays, statistics are 80 per cent that it will be tortured or killed or used as some sort of revenge by the abuser."The head of the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter said crisis calls between April and September were up nearly 65 per cent compared with the year before.Shelter CEO Kim Ruse confirms many women stay where they are for fear of their pets being harmed. "Not having a place for pets to go often stops women from leaving abusive and dangerous situations," Ruse said. "Many are unaware that there are options for keeping pets safe while finding safety for themselves and their children."She said the agency does have pet-friendly rooms to accommodate small animals."Allowing pets in the shelter will help provide emotional and healing support for women and their children during their stay."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020\-- Follow @BillGraveland on TwitterBill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Premier Blaine Higgs' concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten the long-term financial support New Brunswick receives from Ottawa has turned out to be prophetic, a new report by a national think-tank shows.Ben Eisen and Milagros Palacios of the Fraser Institute released a study Thursday suggesting contractions in the economy caused by the pandemic and other forces are flattening economic differences across the country and hastening the creation of new have-not provinces. The new order would dilute the federal government's critical $21 billion equalization program – New Brunswick's most important source of support. "It's a fundamentally transformative change," Eisen said in an interview."Where there used to be a big gap between the so-called haves and have-nots, I'm not even sure that bifurcation makes sense any more."Five have-not provinces are currently eligible for money under the program's formula, including Manitoba, Quebec and all three Maritime provinces.As Canada's poorest province, New Brunswick is receiving a record $2.2 billion in equalization funding this year, 10.7 per cent of the entire federal funding pool. The amount to New Brunswick has grown by $502 million in the last four years, an amount boosted in part when Ontario stopped receiving money two years ago. But as quickly as equalization payments can escalate for poor provinces when national economic disparities are growing, they can also recede, either by a poor province getting richer or rich provinces getting poorer. Eisen said economic data has been revealing a steady "convergence" between rich and poor provinces for several years that has accelerated during the pandemic, moving some like Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario close to requalifying for equalization money. He claimed changes are so dramatic it is not out of the question that Alberta will become a have-not province in this decade, a development with major implications for provinces currently in the equalization pool."There's a set amount of equalization dollars. If a new province becomes eligible for equalization payments, what's left for the other provinces that were receiving them before goes down," said Eisen."If you think of everyone eating a pizza and one more person comes and sits down, that's obviously less for the people who were there before. Equalization is no different." Tombe is an associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary and one of Canada's leading experts on equalization.He calls research behind the new study "top notch," but says it is difficult to predict what will happen in the near term."Forecasting these days is tricky, to say the least," Tombe said in a message Thursday.Equalization is based on three-year rolling averages of economic activity and works from a formula completely in the hands of the federal government, which can change the formula as it wishes. The formula also has protections built in to shield the poorest of provinces and, according to Tombe, that means equalization cuts are less of a threat to New Brunswick than to Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba."Those (with economies) furthest from the national average will tend to gain relative to those closer to it," Tombe said. "Hence Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick aren't as likely to be adversely affected." Higgs has been expressing concern since last spring about the federal government's ability to sustain funding of the equalization program and the effect Alberta's economic troubles might have on how the formula works.> Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'we won't worry about that today.' Well, for me, I'm very worried about it. \- Premier Blaine Higgs"I'm very concerned about next year and our transfer payments, because I don't know what's left in the federal government," he said in May."Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'well, we won't worry about that today. We'll worry about that tomorrow or the next day,' or maybe someone believes they'll never have to worry about it. Well, for me, I'm very worried about it and very concerned."Eisen believes it's likely more provinces will qualify for equalization, and that provinces in the program should prepare for what that could mean."It's important to recognize this is a development that could very well affect the budgets of Maritime provinces," he said.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli government on Thursday urged its citizens to avoid travel to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing threats of Iranian attacks. Iran has been threatening to attack Israeli targets since its chief nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated last Friday near Tehran. It accuses Israel, which has been suspected in previous killings of Iranian nuclear scientists, of being behind the shooting. Israel has not commented on the killing. But Fakhrizadeh has long been on Israel's radar screen, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying at a 2018 news conference about Iran's nuclear program: “Remember that name.” Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons — a charge Iran denies. In recent months, Israel has signed agreements establishing diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab states of the UAE and Bahrain — its first normalization deals with Arab countries in a quarter century. The agreements, brokered by the Trump administration, have generated widespread excitement in Israel, and thousands of Israeli tourists are scheduled to travel to the UAE for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah this month. That may change following Thursday's warning. “In light of the threats heard recently by Iranian officials and in light of the involvement in the past of Iranian officials in terror attacks in various countries, there is a concern that Iran will try to act in this way against Israeli targets,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s National Security Council. It also advised against travel to Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Kurdish area of Iraq and Africa. Israel's military is well prepared to deal with the threats of Iranian troops and their proxies in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Israeli media say the government also has beefed up security at embassies around the world. But protecting Israeli travellers, conspicuous and spread out at countless hotels, restaurants and tourist sites, represents a different type of challenge. “This is going to be a nightmare, and I really hope that both governments, UAE and Israel, are co-ordinating and doing the best they can to safeguard those Israelis,” said Yoel Guzansky, a former Israeli counterterrorism official who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “I’m really worried that that something might happen, and especially now because of the context of Fakhrizadeh, because Iran is really looking for revenge,” he added. He spoke before the travel advisory was issued. The Israel Airports Authority estimates that about 25,000 Israelis will fly to the UAE this month on the five airlines now plying the route between Tel Aviv and the Gulf state’s airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Celebrities, entrepreneurs and tourists already have been flocking to Dubai. With the coronavirus appearing to be under control in the UAE, it is one of the few quarantine-free travel options for Israelis during the coming Hanukkah holiday vacation, adding to its appeal. At a time when few people are travelling, Israeli visitors speaking Hebrew could be extra conspicuous. Israel this week also signed a tourism agreement with Bahrain. Amsalem Tours, an Israeli travel agency, said that there was “very serious” demand for travel packages to Dubai but did not provide specific figures. Iran and its proxies have targeted Israeli tourists and Jewish communities in the past. Agents of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group bombed a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, killing six and wounding dozens. That year, Israel also accused Iran of being behind attacks targeting Israeli diplomats in Thailand and India. Iran and Hezbollah also bombed the Israeli Embassy and Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, claiming the lives of scores of civilians. Concerns for the safety of Israelis in Dubai also is not without precedent. In 2000, an Israeli ex-colonel was kidnapped by Iranian proxy Hezbollah and held captive in Lebanon until he was released in a prisoner exchange in 2004. Today, Dubai, famous for its glittering shopping malls, ultra-modern skyscrapers and nightlife, is a crossroads for travellers from around the world, including many nations that do not have relations with Israel. Iran maintains a major presence in Dubai, due to historical and current trade ties, and Dubai is believed to be a major station for Iranian intelligence services. The family of a California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile says he was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai just a few months ago. In a possible sign of Emirati security concerns, travel agencies in countries across the Middle East and Africa say the UAE has temporarily halted issuing new visas to their citizens. With tens of thousands of Iranians working or doing business in the UAE, Iran is also among the countries facing the visa restrictions. Israel had already had a travel warning in place advising citizens against nonessential travel to the UAE. Similar “basic concrete threat” advisories are in place for visiting other Arab states with which Israel has peace treaties. But the language of Thursday's warning was especially tough. The UAE, for its part, is known for its strict security. Dubai, home to 3.3 million people in 2019, with just over 3 million of them foreigners, has published major crime statistics that are among some of the lowest in the world. Before Israelis began arriving, Dubai held a highly publicized drill of a police SWAT team storming a replica metro car in October and suggested facial-recognition technology could be implemented at stations along its driverless track. Experts already believe the UAE has one of the highest per capita concentrations of surveillance cameras in the world, a system that’s only grown amid the coronavirus pandemic. And despite the recent tensions, Iran may be hesitant to strike on Emirati soil, wanting to maintain its economic interests there. The UAE meanwhile has gone out of its way to say it wants to de-escalate tensions in the region despite its own suspicions over Iranian behaviour. It called the killing of Fakhrizadeh a “heinous assassination.” In an interview before Thursday's advisory was issued, Pavel Israelsky, co-founder of Salam Dubai, said the boom in his UAE-based Israeli tour operator’s bookings was “significant” ahead of the Hanukkah holiday. While a handful of Israeli clients cancelled over security concerns, he said, “I can say that the UAE is one of the most secure places in the world in terms of the resources they invest in security.” “I don’t think there’s cause for worry,” Israelsky said. “Today, no place is really safe.” ___ Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed reporting. Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
Clearwater Seafoods is dropping Marine Stewardship Council certification for its Canadian offshore lobster fishery, calling it "a voluntary decision driven by business considerations."The blue MSC eco-label tells consumers the seafood they are buying is sustainably caught and has been a point of pride for North America's biggest shellfish producer.Clearwater's offshore lobster fishery off southern Nova Scotia was the first fishery on the Eastern Seaboard to receive MSC certification in 2010.The current five-year certification expires at the end of the month."Clearwater is confident in the ability of this fishery to meet the MSC standard today, but has chosen not to initiate recertification at this time given the internal resources required to support recertification," Clearwater vice-president Christine Penney said in an email statement to CBC News.Maintaining certification has become more onerous recently for the fishery.Two years ago, Clearwater was convicted of a gross violation when it was caught illegally storing thousands of lobster traps on the ocean floor even after it had been repeatedly warned by Canadian authorities to stop the practice because it was a conservation risk. The traps were left on the bottom with escape hatches open, but continued to catch and kill lobsters.The conviction triggered a Marine Stewardship Council audit and new conditions were imposed to demonstrate compliance."The question comes to mind whether they're unable to show that evidence and therefore they wouldn't pass the certification," said Shannon Arnold, an environmentalist with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax."And so by just walking away from it, they're not forced to show that to the consumers that they're actually fishing within the law."Clearwater defends lobster fisheryClearwater said the fishery was always and remains sustainable."While Clearwater has chosen not to enter into recertification of the offshore fishery MSC program at the end of 2020, the sustainability measures that were in place for 10 years of successful certification continue to be in effect," said Penney."The offshore lobster fishery remains sustainable. The fishery has not been suspended or failed, and it maintains its current certificate until December 2020."The Marine Stewardship Council declined to directly comment on Clearwater's decision to drop its lobster certification."Clearwater is a long-standing partner of the MSC, and its other MSC-certified fisheries in Canada and globally remain in our voluntary program," spokesperson Vianna Murday said in a statement.Other core Canadian species are staying with the council.They include offshore scallops, snow crab, arctic surf clam, cold water shrimp and lobster harvested in the Maritimes by an inshore fleet independent of the company.Clearwater said an internal tracing system will allow it to separate lobster it buys from the inshore and the 720 tonnes it harvests under its offshore licences."This fishery accounts for a small portion of Clearwater lobster volumes, and the use of the eco-label is very limited on products from this fishery," Penney said.Partnership buying companyClearwater is in the process of being sold. If approved by shareholders, the new owner of the company will be a partnership between Premium Brands of British Columbia and a coalition of Mi'kmaw First Nations led in part by the Membertou band in Cape Breton.Membertou had previously bought two of the eight offshore licences held by Clearwater. No one from the band was available for comment.Clearwater management and the company lobster boat, the Randell Dominaux based in Shelburne, N.S., will continue to run the coveted offshore lobster fishery.Offshore lobster fisheryClearwater has enjoyed exclusive rights to Lobster Fishing Area 41, which starts 80 kilometres from shore and runs to the 200-mile limit, extending from Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.The company fishes entirely off southern Nova Scotia. Unlike every other lobster fishery, there is no season and Clearwater has been awarded a quota of 720 tonnes, which it has said represents about 15 per cent of all lobster it sells.For environmentalists like Arnold, the loss of Marine Stewardship Council certification is a blow."That transparency from the MSC process, that extra layer, is what really allowed us to dig in and see what was happening with this fishery in the offshore and how they were fishing outside the legal boundaries," she said. "So we're concerned that we're losing that level of oversight."MORE TOP STORIES
An Alabama man who spent World War II repairing bomb-damaged trains in France recovered from a fight with COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday on Thursday. Major Wooten left a hospital in Huntsville, Alabama on Tuesday. (Dec. 4)
Organigram now says cooling towers atop its cannabis production plant in Moncton caused a legionnaires' disease outbreak in the city last year that sent 15 people to hospital."Organigram deeply regrets the impact of this incident on members of our community and their families last year," the company said in a statement Thursday. The company did not provide an interview.Richard Melanson also wants an apology. Melanson is among 16 people who became ill and spent a week in hospital because of the severe form of pneumonia. Last fall, he voiced frustration the province had kept the source of the outbreak secret."I don't know if I'll ever get an apology," Melanson said this week. "I really, really hope I do. It would mean a lot to me."Public Health revealed the outbreak on Aug. 1 and announced it was over on Sept. 12. At the time, the province refused to release where the outbreak originated. CBC News filed several right to information requests to learn more about the outbreak's source. The last batch was released last week, and for the first time the company's name was not blacked out. "I suspected that it was them, but I just didn't want to point a finger or say 'you're guilty,'" Melanson said. "I'm just glad I'm alive, I'm glad it didn't kill anybody in our group."Legionnaires' disease is caused by inhaling water droplets containing legionella bacteria. Outbreaks are often traced to cooling towers. The mechanical system can be part of a large building's cooling system. Heat is dissipated by spraying water in the towers. But the combination of the heat and water can be a breeding ground for legionella bacteria if the system isn't properly maintained. Mist from the towers can carry the bacteria for kilometres into the surrounding environment. There's no indication Organigram's products were affected.In October last year, CBC reported Organigram had told its staff about "elevated bacteria counts" in a new cooling tower system. However, the company had refused to publicly acknowledge its role. "Organigram is commenting on this incident in co-ordination with information recently released by Public Health," the company said Thursday. "Previously, consistent with directives in the public interest issued by Public Health, Organigram has not provided any comment."The company says testing since the outbreak has found bacteria levels in the system that are "within acceptable limits."Chris Boyd said outbreaks caused by cooling towers are largely preventable. Boyd worked for New York City's health department and was part of its response to the largest legionella outbreak in the city's history.He's now general manager of building water health for NSF International, a product testing, inspection and certification organization based in Ann Arbour, Michigan.Boyd was involved in a report urging creation of cooling tower registries and posting of test results as a way to track and prevent outbreaks.The province of Quebec implemented a registry after repeated outbreaks in Quebec City. Vancouver passed a bylaw last year to create a registry. Hamilton, Ont. has a registry. The City of Moncton last year called for the New Brunswick government to implement a registry. Isabelle LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Moncton, said the city isn't considering its own bylaw because it believes the issue is a provincial responsibility. A spokesperson for the province has said a report by Public Health about how the outbreak was handled will include a recommendation for such a registry. It's not clear when that report will be complete or whether the province will act on the recommendation. Emails released by the New Brunswick government to CBC show health officials exchanged information with Boyd, who offered to help the province as it considered a cooling tower registry. Boyd says he last heard from the province this fall.He said there has largely been an inconsistent approach to tackling the issue. "What is holding Public Health back from being more proactive and focusing on the preventive ability rather than the emergency response approach, which is the most common approach in North America?"New Brunswick's Health Department did not provide an interview.WATCH | Richard Melanson speaks in 2019 about the outbreakMelanson said he believes the province should quickly implement a cooling tower registry."That would prevent this maybe from taking place again here," Melanson said. "You know, instead of you interviewing somebody in another couple of years and somebody else in another couple of years, this might put an end to it."Melanson and others who became ill retained Halifax law firm Wagners, which specializes in class-action lawsuits. So far, nothing has been filed in court. Melanson said he had lingering health effects and spent time off work because of the illness. He said he's doing better today, but still gets tired faster than he did before he had legionnaires' disease. He said he spent this summer trying to enjoy life as much as possible. He occasionally talks with others who had legionnaires' disease"I think we're all thankful that we're all here still and we might not all be doing as good as we did before, but we're still alive," Melanson said.
Plexiglass and masks have become a part of everyday life on P.E.I., but for people with hearing loss, those safety barriers create another obstacle to communication."That's making it very difficult for a lot of people to actually comprehend what is being said — some people can't hear," said Daria Valkenburg, co-president of Hear P.E.I. "I basically limit where I go. So for businesses that don't have a system where I can hear out there, unless I have to go, I don't go. So basically that's what it's done is it's limited me."To help those with hearing loss, Access PEI has installed speech transfer systems in Charlottetown and Summerside.Two stations are set up with the device in Charlottetown. There is a microphone on either side of the station, with speakers on the customer-facing side providing extra volume when needed. There's also a function that allows certain hearing-aid users to connect directly."It also has a telecoil, which means that the person speaking has their voice going instantly into the hearing aid or the cochlear implant, meaning that it is completely accessible," said Valkenburg. "There is such a clarity of sound that it's unbelievable."With that method, all the background noise is eliminated, only delivering the audio coming out of the microphone — handy for busy, noisy places like Access PEI, said Valkenburg. The booths that are equipped with this new technology are marked by a universal hearing loop symbol.For those who don't have a hearing aid with telecoil, people can get a hearing loop device that allows users to dial into the frequency and hear it through headphones.'Seemed like a natural fit'The pilot project came about after Access PEI reached out to Hear P.E.I. to see what it could be doing to better serve that community. "It just seemed like a natural fit for us in an attempt to make our sites more accessible, to create a more inviting experience," said Mark Arsenault, director of Access PEI. "They don't have to speak loudly, you know, from a privacy perspective.… It's just your own voice level and their own voice level. So, nobody shouting or anything like that." While it is just a pilot project right now, Arsenault said he'd like it expanded across the Island."Then we'll look at it from there and see whether or not we need it in every stall or is it just one or two per site, so that we can make sure that we can serve that part of the population perfectly well."More from CBC P.E.I.
The performers at Russia's majestic Bolshoi Theatre have danced their way through the Bolshevik revolution, bombing by the Nazis in the Second World War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but surviving the COVID-19 pandemic may be their greatest challenge yet.The historic Moscow landmark closed for six months over the spring and summer as the city went into a lockdown to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but it reopened this fall for a 245th season and is attempting to stage a busy schedule of Christmas season events."It's incredibly difficult," said prima ballerina Yekaterina Shipulina, 41, during a recent break in rehearsal where she was dancing Preludes to Bach as part of a tribute to Russian ballet great Maya Plisetskaya."We are in this … dilemma where we actually can't social distance. We have to take our masks off to perform and be shoulder to shoulder with our dance partners," she told CBC News backstage at the Bolshoi."But there's this term, 'stage therapy' and that's what's happening now," she said of the intensive group effort that's been required to rehearse and perform despite the restrictions."We take energy from [the audience] and we give energy."Within days of the theatre reopening this fall, 30 performers and workers out of more than 3,300 tested positive for COVID-19. The number is even higher now, with more than 100 employees off work. It's unclear how many of those are dancers, but for the Plisetskaya tribute, three dancers had to be replaced at the last minute because either they or a close family member had contracted the virus. In normal circumstances, the ballet would also be hosting guest dancers from around the world in prominent roles, but not now. Costly closureThe financial implications for the Bolshoi have been dire. The six-month shutdown cost the theatre roughly $15 million Cdn, prompting director Vladimir Urin to warn the venue's future was at risk.Right now, tickets, which can range up to $200 US each, are being sold for just 25 per cent of the seats in an auditorium that usually seats more than 2,000. Until mid-November, half the seats at the ballet performances were full, but capacity was further reduced as infection rates in Moscow soared.WATCH | How a gala ballet production comes together in a pandemic:Russia is the fifth most-infected country in the world and has been consistently registering more than 25,000 new cases a day for the past 10 days. Moscow has been seeing from 6,000 to 7,000 new cases a day and the city's mayor has acknowledged the hospital system is "under great pressure."In Canada, the National Ballet of Canada has cancelled the remainder of its 2020/2021 season and it is unclear when performances will begin again.The Royal Winnipeg Ballet cancelled its 80th season in March and this Christmas for the first time in 20 years there will not be a production of The Nutcracker.The Bolshoi hosts the world's largest ballet company, with more than 200 dancers. The interior walls of the building's ornate, gold-leafed rooms are adorned with photographs of world figures and celebrities who have visited over the decades.The director of the Plisetskaya tribute insisted it would be a catastrophe if the dancing were to stop for the pandemic."It's in our nature," said Andris Liepa, who as a dancer, choreographer and director has had a long association with the Bolshoi Ballet.He heads a ballet troupe in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but travelled to Moscow for the Plisetskaya production.Personal risk"People should feel that life is going on, and if you close the theatres and close the concerts, then people feel more suffering just by not having the chance to be part of that … culture."He said everyone who performs has to accept some risk."You cannot perform without being close to each other. The pas de deux [duet] has to be done as close as possible — sometimes we roll over each other, going over and over the bodies getting very close," he said, using his hands to illustrate two dancers weaving their bodies together.His own personal risk now, however, may be lower than others as he contracted the coronavirus a few months back and spent weeks at home in bed with a high fever."We are more careful now because we are wearing masks, we are always doing tests," he said referring to the precautions at the theatre for cast, crew and spectators.In fact, very few of the dancers or performers that the CBC News crew saw during the dress rehearsal were wearing masks. Shipulina, the prima ballerina, was the notable exception."I'm always in a mask. I only take it off for the real performance," she said.Most members of the orchestra, who were crammed together tightly beneath the front of the stage, were not wearing masks. Bolshoi officials told CBC News that rules on wearing masks are up to individuals but it didn't appear the conductor or many of the other musicians were covering their faces.Social beingsOn the performance night, patrons were getting their temperatures checked at the door but once inside the theatre, many wore their masks low underneath their noses. "We are social beings, we can't be without this," ballet goer Tatiana Telokova said on continuing with the performances during a pandemic."This is the main theatre of the country so the government has to think about this if there are hard times."WATCH | A young Russian ballet star keeps dancing during COVID-19:One of the Bolshoi's rising stars, 22-year-old ballet dancer Alyona Kovaleva, told CBC News she is strongly in favour of keeping the Bolshoi open despite the significant risk of infection, but she personally finds wearing a mask while dancing during rehearsals too uncomfortable. "It's really hard. I tried it once — but I can't," she said.Kovaleva missed out on dancing a new lead role because of the summer shutdown and said it was very hard to practise and stay prepared. "It was a disappointment. We all stopped and were thrown from our usual world, from our lives and how we used to see them," said Kovaleva."This was the biggest thing we missed during the quarantine and the time away from the theatre — this feeling of entering the stage, of giving your emotions and then receiving the energy back from the audience."I think we have to dance and perform as long as we are able to."
South Korean President Moon Jae-in reshuffled his cabinet on Friday as his approval rating sank to a record low amid a backlash over housing policies, rising coronavirus cases, and a scandal involving the justice ministry and top prosecutors. Moon nominated new ministers of interior, health, land and housing, and gender as he sought to refresh his administration, with roughly two years of his presidency to run. Limited to a single term, and holding a small parliamentary majority, there is no obvious risk to Moon's presidency, but the drop in ratings, a resurgence of coronavirus cases and nagging domestic controversies could make it harder for him to fulfil his agenda.
When Bob Murphy began his search for an affordable housing unit in Toronto, he said the process felt something like blindly throwing darts at a map.As a person with a disability on a fixed income, Murphy's options for an affordable unit within the Toronto Community Housing system were even further limited."You're just basically looking at an address on a map and just picking five choices you would possibly want," he said of the process.Three years later, he says there's been no movement on his application, and a total lack of communication about the status of his search.Murphy says he's now resigned to quietly languishing on Toronto's massive waiting list for affordable housing, which numbers 79,768 according to the city's latest count."I call it the never, ever housing list," said Murphy, who also volunteers with the advocacy group ACORN Canada. "I don't plan on anything ever developing from this list."Frustrating experiences like Murphy's are now driving a push to transform the city's outdated affordable housing application system, which has been described as an inconvenient relic from a pre-digital age."It's a barrier to entry," said Mark Richardson, an affordable housing activist behind the grassroots organization HousingNowTO. He's critical of the current system's reliance on physical documentation and the need for applicants to frequently update their files."I think it's a cumbersome system for people who are looking for housing," said Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, who is also the chair of the city's planning and housing committee.All eyes on NYCImprovements to Toronto's affordable housing application process could make the system easier to access, more responsive, and ultimately more capable of matching applicants with suitable housing, say those calling for change.Those advocates can now point to New York City, which in June rolled out a similarly ambitious makeover of its affordable housing application system to early positive reviews.Prospective tenants in New York can now access and update their applications on a smartphone, and the streamlined system is said to be more effective at matching tenants to possible homes."I think it would make a major difference and possibly create a little bit more hope," said Murphy of New York's revamped system.Richardson said a more sophisticated and intuitive system could also remove a burden on applicants to apply for various lotteries when new units become available. Rather than applying for a handful of buildings like Murphy has done, an improved system could match tenants with any building with an availability."You're not waiting to see some sign up on the side of the building, or the sign in a lobby of a building saying some units are becoming available," Richardson said.Change coming early next year, city saysBailão calls the updated system in New York "a great example" and said Toronto's social housing application process will take cues from it for its next update."It is an excellent system and that's what I'm hoping we're going to be able to roll out in Toronto," she said.She said that could happen as soon as the first quarter of 2021 for subsidized units in the Toronto Community Housing network. The same system would later be used for other forms of affordable housing, including below-market-rate units, Bailão said.A recent pilot project that tested an enhanced application system created the equivalent of 200 new units by more efficiently matching tenants to homes, she added.Despite possible improvements to the application process, Toronto will still have to grapple with a demand for affordable housing that still vastly exceeds the current supply of units.The city's HousingTO plan has a target of 40,000 new affordable housing units by 2030, which covers about half the applicants currently on the city's waiting list.
Preventing and controlling the spread of infection is all in a day's work for Dr. Natalie Bridger. In the early weeks of the year, well before COVID-19 commanded complete attention, she was focused on preparing for a pandemic she knew was going to hit North America. She's not just a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, but also the clinical chief of infection prevention and control with Eastern Health. She and her team are responsible for ensuring infections don't spread through hospitals in eastern Newfoundland. "I guess that put us in a good position to lead the way through COVID, or help lead the way, I should say," said Bridger."We were working hard to prepare between January and March. There's no doubt about that. But I wasn't certain that we were going to see cases. And then I guess when we did start seeing cases in March, everything changed." > I think people in health care are burnt out, but pushing through with hope that there is an end in sight. \- Dr. Natalie BridgerBridger shifted from planning for coronavirus cases to response mode, and her actions during the pandemic have now been recognized with a Pediatric Chairs of Canada (PCC) 2020 COVID Leadership Award."I was totally shocked to hear that I'd won to be honest. I guess it's meant a lot because I was nominated by a few of my colleagues at the Janeway. And I think that it caused a lot of reflection for me and for my team about about how far we've come since January," Bridger told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show. According to a release from MUN's Faculty of Medicine, Bridger was nominated for going above and beyond to provide safe and high-quality health care. In one example given, she advocated for appropriate personal protective equipment for health-care workers when confronted with dubious deliveries.She also managed testing and quarantines for health care workers who were exposed to COVID-19, and "answered texts and emails at all hours with calm professionalism, knowledge and wit."A stressful part of the job for Bridger has been trying to figure out best practices while battling the misinformation and uninformed opinions found on social and mainstream media.Saying no to Facebook"It does make it difficult because a lot of people just don't know who or what to believe. So, honestly, I got off Facebook, I just couldn't handle it anymore. That was probably cowardly, but it became just too overwhelming and stressful to be on social media and to deal with this professionally."Bridger is feeling optimistic about the prospect of a vaccine for COVID-19, and her stress levels are under control because there hasn't been any evidence of community spread with the recent spate of travel-related cases of coronavirus in the province. LISTEN | Natalie Bridger describes how a team effort helped prepare for and manage coronavirus, during an interview with Ramraajh Sharvendiran: "We're a little ways away from actually having vaccines in people's arms or legs. And so while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I don't think we can use that as a way to back off from from the extreme amount of discipline that's been shown by Newfoundland and Labrador."Bridger is quick to point out the team effort involved in keeping people safe during a pandemic — one that can come with a high price for people on the front lines."Oh, my goodness, everyone is burnt out. Every single person who works in health care … they're stressed out," she said."Health care is complicated at the best of times. And when you add in this extra layer of this unknown illness that you could catch, you could spread, it could do a lot of harm to people in your family. That adds a whole layer of stress that that I've never encountered before. So I think people in health care are burnt out, but pushing through with hope that there is an end in sight." Bridger will received the PCC 2020 COVID Leadership Award during a virtual ceremony on Dec. 11.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The developers of Canada's COVID Alert app fixed a glitch last week that left some users without exposure notifications for much of November.An update to the app released on Nov. 23 said it would fix a "bug causing gaps in exposure checks for some users." Without the patch, some Canadians running the app would not have been notified if they came in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.It's unclear how many people missed exposure notifications due to the glitch. But it does raise the prospect that certain users weren't advised to self-isolate or seek a COVID-19 test in a timely manner, potentially delaying diagnosis."For two weeks, the app basically didn't work" for those users, said Urs Hengartner, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo.He and others on social media said their devices had not performed any exposure checks from Nov. 9 to 23. The process — when a smartphone receives codes from a central server and verifies whether the user was potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 — is supposed to take place several times a day. WATCH | How the COVID Alert app worksThe problem appears to have first been reported by commenters in the Google Play Store as early as Nov. 12. That's 11 days before it was fixed."I noticed today that COVID Alert has done no exposure checks for the last two weeks," a user wrote in Apple's App Store on Nov. 20. "What good is this?"Users are urged to check their app store (the Google Play Store for people with Android devices and Apple's App Store for those with iPhones) to ensure their app is now up to date. Users who haven't installed the latest update — version 1.1.2 — could still be missing exposure checks. COVID Alert is designed to take note when two users spend at least 15 minutes less than two metres apart. If a user later tests positive for COVID-19, they can use the app to anonymously notify contacts of potential exposure. COVID Alert has been downloaded more than 5.5 million times and is touted by federal officials as a tool to help slow the spread of the virus. The app is active in the Northwest Territories and all provinces except Alberta and B.C.During the two-week period in November when some users reported the malfunction, 1,182 people used the app to report a positive test in Ontario alone, according to provincial data.COVID-19 infection rates continued to rise across much of the country during that time. Ontario, for example, announced lockdown measures in its two most populous regions, and P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador both announced on Nov. 23 they would withdraw from the Atlantic bubble due to increasing case counts elsewhere in the region.Bianca Healy, a spokesperson for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which houses the app's development team, confirmed in an email Thursday evening that "on some devices, if the app was not opened by the user for an extended period of time, COVID Alert would stop checking in the background for the random codes that would trigger a notification that a user may have been exposed to COVID-19. This bug has now been fixed."Healy said the app's built-in privacy features prevent federal officials from knowing how many users may have been affected."We encourage Canadians to update COVID Alert as soon as possible," she wrote. "They can also open the app to ensure that COVID Alert is checking for potential exposures."Hengartner, the computer science professor, said it is "a little concerning that it took two weeks to fix this bug." He said both he and his wife experienced the same issue.He called it "a fatal bug for this kind of system," as it defeats the purpose of the app entirely.It's unknown what caused the glitch, but Hengartner said he suspects it was an error in a previous COVID Alert update.Users weren't immediately warnedSmartphone users can choose to automatically receive app updates or download them manually. Apple's App Store lists 14 updates for COVID Alert since its initial release in July. The Canadian Digital Service, the federal agency responsible for developing the app, tweeted a message on Nov. 26 asking users to make sure they have the latest COVID Alert update. "This will ensure your app is doing what it's supposed to do, and you're not missing any checks or notifications," the message read.The tweet did not mention that the scenario it described was real and posed a potential risk to some users. It's unclear what other steps the federal agency took to alert users of the importance of the latest update.Hengartner stressed the problem should not discourage Canadians from installing COVID Alert.However, Kelly Bronson, a Canada Research Chair in science and society, said the episode does highlight how the app could provide users with a "false sense of security." She pointed to "automation bias," a human tendency to rely on automated decision-making, which can reduce personal vigilance.Bronson, who serves on the Global Pandemic App Watch program at the University of Ottawa, which tracks the uptake of similar tools around the world, warned the apps "are not a panacea.""I think it's really important that people know the limitations of these technologies," she said.