Toronto frontline worker Tim MacFarlane talks about being among the hidden-homeless population and how the pandemic is exacerbating the situation for many.
Toronto frontline worker Tim MacFarlane talks about being among the hidden-homeless population and how the pandemic is exacerbating the situation for many.
The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can "break through" Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found, though its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed. The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1% of all the COVID-19 cases across all the people studied, according to the study by Tel Aviv University and Israel's largest healthcare provider, Clalit. But among patients who had received two doses of the vaccine, the variant's prevalence rate was eight times higher than those unvaccinated - 5.4% versus 0.7%.
The Yukon government has issued a potential COVID-19 exposure notification for a flight into Yukon Sunday evening. The possible exposure was for Air Canada flight 8889 from Vancouver to Whitehorse at 6:30 p.m. that evening, landing in Whitehorse at about 8:49 p.m., according to a news release issued Friday. The release says "new information" became available regarding a previous case, where a person was infected with the variant B117 while outside Yukon. The person had originally been cleared to travel but, based on new information, the person was determined to be infectious while on the flight. The release says contact tracing with passengers seated in close proximity to the case is underway. The risk of exposure is low on flights, the release says, but the territory says it's taking a precautionary approach. So far, no other exposures of concern have been identified in Yukon. The infected person followed public health advice and is deemed to be recovered. There are no confirmed active cases in Yukon as of Friday evening. Health officials say anyone who thinks they are experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms should self-isolate and remain at home, take the online self-assessment and arrange to get tested either by calling 867-393-3083 or booking a test online.
Residents of Terrace, B.C. scheduled to receive COVID-19 vaccines Friday now have to wait until next week after Northern Health cancelled a day's worth of appointments due to what they characterize as "dwindled" interest among older age groups in the community. Kirsten Fehr, a Kitsumkalum Nation resident of the northwestern B.C. city, didn't find out her shot was cancelled until she showed up at the Terrace Sportsplex to find a sign on the door saying the clinic was closed. "Frustrated," she said of her reaction. "I had to organize a babysitter in order to attend this appointment and I was looking forward to starting the process of immunization." Currently anyone in Terrace aged 65 and up can book an appointment to be vaccinated, but Northern Health says only those in the 70 and up age range, or 18 and up for Indigenous residents, are actually receiving doses at the moment. "Appointment bookings in this age group ... had dwindled this week, and the decision was made to cancel today's clinic and reschedule any booked appointments into next week's clinics," Northern Health said in an email and Facebook post, responding to residents upset by the change. A sign posted on the Terrace Sportsplex vaccine clinic Friday.(Kirsten Fehr) The health authority did not clarify why other appointments were not moved up, or other age groups invited to be vaccinated sooner, rather than cancelling a day's worth of inoculations. "We have always said, in small communities in the north, clinic details will be subject to change," spokesperson Eryn Collins said in an email. "No vaccine goes to waste — it is all used in line with the provincial plan." Fehr said she had to call to reschedule her appointment and is now supposed to receive her dose on Wednesday — five days later than originally planned. Terrace resident Walter Fricke said he is frustrated by the decision to cancel appointments rather than attempt to fill up empty slots with younger age groups. "I know several people who could have been there in less than half an hour," he said in an email. The health authority says moving forward, they will be operating the clinic from Tuesday until Thursday, with a goal of 1,000 shots a week. On Friday, B.C. health officials announced 1,262 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths in the province. So far, 1,025,019 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 87,606 of those being second doses. A record high 40,018 people were vaccinated in B.C. on Thursday.
Ukraine's defence minister said on Saturday his country could be provoked by Russian aggravation of the situation in the conflict area of Ukraine's eastern Donbass region. The minister, Andrii Taran, said Russian accusations about the rights of Russian-speakers being violated could be the reason for the resumption of armed aggression against Ukraine. "At the same time, it should be noted that the intensification of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is possible only if an appropriate political decision is made at the highest level in the Kremlin," he said in a statement.
OTTAWA — Former central banker Mark Carney says he'll do whatever he can to support the federal Liberal party.Until now, Carney has avoided any overt show of partisanship, as required in his former roles as governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England.But he's telling Liberals at their convention that he's committed to public service and helping the governing party.It's not clear whether that means Carney intends to run for the party in the next election.Liberals have long touted Carney as a possible leader one day.He flirted quietly with the idea of a leadership run back in 2012 but eventually squelched the idea by suggesting he would just as soon become a "circus clown."This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2021. The Canadian Press
Maxine Koskie says when she heard she wouldn't be getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as planned, she broke down and cried. The Regina resident is waiting for surgery and required a vaccine for the procedure — one she's been waiting for since last October. She made an appointment online for vaccinations for her and her husband at the Evraz Place immunization site in Regina, which, based on previous Saskatchewan Health Authority information, she believed was offering the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. But just before she was set to receive the shot, the nurse informed Koskie she and her husband would be getting the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine instead. "It was a complete surprise to both of us," she said. "They're acting more like a dictatorship, because they're taking away the freedom of choice," she said. "I made the conscious choice to go for a Pfizer vaccine and that was not an option for me." Koskie says she ended up receiving the shot out of necessity, but the experience left her feeling let down by the government. 'It's been very underhanded' Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman need to be transparent with the people of Saskatchewan, she says. "My concern is that it's been very underhanded," she said, adding the experience left her feeling appalled. "I was so upset with the disrespect." The Saskatchewan Health Authority announced "vaccine delivery changes" in an online notice on Friday. "The SHA has re-allocated the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the Regina mass immunization sites at the International Trade Centre and the University of Regina to allow for the administration of Pfizer vaccines through the drive-thru starting Friday, while vaccine supply is available," the health authority said online. One of the province's first mass vaccination clinics at the International Trade Centre at Regina's Evraz Place. One Regina resident is fuming after only discovering at her appointment that she wasn't getting the brand of vaccine she expected.(Matt Duguid/CBC) Koskie thinks patients should be notified directly about any changes to their appointment or vaccine plan before they arrive for their appointments. She says she wasn't alone in her anger and frustration, as others around them also expressed concern when they were informed of the change. "They need to be honest and when they change things on the spur of the moment, they need to get that information out to the public that it is going to affect." Efficacy concerns She said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was her shot of choice because she feels it provides better protection. AstraZeneca has said its vaccine had a 76 per cent efficacy rate at preventing symptomatic illness — compared with rates of about 95 per cent for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and about 67 per cent for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was the fourth and latest approved by Health Canada. As well, data from one small trial suggested the AstraZeneca vaccine did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the B1351 variant of the coronavirus, which was first identified in South Africa. However, Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, told CBC in a February interview that "Where it matters the most, against severe disease, hospitalization and death … [AstraZeneca] seems to be quite effective against the variant." Sharma also said laboratory tests and real-world evidence suggest the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine seems to be "quite effective" against the B117 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. The clinical trials of both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were completed before the variants of concern took off worldwide. 'Safe and effective': health ministry In a statement sent to CBC, Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health said vaccine availability is dependent on numerous factors, including the increasing presence of coronavirus variants of concern in the Regina area. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization guidelines suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine should be used only for people older than 55. But the presence and transmission of variants of concern in Regina has required the province to "accelerate the vaccination program" for those under 55, the health ministry said. "All vaccines approved by Health Canada are safe and effective at preventing the most serious forms of COVID-19 illness and death. All residents have been asked to take the vaccine that is available to them," the ministry said. "If those receiving the vaccine have concerns regarding a certain brand of vaccine due to their medical history, they should speak to their primary care physician or a public health nurse directly prior to their appointment." The ministry also said patients are informed about the brand of vaccine they will receive, noting they are free to refuse the vaccine if they have concerns. However, Koskie says she thinks the government is "not accepting responsibility or ownership" for the fact people may be caught off guard when they're told they'll be receiving a different vaccine once they're at an appointment. "They're in a position where they have no choice," she said. She's already made a call to the ministry on the issue, and now plans to file a formal written complaint. 'Any vaccine is a good vaccine': health minister Health Minister Paul Merriman addressed questions about vaccines on Saturday, following a rare weekend sitting of the legislature. He said a "very minimal" number of people out of the thousands who have booked appointments at Evraz Place have refused a vaccine because they didn't want to take a specific brand. "Any vaccine is a good vaccine, unless there are very certain circumstances where a doctor or a health-care provider has recommended you don't do that," he said, noting people can rebook later if they're concerned about the type of vaccine offered to them. He says the province is not in a position to "pick and choose" when it comes to vaccines, and pointed out Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab has already received the AstraZeneca shot. Merriman said the province will work to accommodate people who are unable to get a certain vaccine due to medical conditions outlined by a doctor, encouraging them to call into the province's vaccine line at 1-833-727-5829 beforehand. But he said there are no plans moving forward for the government to inform members of the public about which vaccines will become available to them, as supply fluctuates. "There will be, to my knowledge, no advance warning of what you are getting," he said. "People assume that they're getting one vaccine or not, but any vaccine is a good vaccine right now."
Concerns are being raised by some members of P.E.I.'s trucking industry about what the future might hold as a driver shortage lingers across Canada. "I think people have a concept of what the industry is and I don't think it's accurate," said Brian Oulton, the executive director of the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council. "It's not a, you know, old boys club. There's a lot of diversity, there's a lot of opportunity, there's a ton of professionalism." Currently, Oulton estimates approximately 4,000 people are working in the trucking profession on the Island — roughly half of those are drivers. But, he said more than 500 additional people will be needed over the next five years. "The major shortage we have here is for long-haul truck drivers ... as well as truck and transport mechanics." Aging industry According to Oulton, there are several factors that play into the current situation. On one hand, he said trucking is an aging profession on P.E.I. with the majority of workers being over 45 years old. "We're seeing people come in as a second career," said Oulton. "That puts a bit of pressure and I guess makes us a bit older as an industry." 'The majority of our workforce, in fact, is 45-plus,' says Brian Oulton, the executive director at the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council.(Tony Davis/CBC News) On top of that, he said COVID-19 has had an impact on getting temporary foreign workers and training new employees. "As part of the training, each student will take a four-week internship with a company and be paired with a driver coach," said Oulton. "Well, a lot of coaches don't want to share their trucks right now." 'Quite fortunate' Seafood Express Transport said it has just enough drivers at the moment but is also struggling to recruit more. "We've been quite fortunate to have our trucks full but ... I do find it difficult to find good quality drivers," said Suzanne Gray, the company's recruiting co-ordinator. 'Our minimum experience is two years experience on the road, but it's hard to find that nowadays,' says Suzanne Gray, the recruiting co-ordinator at Seafood Express Transport.(CBC News) Gray said there is still a lot of interest in local container work but people they've interviewed for jobs seem reluctant to travel to the U.S. "A lot of them just have a fear of going into those high areas that are ... COVID hotspots." Finding people who qualify for the job is also becoming more difficult. "Our minimum experience is two years experience on the road, but it's hard to find that nowadays, of drivers that are qualified, that have the experience and that are looking for U.S. long-haul work in particular," she said. Driver diversity For those interested in joining the industry Oulton said they can reach out to the trucking sector council for more information. And while he said it is helpful that many drivers are continuing to work after 65 years old, he said the council is looking to attract those who may not have considered driving as a career. "It was traditionally a male-dominated industry, which we've been doing a lot of work to attract women and, you know youth, other groups to this," said Oulton. "It's a slower process and we're getting there but that has kind of been part of it as well." More from CBC P.E.I.
After seven years on the job, Estevan’s police chief, Paul Ladouceur, is to step down April 16 amid mounting pressure by the police union, which is urging changes after votes of non-confidence in his role as chief. Conversely, the city’s chairman of the board of police commissioners, Roy Ludwig, who’s also the mayor, says the union lacks “all the information,” alleging it has engaged in “conjecture.” Ladouceur tendered his resignation with Ludwig on Thursday afternoon. He resigns following union pressure for how he and the board of police commissioners allegedly handled Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) claims made by the late Jay Pierson, a former Estevan police constable. Ladouceur did not return the Leader-Post’s request for comment. Citing confidentiality, Ludwig said he couldn’t provide details about Ladouceur’s or the board’s handling of mental health concerns officers raised. “Unfortunately some of these people do not have all the information,” he said. “We cannot release confidential information. “As a result, some people will conjecture and make up their own opinions, not knowing all of the background, all of the facts and of course there's nothing we can do to prevent that.” Three different medical professionals diagnosed Pierson with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He died on March 5 of natural causes, his family says. Pierson first filed benefit claims for his PTSD in 2017. Estevan police administrators appealed those claims through a WCB appeal process. In June 2020 a Court of Queen’s Bench Justice ruled Pierson should have his benefits reinstated after they were denied through the WCB appeal. Casey Ward, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers (SFPO), told the Leader-Post he heard from Estevan police members “there was a real lack of support with mental health issues … They saw how Jay was treated. There are members that are hurting and they thought there would be no support if they came forward.” Two EPS members last week called Ward, he said, to tell him “‘we're not eligible for retirement, but we're quitting, we can't work there anymore.’” The SFPO president said Estevan members have twice called non-confidence votes for the chief over the past 12 months. In the fall of 2020, they voted — at the SFPO’s urging — to keep Ladouceur on board to work with him. This year shortly before Pierson’s death, Ward said all but four Estevan members voted for a non-confidence motion against Ladouceur. After their colleague’s death, they “came back to the (local) president (Kevin Reed) and said 'we want to change our vote,' and they had 100-per-cent agreement of non-confidence.” Reed did not respond to the Leader-Post’s phone calls for comment. The SFPO on Tuesday sent a letter to Saskatchewan’s policing and corrections minister, Christine Tell, requesting “a formal review of the leadership of the Estevan Police Service (EPS),” Ward said. Tell’s office confirmed it received the letter. In an emailed statement, Tell said, “at this time no decisions have been made regarding an inquiry into the Estevan Police Service.” She said her ministry “places a high priority on mental health for our police services and corrections staff.” Ludwig commended Ladouceur’s work in his service with the city. He said the chief’s securing “carbine (rifles)” for its members, getting funding through SGI to pay for new police cruisers and obtaining speed radar cameras are examples of that. “He was able to find revenue streams that we did not have the opportunity to even be aware of in the past. He had a great relationship with SGI and with the provincial government.” Ladouceur joined the Estevan Police Service as chief in April 2014, after working as a detective-sergeant with the Brockville, Ont. police service. Before that, he was with the London, Ont., police force for about 11 years. Sgt. Warren Morrical is to serve as the interim police chief, until the city finds a permanent replacement, Ludwig said. firstname.lastname@example.org Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post
WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday unveiled new rules for U.S. government contacts with Taiwan that are likely to anger China but appear to reimpose some restrictions that had been lifted by the Trump administration. The department announced the changed policy in a statement that said the Biden administration intends to “liberalize” the rules to reflect the “deepening unofficial relationship” between the U.S. and Taiwan. However, the revised guidelines don’t include all the changes put in place by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the waning days of the Trump administration. Pompeo had lifted virtually all restrictions on contacts with Taiwan, including allowing Taiwanese military officers to wear uniforms and display the Taiwanese flag at meetings with U.S. officials. Friday’s changes were silent on those matters, although the rules do continue to permit U.S. officials to meet their Taiwanese counterparts in federal buildings. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and opposes any attempt to treat the island as an independent country. China had condemned Pompeo's easing of the restrictions that had been in place since the U.S. recognized Beijing and dropped formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979. “These new guidelines will continue the U.S. government’s longstanding practice of providing clarity throughout the U.S. executive branch of how to implement our ‘one China’ policy,” the department said. “This new guidance is a step forward from earlier versions, including the contact guidance that was in place for virtually all of the previous administration, by encouraging engagement with Taiwan counterparts and removing unneeded restrictions.” Yet the statement contained no details about the new “contact guidance” and congressional aides briefed on the matter said the changes were actually more restrictive than those Pompeo had rolled out just 11 days before the end of the Trump administration. The department said Pompeo's changes had not made engagement with Taiwan easier but rather “had the practical policy effect of impeding our unofficial engagement with Taiwan — a problem that we are rectifying today with this new guidance.” It was not immediately clear how the new guidance rectified the matter. On Jan. 9, Pompeo issued a sweeping order that rescinded almost all U.S. restrictions on contacts with Taiwan. “The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing. No more," Pompeo said in a statement that announced the “lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions.” He said the U.S.-Taiwan relationship should not “be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy.” Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
A zoo in the United States has welcomed four recent hatchings of Humboldt penguin chicks. The new chicks hatched in Brookfield Zoo in Illinois on March 13, 16, 24 and April 3. (April 10)
Several thousand people blocked traffic in front of the Serbian parliament on Saturday in a protest against lack of government action to prevent water, land and air pollution by industries such as the mining sector. Protesters, who came to Belgrade from all over Serbia, held banners reading "Cut corruption and crime not forests," and "Young people are leaving because they cannot breathe". In recent years Serbia has started selling its mining resources to foreign companies, despite opposition by local residents who had warned that increased ore exploration could cause greater pollution.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Republicans on Friday ousted a powerful Kansas lawmaker charged with drunken driving from his leadership job following the release of a document saying he taunted the Highway Patrol trooper who arrested him and called the officer “donut boy.” Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop’s removal was the first time in at least several decades that a Kansas legislative leader’s colleagues pushed someone out before the end of his or her term. Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, had been set to be majority leader through 2024. Republican senators voted 22-4 to remove Suellentrop during a 50-minute meeting that was closed to reporters and the public. Senate President Ty Masterson disclosed the vote afterward, saying Republican senators would have an acting majority leader until late May, when they will elect a new majority leader. “These are just heavy issues,” Masterson, another Wichita-area Republican, told reporters after the meeting. “We build relationships in this chamber, so it’s kind of a sad day.” Suellentrop will remain in the seat for his Wichita district. Masterson said whether Suellentrop retains the seat is up to his constituents. Kansas law limits the grounds for a recall to a felony conviction, misconduct in office or “failure to perform duties prescribed by law.” Constituents seeking to recall Suellentrop would have to file petitions signed by more than 3,900 registered voters in his district. Suellentrop stepped away from most of his duties as majority leader following his March 16 arrest in Topeka after he was stopped on Interstate 70 for driving the wrong way. He was the Senate’s second-highest leadership job, and the majority leader decides which proposals are debated each day. Asked about his relationship with Suellentrop, Masterson said, "Yes, we're still friends.” “I've made mistakes myself, maybe not to that level,” he said. "Think about it: Take your most shameful decision and put it on the news every night.” Suellentrop was not available to reporters Friday and did not attend the meeting of fellow senators. He did not answer his cellphone, and it didn’t allow for a voicemail message seeking comment. Suellentrop faces five counts, including a felony fleeing to avoid arrest and a misdemeanour driving under the influence charge. An affidavit from the Highway Patrol officer who arrested him was released Thursday, and it said Suellentrop's blood-alcohol level after his arrest was .17, more than twice the legal limit of .08. The call for a vote to remove Suellentrop came first from Republican Sen. Rick Kloos, of Topeka, who said he “had numerous conversations” with colleagues and the release of the affidavit was a deciding factor. He was joined by two other Topeka-area senator, Republicans Kristen O'Shea and Brenda Dietrich. “We came to the decision today that we put this off long enough, as difficult as it is. We have more information now,” Dietrich said. GOP senators kept the doors to their normal meeting room closed. Reporters who waited outside could see through glass in the doors legislative staffers distributing and then collecting slips of paper serving as ballots. Asked earlier in the day about having the discussions in public, Masterson said: “We’ve had plenty of discussion in public.” Assistant Majority Leader Larry Alley, who represents a district south of Wichita, will serve as acting majority leader, as he has since mid-March. Republicans will pick a new majority leader on the last day of this year's legislative session, Masterson said. Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Austin Shepley said in his affidavit that Suellentrop refused to take a breathalyzer test and was taken to a Topeka hospital for a blood test after a judge issued a warrant. At one point, he called Shepley “donut boy,” according to the affidavit, and said the events were “all for going the wrong way.” “While the phlebotomist was administering the blood kit, Gene Suellentop’s demeanour becoming slightly aggressive in his tone, he made reference to physically going up against me,” Shepley said. “He looked me up and down, stating he played state sports competitively in high school. He stated he could ‘take me.’” ___ Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna John Hanna, The Associated Press
Allison Garber says from the outside it looked like she had it all together. The communications business owner and mother of two may not have looked like a problem drinker. But she says she found herself willing the clock to hit 5 p.m. every day so she could open a bottle of wine and pour a glass. Then "not so patiently" waiting for her kids to go to bed so she could have a few more. Garber decided she had a problem with drinking in 2018 and sought help. She's been sober now for more than two years and is thankful her recovery came before the pandemic did. "I am so glad that I was not still stuck on this train where I viewed alcohol as a reward for getting through a tough day," she said. "[The pandemic] just amplified everything. It has amplified how we use alcohol as a form of self-medication, as a form of self care. "And that message is reinforced almost everywhere you go. You've had a long day, pour yourself a glass of wine." WATCH | Allison Garber says it was hard to come to the realization she had a problem with alcohol: Drinking among women has increased steadily in recent years. In 2018, the Report on the State of Public Health from Canada's chief public health officer identified alcohol use in women as one of the most pressing concerns of our time. The report highlighted that from 2011 to 2017, deaths attributed to alcohol increased by 26 per cent among Canadian women, while alcohol-related deaths in men increased just five per cent. The pandemic has led to soaring alcohol sales and some Canadians are reporting increased binge drinking. A Statistics Canada survey released in January shows many Canadians are not just pouring themselves a single glass. Almost one in five who responded to the survey said they consumed five or more drinks — the equivalent of a bottle of wine — on the days they reported drinking alcohol in the previous month. The agency says this is higher than before COVID-19 hit. When women drink, the health effects can be staggering. Drinking three to six alcoholic beverages a week increases the risk of breast cancer in women by 15 per cent. Women who drink two glasses of wine daily have a 50 per cent increase in their risk of breast cancer. "What we might consider to be very modest amounts of alcohol are still really significant from a health perspective," said Dr. Jennifer Wyman, associate director of the Substance Use Service at Women's College Hospital. Right now, Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend no more than 10 drinks per week for women and 15 for men. The agency in charge of these guidelines, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, is looking now at whether they should be changed. The current guidelines need to be revised to reflect the risks, said Dr. Wyman. WATCH | Dr. Jennifer Wyman talks about why she feels the low-risk alcohol guidelines need to change: One drink a day or seven a week would likely be more reasonable, she said, adding that the guidelines are meant to be a maximum even though they may not always be treated that way. Dr. Wyman says she thinks some people view the guideline's 10-drinks-a-week maximum and interpret that as being what the average person is drinking. "And therefore, if that's what they're drinking, then they're sort of within the middle of the spectrum and they're doing OK, as opposed to that's really the maximum number that you should be thinking about," she said. "And it doesn't mean that you should be aiming to hit that every week. That should be the tops." Just as the upper limits for alcohol consumption are different for women and men, so are the reasons why they drink. The pressure put on women to fill several different roles has many counting down to the time that they can pour a glass of wine, Dr. Wyman says. "I think that women tend to drink as a coping mechanism," she said. A report from Canada's chief public health officer identified alcohol use in women as one of the most pressing health concerns, with deaths attributed to alcohol increasing by 26 per cent among Canadian women from 2011 to 2017. Since then, the pandemic has led to soaring alcohol sales.() Alcohol is often seen as the quickest decompression tool, says Ann Dowsett Johnston, who wrote the book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. "If you can't get to a yoga class, if you can't figure out how you're going to fit that in, or a long bath, or a walk around the block — you're making dinner, you're at the vegetable chopping block, you pour a glass of wine." Alcohol consumption is reinforced socially as well. Girls nights out, popping champagne for a celebration, wine at a book club. It's how we celebrate, relax and reward ourselves, Dowsett Johnston said. It has also become a social media phenomenon that moms need wine to cope. There are wine glasses emblazoned with "mom juice" and "because kids." "I think the whole notion of mommy drinking has become a meme, and I think that there's far too much humour about it. I think it's a serious social issue." Dowsett Johnston says the pandemic has only added to the burdens many women carry. WATCH | Ann Dowsett Johnston discusses the challenges facing women that may influence their alcohol consumption: The "mommy juice" marketing to help cope is something life coach Alexis McCalla resents. "You're making an assumption that they can't handle their life, so they have to go out and drink," the Whitby, Ont., mother said. "And now you're normalizing it." McCalla never drank an amount even close to the 10 drinks a week upper limit, but said she found herself having a glass of wine to unwind during the pandemic more often than she normally would. Previously, opened wine bottles would go unfinished. But she says she found herself making more frequent trips to the liquor store to numb the fear she was feeling about COVID-19. She says she journaled and asked herself tough questions, and in the end realized she was drinking more because she worried about her family getting sick during the pandemic. Once McCalla got to the root of her fears, she says she decided to stop drinking, doing an alcohol-free period with a few of her clients. She's also working with some of them to address the anxieties at the core of their alcohol consumption. McCalla has had a single glass of wine since then and found she wasn't interested in restarting, realizing she was getting a better night's sleep and a harder workout the next day if she didn't open a bottle. "I could have gone and read another book. I could have spoken to friends or journaled and learned more about myself." Life coach Alexis McCalla said once she decided to cut out alcohol altogether, she realized she was getting a better night's sleep and a more effective workout the next day.(Alexis McCalla) McCalla and the women she has helped are not the only ones questioning their drinking. Dawn Nickel is based in Victoria, B.C. She's the founder of SheRecovers, an addictions recovery program tailored to women. Nickel says in the last year, the number of women who have reached out has exploded. "Our Facebook group went from 2,000 people to 7,800 in the last year." Nickel says not every woman contacting the program has an alcohol abuse disorder. For some, abstinence is the goal, for others it could be cutting back. "We just talk about, like, what are your goals? What's your intention? Do you want to slow down? Do you want to stop? You pick it and we'll support you to get there." The pandemic may have led to more drinking, but with so many recovery programs now online, Nickel says finding help is also easier and more convenient than ever. So is finding a safe space to question why they need alcohol to cope. "There's so much support for them now," Nickel said. "We're having these conversations for the first time in society around what we're being influenced by, and who says we have to have a bottle of wine every evening to unwind." For Garber, recovery involved a more traditional 12-step program. "I knew that if I continued down this path, I was going to face some dire consequences. I could see it clearly. And so I made a choice to reach out to a friend who I knew was in recovery herself." Now, Garber is supporting other women who reach out and need help. She joined a running club and trains for races. She runs on the waterfront every Saturday and on the days when Halifax's famous clouds part, she takes a moment to stop and take a picture of the sunrise, grateful for how far she's come. "I stop at the same place every time," she said. "It's just this chance to say thank you to whatever it is out there that helped me stay here." Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.
LONDON — Young people have hurled bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at police and set hijacked cars and a bus on fire during a week of violence on the streets of Northern Ireland. Police responded with rubber bullets and water cannons. The streets were calmer Friday night, as community leaders appealed for calm after the death of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's 99-year-old husband. But small gangs of youths pelted police with objects and set a car ablaze during sporadic outbreaks in Belfast. The chaotic scenes have stirred memories of decades of Catholic-Protestant conflict, known as “The Troubles.” A 1998 peace deal ended large-scale violence but did not resolve Northern Ireland’s deep-rooted tensions. A look at the background to the new violence: WHY IS NORTHERN IRELAND A CONTESTED LAND? Geographically, Northern Ireland is part of Ireland. Politically, it’s part of the United Kingdom. Ireland, long dominated by its bigger neighbour, broke free about 100 years ago after centuries of colonization and an uneasy union. Twenty-six of its 32 counties became an independent, Roman Catholic-majority country. Six counties in the north, which have a Protestant majority, stayed British. Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority experienced discrimination in jobs, housing and other areas in the Protestant-run state. In the 1960s, a Catholic civil rights movement demanded change, but faced a harsh response from the government and police. Some people on both the Catholic and Protestant sides formed armed groups that escalated the violence with bombings and shootings. The British Army was deployed in 1969, initially to keep the peace. The situation deteriorated into a conflict between Irish republican militants who wanted to unite with the south, loyalist paramilitaries who sought to keep Northern Ireland British, and U.K. troops. During three decades of conflict more than 3,600 people, a majority of them civilians, were killed in bombings and shootings. Most were in Northern Ireland, though the Irish Republican Army also set off bombs in London and other British cities. HOW DID THE CONFLICT END? By the 1990s, after secret talks and with the help of diplomatic efforts by Ireland, Britain and the United States, the combatants reached a peace deal. The 1998 Good Friday accord saw the paramilitaries lay down their arms and established a Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government for Northern Ireland. The question of Northern Ireland’s ultimate status was deferred: it would remain British as long as that was the majority’s wish, but a future referendum on reunification was not ruled out. While the peace has largely endured, small Irish Republican Army splinter groups have mounted occasional attacks on security forces, and there have been outbreaks of sectarian street violence. Politically, the power-sharing arrangement has had periods of success and failure. The Belfast administration collapsed in January 2017 over a botched green energy project. It remained suspended for more than two years amid a rift between British unionist and Irish nationalist parties over cultural and political issues, including the status of the Irish language. Northern Ireland's government resumed work at the start of 2020, but there remains deep mistrust on both sides. HOW HAS BREXIT COMPLICATED THINGS? Northern Ireland has been called the “problem child” of Brexit, the U.K.'s divorce from the European Union. As the only part of the U.K. that has a border with an EU nation — Ireland — it was the trickiest issue to resolve after Britain voted narrowly in 2016 to leave the 27-nation bloc. An open Irish border, over which people and goods flow freely, underpins the peace process, allowing people in Northern Ireland to feel at home in both Ireland and the U.K. The insistence of Britain’s Conservative government on a “hard Brexit” that took the country out of the EU’s economic order meant the creation of new barriers and checks on trade. Both Britain and the EU agreed that border could not be in Ireland because of the risk that would pose to the peace process. The alternative was to put it, metaphorically, in the Irish Sea — between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. That arrangement has alarmed British unionists, who say it weakens Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and could bolster calls for Irish reunification. WHY HAS VIOLENCE ERUPTED NOW? The violence has been largely in Protestant areas in and around Belfast and Northern Ireland’s second city, Londonderry, although the disturbances have spread to Catholic neighbourhoods. Britain left the EU’s economic embrace on Dec. 31, and the new trade arrangements quickly became an irritant to Northern Ireland unionists who want to stay in the U.K. Early trade glitches, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, led to some empty supermarket shelves, fueling alarm. Border staff were temporarily withdrawn from Northern Ireland ports in February after threatening graffiti appeared to target port workers. There was anger that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who long insisted there would be no new checks on trade as a result of Brexit, had downplayed the scale of the changes wrought by leaving the EU. Some in Northern Ireland's British loyalist community feel as if their identity is under threat. “Many loyalists believe that, de facto, Northern Ireland has ceased to be as much a part of the U.K. as it was,” Ulster University politics professor Henry Patterson told Sky News. Unionists are also angry at a police decision not to prosecute politicians from the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party who attended the funeral of a former Irish Republican Army commander in June, despite coronavirus restrictions. Meanwhile, outlawed armed groups continue to operate as criminal drug gangs and still exert influence in working-class communities — though the main paramilitaries have denied involvement in the recent unrest. Many of those involved in the violence were teenagers and even children as young as 12. They grew up after the Troubles, but live in areas where poverty and unemployment remain high and where sectarian divides have not healed. Two decades after the Good Friday peace accord, concrete “peace walls” still separate working-class Catholic and Protestant areas of Belfast. The coronavirus pandemic has added new layers of economic damage, education disruptions and lockdown-induced boredom to the mix. Despite calls for peace from political leaders in Belfast, London, Dublin and Washington, the knot of problems may prove difficult to resolve. “These are areas of multiple deprivation with the sense of not much to lose,” Katy Hayward, a professor of politics at Queen’s University Belfast, said. “And when (people) are mobilized by social media telling them ‘Enough is enough, now is the time to defend Ulster,’ then many of them — too many — respond to that.” Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for the "worrying" developments in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held more than three hours of talks with Erdogan in Istanbul as part of a previously scheduled visit, amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the conflict in Donbass. Kyiv has raised the alarm over a buildup of Russian forces near the border between Ukraine and Russia, and over a rise in violence along the line of contact separating Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in Donbass.
TORONTO — Canadian actor Emily VanCamp had the help of another Canuck woman as she joined the Marvel superhero series "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." The Port Perry, Ont.-born star says the Disney Plus show's Toronto-based director, Kari Skogland, has been instrumental in helping her reprise and flesh out her role as deadly operative Sharon Carter. "I remember when I first met Kari, it was right before we started shooting and we had dinner together; had a couple glasses of wine, and it was just like chatting with an old friend," VanCamp said in an interview. "I just felt very comfortable in her hands. Having that female energy as well, within a Marvel show, is fantastic. And I think she really brought that sensibility. It was nice to have that sort of comforting presence." Sharon first appeared in last week's episode of the series, which stars Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, a.k.a. The Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier. The former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is in a much darker and jaded place than when fans last saw her in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War." She's now on the run after being named an enemy of the state by the United States government, doesn't speak with her family and is selling stolen artwork on the lawless fictional island nation of Madripoor. When Sam and Bucky ask for Sharon's help in solving an international crisis, she agrees with the promise that she'll get a pardon out of it and get her life back. Helping the trio is the villainous Zemo, played by Daniel Bruhl — but he might not be the only evil member of the group. Sharon is also showing an enigmatic nature and many fans are wondering whether she might be a criminal ruler known as the Power Broker. "There are so many possibilities and so many things that could potentially be brewing there that we don't see," said VanCamp, star of the Fox medical drama series "The Resident" who rose to fame on series "Everwood," "Brothers and Sisters" and "Revenge." "There's a chip on her shoulder, and you definitely see that she's not the same Sharon that we knew. But what that means is yet to be seen." VanCamp said she was surprised when she was asked to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Sharon, some five years after essentially saying goodbye to the character. "I think many of us thought 'OK, well, that was just sort of the end for Sharon. And we'll never really know what happened,'" she said. "And the idea of finding out what happened was very intriguing to me." She loved being able to redefine the role, independent of Captain America and the world of the movies. "There's still more to unpack even after this series is finished," VanCamp said. "But Kari was amazing in really bringing out that inner turmoil and that depth in each character." She was also drawn to the show's bigger themes, from racism to trauma. "I think people will be really inspired by it," said VanCamp. "In the grand scheme of what this show represents, it's amazing." Sharon also gets a lot more physical in the series compared to the films. VanCamp had a stunt double but also did many of her own fight sequences and trained for months to learn the scenes, many of which were shot as one long take. "I definitely put the body through the wringer a little bit over those several months, but it was worth it," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
After weeks of planning and preparation, a three-man crew lifted thousands of kilograms of ice and truck from the Des Rocher River before the river ice melted. The truck fell through the ice on Jan. 2 roughly 80 metres off the Fort Chipewyan winter road. The driver was not injured. But hoisting the truck was no easy task for the crew. It took roughly three weeks to stabilize the surrounding ice so the crew could work safely. A warmer winter meant the ice was not strong enough to support the cranes or heavy machinery usually used for these jobs. Then it took two weeks to design and build a frame system that could lift the truck from the frozen river. By late February, the crew was ready to begin working. “When you’re dealing with ice, you’re dealing with Mother Nature and there is inherent danger in that,” said Brett Wildman, construction superintendent for Big Ice Services in Creighton, Sask. “It’s not as easy or simple as it looks, and there is a lot of thought that goes into these ice recoveries.” A challenge for Wildman and his crew was estimating the weight of the truck once it was filled with ice and water. The crew estimated about 11,000 kilograms of ice would be attached to the truck. Once the truck was attached to tow trucks and the frame system with cables, the three workers spent five hours freeing the truck with chainsaws. “There’s always a tense moment when you’ve got your cut around the vehicle and you’ve got it all hooked up to the framework,” said Wildman. “It’s always a nerve-wracking piece when you’re waiting for that final pop where it sets itself free.” Wildman said Big Ice deals with a handful of similar cases annually. He has been building ice roads since 1999 and usually deals with fuel tankers that have fallen through ice. But, the truck on the winter road presented its own unique risks. There's always a chance a vehicle trapped in ice can sink as spring arrives, taking any equipment it's attached to with it. Wildman said it was important the truck be lifted from the river to prevent environmental damage. “We’re protecting out pristine waters,” he said. “We don’t want to have vehicles that have oil, antifreeze and hydrocarbons in the waterways.” In an email, municipal spokesperson Greg Bennett said these incidents on the winter road are rare. Public Works coordinated with Big Ice to make sure there were no temporary winter road closures as the crew removed the truck. email@example.com Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
Premier Doug Ford's government has frequently altered its COVID-19 strategies, but none of those changes have seemed quite so abrupt as this week's announcement that everyone in Ontario's hardest-hit neighbourhoods aged 18 and up can get vaccinated. The province had previously signalled there would be some extra vaccination push directed toward the places most affected by the pandemic. But all the documentation released by the Ministry of Health until this week showed that those efforts would focus on older age groups. On Tuesday morning, senior government officials in charge of the vaccination rollout gave a detailed briefing on the timeline for April through June. It declared the start of targeted vaccinations in hotspots, but only for people aged 50 and up. Barely 24 hours later, Ford announced that all adults in those hotspots would be eligible to get vaccinated immediately. "As we speak, mobile vaccination teams are being organized to get vaccines to where they will have the greatest impact," Ford said Wednesday, during his news conference announcing Ontario's new stay-at-home order. The implication in Ford's words "as we speak" was that the move had come about with lightning speed — not typical for the provincial government apparatus. So what really happened? The neighbourhoods in and around Toronto with the largest proportion of racialized workers have throughout the pandemic borne a disproportionate burden from COVID-19. Yet Ontario's vaccination campaign was failing to reach those very neighbourhoods. The shift in strategy notably came just days after a change of leadership in the province's vaccine task force. Orlando Mosca, 71, gets his first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at St. Fidelis Parish church, in Toronto, on Apr. 7. Nurses from Humber River Hospital run clinics in the church as part of a community outreach program to vaccinate seniors at their place of worship.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) Always planned The province's own COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has for weeks called for a concerted vaccination push in the most-affected areas. Such a campaign would "directly address the inequitable impact of COVID-19 on disadvantaged populations in Ontario," said a briefing issued by the Science Table in February. The province had always planned to pour more vaccines into high-risk areas, said Dr Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist, member of the provincial vaccination task force and one of the co-authors of that Science Table briefing. That still leaves open a question for the Ford government: if a full-court press in hardest-hit neighbourhoods was always the plan, why was it absent from Tuesday's detailed vaccination timeline yet suddenly present in Ford's news conference on Wednesday? "The variants and COVID are moving at record speed and we have to be nimble in adapting to it and responding to it," said Health Minister Christine Elliott in an interview Friday. "That's why you see sometimes these changes in plans that we just have to make because of the way COVID is moving." WATCH | Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario's designated high-risk zones: Change of leadership Ontario paid retired general Rick Hillier $20,000 a month to be head of the vaccine distribution task force. He left the post at the end of March. One of the final efforts of Hillier's tenure was the rollout of vaccines at more than 300 pharmacies in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor. It turned out that vaccines were not allocated to pharmacies in most of the northwest and northeast portions of Toronto, the neighbourhoods worst-hit by COVID-19. Retired general Rick Hillier finished his term as chair of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force at the end of March(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press) For weeks after Hillier's planned departure became public knowledge, senior government officials said that he would not be replaced. The officials said Hillier had accomplished the mission of setting up vaccine distribution channels, the system was running smoothly, and the two deputy ministers on the vaccination task force would handle things from here on in. The government then quietly reversed course and appointed a replacement for Hillier. By contrast with the fanfare around Hillier's arrival last fall, or his departure, the government didn't even issue a news release about the new chair of the vaccine distribution task force. He's Dr. Homer Tien, CEO of the province's air ambulance service Ornge. Tien has a lengthy background as a trauma surgeon and a three-decade career as a military physician in the Canadian Armed Forces, rising to the rank of colonel, with a role as chief of military medical and surgical specialities. Dr. Homer Tien, CEO of the province's air ambulance service Ornge and a veteran trauma surgeon, was named head of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination task force earlier this month, replacing retired general Rick Hillier.(Submitted by Ornge) He later became medical director for the Tory Regional Trauma Centre at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, then chief medical officer for Ornge before becoming its CEO in 2019. Dr. Peter Jüni, the head of the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, is giving Tien significant credit for the shift to vaccinating all adults in the most-affected communities. "The first conversation we had, the two of us, was directly related to that," said Jüni in an interview Thursday. "He [Tien] wanted to know more about our strategy that we laid out in February and whether it would indeed make sense to enhance this strategy." The Science Table has done further data analysis showing that a concerted effort to vaccinate all adults in the high-risk neighbourhoods would result in "a dramatic increase in the control of the pandemic," said Jüni. "Tuesday afternoon we had the science table meeting where we presented the results of our analysis. Dr. Tien was at this meeting and the results were very convincing." CBC requested an interview with Tien, but it was declined by a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, whose ministry is responsible for the vaccine task force. Public health caught by surprise The move to put greater emphasis on vaccinations in the places most affected by COVID-19 has widespread support from experts. "You should really pour your water on where the fire is burning hardest to help quell the pandemic," said Bogoch in an interview this week with CBC News. He said the shift was made possible by the recent ramp up of vaccine supplies. The move came as startling data revealed far lower vaccination rates in neighbourhoods worst-hit by COVID-19 compared with the wealthier areas where the virus has had little impact. Sources in the provincial health ministry and local public health units tell CBC News the declaration that all adults in the hotspots would be eligible for vaccinations caught them unawares. Plans to vaccinate younger adults in the most-affected areas were not on the table in any official health ministry documents issued before Wednesday. This COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Downsview Arena is run by Humber River Hospital in conjunction with the City of Toronto. (Paul Smith/CBC) For adults living in COVID-19 hot spot communities, "vaccination should begin with the oldest individuals and decreasing in age until reaching those aged 50," says the province's guidance document on priority populations for the current phase of the vaccination campaign, dated March 23. The 22-page vaccination plan provided to journalists Tuesday does not mention vaccinating all adults regardless of age in the hard-hit neighbourhoods. "Adults aged 50+ in 'hot spot' communities in 13 PHUs [public health units] are prioritized as part of Phase 2 of Ontario's vaccine distribution plan," the document reads. All this could suggest the shift in emphasis and the change in leadership of the vaccine task force are not a coincidence. Ontario administered more than 100,000 doses of vaccine per day on three consecutive days this week. More than 2.6 million people have received at least one shot, roughly 22 per cent of the province's adult population.(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press) 113 high risk postal codes Those aged 50 and up in all the areas designated as high-risk — 113 postal code areas stretching from Windsor to Ottawa — can now make vaccination appointments via Ontario's booking portal. It's not yet clear how people younger than 50 will be able to sign up for vaccinations in the hardest-hit areas. A message on Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination web page says, "If you are aged 18-49 and live in a designated hot spot, find your public health unit and check their website for details about vaccination in your area." Nor is it clear when the vaccination campaign will extend to all younger adults in all of the designated zones. For the moment, the push for vaccinating people younger than 50 starts in Toronto and Peel, due to high transmission rates. Mobile teams and pop-up clinics will be established to administer vaccines to people aged 18 and up in high-risk areas in Toronto and Peel, as supply allows, the government said in a statement. The government's plan allocates 920,000 additional doses of vaccine to the most-affected areas. It is far from certain that this is enough to cover the bulk of the adult population in the target areas. CBC News asked the Ministry of Health of Friday for an estimate of the adult population in the 113 designated postal codes, but officials said they could not provide an answer until Monday. However, using census data from 2016, CBC calculated that more than 4.2 million Ontarians live in the areas. If roughly 80 per cent are adults, vaccinating 75 per cent of the adult population with one dose would require about 2.5 million doses. Ontario administered more than 100,000 doses of vaccine per day on three consecutive days this week. More than 2.6 million people have received at least one shot, roughly 22 per cent of the province's adult population.
Washington will rush federal resources to support vaccinations, testing and treatments, but not vaccines, to Michigan in an effort to control the state's worst-in-the-nation COVID-19 outbreak, the White House said Friday. The announcement came as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer strongly recommended, but did not order, a two-week pause on face-to-face high school instruction, indoor restaurant dining and youth sports. She cited more contagious coronavirus variants and pandemic fatigue as factors in the surge, which has led some hospitals to postpone non-emergency procedures. Statewide hospitalizations have quadrupled in a month and are nearing peak levels from last spring and fall. “Policy alone won't change the tide. We need everyone to step up and to take personal responsibility,” Whitmer said Friday, while not ruling out future restrictions. Michigan's seven-day case rate was 506 per 100,000 people, well above second-worst New Jersey, with 314 per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Joe Biden outlined the federal actions late Thursday in a call with Whitmer to discuss the dire situation in the state, according to senior administration officials. The response will not include a “surge” of vaccine doses, a move Whitmer has advocated and which is backed by Michigan legislators and members of Congress. Instead, Biden talked about how the federal government was planning to help Michigan better utilize doses already allocated to the state, as well as to increase testing capacity and provide more medications used to treat the sick. Whitmer, a Democrat, confirmed that she asked Biden on the call to send more vaccine doses to Michigan, particularly the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot. “I made the case for a surge strategy,” she said. “At this point, that's not being deployed, but I am not giving up." “Today it's Michigan and the Midwest,” she added. "Tomorrow, it could be another section of our country. I really believe that the most important thing we can do is put our efforts into squelching where the hot spots are." Doses are allocated to states proportionally by population, but Whitmer has called for extra doses to be shifted to states, like hers, that are experiencing a sharp rise in cases. The Biden administration isn't ready to make such changes. “We’re going to stick with the allocation system of allocating by state adult population," said White House COVID-19 co-ordinator Jeff Zients, calling it “the fair and equitable way” to distribute vaccines. He said the administration was looking to help Michigan administer more of its vaccines efficiently. When Whitmer began calling for more doses from Washington, the state had not maxed out its orders for vaccines from the federal government, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation. Gen. Gustave Perna, the top federal official overseeing vaccine distribution, raised the issue of gaps between states' allotments and their orders on Tuesday in a White House call with the nation's governors. On Thursday, Biden administration officials huddled directly with the Michigan health department to discuss the state's ordering strategy and ensure that it uses its entire allotment. “We actually met with the White House team yesterday and walked through our entire ordering strategy, and when we ordered what and when,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, a top state health official, said Friday. "It's very clear. They agreed with us that we are ordering all of the vaccines that are available to us.” Federal officials said providing more doses would not be as immediately effective in curbing Michigan's virus spike as increasing testing, restoring measures like mask wearing, and foregoing high-risk activities. That's because vaccines take at least two weeks to begin providing immunity. Biden told Whitmer that his administration stands ready to send an additional 160 Federal Emergency Management Agency and CDC personnel to Michigan to assist in vaccinations, on top of the 230 federal personnel already deployed to the state to support pandemic response operations. He's also directing the administration to prioritize the distribution of doses through federal channels, like the retail pharmacy program and community health centres, to areas of the state Whitmer identifies. “We are at war with this virus, which requires leaders from across the country to work together,” said White House spokesperson Chris Meagher. “We’re in close contact with Gov. Whitmer, who is working hard to keep Michigan safe, and working in close co-ordination through a range of options that can help stop the spread of the virus.” Michigan ranked 35th among states in its vaccination rate. About 40% of Michigan residents ages 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose. The governor's recommended high school closure drew mixed reaction in education circles. Her administration closed high schools for a month during the state's second surge late last fall. “Research has shown schools can be safe places for in-person learning, so long as community spread is under control — but with higher risk in our communities comes higher risk in classrooms,” said Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart, whose union urged a similar two-week suspension of in-person learning at elementary and middle schools and colleges. Restaurants, meanwhile, questioned Whitmer's recommendation not to eat inside but welcomed the call for more vaccines. “We trust our operators to continue to provide a safe environment indoors or out in the coming weeks and we trust Michiganders to do their part to act responsibly and respectfully to help us all achieve that outcome,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association. ___ Eggert reported from Lansing, Mich. Zeke Miller And David Eggert, The Associated Press
Vandals have twice targeted Alberta Health Services since Thursday, leaving employees unsettled by their messages. Red paint spelling the words "AHS Nazis" greeted some Edmonton workers Friday morning after someone inked the words on the pavement outside the entrance to the Plaza 124 building on 124th Street and 102nd Ave. An AHS spokesperson called the message "disturbing," and said workers found it both upsetting and threatening. "This type of language and vandalism of any kind is completely unacceptable and after a year of hard work from all of our AHS staff to fight the pandemic, it's demoralizing to see this kind of action taken," said a statement from the organization. Also painted in red on a nearby bus shelter and sidewalk were the words, "No more lockdowns." AHS plans to report the incident to Edmonton police. Employees targeted In the northwestern Alberta community of La Crete, RCMP say four vehicles rented by AHS employees were pelted with eggs on Thursday morning. AHS employees were in the community, about 670 kilometres north of Edmonton, to help launch a new electronic health information system called Connect Care. Mackenzie County posted a notice online saying misinformation had been spreading about why additional AHS workers were in the area. AHS said it does not know the motives for the vandalism. The United Conservative Party MLA for the area, Dan Williams, posted a message on Facebook saying it was disappointing to see the workers targeted while they were upgrading rural health services. "I know La Crete to be a hospitable and welcoming place, and I would expect that the community of La Crete would extend that same hospitality to visitors with courtesy and warmth, no matter the purpose and no matter who they work for," he wrote on Thursday. Connect Care, which is rolling out in phases across the province, is set to launch Saturday in the province's northwest. AHS is one of the authorities responsible for enforcing public health orders put in place by the Alberta government. Some frustrated by health orders On Wednesday, AHS announced officials had physically closed the GraceLife Church building in Parkland County after it repeatedly violated public health orders limiting the number of people who could attend worship services. Since December, hundreds of people have gathered for services at the church west of Edmonton, in violation of demands from Alberta's chief medical officer of health, AHS and the courts. Provincial regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 restrict in-person attendance at churches to 15 per cent of capacity and require those who do attend to physically distance and wear masks. Critics said the church's closure was Draconian and an attack on fundamental freedoms. In a Facebook video posted Wednesday afternoon, MLA Williams decried the church's closure. He said he has argued against his own government's 15 per cent capacity limit in places of worship. "It is a different line to cross to barricade a church," Williams said in the video. "We need to take a stand." Williams could not be reached for comment on Friday. The Alberta government has also come under fire — including from a contingent of 17 government MLAs — for additional restrictions announced on Tuesday to attempt to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Upon advice from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the government once again closed Alberta restaurants and bars to indoor dining. Libraries are now closed and gyms may only offer one-on-one scheduled training sessions. Other services such as physiotherapy or salons can see clients by appointment only. More contagious variant strains of the disease have prompted a rapid jump in the number of new cases, and hospitalizations are once again on the rise. The premier said earlier this week Alberta hospitals could be overwhelmed by the end of May.