The Ontario government plans to ramp up inspections at big-box stores. But confusion over the rules remain. Marianne Dimain reports.
The Ontario government plans to ramp up inspections at big-box stores. But confusion over the rules remain. Marianne Dimain reports.
Canada added a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to its pandemic-fighting arsenal on Friday, approving Johnson & Johnson's product a week after it was authorized in the United States. That gives Canada four distinct vaccines — along with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca — and it adds flexibility to the country's plan to immunize the majority of its residents by September. Health Canada includes a fifth vaccine, Covishield, which is a separate brand name for doses of the AstraZeneca product made at the Serum Institute of India. The U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use on Feb. 27. Canada has already secured 10 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through previous negotiations with the company, with the option to buy another 28 million. The 10 million pre-purchased doses will be delivered before September, but they're not expected to start flowing into Canada until at least April. Here's what we know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT? Johnson & Johnson announced promising results from its Phase 3 clinical trials at the end of January, suggesting its vaccine reduced severe COVID-19 disease by 85 per cent, and prevented 100 per cent of COVID-related hospitalization or death. The vaccine had a 72 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID infections after 28 days in the company's U.S. trials. The efficacy dropped to 66 per cent when averaging in results from other global trials, including a South African study that factored in more transmissible variants of the COVID virus. An FDA report last month said the vaccine was 64 per cent effective in preventing infection in South Africa about a month after the vaccines were administered. Pfizer and Moderna showed 95 per cent efficacy in their respective trials, but those were both tested against previous dominant strains of the virus and didn't account for the variants that have popped up since. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca also had zero hospitalizations and deaths in their trials. The FDA report said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was similarly effective across age, race and people with comorbidities. The agency added that effectiveness appeared to be lower (42.3 per cent after one month) in people over 60 with comorbidities such as diabetes or heart disease. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS VACCINE? The potential ease of distribution offered by a one-and-done shot, and its ability to be stored in a regular fridge are among its biggest strengths. Vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all require two doses. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine can be stored in a regular fridge for up to three months, the company says. Pfizer's vaccine initially required ultra-cold storage temperatures between -60 C and -80 C, though Health Canada said this week it could be stored in a regular freezer for up to 14 days. Moderna's vaccine can also be stored at regular freezer temperatures while AstraZeneca can be stored in a fridge. WHAT KIND OF VACCINE TECHNOLOGY IS USED? Unlike the mRNA technology used in Pfizer and Moderna's products, Johnson & Johnson is a non-replicating viral vector vaccine similar to AstraZeneca's. That means it uses a different harmless virus, which can't copy itself, as a vector to give our cells the instructions they need to make the coronavirus's spike protein. The immune system recognizes the protein and makes antibodies, which then allow us to fend off attack from the same virus if exposed in the future. WERE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS NOTED? No specific safety concerns were identified in participants of the trials, regardless of age, race and comorbidities. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said in a press conference Friday that almost 20 per cent of participants in the Johnson & Johnson trials were 65 years of age and older, and "no differences in safety or efficacy were seen compared to the younger groups." The FDA said the most common reported side effects were headache and fatigue, followed by muscle aches, nausea and fever. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
NASA's Mars rover Perseverance has taken its first, short drive on the surface of the red planet, two weeks after the robot science lab's picture-perfect touchdown on the floor of a massive crater, mission managers said on Friday. The six-wheeled, car-sized astrobiology probe put a total of 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) on its odometer on Thursday during a half-hour test spin within Jezero Crater, site of an ancient, long-vanished lake bed and river delta on Mars. Taking directions from mission managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled 4 meters (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to its left and then drove backward another 2.5 meters (8.2 feet).
Some Northwest Territories residents have gone nearly a year without easy access to dental services since visits were suspended when the pandemic started. MLA for Nunakput Jackie Jacobson on Wednesday told the territory's Legislative Assembly it has been impossible for some of his constituents to see a dentist since last March. He said communities like Uluhaktok, Paulatuk and Sachs Harbour normally get two visits a year from dental teams, both of which were cancelled last year due to the pandemic. “People are needing dental assistance and there’s nothing happening,” said Jacobson. “They go to the health centre, they are given Tylenol or penicillin to help them with the pain. We need to get this sorted out.” Dental visits to six N.W.T. communities – Fort Simpson, Fort Resolution, Fort Providence, Sambaa K’e, Norman Wells and Aklavik – restarted in December. Private dentistry clinics in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik have kept services open throughout most of the pandemic. All non-urgent dental travel to smaller communities, however, was suspended by the federal government in March. In communities where dental services remain unavailable, federal agency Indigenous Services Canada supports travel for Non-Insured Health Benefits clients to receive services elsewhere. Julie Green, the N.W.T.'s health minister, said responsibility for restarting dental services in Nunakput communities lies with Indigenous Services Canada. The minister said a working group established to address concerns about dental services had devised a plan to fix "a number of issues, including safety concerns that went beyond COVID-19." “Where facilities were not meeting infection control and ventilation requirements, work could not be done in those facilities,” she said. “This is not a long-term ban on dental services in these communities, but it's my understanding that teams are now working through potential solutions.” Green said the six communities to have so far resumed services were part of the plan's first phase. Those communities have upgraded health centre facilities that meet air exchange and infection control requirements, she said. Phase two will see seven more communities' facilities reviewed by the end of June. The minister said Paulatuk and Ulukhaktok will be part of that assessment. “The residents of Ulukhaktok are going to wait longer for dental services to resume, but that is not because of a lack of money. It's because we want them to receive those services safely.” Green said. Lesa Semmler, the MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes, told Green residents didn't always find it easy to follow the process for accessing dental services elsewhere. Semmler described the "really stringent travel criteria" set out by the Non-Insured Health Benefits program, and Green said she would raise that concern with the federal government. Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
The provincial government has appointed former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders as a special adviser to help oversee the redevelopment of Ontario Place. In a news release issued Friday, Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, said Saunders's intimate knowledge of the diverse communities in Toronto — and across Ontario — will bring "important perspectives" to the project. "Mr. Saunders will provide guidance and expert advice ... while working closely with the City of Toronto and Indigenous communities, as well as stakeholders and businesses involved in the redevelopment project," the province said in the release. The release says Saunders's senior-level experience in a major organization, and experience in large-scale "transformation change management," will allow him to effectively advise MacLeod and Premier Doug Ford as they make decisions about the future of the 155-acre plot of land. Saunders announced his resignation from the Toronto Police Service on June 8 of last year, and officially stepped down on July 31. In December 2020, he was also appointed to Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force. What Ontario Place looked like in the fall of 2019.(Michael Wilson/CBC) Announcement about Ontario Place expected this spring The province accepted bids in 2019 for who would transform Ontario Place into a "year-round" destination. While the provincial government remains tight-lipped about the future of the site, MacLeod has confirmed that the vision does not include casinos or condos, the land will not be sold and the key heritage and recreational features of the site will remain. In Friday's release, MacLeod said the province will be sharing more news in the spring about plans for the redevelopment. "The 50th anniversary of Ontario Place is the perfect time to provide the people of Ontario with a preview of the tremendous plans for the site's future," she said.
LOS ANGELES — Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex has described to Oprah Winfrey how “liberating” it was to have a conversation - let alone a sit-down interview - with the television host without royal minders. “CBS This Morning” aired a clip on Friday of Winfrey speaking to Meghan about a conversation they had before the actor’s wedding to Prince Harry in May 2018. The clip opens with Winfrey describing how she asked for an interview and Meghan recounting how there were others in the room and she wasn’t even supposed to be speaking with Winfrey. “As an adult who lived a really independent life to then go into this construct that is um.. different than I think what people imagine it to be, it’s really liberating to be able to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes,” Meghan tells Winfrey. Winfrey’s interview with Meghan and Harry is set to air Sunday night in the United States on CBS and will air in Britain on Monday evening. Despite stepping back from royal duties a year ago and moving to California, there still intense interest in the couple and their relationship with the royal family. When Meghan was asked what was right about doing the interview now, she said it was because of the couple’s newfound freedom. “That we’re on the other side of a lot of, a lot of life experience that’s happened,” Meghan said. And also that we have the ability to make our own choices in a way that I couldn’t have said yes to you then. That wasn’t my choice to make.” The Associated Press
TORONTO — The recent approval of new vaccines will accelerate Ontario's immunization plan, the province said Friday as the man in charge of the rollout expressed optimism all adults could receive the first dose by June 20. The government said under the current plan, seniors aged 75 and older will start getting the shot in April, while everyone 60 and older will receive the first dose by the end of May or early June, if not earlier. Officials made the announcement after Health Canada approved a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. "We've had a seismic shift in our vaccination opportunities and the program to roll it out," said retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine task force. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the timelines would depend on supply. "If we receive more vaccines than currently planned for — as will likely be the case with today’s approval of Johnson & Johnson and increased shipments of Pfizer — we will be able to further accelerate these timelines," Alexandra Hilkene said in an email. She said Hillier's comments about the June 20 timeline were a goal based on the Johnson & Johnson approval. Hillier said the approval of two more vaccines, expected increases in supply and the extension of the interval between first and second doses will allow the province to "crush those timelines really tightly." "... our aim would be to allow the province of Ontario to have a first needle in the arm of every eligible person who wants it by the first day of summer," Hillier said. "Please be patient a little while longer." The province says 113 mass vaccination clinics will start operating this month, with maximum capacity of four million doses per day across public health units, though officials administration will vary based on supply and local considerations. The vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 in Ontario, and across the country, have been among people aged 60 and older. Other risk factors including neighbourhood, existing health conditions and inability to work from home will be prioritized in the second phase of the rollout. A recent report from experts advising Ontario on COVID-19 said a vaccination plan based on age and neighbourhoods hit hardest by the virus could reduce cases by the thousands and prevent deaths. Thirteen public health units will receive additional doses for virus hot spot neighbourhoods during Phase 2. Those health units include Durham; Halton; Hamilton; Niagara; Ottawa; Peel Region; Simcoe Muskoka; Waterloo; Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph; Windsor Essex; York Region; Southwestern and Toronto. Doses will also be offered starting in April to people with specific health conditions like transplant recipients, and to residents and staff in congregate care settings including correctional facilities, shelters and developmental facilities. People with other high-risk conditions including obesity, treatment that suppresses the immune system, and intellectual disabilities will follow the first group, and then people considered at greater risk that include dementia, cancer and diabetes. Essential workers who can't work from home will be offered doses at the end of the second phase, though the timeline is subject to change. The province laid out more details on which essential workers will be eligible to receive their shots first. Vaccinations among that group will start with school staff, first responders, childcare workers, food manufacturing workers and agriculture workers. Then shots will go to workers in retail, manufacturing, social workers, the justice system, financial services, waste management, mining, oil and gas, warehousing and distribution. The union representing correctional workers applauded the news on that members would be included in the second phase of vaccinations. “This is absolutely the right thing to do, and the government deserves credit for ensuring our Corrections members get vaccinated,” Ontario Public Service Employees Union President Warren Thomas said in a statement. “This will go a long way to making our correctional facilities safe, protecting both staff and inmates." Hillier said the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be useful in getting shots to people who are difficult to reach, such as migrant farm workers and homeless individuals. Ontario is expecting 194,500 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine next week. Those shots will be administered to residents between the ages of 60 and 64 starting with a pilot project in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex pharmacies. Officials said the timeline for younger individuals may speed up based on supply of that vaccine. Others criticized the timeline for the rollout as still too slow. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said an April start date for at-risk residents prioritized in the second phase of the rollout is too late. "Where’s the urgency? These folks are at grave risk right now, and getting them their shots is critical to stopping the spread," This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
The 2021 Pink Shirt Day campaign, organized by the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters, closed the month of February on a positive and encouraging note. Pink Shirt day was celebrated on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, but the organizers say its message of inclusion and diversity is a part of the Boys and Girls Club programs every day of the year. "We are happy to say we have sold over 2,600 shirts this year, surpassing even previous years' sales," said Amanda Guarino, Supervisor, Community Engagement, Boys and Girls Club of Kingston & Area. "This is incredible amid the pandemic and really shows how Kingston is a giving, caring, and supportive community. All pink shirt sales fund our year-round anti-bullying and positive mentoring programs, adding healthy relationship components to our after-school, summer camps, and specific education programs." Guarino said they had over 700 community members interacting with them, and had spread their anti-bullying message to more than 4,000 people in Kingston. “We are especially thankful to our title sponsor, Terra Nova Truss, and the support received from annual partners like Kawartha Credit Union and McDonald’s,” Guarino added. “This allowed us to provide over 270 pink shirts to the children and youth we serve, making our members feel a special sense of belonging to their peers and to the campaign.” Proceeds of pink shirt sales are going straight into anti-bullying and positive mentoring programs for children and youth in Kingston. “On Pink Shirt Day, we ran a workshop with our youth members that had them reflect on their bullying experiences, and even got them to talk about instances when they themselves were unkind to others and what they learned,” said Devin Reynolds, Senior Manager at the West End Hub of the Boys and Girls Club. “We focused our programs with younger children on cyber-bullying, social media, and how to stay safe online,” Reynolds continued. “It really brings our campaign to life to hear kids saying ‘kindness means sticking up for people’ and ‘kindness means not being mean to someone else for liking different things’.” The funds raised will keep programs like these operating and reaching more than 400 children and youth in Kingston after-school everyday, throughout the year. “All of us had an important part in making the campaign have this transformative character,” Guarino said. “Thank you, Kingston, for standing with us against bullying and showing that our community leads with kindness.” “With your support, children are learning and growing into confident, supportive and inclusive leaders,” she said. To watch a brief video on the 2021 Pink Shirt Day campaign and to support year-round anti-bullying programs, please visit www.bgckingston.ca Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
THUNDER BAY — Two hunters have been fined a total of $10,000 for hunting violations for an incident in October 2019 in northwestern Ontario. According to a news release issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on Friday, March 5, the moose poaching incident occurred near Long Legged Lake. The ministry said one of their conservation officers observed one of the hunters, Jason Riel, shoot a cow moose from a motorboat which was operated by the other hunter, John Stabler, 50 kilometres west of Ear Falls. Further investigation revealed that the two individuals did not have immediate and reliable means of communication with the tag holder in their party. Riel, of Douro-Dummer, pleaded guilty and was fined $3,500 for hunting moose without a licence and $3,000 for discharging a firearm from a motorboat. He was also suspended from hunting in Ontario for four years. His case was heard in Red Lake court on Nov. 25, 2020. Stabler of Lakefield pleaded guilty and was fined $2,000 for hunting moose without a licence and $1,500 for discharging a firearm from a motorboat. He was also suspended from hunting in Ontario for two years. His case was heard in Red Lake on Feb. 10, 2021. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Cecilia Carroll has been waiting weeks for her mail-in ballot kit to arrive, and is now worried that, with just days left to send her ballot back in, she won't be able to vote in a provincial election for the first time in her adult life. Carroll, who lives in Torbay, applied three weeks ago to get her special ballot kit so she would be able to vote by mail. As of Friday morning, it hadn't yet shown up. Carroll has called Elections Newfoundland and Labrador twice, and followed up with an email, but has been told it's on its way, and there's nothing else to do but wait for it to show up. But Carroll said living with a disability means there are external factors she's worried about that could prevent her from being able to send her ballot in before the postmark deadline of March 12. "My biggest concern is getting it back in the mail in time. Like, for me, you're dropping it in a community mailbox because you can't go to the post office, so I don't know what time that gets picked up and taken to the post office," Carroll said. There's nothing else I can do. - Cecilia Carroll "I need to have … it back in the mail at least by Wednesday, because then it's not getting picked up until Thursday and then it had to go to the post office to be postmarked for Friday." That's a best-case scenario, at this point, Carroll said; if her community mailbox gets snowed in, and she has to wait for it to be shovelled out, that could mean she can't get her kit sent out in time. "If we have a snowstorm Monday or Tuesday, I'm not gonna be able to get to my mailbox, so I won't be able to vote," Carroll said. "And I can honestly say I've never missed voting in an election since I became old enough to vote." Carroll is worried, too, that she's not alone. Carroll says it can sometimes take days for snow to be cleared from community mailboxes, meaning people living with a physical disability, like her, might not be able to send their ballots by the deadline if there's a storm.(Margaret Boothroyd/Submitted) "I truly believe there will be a lot of people with disabilities who will not be able to vote in this election. I mean, when you go to a polling station, there's someone there to help you if you need help. If you're living alone and you're in the middle of a pandemic, you may not feel comfortable having someone come to your home because you could have underlying health issues and you could risk getting COVID," she said. "I think there will be a lot of people who will just decide not to because it will be easier than trying to go through the process of trying to get somebody to help them, and not everybody is willing to speak up or call and complain or ask questions." 'You shouldn't have to do that' The provincial election was moved to mail-in only last month, after an outbreak of coronavirus variant B117 put the province into Alert Level 5 lockdown less than 12 hours before polls were set to open on Feb. 13. In-person voting had been scrapped just days before that for nearly half of the province's electoral districts, in eastern Newfoundland, due to spiking case numbers and mass resignation of poll station staff. This week, chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk, confirmed he hand-delivered ballot kits to some people in his neighbourhood, including Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie and Liberal candidate Siobhan Coady. For people like Carroll still waiting to see if they'll get a ballot in time, that shows there's something amiss. "Great, if they're delivering them to everyone who hasn't gotten one. No one has said that that's an option. But to me, you shouldn't have to do that. You're supposed to have a process in place that's accessible for everyone, regardless of disability or mobility issues or whatever," she said. "If you're a person with a visual disability, who helps you fill out your ballot? Where's your template to complete that? Or who reads it for you so that you know what's written on it? Those types of things, I don't know what they've been included in the process this time around because it's a mail-in ballot.… There's nothing extra there telling you what to do if you're a person with a disability who needs assistance with voting." Former CBC broadcaster Karl Wells tweeted his thanks to the province's chief electoral officer, Tuesday, after receiving a call from Bruce Chaulk.(Karl Wells/Twitter) Dozens of commenters on social media called the election a "mess," and asked whether they, too, should expect their ballots to be hand delivered. "This is nothing short of showing favouritism to those in the public eye," wrote on commenter on CBC N.L.'s Facebook post. "All citizens must be treated in the same manner. How did he even find those ballots, was he in the mailroom flicking through them, to find people he knows?" wrote another commenter. Indigenous voters, too, are feeling excluded, according to two candidates in Labrador who say Elections NL reneged on a commitment to distribute election materials that had been translated into Newfoundland and Labrador's Indigenous languages, which include Inuktitut, Innu-aimun and Mi'kmaw. Carroll said she worries the thousands of people in the province who live with disabilities may not get to cast a ballot. "Honestly I don't know, but I feel that there's probably way too many people out there, in my heart and soul, who are not gonna vote because it's gonna be too complicated for them to do it," she said. Carroll said she'll keep waiting for the mail-in kit to arrive, in the hopes that nothing else will happen to hinder her vote. "If I don't get it today, I guess I'm back on the phone again. I mean, there's nothing else I can do." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Retired general Rick Hillier, head of Ontario's Vaccine Distribution Task Force, says the addition of two newly approved COVID-19 vaccines will allow the province to 'crush those timelines' and get one dose of vaccine into every willing Ontarian by June 20.
YAUARETÊ, Brazil (Reuters) - An army helicopter flew to two isolated indigenous villages in Brazil's Amazon jungle this week with a welcome cargo - coronavirus vaccines. Traditional medicine prescribed by a shaman is highly respected here, but there was no resistance to receiving the vaccine by China's Sinovac Biotech. "We are grateful for the vaccination, so we will not catch the disease," said Hupda chieftain Jorge Pires in the village of Santo Antanasio, near the Colombian border and a 25-minute helicopter flight from the nearest military outpost.
VICTORIA — Tax changes targeting sugary drinks and e-commerce services based outside of B.C. will come into effect on April 1 after being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The B.C. government says the changes include the elimination of the provincial sales tax exemption for carbonated beverages that contain sugar, natural sweeteners or artificial sweeteners. The tax will apply to all beverages dispensed through soda fountains or similar equipment, along with all beverages dispensed through vending machines. The government says the move is supported by health professionals. The second tax change will apply to those selling digital software and telecommunication services, who will be required to collect the PST on sales to B.C. customers if they have revenue in the province of more than $10,000. All Canadian sellers of vapour products, such as vape pens, will be required to register to collect the sales tax on all online or mail-order sales to B.C. customers as part of the new measure. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
UPDATE: Adds quotes from Councillor and MP, and info on how to attend online meeting. Local residents are upset over the city’s modular housing proposal at Trenton Avenue and Cedarvale Avenue citing concerns of appropriateness of the area and community safety regarding the future occupants of the building. The concerns have prompted an online community meeting on the evening of Monday, March 8. The project is part of the City of Toronto’s Housing Now initiative to make use of city-owned lands to address the lack of affordable housing. The modular housing proposal for Trenton and Cedarvale in East York aims to create a three-storey building with 64 studio apartments, self-contained with a private kitchen and bathroom each. It’s designed to help individuals who are exiting homelessness, and will be administered by a local non-profit housing provider under an agreement with the city. It’s not unlike the modular housing proposal at 11 Macey Ave. in southwest Scarborough that includes 56 studio apartments. That building – also designed to assist people exiting homelessness – opened on Dec. 19, 2020, eight months after city council approval. The “modular” part of the term essentially means pre-fabricated components of the building arrive onsite ready to construct. This allows the city to build the affordable units within the span of months, and not years. The Macey Avenue building had its own local opposition – several area residents, including the West Oakridge Neighbourhood Association wrote letters to the city, elected officials, planners, and media expressing concerns with “social problems associated with vagrancy and public intoxication” from people experiencing homelessness being moved into one area. With the Trenton Avenue site, a number of residents are also speaking in opposition. Global News was on the scene of a local protest at the parking lot near the Trenton site in late February, where residents referred to the lot as a community “hub.” Resident Steve Bland told Global News he’s not against providing affordable housing, but noted that increasing the population density in the area by adding the Trenton site “may not be the appropriate place” for “people going through the most troubling and difficult times of their lives with addiction and mental health issues.” The city-wide initiative to construct modular housing for people exiting homelessness is being released in phases. The Macey Avenue site was included in the project’s Phase 1, and now Trenton – which was approved just a few weeks ago – is part of Phase 2. In a letter to Beach Metro News, local resident Lars Bot, expressed concerns about the building’s proximity to Parkside Public School and Stan Wadlow Park, which are across the street. “The simple fact that a homeless shelter is planned across from a public school and park… shows how poor this program is planned,” he wrote. Local elected officials, including Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford and Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith have also received a flurry of correspondence from residents. They both reminded residents that the modular housing buildings are housing and not shelters. “I want to acknowledge that the engagement with the community did not start well enough,” Bradford said regarding the Trenton site. “The proposed Phase 2 sites were announced with the positive and significance that it deserved for an effort like this to house our city’s most vulnerable.” “But the city was too slow to have information ready for residents to understand the process and what it all meant,” he added. Even the signs at the site informing residents of the project were delayed, Bradford said. It’s why a community meeting was scheduled for March 8, in addition to the March 17 meeting that was scheduled prior. “With the strong response, I quickly realized that was too far away,” Bradford said. “I’m encouraging anyone who has questions, concerns, and feedback to attend. There are lots of valid questions that need answering.” Bradford stressed he supports affordable housing but says there are real impacts regarding parking in the busy area and traffic congestion. The Trenton site was chosen from a list of 40 city-owned land plots. Bradford moved a motion at the most recent Planning and Housing Committee meeting that final recommendations come forward only after community consultations. He also asked a Community Liaison Committee to be set up to “improve lines of communication.” But he reminds residents that the city is in the midst of both a pandemic and a housing crisis. “We have to move ahead,” Bradford said. “We have people in encampments – we have people dying on our streets. We need to stop building shelters and start building housing.” Erskine-Smith has also responded publicly on Twitter to residents’ concerns. “I strongly support the city’s modular housing initiative,” he wrote. “Too many people are on the streets or in the shelter system. Permanent solutions require stable homes.” The federal government’s homelessness strategy includes $203 million coming to Toronto from its Rapid Housing Initiative. Erskine-Smith reiterated that these modular buildings are “real homes, not shelters.” In addition to the studio apartments, the building offers 24/7 support for its residents via administrative offices, program space, a common room, and a dining room. Erskine-Smith added that through his conversations with local charity The Neighbourhood Group, these modular sites “are a great model” and “many other experts have called for an expansion of these initiatives.” There will be two community meetings planned in March regarding the modular housing building at Trenton Avenue. The first meeting takes place March 8 at 7 p.m., residents are asked to register for the virtual meeting at https://bit.ly/38dRac5 Ali Raza, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro News
Gillis English’s eventful life is the subject of a podcast called Plain English: Crime to Life. In various episodes, he tells stories about his experiences, including what it was like being behind bars. “Basically I just started sharing from when I was a kid up,” he says during a phone interview from his home in Campbell River, B.C. “For me the bigger part of it is if I can try and share a good message, which is what I want to do now.” English, also known as Little Goat, is Anishinaabe from Northern Ontario, and has spent much of his life being caught in a “revolving door” of foster care homes, young offenders centres and prisons. During that time, he says he had few opportunities to connect to his culture. “When I think of all the foster homes and young offender centres, there was nothing really there to help [to connect] with being Indigenous,” he says. “The system is set up to send us back through. It’s like a revolving door.” It wasn’t until he met Anishinaabe Elder Lloyd Haarala through Correctional Services Canada’s (CSC) Pathways program at the end of a 15-year prison sentence — about a decade ago — that things began to turn around for him. “He’s got a way of putting his arm around you, and asking, ‘How are you doing, my boy?’ and it can just make you feel so safe,” English says. “It makes you want to cry right there on the spot. He’s got a real human touch.” He recalls a teaching he received from Elders during his healing journey that still resonates with him. “We’re born with our whole lives ahead of us and we don’t know how to live at all,” he says. “[With time] we start to learn how to live our lives. As we near the end of our lives … that’s when we’re going to know the most.” In English’s case, it took more than a decade to find the right support. Correctional Investigator of Canada Ivan Zinger says his office has been asking for improvements on behalf of Indigenous inmates for at least that long. “My office has made countless recommendations in the last fifteen years dealing with Indigenous corrections and there’s been very little traction on those recommendations,” Zinger told IndigiNews. “There are some best practices that yield better success in terms of correctional outcome.” This year, Zinger’s office is launching a series of in-depth investigations looking at Indigenous programming in Canada’s prisons — specifically around access to culture and community support. Zinger says his office will soon conduct a review of the Pathways program specifically, with the results set to be released later this year. Pathways is an Elder-driven healing initiative based on the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. It’s only available in some correctional facilities to varying degrees, and is only available for inmates who have “already made a serious commitment to pursue their healing journey,” according to CSC. Access to cultural support is key to support human dignity, individual’s spiritual beliefs and practices, and more consistent rehabilitation. In his latest annual report, Zinger’s investigations revealed that Indigenous inmates at maximum security institutions in Agassiz, B.C., and Edmonton had limited access to cultural programs. “As a general rule, it is critical that programs and services are culturally informed and delivered by Indigenous staff,” the report says. “However, this investigation revealed that Indigenous inmates, though keen to practice their traditions and spirituality, had limited access to these and were rarely able to access their Elders.” Zinger’s recommendations around how to improve things for the vastly overrepresented Indigenous inmate population have been extensive. He says he has asked CSC for more money to be allocated for Indigenous-managed cultural initiatives — such as healing lodges through programs like Pathways — but nothing has been provided. Zinger says Indigenous people are more likely to be at a higher security level where there are fewer programs available, which makes accessibility difficult. They’re also more likely to be put into solitary confinement, be subject to use of force, and to have their parole suspended or revoked, among other things, Zinger says. Another problem with the current programs available is that they don’t reflect the diversity of Indigenous cultures and spiritual beliefs, Zinger says. English echoes this concern — having signed up for many of the programs available, but disappointed at how short, non-specific and surface-level they were. “It’s pretty much, just throw a blanket over us and this will cover everybody,” English says. Zinger says his office has been asking CSC to create a position for a deputy commissioner of Indigenous affairs for more than a decade — someone who could represent Indigenous inmates at an executive level — however this also has not been done. According to CSC, there is already a senior deputy commissioner who is responsible for Indigenous Initiatives, internal investigations, oversight of complaints and grievances and a variety of other pieces across sectors. There’s also a National Indigenous Advisory Committee and a National Elders working group. Many of Zinger’s recommendations have been echoed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “(CSC) has done little to implement those now widely-accepted recommendations,” Zinger says. “Correctional outcomes are just terrible, overall terrible and continue to remain terrible,” he says. “The over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in the federal penitentiary has gotten worse year after year.” More than 30 percent of Canadian inmates are Indigenous, with those numbers on a trajectory to keep growing. CSC’s director of Indigenous initiatives Marty Maltby says there has been ongoing consultation with Indigenous Peoples on the Pathways program. Maltby says CSC has been working to make the program more viable and sustainable, however the program is run via partnership with Indigenous organizations which means it requires a joint effort. “As always we welcome [Zinger’s] recommendations, we always have room for improvement,” Maltby says. As someone who was within the system for many years, English sees many opportunities for things to improve for Indigenous inmates. If he didn’t discover Pathways, he says, and connect with an Elder, things would have been different for him. “If Pathways wasn’t there for us, we would go out the same way we went in, or worse.” English says, like many other Indigenous people, he was transferred in and out of foster care during childhood. He was first put into the system after his father committed suicide when he was six years old. At the age of twelve, he says he was incarcerated for the first time — and from there he spent his entire teenage life in young offenders facilities. His adopted father, from the Strong Bear Clan, helped to raise him, but when English began getting into trouble, he could no longer care for him, he explains. While he was in a young offenders facility, he did a bit of schooling, but recalls not being given much support. “They keep us there and basically just tried to keep us out of trouble,” English says. Without anyone helping him to focus on his future, English kept on the same destructive path — he says he was given a 15 year prison term in the 1990s after taking part in a violent home robbery in Alberta. The start of his lengthy sentence began in Edmonton at a maximum security prison, and he was eventually transferred to a facility in Drumheller, Alta, he says. During that time, he completed an advanced high school diploma, and “read a lot.” After more transfers, he eventually ended up in Songhees Territory, where he lived in a halfway house from 2007 to 2008. He was sent to William Head Prison to finish his sentence. In 2011, English says he reoffended and was given a two year sentence. He asked the judge to send him to a penitatary, instead of a provincial jail, so that he could have access to Pathways and the Anishinaabe Elder he worked with previously. The judge granted his request and he was sent to Mission Institution. While taking part in Pathways, English says he became a firekeeper and a drum keeper. He helped the Elders to set up their lodge, put tobacco down, and learn how to place medicines out. “They are very good at planting seeds in us,” English says. “They may not take hold right away but they do eventually and they are the kind of things I think about and pray about and even dream about sometimes.” In that space, English says he and his peers were able to deal with their personal issues as they came up, what he calls “shared healing.” “We don’t try to hold each other down. We try to pull each other up. There’s a real sense of brotherhood and love between us,” he says. “I never got to experience that anywhere other than when I was living on the reserve. I miss it so much, I sometimes think I want to go back and sit with everybody again. Sit by the fire and share in a good way.” The Pathways program works because of the Elders, English says. He describes them as a light in an otherwise dark situation. “The Elders make the program,” he says. “They are what holds us together.” English sees a need for the Pathways program to expand, to become more inclusive and allow people to enter at any point in their healing journey. He says CSC gets involved too heavily in the process of who gets to stay in Pathways or not, and he believes that should be left entirely up to the Elders. “I mean we’re going there, some of us, in a really bad way so we’re going to be who we are until we start to heal,” he says. “[For CSC] to push us back out and not allow us to access that help is not right.” English is also now a grandfather, and thinks about how much he missed while he was in the system. “I want to be the best grandfather I can be,” he says. “I want to help break that cycle.” Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
TORONTO — Some of the most active companies traded Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange: Toronto Stock Exchange (18,380.96, up 255.24 points.) Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Industrials. Up five cents, or 7.69 per cent, to 70 cents on 27.7 million shares. Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU). Energy. Up 93 cents, or 3.46 per cent, to $27.82 on 17.1 million shares. Baytex Energy Corp. (TSX:BTE). Energy. Up 15 cents, or 11.11 per cent, to $1.50 on 13.3 million shares. Athabasca Oil Corp. (TSX:ATH). Energy. Up 10 cents, or 21.74 per cent, to 56 cents on 13.1 million shares. The Supreme Cannabis Co. Inc. (TSX:FIRE). Health care. Down one cent, or 3.85 per cent, to 25 cents on 11.4 million shares. Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB). Energy. Up 24 cents, or 0.54 per cent, to $44.83 on 11.1 million shares. Companies in the news: Martinrea International Inc. (TSX:MRE). Down $1.50, or 9.9 per cent, to $13.70. Frustrations stemming from COVID-19 travel restrictions boiled over during a conference call Thursday when top executives at auto parts manufacturer Martinrea derided the health measures, saying it's "time to move on" and recognize the "good things happening," despite employee deaths from the novel coronavirus. "Everything is getting better, except for the government policy that we're seeing. It is just absolutely outrageous," said chief financial officer Fred Di Tosto, on the call. Deanna Lorincz, global director of communications and marketing at Martinrea, said Friday that Di Tosto meant "it is time to move on, lessen the restrictions on the border and continue to open up the economy." Ensign Energy Services Inc. (TSX:ESI). Up eight cents, or 6.8 per cent, to $1.26. Drilling company Ensign Energy Services Inc. says oilpatch activity in its Canadian and U.S. operations is staging a slow recovery from a deep slump in 2020. The Calgary-based company says it earned net income of $3.1 million or two cents per share on revenue of $201 million in the last three months of 2020, compared with a net loss of $71.6 million on revenue of $375 million in the year-earlier period. Analysts had expected a net loss of $57.9 million on revenue of $197 million, according to financial data firm Refinitiv. Revenue slumped 43 per cent in Canada compared with the same period in 2019, by 52 per cent in the U.S. and by 36 per cent in its international arm, which operates in South America, the Middle East and Australia. Recipe Unlimited Corp. (TSX:RECP). Unchanged at $18.57. Recipe Unlimited Corp. saw system sales fall more than 30 per cent in its most recent quarter as the pandemic continued to cause dining room closures and seating restrictions at its restaurant chains across Canada. The Vaughan, Ont.-based company says system sales in its fourth quarter totalled $611.3 million, down 31.8 per cent from $895.8 million in the same quarter the previous year. Still, the company, which operates brands like Swiss Chalet, Harvey's, St-Hubert and The Keg, saw off-premise system sales for the 13 weeks ended Dec. 27 of $150.4 million, a 66.6 per cent increase compared to $90.3 million in the same period of 2019. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — With Merrick Garland poised to be confirmed as attorney general as early as next week, one of the first major questions he is likely to encounter is what to do about Rudy Giuliani. A federal probe into the overseas and business dealings of the former New York City mayor and close ally of former President Donald Trump stalled last year over a dispute over investigative tactics as Trump unsuccessfully sought reelection and amid Giuliani’s prominent role in subsequently disputing the results of the contest on Trump’s behalf. But the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan has since returned to the question of bringing a criminal case against Giuliani, focusing at least in part on whether he broke U.S. lobbying laws by failing to register as a foreign agent related to his work, according to one current and one former law enforcement official familiar with the inquiry. The officials weren't authorized to discuss the ongoing case and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The arrival of a new leadership team in Washington is likely to guarantee a fresh look at the investigation. No matter how it unfolds, the probe ensures that a Justice Department looking to move forward after a tumultuous four years will nonetheless have to confront unresolved, and politically charged, questions from the Trump era — not to mention calls from some Democrats to investigate Trump himself. The full scope of the investigation is unclear, but it at least partly involves Giuliani's Ukraine dealings, the officials said. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, was central to the then-president's efforts to dig up dirt against Democratic rival Joe Biden and to press Ukraine for an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter — who himself now faces a criminal tax probe by the Justice Department. Giuliani also sought to undermine former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was pushed out on Trump's orders, and met several times with a Ukrainian lawmaker who released edited recordings of Biden in an effort to smear him before the election. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people who lobby on behalf of a foreign government or entity to register with the Justice Department. The once-obscure law, aimed at improving transparency, has received a burst of attention in recent years, particularly during an investigation by former special counsel Robert Mueller that revealed an array of foreign influence operations in the U.S. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan pushed last year for a search warrant for records, including some of Giuliani's communications, but officials in the Trump-era Justice Department would not sign off on the request, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation who insisted on anonymity to speak about an ongoing investigation. Officials in the deputy attorney general's office raised concerns about both the scope of the request, which they thought would contain communications that could be covered by legal privilege between Giuliani and Trump, and the method of obtaining the records, three of the people said. The Justice Department requires that applications for search warrants served on lawyers be approved by senior department officials. “They decided it was prudent to put it off until the dust settled, and the dust has settled now,” said Kenneth F. McCallion, a former federal prosecutor who represents Ukrainian clients relevant to the inquiry and has been in contact with federal authorities about the investigation. McCallion declined to identify his clients, saying he had not been authorized to do so. He previously has represented former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Giuliani's attorney Robert J. Costello told The Associated Press he has “heard nothing” from federal prosecutors concerning Giuliani. It is possible that Giuliani could try to argue that his actions were taken at the behest of the president, as his personal attorney, rather than a foreign country, and therefore registration would not be required under federal law. Giuliani wrote in a text message Thursday to the AP that he “never represented a foreign anything before the U.S. government.” "It’s pure political persecution,” he said of the investigation The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. McCallion said federal authorities were asking questions concerning a wide range of Giuliani’s international business dealings, and that “everything was on the table” as it pertained to his work in Ukraine. He said the inquiry was not entirely focused on Ukraine, but declined to elaborate. The investigation of Giuliani's lobbying first came to light in October 2019, when The New York Times reported that federal prosecutors were investigating Giuliani's efforts to oust Yovanovitch, who was recalled amid Trump’s bid to solicit dirt from Ukraine to pressure Ukraine into helping his reelection prospects. Federal prosecutors also have investigated Giuliani as part of a criminal case brought against his former associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born business partners from Florida who played key roles in Giuliani’s efforts to launch the Ukrainian corruption investigation against the Bidens. Parnas and Fruman were charged in a scheme to make illegal campaign donations to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada and other states to try to win support for a new recreational marijuana business. Giuliani has said he had no knowledge of illegal donations and hadn’t seen any evidence that Parnas and Fruman did anything wrong. ___ Tucker and Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report from New York. Jim Mustian, Eric Tucker And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she is issuing an executive order mandating that all K-12 public schools provide universal access to in-person learning by the month’s end for students up to fifth grade and by mid-April for older students. The state’s coronavirus case numbers have fallen significantly and Oregon put teachers ahead of older residents in the line for the COVID-19 vaccine — a decision that angered many people age 65 and up. As teachers get vaccinated, Brown has been under tremendous pressure from parents and local elected officials in many counties to reopen schools. Many teachers' unions nationally have balked at returning to in-person learning, putting them at odds with Democratic governors like Brown in some states. In neighbouring Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has implored educators to return to the classroom, but most students there are in on-line classes and the Seattle teachers' union is defying a district plan to return special education students to schools. Under the Oregon order, students in K-5 must have an in-person learning option by March 29. Students in grades six through 12 must have one by April 19. Students who prefer to remain in online class will also have the option. “The science is very, very clear: with proper safety measures in place, there is a low risk of COVID-19 transmission in school. Oregon parents can be confident about sending their children back to a classroom learning environment," Brown said in a statement, after visiting a Portland school. Brown has previously said about 20% of Oregon public school students were back to in-person learning. Rylee Ahnen, spokesman for the Oregon Education Association, said in a statement teachers support returning to the classroom if it can be done safely. He said educators understand teachers' frustration. “We urge all our local school districts to continue to work in good faith with local educators,” Ahnen said. The union represents 44,000 K-12 teachers across Oregon. Most students in Oregon have been learning online for the better part of a year. Some school districts have returned to part-time in-person learning, mostly at the elementary level. Brown said all but six counties in the state currently meet or exceed the advisory metrics for a return to in-person, hybrid learning for all grade levels. Five of the counties that do not yet meet the guidelines for all grade levels do make the cut-off for a return to elementary school. After those dates, all public schools in Oregon will operate either on a full-day of in-person school or a hybrid model, in which students spend parts of the day or some days each week in a classroom setting and other parts of the day or week online. The approach that districts choose will be dictated by COVID-19 case numbers in their county and local decision-making, officials said. The Salem-Keizer School District, the states's second largest after Portland, announced Friday that it would welcome middle and high school students back to a hybrid model that combines in-person learning and distance learning starting April 13. Elementary students in the district have already been back in class on a hybrid model. Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Pandemic restrictions will loosen in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region next week as the province lifts a strict stay-at-home order, a move the government described Friday as a "positive step forward." The two regions, along with North Bay Parry Sound, were the last ones still under the order that was imposed in January amid surging COVID-19 cases. Most of the province transitioned back to the government's colour-coded pandemic response framework last month. Toronto and Peel will be placed in the strictest "grey lockdown" category of the framework starting Monday, as was recommended by public health officials in the two areas. That will allow more retailers to open, with restrictions, but leaves gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining closed. Social gatherings remain banned indoors, and are capped at 10 people outdoors. The province said Friday it opted to place Toronto and Peel in the lockdown category because the two regions are making progress but their case rates remain high. Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is taking a "safe and cautious approach" to ending the provincewide shutdown. "Despite this positive step forward, a return to the framework is not a return to normal," she said in a statement. "As we continue vaccinating more Ontarians, it remains critical for everyone to continue to follow public health measures and stay home as much as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities." Meanwhile, North Bay will be placed Monday in the red zone, the second most restrictive level of pandemic measures. That means gyms will be able to reopen, so long as they limit capacity to 10 people in indoor classes, 10 in the weight area, and 25 in outdoor classes. Indoor restaurant dining and personal care services can also resume, with restrictions. Only five people are permitted for indoor social gatherings, and 25 for outdoor ones. North Bay's top public health doctor, Dr. Jim Chirico, said the move to the red zone, which he had recommended to the province, will "provide much needed relief for the businesses and restaurants." He acknowledged the prolonged lockdown has been difficult on the community but said it was necessary to protect vulnerable residents and help the area's long-term recovery from the pandemic. The mayor of Mississauga, which is part of Peel Region, also voiced relief that some businesses could reopen, while stressing the need to remain diligent in complying with public health measures. "Although this is not the level we wished to be placed in, I understand why the government of Ontario has placed Peel in the grey-lockdown zone," Bonnie Crombie said in a statement. "I am pleased that our businesses will be able to start to reopen with limited capacity and begin to recover." Some residents expressed frustration that restrictions in Peel weren't loosened further. "This is getting out of hand now. At one point, we're going to have to start opening up businesses," said Amna Mekhar, 23, who works at a Starbucks in Mississauga. Adam Taylor, 40, who works from his Mississauga home, says the rules for the lockdown zone should be changed to allow gyms to reopen instead of retail stores. "I don't think people should be walking around in malls. You can do all that online and do pick-ups. Gyms are for the benefit of your health," he said. In Toronto's west end, some residents said they looked forward to the change next week. "It'll be nice just for something else to do. And you can’t buy everything online, sometimes you want to see something first before you buy it," said Mark Bablovic. Another resident, Abdul Mohammad, also cited shopping in welcoming the switch to the grey zone. "I can’t wait. I got a lot of returns to make," he said. Others seemed less enthusiastic. "It doesn’t really matter to me, I'm limiting trips to the grocery store even with the change,” said Cathy Robitaille. Seven other regions will also move to different restriction levels on Monday. The province says Peterborough, Sudbury and Simcoe-Muskoka will go into the red zone; Haldimand-Norfolk and Temiskaming will go into orange; and Haliburton, Kawartha and Pine Ridge, as well as Renfrew County, will go into yellow. - with files from Denise Paglinawan and Liam Casey. This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 5, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending licences for thousands of wells and pipelines after an oil and gas producer failed to bring its operations into regulatory compliance. The regulator says it has ordered SanLing Energy Ltd. to suspend its 2,266 wells, 227 facilities and 2,170 pipelines and ensure they are left in a state that's safe for the public and the environment. It adds the company currently owes $67 million in security to the AER for its assets' end-of-life obligations. The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination, ensure its emergency response number is working and provide a detailed plan to maintain its assets while they are suspended. The AER says it issued an order to SanLing in September because of a poor compliance record and its outstanding security issues. It says it met with the company several times over the past five months to request a plan to come back into compliance but the company's responses proved to be inadequate. “If SanLing, or any company, wants to do business in Alberta, they must follow our rules,” said Blair Reilly, AEB director of enforcement and emergency management, in a news release. "We cannot allow a company that has ignored the rules continue to operate—that's not in Alberta's interest." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — A new national study adds strong evidence that mask mandates can slow the spread of the coronavirus, and that allowing dining at restaurants can increase cases and deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study Friday. “All of this is very consistent,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing on Friday. “You have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases in cases and deaths when you have in-person restaurant dining.” The study was released just as some states are rescinding mask mandates and restaurant limits. Earlier this week, Texas became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a movement by many governors to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials. “It’s a solid piece of work that makes the case quite strongly that in-person dining is one of the more important things that needs to be handled if you’re going to control the pandemic,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University expert on disease dynamics who was not involved in the study. The new research builds on smaller CDC studies, including one that found that people in 10 states who became infected in July were more likely to have dined at a restaurant and another that found mask mandates in 10 states were associated with reductions in hospitalizations. The CDC researchers looked at U.S. counties placed under state-issued mask mandates and at counties that allowed restaurant dining — both indoors and at tables outside. The study looked at data from March through December of last year. The scientists found that mask mandates were associated with reduced coronavirus transmission, and that improvements in new cases and deaths increased as time went on. The reductions in growth rates varied from half a percentage point to nearly 2 percentage points. That may sound small, but the large number of people involved means the impact grows with time, experts said. “Each day that growth rate is going down, the cumulative effect — in terms of cases and deaths — adds up to be quite substantial,” said Gery Guy Jr., a CDC scientist who was the study's lead author. Reopening restaurant dining was not followed by a significant increase in cases and deaths in the first 40 days after restrictions were lifted. But after that, there were increases of about 1 percentage point in the growth rate of cases and — later — 2 to 3 percentage points in the growth rate of deaths. The delay could be because restaurants didn't re-open immediately and because many customers may have been hesitant to dine in right after restrictions were lifted, Guy said. Also, there's always a lag between when people are infected and when they become ill, and longer to when they end up in the hospital and die. In the case of dining out, a delay in deaths can also be caused by the fact that the diners themselves may not die, but they could get infected and then spread it to others who get sick and die, Hanage said. “What happens in a restaurant doesn't stay in a restaurant,” he said. CDC officials stopped short of saying that on-premises dining needs to stop. But they said if restaurants do open, they should follow as many prevention measures as possible, like promoting outdoor dining, having adequate indoor ventilation, masking employees and calling on customers to wear masks whenever they aren't eating or drinking. The study had limitations. For example, the researchers tried to make calculations that accounted for other policies, such as bans on mass gatherings or bar closures, that might influence case and death rates. But the authors acknowledged that they couldn't account for all possible influences — such as school re-openings. “It's always very, very hard to thoroughly nail down the causal relationships,” Hanage said. “But when you take this gathered with all the other stuff we know about the virus, it supports the message” of the value of mask wearing and the peril of restaurant dining, he added. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press