A Toronto Public Library distribution centre is packing hampers, and branches are turning into food banks, as the need skyrockets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Toronto Public Library distribution centre is packing hampers, and branches are turning into food banks, as the need skyrockets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ethel Lockrey, 97, and a resident of Silver Fox Estate in Salisbury said people might be surprised at what she and some other seniors have come up with while under lockdown at their retirement residence: floor curling. The game bears some resemblance to regular curling, except there are little wheels under the stones, and of course the absence of ice, said another resident, Doug Sentell, 83, adding that a smooth surface is still important. "I think people would be surprised to know such a game exists. It's fantastic,” said fellow resident Glenna Brugess, 91, adding that she really enjoyed playing and thinks she could be good at it. This week, the seniors had a faceoff: women versus men, said Sentell. The women's team won, he said The women’s team’s most senior senior was certainly a big part of their success, though she is very humble, Sentell said. Lockrey, who many referred to in interviews as “Speedy Ethel” said she thinks “people would be surprised that at 97 years old I can play." "I like to curl. It exercises my whole body and I feel that's important,” she said. Sentell said this week’s game was only the second time he and his fellow residents have given the new game a shot, but noted their skills have improved considerably. “The first time we were flipping the stones upside down,” he said, sharing that his biggest tip would be not to push too hard initially. “We had 10 playing this time. The first time there were maybe four or five that tried, with more as spectators,” said Sentell, adding that people have been learning by watching. Jason Wilson, operator of Silver Fox Estate, said the home, which opened in May during the pandemic, has hired a full-time wellness coordinator, who has been organizing everything from curling to chair fitness. Residents can’t have visitors nor can they participate in off-site visits right now, he said. The home is their household bubble, he said. But while opening during a pandemic was a nightmare from a business perspective, Wilson said, the positive side has been really getting to know each resident slowly and watching residents grow closer to each other than they perhaps would have been otherwise. “They rely on each other. They take care of each other,” he said. From crib, to bingo, to chair exercises, they do activities together, said Wilson. And now, of course, they curl together. Sentell said he thinks as they get more players interested they could explore the possibility of a tournament. “I think this could take off,” he said. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
As part of the Greater Toronto Area incident management structure, Barrie’s Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) has been helping care for some patients transferred from hospitals in the Toronto area. “The intent of that group is to meet the needs of all of the patients” in that catchment area, said Dana Naylor, RVH’s chief of patient care. Data from hospitals in that group are presented at a daily meeting detailing how each hospital is doing by examining occupancy in the hospitals as well as in the intensive care unit and staffing levels. The process allows patients, both those with COVID-19 and without, to be moved from hospitals under stress to those with more capacity. “As a result, RVH has been directed to accept patients from other regions,” said Naylor Since Dec. 5, RVH has accepted 69 patients from the GTA, with 14 remained in hospital on Friday. Naylor says the process has been an efficient one. The backdrop is the ability for local hospitals to make space by moving non-COVID patients to the 70-bed field hospital in the RVH parking lot. So far, 142 patients have been treated at the field hospital, including two from other local hospitals and the rest from RVH itself. On Friday, 15 patients were receiving treatment at the temporary facility. “When we built the Regional Pandemic Response Unit, it provided the region, including the province, with the much-needed capacity to respond to COVID-19,” said Naylor. In addition to the temporary facility, RVH also was able to add beds as part of its pandemic response. “We have opened up another 29 beds” in the main hospital, she said. “These are patient rooms” Those beds have been opening during the course of the pandemic depending upon need. Naylor said additional critical care as well as medicine capacity were created in response to need. RVH now has funding for 389 beds in the main hospital. “We’re fortunate with our capacity right now that we do have the ability to not only respond locally to our patients, but also to support our hospital partners who are struggling with COVID-19 volumes and then associated capacity,” she said. Prior to the pandemic, RVH reported capacities exceeding 100 per cent, but that’s dropped as a result of the extra beds and field hospital. On Friday, RVH reported its capacity was at 84 per cent. During the pandemic, the number of people going to the emergency department dropped off, reducing the number of people being admitted. That, said Naylor, is something of a double-edged sword. The emergency department needs to be available for the broader community and people who need help, should seek it, she added. “That’s always been a priority, but it’s never been more important than today because of COVID and ensuring you’re not creating an environment of an overburdened area where you’ve got a backlog of people, your waiting rooms become larger. It’s really important to have good patient flow at a time when you need people to be physical distancing,” she said. She credits increased attention to pre-existing regional partnerships with providing flexibility to a stressed health system. The 70-bed field hospital, for instance, was designed to take the pressure off any of the regional hospitals that might be overwhelmed during the pandemic so that each hospital could respond to the needs of their own community. Working through the outbreaks in the community, as well as one within the RVH itself and providing support to other hospitals has been a daily concern for Naylor. “The greatest work that I do today and what I need to focus on, is making sure that I can meet the needs of all three,” she said, and ensuring they have the necessary beds and resources. “And we do. There’s a lot of work behind it.” Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
A Hamilton educational assistant made the decision to switch from providing in-person to virtual support for his students as the province announced on Tuesday it would further extend school closures for most — but not all — Ontario students. “I feel like the main priority of school boards right now should be keeping their staff and students safe,” said Robert Mines, who has worked at the Glenwood School, designated for students with exceptionalities. “We do not feel safe right now.” The union representing more than 900 educational support workers in Hamilton says members are concerned for their safety — and that of their students — as schools in southern Ontario remain open for students with special needs. “The members are terrified. They’re afraid they’re going to get COVID, they’re afraid they’re going to give it to their family,” said Susan Lucek, president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 527, which mainly represents educational assistants. “We feel like we are being used as respite care.” The Ontario government announced Tuesday it would extend remote learning for all students, except those with pervasive needs, defined as severe physical, medical and cognitive, among other, challenges. Currently, there are approximately 340 students learning in-person — with more than 330 staff supporting them — at 44 Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) elementary and secondary schools across the city. In the Catholic board, there are about 230 learners and about 360 educators, including teachers, support staff and principals, in 38 elementary and “all seven” high schools, chair Pat Daly told The Spectator. Lucek said the narrative that schools are closed is misleading. “All of the schools have been open since September,” she said. “It’s misinformation that they’re closed. They’re not.” She said her members appreciate the challenges that parents face supporting kids’ learning from home. “We want to help these students, we want them to succeed,” she said. “But when is our health going to trump education?” Mines said he felt safe going into school in September when the COVID-19 numbers were relatively low. But now, with record-high case counts in the city, he is concerned about safety. “And I think that means currently, until the numbers are decreasing again, that students with exceptionalities and special needs should be staying at home because a lot of them are medically fragile,” he said. Glenwood closed on Thursday after a student tested positive for the virus. “It was just inevitable, I would say, this was going to happen,” Mines said. “Especially because it’s so hard to detect.” He said despite small class sizes — about seven students in his Glenwood class — physical distancing is almost impossible, he said. Not all students can wear masks, and many require one-on-one support and personal care. “The struggle with special needs students is that oftentimes it’s hard to know if they’re holding symptoms of being sick or if it’s just part of their exceptionality, and they have no way to communicate that with us, for the most part,” he said. “It’s very hard to tell if they have an upset stomach because they’re sick or if they’re just not having a good day.” In an Jan. 7 letter addressed to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce, COPE Ontario asked the provincial government for “pandemic pay” for its members, along with “immediate access to COVID testing upon exposure,” technology supports and restructuring to support increased virtual education. “We, as education workers, are forgotten,” the letter reads. Amanda Zavarella said she is “very fortunate” to be working remotely and safely from home. Zavarella, a child and youth care practitioner with the HWDSB, said the union has told her members could be “redeployed” to schools that are short-staffed. She said she feels both the province and the board are sending educational support workers “into really unsafe situations” where they are unable to physical distance. “It’s almost like education workers are those forgotten voices, those voices that are not being heard,” she said. Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
With face masks becoming the norm in many Ontario workplaces, will it be long before COVID-19 vaccines will also become the accepted norm at work? Sure you can say you don't like vaccines for many reasons, but do your personal feelings count against the rights of other workers to carry on in a safe workplace confident they are free from disease? Those are the sorts of questions that Hope McManus has to deal with as the head of Health and Safety at the Peninsula Canada human resources consulting firm in Toronto that specializes in health and safety. One question is whether getting the COVID-19 vaccine will mean that masking and physical distancing will no longer be necessary. "It will be some time before the majority of the population is vaccinated and restrictions are relaxed. For best results in containing and preventing the spread of the virus, vaccines must be used in conjunction with other health and safety measures. Social distancing, face masks, capacity limits, protective barriers and hygiene practices are requirements that employers should continue enforcing in their workplaces even as workers start getting vaccinated," McManus said in an emailed news release. Another vaccine related question is whether employers can require their workers to get the vaccine. The answer was no. "Employers cannot make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for workers, however they can encourage their workers to get it. It is unlikely that the government will make the vaccine mandatory due to human and civil rights concerns. Employees may not be able to get the vaccine for health or religious reasons. If an employer pressures an employee to get the vaccine they run the risk of being accused of discrimination, particularly if the worker experiences serious side effects as a result," McManus advised. The follow up question is whether employers can ban unvaccinated employees from the workplace. The answer was more complex. "Generally, employers cannot ban employees from entering the workplace. However, employers have a duty to provide a healthy and safe work environment. If risk in the workplace is high and the levels of community spread of COVID-19 are high, employers may ask unvaccinated workers to go on leave. Once restrictions are lifted and the risks are not as great, employers would have a hard time justifying this decision," McManus revealed. "Additionally, employers cannot terminate staff for refusing to get the vaccine. If the employee has been terminated for refusing the vaccine, the employee may bring forward a human rights claim," McManus said in the email. Then there is the question of what an employer can do to protect the workplace. McManus said this is a relevant question because not all workers will have the vaccine. "In this case, employers must ensure that they continue to follow public health guidelines on social distancing, wearing masks and maintaining respiratory and hand hygiene. If it is possible, employers can also allow unvaccinated staff to work remotely," McManus advised. "To further protect the workplace, employers should continue with workplace sanitization procedures, staff screening and contact tracing. To ensure that workers stay home when they have symptoms of illness, employers can also consider providing paid sick leave." McManus said employers can also be pro-active if they want to encourage their workers to buy into the program. "Workplaces that want staff to get the vaccine should conduct run-through vaccination courses on how the vaccine works, its safety, who is able to take it, the vaccination process and what happens after. If employers do set up vaccination clinics in their workplace, they must ensure that workers complete the vaccination process correctly. This means tracking the vaccine brand, the timing of the first dose and ensuring workers get the second dose on time," she advised. Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
Saskatchewan joined five other provinces in December, requesting that the federal government delay Bill C-15 until stakeholders and governments could be consulted on what the implications of the legislation are. Bill C-15 is proposed legislation that states the Government of Canada, “must take all measures necessary to ensure the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” It received a first reading in Ottawa on Dec. 3. When the measure was initially debated at the United Nation in 2007, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States all opposed it. National governments in all four opposing nations have since supported the declaration, which addresses individual and collective rights of Indigenous people, as well as their rights to culture, identity, education, health, employment and language. The UN declaration also states Indigenous people can determine their own political status as well as rights to engage in their own economic, social and cultural development, while retaining the right to be part of the same activities within the state. “While we support the principles of UNDRIP, as far as the Government of Saskatchewan, we don’t endorse the federal legislation because there was very little consultation done before the initial bill was presented,” Indian Head-Milestone MLA and provincial government relations minister Don McMorris told The Forum. “The interpretation of the legislation is still to be determined and we can’t support something until we know what the impact is going to be within our province.” The provincial government is reviewing the legislation and is trying to determine what this bill means for the province. It is also consulting with First Nations and Metis leaders as well as other economic sectors which could be impacted by this law, McMorris said. “The spirit is one thing, what the legislation says is another, and that’s why we can’t support this,” McMorris said, adding a further statement on this bill will be released once the province has completed its review of the bill. Similar reviews are underway in Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick — all provinces, like Saskatchewan, with conservative governments. Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
MONTREAL — A 23-year-old man was charged with second-degree murder today in the weekend slaying of his mother. Francis Normand's 49-year-old mother died after she was found stabbed Sunday inside an apartment in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough. The victim has been identified in court documents as Francine Roux. She was transported to hospital in critical condition and was declared dead Sunday afternoon. Normand was arrested at the scene. A police spokesman said Sunday the accused was sent for a psychological evaluation. The case will return to court on Jan. 27. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
Hospitals in Ontario have received a much-anticipated document that lays out the criteria to be used if intensive care units fill up and medical resources are scarce.According to the document, titled "Adult Critical Care Clinical Emergency Standard of Care for Major Surge" and prepared by the province's critical care COVID-19 command centre - patients will be scored by doctors on a "short-term mortality risk assessment." "Aim to prioritize those patients who are most likely to survive their critical illness," the document notes."Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources," the document reads.It lists three levels of critical care triage:"Level 1 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality greater than 80 per cent," the document notes. "Level 2 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality (greater than) 50 per cent."At Level 3 triage, patients with predicted mortality of 30 per cent - or a 70 per cent chance of surviving beyond a year - will not receive critical care. At this stage, patients who have suffered a cardiac arrest will be deprioritized for critical care, as their predicted mortality is greater than 30 per cent.At this level, clinicians may abandon the short-term mortality predictions in favour of randomization, which the document notes is to be used "as a last resort" and should be conducted by an administrator, not by bedside clinicians.The protocol, dated Jan. 13, says there are three steps on the road to critical care triage:Step 1 says hospitals should build surge capacity. In Step 2 , "if demand still exceeds capacity, the hospital will adjust the type of care being provided to focus on key critical care interventions," which include basic modes of ventilation.Step 3 is the initiation of critical care triage. Once that process kicks in, "all requests for ICU admission are managed by an administrator on call who supports the bedside clinicians."At the moment, there are 416 patients with COVID-19 in ICUs in Ontario, which has a total of 1,800 total ICU beds.Modelling released by the province last week show that about 700 ICU beds will be used by COVID-19 patients by the first week February.Dr. Andrew Baker, the head of the critical care COVID-19 command centre and director of critical care at St. Michael's Hospital, said the triage protocol contains information and tools that are a standard way for physicians to conduct an assessment for a patient upon arrival at an emergency department."They were shared with the critical care community as background only and to ensure a common approach across the sector, so physicians and other health professional staff can learn how to quickly operationalize an emergency standard of care for admission to critical care, if ever needed," he said.Baker said an emergency standard of care is not in place, but will be enacted if needed.He said there is an "extensive, sophisticated, provincewide effort" to transfer patients out of hospitals that are at capacity.Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, said the hospital is running at 105 per cent capacity, but has cancelled surgeries in order to keep some spots open in the ICU."I sincerely hope we never need to use this because it is terrible for patients, terrible for their families, causes moral distress for health-care workers, and it's something that we should do everything possible to avoid having to implement," Warner said. David Lepofsky, the chairman of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the triage guidelines are discriminatory.He pointed to the clinical frailty scale, a prognostic tool doctors use in cases of progressive illnesses to assess a patient’s general deterioration over time."This is disability-based discrimination and that's against the law in the Constitution," Lepofsky said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. — The port in Prince Rupert, B.C., has set another record in defiance of the economic downtown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The port authority announced Monday that despite unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic, 32.4 million tonnes of cargo moved through the port in 2020, up nine per cent from the year before. The volume increase was led by a rise in exports of coal, propane and wood pellets. The port says the high demand for thermal coal led to a 26 per cent increase at the Ridley Terminal, where rail cars with B.C. and Alberta natural resources are unloaded and the product is shipped. While cargo shipments were up last year, the port says in a news release that passenger volumes dropped off significantly, with the cancellation of the cruise season and BC Ferries seeing a steep decline in ridership. Prince Rupert Port Authority CEO Shaun Stevenson says the facility has increased trade in support of Canada's economic health through the pandemic, enabling over $50 billion in international trade. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2020. The Canadian Press
When the call came on a Friday night before Christmas, Dr. Amrit Sehdev did not hesitate to join Canada’s South Asian COVID Task Force in the battle against COVID-19. “We worked through the night and within hours had a website going,” said Sehdev, an Ontario-based public health professional, with a Masters in Artificial Intelligence (AI). “It has only been about a month, but we are seeing some good progress in getting the message out to get tested and get vaccinated in the South Asian and other New Canadian communities,” said Sehdev. The task force comprises South Asian physicians and health professionals in Canada. According to the group, the South Asian COVID Task Force was formed as a grassroots initiative to put “a spotlight on the specific needs of our communities and the structural barriers in place that are continuing to drive the pandemic.” Sehdev said the response from South Asian health professionals across the country to join the group and its efforts has been phenomenal. “South Asians generally have a lot of trust in their physicians and we are using this to get our message across addressing the issues via a cultural lens,” he said. Several South Asian doctors have also posted personal messages on the Facebook page of the South Asian COVID Task Force. Among them is Dr. Nishma Singhal, who specializes in infectious diseases. Singhal’s video shows her on her way to get a COVID-19 shot, combined with a narrative that describes the vaccine as a gift. In her video, Pooja Gandhi, a speech-language pathologist, explains the importance of making culturally appropriate information on COVID-19 accessible in Hindi. The website also has infographics in multiple South Asian languages, including Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu, Punjabi and Malayalam, to amplify public health directives and make them easier to understand for people whose first language is not English or French. Inspired by the work of the South Asian Covid Task Force, members of the Latino/Hispanic community have organized a similar group that aims to “provide education, awareness, and culturally appropriate resources to address health inequities experienced by the Latino/Hispanic community due to COVID-19.” Sehdev said there is no doubt that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the health and finances of new Canadians, especially in cities like Brampton, Ontario and Surrey, British Columbia. “There is also the additional challenge of language barriers, making it even harder to access information or medical help,” he said. But Sehdev believes the hesitancy rate in testing or vaccination is no greater than the general population, once culturally-driven advocacy and messaging become part of the arsenal to combat COVID-19. The task force also conducted a recent survey in the Peel region which found 43% of participants live with 5+ people in their households. Vaccine acceptance was 71.4 per cent among survey respondents with more than half of those surveyed saying they would like to get the shots at a doctor’s office. Meanwhile, a new poll by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) said Canadians appear to be transitioning from a place of professed caution to enthusiastic compliance when it comes to their willingness to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In a one-month span, the number of people saying they plan to be inoculated as soon as possible has increased 12 percentage points, with a firm majority (60 per cent) now willing, and waiting, said the poll. “While this news may delight public health officials, it also puts them – and their political masters – under the microscope. They have been criticized for struggling in recent weeks to effectively and efficiently jab vaccines into the arms of impatient Canadians. Indeed, 52 per cent say the amount of time they think they’ll personally wait to be vaccinated is ‘too long,’” ARI president Shachi Kurl said in a statement. Here are some of the key findings of the ARI poll: Fabian Dawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Canadian Media
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden plans to quickly extend travel restrictions barring travel by most people who have recently been in much of Europe and Brazil soon after President Donald Trump lifted those requirements effective Jan. 26, a spokeswoman for Biden said. Trump signed an order Monday lifting the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic - a decision first reported Monday by Reuters - after winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials. Soon after Trump's order was made public, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted "on the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26."
OTTAWA — At least three provinces are now temporarily delaying or pausing COVID-19 vaccination programs amid fallout from Pfizer's decision to reduce Canada's vaccine deliveries over the next month.More than half a million Canadians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 thus far, and more than 822,000 doses of the two approved vaccines have been delivered from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.But all provinces are being forced to revisit their vaccination programs after Pfizer suddenly told Canada on Friday morning it would be cutting the doses delivered in half over the next four weeks, while it upgrades its factory in Belgium. Pfizer was to ship 735,150 doses to Canada between Jan. 18 and Feb. 14.Canada's deliveries after the partial pause will be bigger than previously expected so Pfizer can fulfil its contract to deliver four million doses by the end of March.About 600,000 doses have been delivered from Pfizer so far.The new delivery schedule has not yet been posted publicly, but provinces are preparing for the temporary downturn anyway.Manitoba stopped taking appointments for first doses Friday but will honour appointments already made. Ontario's chief medical officer Dr. David Williams said Saturday his province would delay giving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 42 days, instead of the recommended 21 days. The 28-day schedule for Moderna's vaccine will remain intact, said Williams.Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday his province has "quite simply run out of supply" of COVID-19 vaccines and is no longer taking appointments for people to get their first doses."I am deeply disappointed at the situation we are now facing," said Kenney."Due to the unexpected supply disruption the federal government announced last week, Alberta will have no more vaccine doses available to administer as first doses by the end of today or early tomorrow."B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said his province is considering whether to adjust the dosing schedule. B.C. had already changed the 21-day second-dose schedule to 35 days, but Dix said that may change again because of the delivery shortages.Alberta hit a milestone on Sunday by delivering of the first doses of vaccine to all residents of long-term care facilities. Ontario still anticipates hitting its first target of inoculating 61,500 long-term care residents, staff and primary caregivers by Thursday.Pfizer is trying to double its production of vaccine doses to two billion this year and is planning to temporarily curb production at its Belgian facility to make upgrades that will allow for that increase.Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said the delivery delays will affect other countries besides Canada and the European Union but the company has not identified them."Multiple countries around the world, beyond Canada and the EU, will be impacted in the short term," Antoniou said."Pfizer is working closely with all governments on allocation of doses. While the precise percentage allocation may fluctuate, we anticipate that it will balance out by the end of (the first quarter of) 2021."Europe has already seen its delivery delay period shortened from four weeks to just one. Pfizer told Europe Friday that delays to its dose deliveries would end Jan. 25, while Canada expects to be affected until mid-February.European leaders were furious at the initial announcement that their deliveries would be smaller for several weeks. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called Pfizer's CEO directly to discuss the issue late last week.Pfizer later announced Europe's deliveries would only be affected for this week.Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must explain why Canada's delivery schedule is being affected for longer."It’s up to the prime minister to explain to Canadians why they won’t be able to get vaccinated for months, while European countries have minimal delays in receiving vaccines," Rempel said."It’s up to him to explain why, based on Friday’s news about vaccine delivery delays, we might be looking at many more months of lockdown — with the lost jobs, time with families, and mental health challenges that accompany them. It’s up to him to find a better path forward."Trudeau said Friday the decision was "out of our hands" but that it would not affect Canada's long-term goal to have every Canadian vaccinated by the end of September.By the fall, Canada is to get a total 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Both use a similar technology to train the human immune system to recognize the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, and mount a defence against it.Both vaccines showed they were more than 94 per cent effective at preventing serious illness after two doses. Health Canada approved Pfizer's vaccine Dec. 9 and Moderna's on Dec. 23. It continue to review two more COVID-19 vaccines, from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, but neither is expected to complete the review process in Canada for at least several more weeks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
REGINA, N.M. — Saskatchewan is reporting another 290 new cases of COVID-19 as it looks to create TV ads to encourage vaccinations. Health officials say there are 210 people in hospital, with 30 patients receiving intensive care. The province reports four residents, all 60 or older, have also died from the virus. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada and the regions of Saskatoon, North Battleford, Prince Albert and Regina are where many of the active cases are located. Officials say more than 22,000 vaccine shots have gone into the arms of doctors and nurses working directly with COVID-19 patients, as well as staff and residents in long-term care homes and some seniors. To encourage vaccinations, documents posted on the government's procurement website show the Ministry of Health is shopping for a production company to shoot some TV ads next month. "These spots will be used to raise public awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated," the documents read. Last week, the province's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said he would recommended Premier Scott Moe's Saskatchewan Party government implement stricter public-health restrictions if he keeps seeing 300 or more infections reported daily. The current public health order prohibits household guests, as well as restricts business capacity and worship services. It is set to expire next Friday. "The government and Dr. Shahab are continuously monitoring the case numbers and have not ruled out adjustments before that time," Julie Leggott, Moe's press secretary, said in a statement Monday This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2020 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
The long wait to learn who will represent Alberta at the national curling championships is over. The decision provided some clarity on the wild-card front too. Reigning Alberta champions Laura Walker and Brendan Bottcher will wear provincial colours once again, Curling Alberta announced Monday, 10 days after cancelling its playdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Walker, ranked seventh in Canada, was expected to get the nod for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. However, the selection of the fourth-ranked Bottcher for the Tim Hortons Brier was tougher to predict. Sixth-ranked Kevin Koe and 15th-ranked Jeremy Harty also had a case. Koe didn't play in the last Alberta playdowns since he had a Brier entry as Team Canada, while Harty is the provincial standings leader. "This was an extremely difficult decision for Curling Alberta’s board of directors,” Curling Alberta president Steven Young said in a release. "As a province, we were faced with a unique set of circumstances in unprecedented times. "No one could predict that we would be forced to make a decision like this, which we tried to avoid by pushing hard to host our championships." Koe will instead get one of the two wild-card spots based on the final 2019-20 domestic rankings. Fifth-ranked Mike McEwen of Manitoba gets the other. "My disappointment level really isn't that high," said Team Koe lead Ben Hebert. "If we knew that this was the make-or-break (decision) of whether or not we were going to be in (the Brier), obviously my tune would change. "I'm pretty grateful that we still get to compete regardless and that Curling Canada is putting on this bubble for us." Harty could still be considered for the third wild-card spot in the 18-team Brier field. The national federation will make that decision once all member associations either complete playdowns or name representatives. The Feb. 19-28 Scotties will kick off a run of six straight competitions in a so-called bubble at Calgary's Markin MacPhail Centre. "We're excited to wear the Alberta colours and the Alberta jackets," Walker said. "It's obviously not the same as when we won the honour to go but we definitely feel honoured to have been asked." Also Monday, the New Brunswick Curling Association cancelled its women's playdowns. Reigning champion Andrea Crawford has been invited to represent the province again. The New Brunswick men's tankard, meanwhile, is still on the schedule for Feb. 10-14. Bottcher, the Canadian No. 4, reached the Brier final last year but lost to Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador. The 2021 Brier is set for March 5-14. Ninth-ranked Glenn Howard of Ontario appears to be a good bet for the final wild-card spot, although other teams may be considered. On the women's side, two Alberta skips — No. 5 Chelsea Carey and No. 6 Kelsey Rocque — are ahead of Walker in the women's rankings. But Carey is a free agent and Rocque only has two returning players from last season's team, one short of the required minimum. Manitoba's Tracy Fleury is a wild-card lock at No. 2. The other two women's berths will be filled over the coming weeks. Suzanne Birt is a heavy favourite to win the two-team Prince Edward Island championship at the end of the month, but a loss would move her into a wild-card spot at No. 9. World junior champion Mackenzie Zacharias is in the mix at No. 11 along with fellow Manitoban Beth Peterson at No. 12. It's possible that Rocque and 10th-ranked Robyn Silvernagle of Saskatchewan - who also has two returning members - could be in play for the third wild-card spot. A Curling Canada spokesman said the 3-of-4 rule applies to the first two wild-card teams in each gender, but added that qualifying criteria for the third wild-card team won't be finalized until after all member associations have declared teams. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
U.S. lawmakers are moving ahead with efforts to ban facial recognition software even as the technology helps identify supporters of President Donald Trump who ransacked their workplace and forced them to evacuate this month. Researchers and law enforcement have been running photographs from the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol through facial recognition, which looks for similar faces in databases of mugshots, social media headshots or other images. "It's a great tool," said Michael Sheldon, research associate at the nonprofit Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, whose mission includes protecting democratic institutions.
WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris will make history on Wednesday when she becomes the nation’s first female vice-president — and the first Black woman and the first woman of South Asian descent to hold that office. But that’s only where her boundary-breaking role begins. With the confluence of crises confronting Joe Biden's administration — and an evenly divided Senate in which she would deliver the tie-breaking vote — Harris is shaping up to be a central player in addressing everything from the coronavirus pandemic to criminal justice reform. Symone Sanders, Harris' chief spokeswoman, said that while the vice-president-elect's portfolio hasn't been fully defined yet, she has a hand in all aspects of Biden's agenda. “There are pieces that Biden may specifically ask her to champion, but outside of that she is at the table for everything, involved in everything, and giving input and feedback and being a supportive partner to him on all pieces," she said. People working closely with Harris on the transition resist the idea of siloing her into any specific issue early on, because the sheer number of challenges the Biden administration faces means it will be “all hands on deck” during their early months. They say she'll be involved in all four of the major priorities they’ve set out: turning around the economy, tackling COVID-19, and addressing climate change and racial justice. “She has a voice in all of those. She has an opinion in all those areas. And it will probably get to a point where she is concentrating on some of the areas more specifically,” Sanders said. “But right now, I think what we’re faced with in this country is so big, it’s all hands on deck.” Harris has been closely involved with all of Biden’s biggest decisions since winning the election in November, joining him for every one of his key meetings focused on Cabinet picks, the COVID-19 relief bill, security issues and more. The two talk over the phone nearly every day, and she travels to Delaware sometimes multiple times a week for transition events and meetings. Those involved in the transition say both have taken seriously Biden’s insistence that he wants Harris to be the “last voice in the room” on key decisions. Biden is known to turn to Harris first during meetings to ask for her opinion or perspective on the matter at hand. Biden and Harris knew each other prior to the 2020 presidential campaign in part through Harris’ friendship with Biden’s deceased son, Beau. But they never worked closely together. Since joining the ticket, and particularly since the election, Harris has made efforts to deepen their relationship and is in frequent contact with the president-elect, people close to Harris say. That personal relationship, according to presidential historian Joel Goldstein, will be key to their success as working partners. “The relationship of the vice-president to the president is the most important relationship. Establishing mutual understanding and trust is really a key to a successful vice presidency,” Goldstein said. Goldstein pointed to Biden and President Barack Obama’s relationship as a potential model for the incoming team. Biden and Obama were from similarly different backgrounds and generations and also entered the White House with a relatively fresh working relationship. But their relationship and mutual understanding grew throughout the presidency, and Obama trusted Biden with some of his administration’s biggest endeavours, like the implementation of the 2009 Recovery Act and the troop withdrawal from Iraq. Harris is said to be looking at Biden’s vice presidency as a guide for her own. But unlike Biden during his first term, Harris will face constant questions about her political future. While Biden has skirted questions about whether he plans to run for reelection, at 78 he’ll be the oldest president in history, leaving questions about whether he'll retire at the end of his term. That would make Harris the immediate frontrunner in any 2024 Democratic presidential primary. Early in the vice-presidential vetting process, her potential presidential ambitions gave some Biden allies pause. But since her selection, Harris has proven a loyal partner to Biden, rarely if ever contradicting him publicly. Still, California Rep. Barbara Lee, who was the first Congressional Black Caucus member to endorse in the primary when she backed Harris, said the vice-president-elect isn’t afraid to speak her mind. “She’s no shrinking violet," Lee said. "If she believes that one decision should be made versus another she’s gonna weigh in and give her thoughts and opinions.” Biden has a personal affection for the work of diplomacy and deep relationships with global leaders that Harris can't match. But aides say she'll be deeply involved in the administration's diplomatic priorities simply because of the sheer amount of issues that will take up Biden's time. She may also be given a particular aspect of the administration's coronavirus response to oversee. One of her main priorities early on is certain to be the passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that Biden announced Thursday. Those working with Harris on the transition say that while Biden will be intimately involved with ushering the package through the Senate because of his longstanding relationships with longer-serving lawmakers, Harris knows the newer members and can help build fresh relationships in Congress. The first few months of the Biden administration will be focused on COVID-19 and the economy. But Harris is certain to face scrutiny — and pressure — from advocates to ensure the perspectives of Black and brown Americans are reflected in those policies and the Biden White House's priorities. Leah Daughtry, a former chief of staff at the Democratic National Committee, said Harris will make a difference simply by being in the room. “The fact that Kamala Harris is a Black woman, is a woman of Indian ancestry, is a woman, automatically makes her different from every other vice-president this country has ever seen,” she said. “That combination of experiences brings a set of values and lived experiences into a room where they have not previously existed. And that can only be good for this American democracy.” But as South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn put it, “There will be a lot of weight on those shoulders.” “Those of us who come to these positions, we come to them knowing full well that we have a burden to make sure that we do it in such a way, that there will be people coming behind us,” he said. Clyburn also acknowledged that Harris could also be a flashpoint for controversy among the portion of President Donald Trump’s followers who are motivated by racial animus, which Clyburn said contributed to the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. “They’re still holding on to a lot of animus about Barack Obama, and they’re gonna transfer it to her, just like they transferred it to others here in this building," Clyburn said. "And they’re never gonna get beyond that.” But Harris’ allies say as a child of civil rights activists, and a Black woman who’s spent her life confronting and trying to address racism and inequality, navigating those pressures as vice-president will come as second nature for her. “Kamala Harris didn’t just fall out of the Harvard Law School like Josh Hawley or Ted Cruz or somebody like that,” said Bakari Sellers, referencing two Republican senators who objected to the congressional certification of Biden’s win. (Hawley graduated from Yale Law School.) Sellers, a former South Carolina state lawmaker and an early Harris endorser, likened her to other civil rights trailblazers. “She comes from the same lineage as Fannie Lou Hamer and Shirley Chisholm and Ella Baker,” he said. “I mean, she’s built for this.” Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — The Quebec coroner is investigating the death of a man whose body was found inside a portable toilet early Sunday morning close to a Montreal homeless shelter he frequented.On Monday, a spokesman for the coroner identified the man as Raphael Andre, 51, and said the investigation will establish his cause of death and the circumstances surrounding it.Montreal homeless shelter The Open Door said in a Facebook post that Andre, identified by the nickname "Napa", was a regular and was often the last person to leave the facility.The Open Door had been operating 24 hours a day, but a COVID-19 outbreak in mid-December and a plumbing issue forced it to suspend its overnight service and to close at 9:30 p.m.Because of the provincewide curfew that is in effect between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., people who are not in overnight shelters risk confrontations with police if they are found outside. The Open Door said in its Facebook post that had it been allowed to stay open overnight and operate its warming centre, Andre would not have been left outdoors in the cold. "When people are in a safe place with support workers watching over them, help can be called when someone is in distress," the shelter wrote. "Instead, he tragically passed away in a portable toilet. This needs to change." A spokesperson for the shelter did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.Montreal's public health department said in a statement Monday that it issued a recommendation on Jan. 12 supporting the reopening of The Open Door's warming station. A Montreal health board that oversees the area said the shelter can reopen for overnight service once conditions are met."Following an evaluation of the situation, a list of 13 recommendations were submitted to Open Door's management and board of directors to prevent future outbreaks and to protect the clientele and shelter staff," the board said in a statement Monday, adding that it was still waiting for the measures to be implemented.The city's homeless community has been dealing with numerous outbreaks fuelled by a high rate of community transmission. A plan by local health officials to vaccinate the homeless began on Friday.Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante offered her condolences regarding the death of Andre and said the city and public health authorities are working to ensure The Open Door's warming station is able to reopen as soon as possible and in compliance with sanitary measures. "Each death in these circumstances is one death too many," Plante said. "This tragic event reaffirms the urgency of providing vulnerable people with resources adapted to the various needs which have been exacerbated by the health crisis."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario's top doctor says the province must cut its daily COVID-19 case counts to below 1,000 before lockdown measures can be lifted. Dr. David Williams called the goal "achievable" and said the last time the province saw similar daily case counts was late October. Williams says he would also like to see the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units drop to 150. The province reported today that 395 people were in hospital intensive care units across Ontario. Williams says the province's daily case rates appear to have plateaued and may have begun to drop. He attributes the change to a provincewide lockdown which came into effect on Boxing Day. Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford said a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont., will be used to relieve a capacity crunch because of rising COVID-19 rates. Ford said some patients from overcrowded Greater Toronto Area hospitals will be transferred to Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital when it opens on Feb. 7. The hospital will add 35 new critical care beds and 150 medical beds to the province's bed capacity. Health Minister Christine Elliott said some Toronto hospitals are already transferring patients to Kingston, Ont,. and Niagara Region to help ease crowding. The province said that once the COVID-19 capacity pressures have stabilized, the new Vaughan hospital will provide care to patients in York Region as originally planned. The province also said it will spend $125 million to create 500 additional beds to deal with the latest virus surge which it has warned could overwhelm hospitals. Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 24 more deaths linked to the virus. There were 815 new cases in Toronto and 507 in Peel Region, as well as 151 more cases in York and Niagara regions. There were 9,691 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered since Ontario's last daily report. The province reported that nearly 40,300 tests were completed since the last daily update. There have been 240,364 cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, and 206,310 cases have been resolved, while 5,433 Ontarians have died from the virus. Ontario's Ministry of Health said 209,788 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. A clinic dedicated to administering vaccines opened in a Toronto convention centre on Monday morning. City officials said the "proof-of-concept" clinic will help Ontario's Ministry of Health test and adjust the setup of immunization clinics in non-hospital settings. The clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is in the downtown core, aims to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city notes that is entirely dependent upon vaccine supply. Pfizer-BioNTech, which manufactures one of the two Health Canada-approved vaccines, announced last week that it's temporarily delaying international shipments of the shots while it upgrades production facilities in Europe. The Ontario government has said that will affect the province's vaccine distribution plan, and some people will see their booster shots delayed by several weeks. The City of Hamilton, meanwhile, said the province has directed it to temporarily cease administering the first dose of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone except residents, staff and essential caregivers at long-term care homes and retirement facilities. A spokeswoman for the Health Minister did not say how many regions of the province had received that directive. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
A shortage of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is being felt across Canada with many provinces having to scale back their vaccination plans. Alberta says it will run out early in the week and new clinic in Toronto will close Friday because of a delay in shipments.
A staff member at a high school on Hamilton’s west Mountain has tested positive for COVID-19. Hamilton public health notified the board of the positive case at Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School on Friday, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board said in a Jan. 15 statement. The school will “contact any students or staff identified as close contacts,” the statement reads. In an email to The Spectator, the board’s spokesperson said that there is “no closures for Sir Allan MacNab as a result of the COVID-19 case associated with the school.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
TAMPA — Raptors coach Nick Nurse says he will watch with interest the fallout of last week's blockbuster four-team trade that sent James Harden from Houston to Brooklyn. He called it a "hell of a story." "I got to think that a lot of the teams, if not all of them, are pretty happy with what it ended up," Nurse told reporters prior to Toronto's game against Dallas in Tampa on Monday. "Even some of the minor parts of the deal — I think that (guard Caris) LeVert's a hell of a player for Indiana. I think he'll help them. (Centre Jarrett) Allen's a good player who will help Cleveland. I think Houston's happy with all of the assets they accumulated. And then obviously all the talk and focus is on Brooklyn and how high-powered they can be with all those guys. "So I guess we can all place our bets on what we think is going happen. But we've just got to watch it play out. From my standpoint, I hope it flops for all three teams in the East," he added with a laugh. "I don't really care what Houston does. But I hope it doesn't turn out for any of them." In exchange for Harden, Houston got three unprotected first-round picks from Brooklyn (2022, 2024 and 2026) and the right to swap first-round selections with the Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027. Houston also got Milwaukee's 2022 first-round pick from Cleveland. The Rockets also acquired three players: Victor Oladipo from the Pacers, Dante Exum from the Cavaliers and Rodions Kurucs from the Nets. The Nets, meanwhile, sent Allen and forward Taurean Prince to Cleveland while LeVert ended up in Indiana. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021 The Canadian Press