President Donald Trump and First lady Melania departed the White House South Lawn on Wednesday after Trump vetoed the annual defense policy bill, following through on threats to veto a measure that has broad bipartisan support in Congress. (Dec. 23)
President Donald Trump and First lady Melania departed the White House South Lawn on Wednesday after Trump vetoed the annual defense policy bill, following through on threats to veto a measure that has broad bipartisan support in Congress. (Dec. 23)
The federal government is eyeing a comprehensive North American energy strategy as workers reel from cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. The project's presidential permit was rescinded by U.S. President Joe Biden on his first day in office, prompting outrage from Alberta's provincial government. TC Energy, the proponent, had pre-emptively ceased construction of the project. "I was the minister of natural resources when the Obama administration cancelled Keystone XL. So for me, it's Round 2 of deep disappointment," Minister Jim Carr, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's representative for the Prairies, said Monday. "We have to look forward, however, to a continental energy strategy." That North American energy strategy is enticing to Alberta's premier as well, with Jason Kenney suggesting to the prime minister that they approach Washington together to pitch a collaborative approach to North American energy and climate policy. "Canada and the U.S. share a highly integrated energy system, including criss-crossing infrastructure such as pipelines and electricity transmission systems. Our energy and climate goals must be viewed in the context of that integrated system," Kenney wrote. The premier has called the Keystone cancellation an "insult" and a "gut-punch," repeatedly pressing for retaliation against the U.S. and suggesting economic and trade sanctions if the administration is unwilling to engage in conversations about the future of the pipeline. Last year, Kenney invested $1.5 billion in Keystone XL, arguing it would never be completed without the infusion. The pipeline, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to Nebraska. The Biden administration has made no indication it intends to consider reinstating the permit. TC Energy has already laid off 1,000 workers in Alberta. A continental energy partnership has been an elusive goal for more than 15 years, with multiple trilateral meetings ending with consensus but often without measurable outcomes. It's been five years since Carr, then the minister of natural resources, hosted his American and Mexican counterparts to discuss the potential of such a partnership. They agreed to collaborate on things like energy technologies, energy efficiency, carbon capture and emissions reduction. While they signed a document stating these shared goals, synergy between the three countries has been slow to develop. In December 2014, a similar meeting ended with a to-do list to move forward on a continental energy strategy, including mapping energy infrastructure and sharing data. That data website hasn't been updated since 2017. In that meeting, then-natural resources minister Greg Rickford was making the pitch to the Obama administration for why Keystone XL should be permitted to live. It was cancelled — for the first time — less than a year later. "We've gone through a period over the last number of years where relations around energy have kind of died a slow death and become more and more narrowly focused around individual projects," said Monica Gattinger, director of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. "There's tremendous potential between Canada and the United States to collaborate around energy and environmental objectives in the long term." Gattinger said changes in the United States around hydrocarbon and shale have diminished the country's motivation for a broader energy approach. With the national governments in Canada and the U.S. now more closely aligned on climate priorities, she added there's the potential for a breakthrough. "Both countries have vast potential across a whole host of energy resources," she said. "Those are the conversations that we have not been having in North America for a number of years now. And there is a real opportunity to do so at this time." Carr is optimistic, too. "We're hardly starting from scratch, and there will be alignment," he said, alluding to his hope for co-operation between the U.S. and Canada, but also with the Prairie provinces. "There is an awful lot of work to be done and an awful lot of potential."
In mid-January, an unsettling report from Norway suggested 23 frail, elderly patients had all died after receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The finding made headlines around the world. Meanwhile, here in Canada, there have been instances of coronavirus infections and deaths in the midst of initial vaccination efforts targeting residents of long-term care. A home in Saskatoon where the vast majority of residents had received their first vaccine dose later reported seven cases of COVID-19. And a facility in Barrie, Ont., is in the grips of a facility-wide outbreak that has caused dozens of deaths due to a fast-spreading virus variant — even as public health officials raced to fully vaccinate all the residents while the outbreak progressed. But in all these instances of seniors falling ill or dying after receiving at least one dose, dire-sounding headlines don't tell the whole story, experts say. "Just because somebody died after receiving the COVID vaccine does not mean the COVID vaccine caused the death," said Dr. Noni MacDonald, a researcher focused on vaccine safety who is also a professor at Dalhousie University's department of pediatrics in Halifax. In the case of outbreaks in long-term care homes, it's important to remember that while one dose offers some level of protection, it's not the full amount that results from the two-dose regimen for either of the vaccines currently approved in Canada, said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. That means even if residents get partially vaccinated, it might not be enough to protect them if the virus is spreading where they live. "There might have been a high level of COVID circulating, and they didn't have enough protection within days of their very first dose to confer immunity at that point," he said. Canadian physicians also stress COVID-19 vaccines are proving overwhelmingly safe and protective for the majority of elderly recipients — a population that's at the highest risk of dying from the illness. "We are now hoping that as soon as we get people vaccinated, especially in these care settings, that we're really going to see the burden of disease — and the resulting burden of death — stopped," Sinha said. No unexpected death increase, WHO concludes In Norway, the deaths of those 23 elderly vaccine recipients happened during the course of more than 20,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses being administered over several weeks — not all in one go — and in a country where around 400 deaths normally occur among care home residents on a weekly basis. Following a review of the deaths, which later totalled more than 30, the World Health Organization concluded there was actually no "unexpected" increase in deaths of frail, elderly individuals or any unusual adverse events following the vaccinations. WATCH | Dr. Samir Sinha on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for seniors: In fact, the vaccine did not play a "contributory role" in the fatalities at all, the panel found. It's a finding that comes as tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses are being administered in countries around the world, including to millions of seniors, with the clear protective benefits against severe infections so far outweighing minor risks such as allergic reactions in rare instances. "We're just not seeing the data showing that the vaccine is hastening anybody's death," Sinha said. However, an earlier investigation from the Norwegian Medicines Agency, Norway's national medical regulatory authority, did note that common adverse reactions of mRNA-based vaccines, such as fever, nausea and diarrhea, may have contributed to some of those deadly outcomes in the Norweigian patients. Canadian physicians do agree immune system responses to a vaccine could indeed prove dire, but only for the most frail of elderly individuals who are already approaching their death based on their age and pre-existing health issues. That could mean someone immobile, largely bed-bound and in the end stages of dementia, explained geriatrician Dr. Janet McElhaney, the scientific director of the Health Sciences North Research Institute and a professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Sudbury, Ont. "Those are not the people that we want to be vaccinating, as they are unlikely to tolerate that." For someone severely frail and dehydrated, even a short bout of diarrhea can be dangerous to their health, she said. WATCH | Why there's new urgency for vaccinations in long-term care homes: At the same time, it's a delicate balancing act, since those frail seniors could even more easily die from COVID-19, said Tara Moriarty, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and co-founder of COVID-19 Resources Canada. "This is something that decision-makers would weigh very, very carefully with the physician or the care provider," she said. But both McElhaney and Moriarty stressed those individuals are among a small minority of long-term care residents. COVID-19 disproportionately deadly for seniors For the vast majority of Canadian seniors, including those living in long-term care or in the community, medical experts maintain the protective benefits of COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh any minimal risks. Across Canada, nearly 20,000 people have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the vast majority of whom were over the age of 60 — including 70 per cent aged 80 and older. That's why long-term care residents are near the front of the line as public health officials ramp up vaccination efforts, as both their age and congregate living conditions put them at higher risk. Health complications from COVID-19 a concern for seniors But as reports of deaths post-vaccine keep causing confusion among some seniors, Moriarty is now among those concerned it might prompt vaccine hesitancy among the very population who would benefit most. "There have been no deaths that have actually been associated with these vaccines whereas there are a lot of deaths among people who are diagnosed with COVID," she said. And as McElhaney points out, death isn't the only concern with COVID-19. Even if a senior survives the illness, they run the risk of serious complications, be it lingering health issues or life-changing impacts from a stay in intensive care. "The most compelling reason for older people to get vaccinated is to prevent a loss of independence, their abilities," she said. "So, it's a quality of life decision." According to MacDonald, wary Canadian seniors need to understand where the highest risk exists — and that's definitely from falling ill with COVID-19, not getting vaccinated against it. "So, which door do you want to go through?" she said. "The door that has a probability of you not getting COVID, and saving your life, however long that may be? Or do you want to go through the COVID door?"
China said on Wednesday that the Indian government's decision to keep a ban on 59 Chinese apps was a violation of the World Trade Organization's fair rules of business and would hurt Chinese firms. The ban dates from last year when political tension between the neighbours rose over their disputed border. This month the Indian government decided to keep the ban on TikTok and other apps.
The Writers' Trust of Canada is renaming its annual fiction award after co-founders and literary power couple Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson.In a news release Wednesday, organizers announced that the prestigious honour will now be known as the Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.The name change comes with a $10,000 increase in prize money, with future winners set to receive $60,000. Atwood and Gibson, who were partners for more than a half-century until Gibson's death in 2019, were among the wordsmiths who co-founded the Writers' Trust in 1976.In a statement, playwright and fellow co-founder David Young says the prize is a "perfect" way to honour their commitment to Canada's literary culture.Since 1997, the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize has been handed out to the author of the year's best novel or short story collection. Previous winners include Andre Alexis, Emma Donoghue, Lawrence Hill, Alice Munro and Austin Clarke.The finalists for the 2021 prize will be announced on Sept. 28, and the winner will be named on Nov. 3.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
Work continues in an effort to protect the province's last coastal wilderness — the Hog Island Sandhills — though the process has been slowed down due to COVID-19, Parks Canada says. The initiative was originally brought forward by the Mi'kmaq of P.E.I., as well as the province. In 2019, Parks Canada began a feasibility assessment with the aim of turning the area into a national park reserve, separate and distinct from the existing Prince Edward Island National Park. It would be given the Mi'kmaq name Pitaweikek. Shanna MacDonald, senior negotiator for protected areas establishment for Parks Canada, said plans are moving slowly because part of the process includes significant community and public engagement. "Given that there has been a lockdown and … wanting to follow public health rules and regulations and practise social distancing and all of those other things, a lot of the types of community engagement that we would normally do, like open houses, one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders, has had to be put on hold." MacDonald is hopeful community engagement will take place this spring. She said until that happens, it's hard to predict when Hog Island could become a national park reserve. Treasured place According to the Canada National Park Act, park reserves are established for the same purpose as national parks — to preserve the land for the benefit and enjoyment of Canadians — but in areas "subject to a claim in respect of Aboriginal rights that has been accepted for negotiation by the government of Canada." MacDonald said Hog Island is a treasured place among Indigenous people. "It was a place where the community could always go in times of scarcity because of the rich waters in Malpeque Bay and the ability to collect plants and fish in the waters offshore," she said. "It's a fascinating piece of geology as well because of igneous outcropping in the area which makes the environment around Hog Island significantly different than the onshore land." More from CBC P.E.I.
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden's election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks. The department did not cite any specific plots, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4. But this particular bulletin, issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology, and suggests it regards violence like the kind that overwhelmed the Capitol as akin to terrorism. The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups. A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.” “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said. The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose. “The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.” The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate. Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues. Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said in a conference call with reporters. Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers. The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations. Ben Fox And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Quebec's director of national health said he's still not sure when the province will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots — 43 days since officials started injecting people with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Dr. Horacio Arruda said Tuesday that while he doesn't want Quebecers to wait more than seven weeks to receive a booster shot, he said he was still waiting to hear back from government scientists studying the efficacy of the vaccine among those who received their first of two injections. Quebec has taken a different approach from other provinces, focusing on giving a first dose to as many people as possible before giving anyone a second, a strategy that Arruda maintains will save more lives and keep more people out of hospital at a time when vaccine supplies are limited. "We did it because we don't have enough vaccine," he told reporters. Vaccine maker Pfizer has said the second dose of its vaccine should be given within 21 days. Moderna, the maker of the other vaccine approved for use in Canada, has set the date for the second shot at 28 days. Ottawa's National Advisory Committee on Immunization, however, has said the second dose of both vaccines can wait up to 42 days. Relatives of long-term care residents say they don't believe the government is making a science-based decision. Quebec is "playing Russian roulette with our loved ones' lives," Joyce Shanks, member of the Maimonides Family Advocacy Committee, said Monday. Her group, which represents residents of the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal, is considering suing the government over its vaccine strategy. Her father, a Maimonides resident, was one of the first people in Quebec to get a dose of vaccine, on Dec. 14. "We signed up for the two doses. We did not sign up to be part of a clinical trial," Shanks said. Kathy Assayag, chair of the users' committee at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, said the government's vaccine strategy is "a mistake." "It's a gamble and we cannot gamble with people's lives." Experts, however, differ on whether Quebec's plan is a well-calculated risk or an ill-fated wager. Dr. Caroline Quach, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, said the committee's guideline that patients can wait up to 42 days between injections is based on trials from vaccine makers. Trial participants, she said, were encouraged to return after 21 or 28 days from their first injection — depending on whether they received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine — but she said they were allowed to return up to 42 days later. "The problem after the 42 days is that we don't have any data," Quach said. While it's possible a single dose remains effective after 42 days, she said, there's a decent risk its efficacy decreases, but no one knows how fast that could happen. "We know that the second dose helps with the maturation of the antibodies," Quach said. "The two companies decided that a second dose was needed, so we have no data with only one dose and we have no data with extended intervals." Dr. Andre Veillette, a research professor at the Universite de Montreal's department of medicine and a member of the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the further Quebec moves away from what's been proven in clinical trials, the higher the chance the vaccine won't have the same results. "I think it's a gamble," he said. "I think there's not enough information." Veillette said he's particularly worried about older people who generally don't respond as well to vaccines as younger people do. Even in a situation with constrained supply, he said the government should stick to the vaccine schedule that's been proven in clinical trials. "Take the drops as they come and give them the way they're supposed to be given," Veillette said. While the results of the vaccination campaign in Israel have raised concerns about the amount of protection given by the first dose of vaccine, Dr. Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology at McGill University's faculty of medicine, said the data matches what was demonstrated in the clinical trials. The protection offered by both vaccines 14 days after the first shot exceeds 90 per cent, he said. Studies of other vaccines indicate the timing of the second dose isn't critical, Sheppard added. But, he said, there's no specific data on the consequences of delaying the COVID-19 vaccines. Like other provinces, Quebec has been forced to manage with fewer COVID-19 vaccines than anticipated, following Pfizer's recent decision to suspend deliveries to upgrade its European production facility. As a result, Quebec doesn't expect to receive any vaccine shipments this week. The Health Department said Tuesday it had received 238,100 doses of vaccine and had administered 224,879. Given the shortage of vaccine and the high number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec, Sheppard said he thinks the government made the right calculation — though if there were fewer cases or more doses, he added, there wouldn't have been the need to take the risk. "But that's not where we are right now, in January, in Quebec," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
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France's court of appeal has ordered Canadian academic Hassan Diab to stand trial in connection with a 40-year-old bombing attack outside a Paris synagogue — three years after a lower court set him free due to a lack of evidence. Diab's French lawyers said they plan to appeal the decision to France's Supreme Court. "The decision of the French court of appeal today is the continuation of a long odyssey of injustice," his extradition lawyer, Donald Bayne, said at a news conference Wednesday. "It's devastating." Diab was accused by authorities of involvement in the 1980 Rue Copernic bombing, which killed four people and injured more than 40. WATCH | Hassan Diab ordered to stand trial for terrorism: The 67-year-old Ottawa university lecturer was arrested by the RCMP in November 2008 and placed under strict bail conditions until he was extradited to France in 2014. He spent more than three years in prison in France before the case against him collapsed. He was released in January 2018 after two French judges ruled the evidence against him wasn't strong enough to take to trial. He was never formally charged. French prosecutors appealed Diab's release promptly — pursuing it long after the last remaining piece of physical evidence linking Diab to the bombing had been discredited by France's own experts. The case moved slowly as prosecutors sought to find new evidence against Diab, and as court proceedings were delayed by the pandemic. Discredited evidence The key physical evidence Canada relied on in extraditing Diab to France was handwriting analysis linking Diab's handwriting to that of the suspected bomber. Canadian government lawyers acting on France's behalf called it a "smoking gun" in the extradition hearing. But in 2009, Diab's legal team produced contrary reports from four international handwriting experts. These experts questioned the methods and conclusions of the French experts. They also proved that some of the handwriting samples used by the French analysts belonged not to Diab but to his ex-wife. French investigative judges dismissed the handwriting evidence as unreliable when they ordered Diab's release in January 2018. But while considering the appeal of Diab's release, another judge ordered an independent review of the contentious handwriting evidence. Diab's lawyers said this latest review delivered "a scathing critique and rebuke" of the original handwriting analysis "that mirror[s] the critique by the defence during the extradition hearing 10 years ago." Bayne said Wednesday's decision flies in the face of evidence. "They admit that they doubt he was even there, yet they say that the body of evidence, such as it is, deserves to be debated in a trial court," said Bayne. "I respectfully submit that no justice system worthy of its name offers an innocent scapegoat to satisfy a demanding lobby." Amélie Lefebvre, one of Diab's criminal lawyers in France, said she believes the case is marching on for political reasons, as the families of the victims continue to call for justice. "Let's say it is, in our opinion, a politically correct decision. We had anticipated on the fact that it is extremely hard to let go of the only suspects that the victims and the public have," she said. "On the other hand, and we have relentlessly stated this, we estimate that the right of the victims to know and to have the real perpetrators accountable is not a right that could be satisfied in any way with the trial of a man who is innocent and for whom we have so many evidence that show his innocence." Lefebvre said she doesn't believe Diab is at risk at being extradited again, unless the French Supreme Court rules against them. 'A weak case' On Wednesday, Bayne reiterated his call to reform Canada's extradition laws, namely that other countries should need sworn testimony or evidence before making a request. The Canadian judge who ordered Diab's first extradition described the case against him as "weak" and said "the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely." The French investigative judges who released Diab also found he had an alibi for the day of the Paris bombing. Using university records and interviews with Diab's classmates, the investigative judges determined he was "probably in Lebanon" writing exams when the bombing outside the synagogue took place. WATCH | Evidence against Canadian accused in bombing doesn't stand up, lawyer says: "It is likely that Hassan Diab was in Lebanon during September and October 1980 … and it is therefore unlikely that he is the man … who then laid the bomb on Rue Copernic on October 3rd, 1980," they wrote. In 2018, CBC News confirmed that France was aware of — and had failed to disclose — fingerprint evidence that ended up playing a critical role in Diab's release. When Diab was finally released from a French prison in 2018, French judges cited the absence of matching fingerprints on a hotel form — and on any of the other evidence presented by France — as "unquestionably an essential element of discharge." French officials did not share fingerprint comparison evidence in their possession with their Canadian counterparts. Court documents show that, in fact, French prosecutors denied the evidence even existed. Diab seeking $90M from federal government Since his release, Diab has been living with his wife and two children. He has resumed work as a part-time lecturer. Diab filed a statement of claim last year seeking $90 million from the federal government over the role Canada played in his extradition to France. Central to that statement of claim is the fact that — as CBC News first reported in 2018 — Department of Justice lawyers helped France strengthen its evidence when the case against Diab appeared to be falling apart. A government-ordered review of Diab's case by former deputy attorney general of Ontario Murray Segal concluded that government lawyers acted ethically and followed proper procedures in extraditing Diab to France. Diab accused the federal government of perpetrating a "whitewash" by hiring Segal to perform the review instead of appointing a judge to hold a public inquiry with full power to subpoena evidence and cross-examine witnesses. A statement from the office of Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti said the government is aware of the developments and officials will review the decision to determine if there are implications for Canada at this stage. "It would not be appropriate to provide further comment as the domestic proceedings in France remain ongoing," said the statement issued on Wednesday.
Lying is something we all do, and we start at a very early age. Research has found that children as young as two tell lies; by the age of seven, we have the art of lying pretty much mastered. There are many reasons for lying, but often it's something we do to contain the damage that unfiltered honesty might unleash. And there are different types of lies: from outright fabrication, to altering some of the facts or to simply leaving out some information. There's a reason why we pledge to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," in court — that's the only way to get the full and honest story. Contact tracing When it comes to controlling the spread of infectious disease, getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is vital. Contact tracers depend on accuracy, details and the completeness of information as they try to recreate the past two weeks of someone's life if they're carrying the novel coronavirus. That includes getting a full list of people who were within six feet of contact for five minutes with the person who is infectious. Those people, the ones who have been inside that personal bubble, are at greatest risk of getting infected themselves so contact tracers make every effort to identify and alert them. Any gap in information can be a potential escape route for the virus. Withholding information What happens when someone lies? The consequences of lying are significant, as set out in the Health Protection Act and the Emergency Management Act in Nova Scotia. Communicable disease control is serious business, and the medical officer of health as well as public health inspectors have far-reaching powers if a person is deemed to be putting public health at risk. Fines, into the thousands of dollars, mandatory quarantine at a special facility, involuntary medical treatment and even a prison term are possibilities if you break the rules. But, in all honesty, no one in government wants to use those penalties. They are expensive to enforce, make enforcement officials look bad and are really just a last resort when people refuse to "do the right thing." If fines are imposed, they're often accompanied by great publicity in order to deter others — and to demonstrate how serious a breach of trust can be. By the end of 2020, more than 600 Nova Scotians were fined for breaching pandemic rules, like gathering limits or self-isolation. No one had been jailed and it is unlikely that anyone will be in the future. Contact tracing to control the spread of communicable disease is nothing new; in fact, it's one of the oldest public health tools we've got. In recent history, it's been used to track the spread of tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, head lice and HIV/AIDS, so the techniques for collecting information are well established. So, too, however, is the stigma associated with having a disease that's being contained — and the likelihood of public shaming that may go with it. Stigma and shaming often happen when there is something we fear or don't understand. Mental illness and addiction are examples that quickly come to mind. Fostering honesty Think back to what happened with trying to trace HIV/AIDS, when stigma and shaming prevented people from disclosing what was considered high-risk behaviours to doctor. It made those people less likely to get tested, even if they thought they had a disease, and made them feel unsafe sharing their exposure with close friends and family. People wanted to protect themselves from being judged, even by their loved ones. Does this sound familiar? It should: it's exactly what we saw at the beginning of the pandemic — and continue to see throughout it. 'To keep everyone healthy, we need to create a safe environment for open disclosure that's met with compassion and support.' - Mary Jane Hampton, health-care consultant Shaming didn't deter risky behaviour in the past. Instead, it deterred disclosure, and we've spent the last 40 years repairing the damage created by stigmatization. We're still working to build that trust, on both sides. A study done last summer at Brock University in Ontario found that that at least one-third of the respondents with COVID-19 lied about having symptoms, and also about the degree that they physically distanced from others. About a quarter of respondents said they lied about how closely they were following health protocols, while those with COVID-19 were even more likely to lie about it. People who hid symptoms said they were afraid of stigma and social judgment, even more so if they had broken public health rules. In short, shaming people and creating a stigma results in less reliable public health data — and that's bad for all of us. Listen to the interview To get the truth, we need to create the conditions for it, but we often do just the opposite. When people hear about a COVID case, their first response is usually to speculate about what bad choices the person must have made to contract it — "Did they travel? Attend a party? Break a rule?" That's quickly followed by blame and the person testing positive with COVID can be set adrift in a sea of guilt. To keep everyone healthy, we need to create a safe environment for open disclosure that's met with compassion and support. We still have a long road before enough people are vaccinated to put the virus behind us and, until then, contact tracing will be one of our best defences. Open disclosure protects everyone and potentially saves lives. This virus is a great equalizer. While some people are at higher risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19, as humans we all share the same means of spreading and contracting it: we breathe. And there is no shame in that.
The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth.The association is encouraging health-care providers to talk to parents about the importance of reading, speaking and singing to children every day from the beginning of infancy.In a news release Wednesday, CPS says babies' brains grow when adults respond to their babbles, and these early interactions can affect language development and literacy skills.Dr. Alyson Shaw, who authored the CPS guidelines on early literacy, says families should talk to their doctors about the many ways they can support their children's language development.CPS says babies benefit from communication in any language, and while books are a useful tool, singing and storytelling can also help children pick up on new words and sentence structures.CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
MOSCOW — The lower house of Russian parliament on Wednesday approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear arms control pact days before it’s due to expire. The State Duma voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty for five years. The vote came a day after a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which they voiced satisfaction with the exchange of diplomatic notes about extending the New START treaty. They agreed to complete the necessary procedures in the next few days, according to the Kremlin. The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., but Russian lawmakers must ratify the move. Top members of the Kremlin-controlled parliament said they would fast-track the issue and complete the necessary steps to extend the treaty this week. The Associated Press
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Evotec rose sharply on Tuesday amid market speculation that Melvin Capital Management was unwinding its positions in the German drugmaker after some of its investments turned sour. Evotec's shares jumped 10% at one point on Tuesday with three traders saying the move was likely linked to Melvin Capital closing out its shorts following losses on GameStop and other investments. Battery maker Varta surged for a similar reason, a German-based trader said, while shares in Polish videogame firm CD Projekt also saw strong demand.
Curl P.E.I. suspects the province's self-isolation rules are behind a poor turnout in this year's Scotties and Brier provincial qualifiers. Both events are going ahead this weekend in O'Leary, with just two women's and two men's teams competing for the right to represent the Island at the national curling championships in Calgary, slated for late February and early March. "This is the smallest provincials I've ever been a part of," said Suzanne Birt, the skip for one of the two women's teams competing, and the Island's representative at the Scotties the past two years. "It's a little different for sure." But Birt said she's hardly surprised. P.E.I.'s representatives will have to enter a curling bubble in Calgary for up to two weeks, sticking to their hotel rooms and the arena. There'll be no friends, family, or other fans allowed inside the bubble. Then upon their return to P.E.I., curlers will have to self-isolate for another 14 days. "[Curling] is what we love to do," said Birt. "But at the same time, it's a little disheartening thinking about your family, that you have to be away from them for a month.… It's a lot to take on, and a lot of commitment from the team and our families." You need almost a month of time from your employment, from school, whatever it might be. — Peter Gallant While Birt and her teammates have been able to juggle their schedules and make it work, Curl P.E.I. says that likely wasn't an option for many teams. "I think it's strictly due to the whole situation with the bubble. There are a lot of teams that decided not to enter, just because you need almost a month of time from your employment, from school, whatever it might be," said Peter Gallant, Curl P.E.I.'s performance director. "But I think everybody's happy that there's a couple teams that can have a championship." Fortunate on P.E.I. P.E.I. is one of just a few places going ahead with Scotties and Brier qualifiers. In some provinces, given their COVID-19 situations and tougher restrictions, curling is off the ice all together. Most provinces have nominated representatives to head to Calgary, or selected last year's winners. "We are so fortunate here in P.E.I., and we are so thankful that we've had curling ice to practise on, and play games. And I'm very very thankful we live here," said Birt. "The teams that are on P.E.I., they ultimately have a distinct advantage over some of the other teams, just because of the time on ice," added Gallant. "Now, that being said, they still have to work hard to do well at a national championship. But I think the extra ice time is certainly going to benefit them." 'Eat, sleep, and curl' In both the Scotties and Brier qualifiers this weekend, the two teams will curl in a best-of-five championship. In Birt's case, even if her rink loses, they'll still be heading to Calgary. Curling Canada has expanded this year's field to include a few wild-card teams. Based on their national rankings, Birt and her rink have already earned a wild-card spot. The prospect of travelling to Alberta, where COVID-19 is much more prevalent, doesn't have her concerned. "Me personally, I think it's going to be the safest environment possible," she said. "We go to Calgary, we go straight to the bubble and we don't leave. We eat, sleep, and curl." More from CBC P.E.I.
VANCOUVER — There's a race between COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccine as researchers and health officials in B.C. warn of two faster-spreading variants. The number of variant cases may start low, but increased transmission could only be a few weeks away, just as delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is delayed, said Caroline Colijn, the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Infection, Evolution and Public Health at Simon Fraser University. Colijn's lab released modelling data this week showing public health rules in several provinces, including B.C., would not be sufficient to prevent exponential growth in cases starting around March if a COVID-19 variant with a 40 per cent higher transmission rate became established. "By established I mean some cluster doesn't get stopped and takes off and we don't notice or we don't act and we are unable to stop those chains of transmission and so they take off the way the current COVID has," she said. Colijn added she would expect public health officials to enact further restrictions before such exponential growth in variant cases. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news briefing this week that B.C. has detected three cases of a variant found in South Africa and none were linked to each other or to travel, pointing to community spread. By completing whole genome sequencing, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has also recorded six travel-related cases of the COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom, which appears significantly more transmissible than earlier strains of the new coronavirus. B.C. is sequencing about 15 per cent of samples that test positive for COVID-19 in the province, said Natalie Prystajecky, head of the environmental microbiology program at the centre's public health lab. Sequencing is more labour-intensive than diagnostic testing, she said, so it can take up to two weeks to produce data from a given sample. B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February and generated quality data from about 9,500 of them, she said. The average rate of sequencing across Canada is between five and 10 per cent, said Prystajecky, a member of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network that received funding last spring to sequence 150,000 samples. In addition to targeting samples from travellers and youth, she said, B.C. is prioritizing more general, "background" sampling to understand if public health officials are missing anything, such as transmission of new variants. "We're ramping up," she said. "We did 750 genomes last week and we're aiming to continue to increase the amount of sequencing we're doing." Prystajecky said her lab is also planning to do a "point prevalence study" to screen a high number of samples at a given point in time. B.C. is taking a smart approach to sequencing by targeting travel-related cases, said Colijn, but at the rate sequencing data becomes available, "there could be 10 or 50 or 100 cases of whatever we detect at the time." Colijn believes B.C. should consider Atlantic Canada's approach and create a so-called "Pacific bubble" that would require travellers from other provinces to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in B.C. Data from Pfizer and Moderna — the pharmaceutical companies behind the two COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada — show their products still protect people against the U.K. and South African variants, said Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University. "What this means is people really need to hunker down until this vaccine gets out into the population further," she said in an interview this week. "We really are in a race between the vaccine and the virus right now." Basic measures including physical distancing and avoiding non-essential travel are still effective in preventing new variants from spreading, she said. B.C. reported 4,260 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday out of more than 65,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
The professional association representing pharmacists in Newfoundland and Labrador says its members can play a key role in ensuring COVID-19 vaccines are delivered efficiently later this year. Janice Audeau, president of the Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and a pharmacist in Corner Brook, said the association has raised the issue with the provincial government. "We already do a lot of vaccinations in communities anyway, and we have over 700 pharmacists in the province," Audeau told The St. John's Morning Show Tuesday. "We're in all kinds of communities where there may not be a lot of resources, so we're in a great position to be able to get vaccine to as many people as possible." Although pharmacies don't have the ultra-low freezers necessary to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Audeau said pharmacies are already built to be able to refrigerate vaccines as well as store enough doses for a secondary booster shot if necessary. She said pharmacy associations across Canada are also speaking with provincial governments to help administer vaccines, so the province likely wouldn't be the first in the country to allow the change. Audeau believes allowing pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine could help get doses into more arms across the province, similar to the influenza vaccine in 2020. "We've just had our first run with a universal influenza vaccination program and the numbers that we've seen recently show that about 40 per cent of all of the flu shots that were given in the province were given in pharmacies or by pharmacists," she said. "So people already trust us to do this, and government is aware of that … Because that relationship is in place, there's a comfort level that people have," she added. "It's not always just about the medication that they're picking up that day." With commitment, comes support If the provincial government were to allow pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, Audeau said it would also need to come with specific support such as protective equipment that was put in place during flu vaccinations. She also hopes compensation will be on the table, as pharmacists will likely have to put more into the vaccination process working with a brand new vaccine. What we've learned from the influenza process is that there's a lot of extra screening that goes in place. There's a lot of cleaning that goes on in between each person," Audeau said. "This time it's a new vaccine. I anticipate, although there's nothing that says this for sure, but we're going to have to have people stay under observation for a little bit longer," she added. "So the process of vaccination is going to longer, hopefully we'll be reasonably compensated for our time and our effort." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 27 ... What we are watching in Canada ... Three people who allegedly supplied ammunition to the gunman who murdered 22 people in the April 18-19 mass shooting in Nova Scotia are scheduled for court hearings today. RCMP have charged Lisa Banfield, the 52-year-old spouse of the killer, with unlawfully transferring ammunition, specifically .223-calibre Remington cartridges and .40-calibre Smith and Wesson cartridges. Police have laid the same charges against 52-year-old James Blair Banfield and 60-year-old Brian Brewster. The offences are alleged to have occurred between March 17 and April 18 last year. When the charges were announced on Dec. 4, police said the three "had no prior knowledge" of the actions of the gunman, who was killed by an RCMP officer on April 19. A spokeswoman for the Crown says the arraignments are expected to occur via teleconference in Dartmouth provincial court. The RCMP has said that on the night of April 18, Banfield was handcuffed by the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, but managed to escape into nearby woods in Portapique, N.S. --- Also this ... Liberal Leader Andrew Furey is set to return to the campaign trail today after a man driving a truck loaded with knives was arrested in what police said was a mission to stop the provincial election. Furey is on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula today as his team recovers from an incident that a spokeswoman says targeted the incumbent premier. Police say they arrested the man Tuesday after a high-speed chase that began with him saying he was going to Deer Lake to disrupt the Feb. 13 election. He was arrested in a parking lot outside a candidate's office in Deer Lake, which is in the Humber-Gros Morne district where Furey is running. Furey's campaign said they were advised the incident was likely targeted toward him. In a tweet Tuesday night, NDP Leader Alison Coffin extended her best wishes to Furey and his team and said reports about the incident were troubling. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered the Department of Justice to end its reliance on private prisons and acknowledge the central role government has played in implementing discriminatory housing policies. In remarks before signing the orders, Biden said the U.S. government needs to change “its whole approach” on the issue of racial equity. He added that the nation is less prosperous and secure because of the scourge of systemic racism. “We must change now,” the president said. “I know it’s going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well." Biden rose to the presidency during a year of intense reckoning on institutional racism in the U.S. The moves announced Tuesday reflect his efforts to follow through with campaign pledges to combat racial injustice. Beyond calling on the Justice Department to curb the use of private prisons and address housing discrimination, the new orders will recommit the federal government to respect tribal sovereignty and disavow discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community over the coronavirus pandemic. Biden directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a memorandum to take steps to promote equitable housing policy. The memorandum calls for HUD to examine the effects of Trump regulatory actions that may have undermined fair housing policies and laws. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... Tens of thousands of protesting farmers drove long lines of tractors into India's capital on Tuesday, breaking through police barricades, defying tear gas and storming the historic Red Fort as the nation celebrated Republic Day. They waved farm union and religious flags from the ramparts of the fort, where prime ministers annually hoist the national flag to mark the country's independence. Thousands more farmers marched on foot or rode on horseback while shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At some places, they were showered with flower petals by residents who recorded the unprecedented rally on their phones. Police said one protester died after his tractor overturned, but farmers said he was shot. Protesters laid his body on the road after draping it in an Indian flag and sat around it. Television channels showed several bloodied protesters. Leaders of the farmers said more than 10,000 tractors joined the protest. For nearly two months, farmers — many of them Sikhs from Punjab and Haryana states — have camped at the edge of the capital, blockading highways connecting it with the country’s north in a rebellion that has rattled the government. They are demanding the withdrawal of new laws which they say will commercialize agriculture and devastate farmers' earnings. --- On this day in 1965 ... Queen Elizabeth signed a Royal Proclamation permitting Canada's new Maple Leaf flag to be flown. It was flown for the first time on Feb. 15. --- In entertainment ... The Jasper Park Lodge has been booked out from the end of February until the end of April, but hotel management isn't disclosing who will be staying at the well-known Rocky Mountain retreat during the nine-week block. All 446 rooms at the sprawling Alberta hotel are unavailable to book online between Feb. 23 and April 29. A hotel spokesperson says there is a private booking, but could not comment further for privacy reasons. Guests who previously made bookings for that time have had their reservations cancelled, fuelling speculation online that the hotel could be soon be a filming site. Steve Young, a spokesman for Jasper National Park, says officials have not received a request for a film permit. He says one would be required if any commercial filming was being done in the park. Asked about the possibility of a film crew coming up to Alberta, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, said her team is working on a framework to decide whether to give such crews exemptions to COVID-19 restrictions. --- ICYMI ... A survey the United Nations calls the largest ever taken on climate change shows Canadians are Angry Birds when it comes to the issue. The mammoth U-N survey drew respondents by inviting them to take part as they played popular online games such as Angry Birds, Subway Surfers and Dragon City. It ranks Canada seventh out of 50 countries in its perception of the importance of climate change. Some 75 per cent of respondents called it an emergency compared with the global average of 64 per cent. Canadians were also near the top in their support for solutions involving conservation to fight climate change as well as in wanting polluters to pay. Canada had the largest gap between men and women in their assessment of the importance of climate change. Canadian women and girls surveyed were 12 per cent more likely to rate it an emergency than men and boys. The poll drew more than one million respondents in 17 languages. It is considered accurate to within two percentage points, 19 times of 20. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021 The Canadian Press
A management team from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is now helping staff at a Regina nursing home try to contain a COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed the lives of 12 residents. Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home in Regina is operated according to a contract with the SHA. Health officials declared an outbreak at the 141-person home on Dec. 18. According to an update the home provided family members on Monday, the SHA "is piloting an outbreak management team." "This team will meet with us early [Tuesday] morning to see if we can implement new strategies to more effectively contain this virus and stop its spread," the update said. Kelly Chessie, the home's executive director, said it has been working with the SHA and other homes in the Regina area throughout the pandemic, "taking every opportunity to make important changes and improvements as we learn together about what works best when fighting this virus." She said the SHA reached out last Friday with its offer of help. "We happily welcomed their expertise," Chessie said Tuesday in an email to CBC News. "They came this afternoon and I am grateful for the fresh eyes and am optimistic that we can work together to further improve and tighten our infection control measures. "Responding to an outbreak takes a lot of time and effort. Everyone here has been working very hard to contain this virus and stop its spread. Having extra hands and fresh eyes to help with this critical work will be valuable." It's not the first time the SHA has come in to assist a Saskatchewan care home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In early December, the SHA signed a co-management agreement at Extendicare's Parkside home in Regina, where 43 deaths have been linked to COVID-19. That outbreak has since been declared over and the arrangement is set to expire on Jan. 31. The Saskatchewan NDP has called on the province to take similar steps at Extendicare's Preston home in Saskatoon, which is in active outbreak. Three residents have died and more than 30 residents were infected as of last week. SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said on Tuesday the authority is in daily contact with Extendicare Preston's leaders and is supporting them. "Our local teams are given daily updates," Livingstone said. "We've been in the facility doing safety reviews and supporting the use of PPE. The facility is fully staffed, which is different from some of the other situations we've seen." Home is 'slowly building immunity' As of Tuesday, 31 residents and five staff members at Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home were actively infected with COVID-19. Several others had recovered. Santa Maria was among the first long-term care homes in Saskatchewan offered a COVID-19 vaccine, with staff receiving their first Pfizer-BioNTech doses on Dec. 24. Second doses then followed about 21 days later, Chessie said. On Jan. 14, 114 residents received their first dose. No second doses have been administered to residents yet, Chessie said. Since Jan. 14, 17 new cases of COVID-19 have been found at the home, including some residents who were vaccinated with their first dose, Chessie said. "We are slowly building immunity in this home," she stated in a note to families last week. In a subsequent note to families on Monday, Chessie said the home has a "GO team" consisting of a respiratory therapist and nurse as well as a consulting physician. "[They] continue to be here every weekday, during the day, and the physician is available on call," Chessie wrote. She said there are some residents "who need help with this fight."
BERLIN — A German state governor has apologized for referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel as “little Merkel” during a recent online event, saying he had unintentionally displayed macho behaviour. Bodo Ramelow, who governs the state of Thuringia, told German weekly Die Zeit that he greatly regretted using the term “Merkelchen” while talking chatting with other politicians and the public on the social networking app Clubhouse. Die Zeit on Wednesday quoted Ramelow saying that he should have used the diminutive form in reference to male politicians. “Instead, I spoke about a woman. That was dumb and appeared disrespectful,” he said. Ramelow, a member of the Left Party, said he had since apologized personally to Merkel. The 64-year-old has also faced criticism for playing the game “Candy Crush” during lengthy video meetings with Merkel and other governors to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. He defended playing games on his smartphone, saying he only did so during lulls in the meeting when others were replying to emails or going outside to smoke. The Associated Press