Outgoing President Donald Trump departed the White House hours before Joe Biden’s inauguration, teasing that he would be back in some way. He was met with cheering crowds when he arrived in Florida, showing support for him is still strong.
Outgoing President Donald Trump departed the White House hours before Joe Biden’s inauguration, teasing that he would be back in some way. He was met with cheering crowds when he arrived in Florida, showing support for him is still strong.
(ANNews) – The Alberta Government announced on March 4, 2020 that they will begin offering vaccination appointments to Albertans 65 to 74 years old starting on Monday, March 15 as part of Phase 2A of the provincial vaccination program. This is happening much earlier than first anticipated, as original estimates predicted that Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout would start in April. 437,000 eligible Albertans will be able to get their vaccine, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday. “By June 30, we expect to have offered every single adult in the province at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.” When Phase 2A begins on March 15, bookings will be offered in two-year age groups. On the first day, anyone aged 73 or 74 will be able to book an appointment. On the second day, eligibility will be expanded to include anyone aged 71 to 72, and so on from there. “Staff and residents in seniors’ supportive-living facilities who are not already immunized will also be able to book appointments starting on Day 1,” Shandro said. “Appointments will be booked through both participating pharmacies, the online booking tool, as well as HealthLink 811. First Nations, Inuit and Métis people who are aged 50 and older will also receive the vaccine starting the week of March 15.” “And it’s important to remember that under our system you never lose eligibility for the vaccine,” he said. “Once you’re eligible you stay eligible. No one is left behind.” On top of this, the Alberta Government also announced their roll-out plan for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved by Health Canada for all adult Canadians. The first doses of the vaccine arrived in Canada on Wednesday March. However, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) announced that they are not recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine be used on people 65 or older. Keeping in line with the NACI’s recommendation, or lack-there-of, the Alberta Government will only administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to healthy adults 64 years old and younger. Beginning March 10, the province will offer 58,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to eligible Albertans aged 50-64 in Phase 2D who do not have severe chronic illness. Albertans born in 1957 can begin booking their appointments on March 10. Both Shandro and Alberta’s chief medical officer of health emphasized the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Shandro saying, “Both Dr. Hinshaw and I recommend that all healthy Albertans get immunized as soon as they are eligible no matter what vaccine option is provided.” “AstraZeneca works. It has shown to reduce infection by 60 to 70 per cent and severe outcomes like hospitalization by 80 per cent.” “Where this vaccine seems to differ is in preventing asymptomatic infection, which means reducing the spread of COVID-19. This is why we’re not using it in any congregate living settings like seniors housing.” Dr, Hinshaw explained, “All three vaccines help protect against serious outcomes or long-term health impacts that COVID-19 can cause for many people. They dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. If those reasons don’t resonate with you, please know widespread immunization will help us all return to a more normal way of life more quickly.” “Choosing to be immunized is one of the most important actions we can take for ourselves and for our communities,” she said. As for Alberta Hospitalizations, the province fell below 250 for the first time in months on March 6. There are currently 247 Albertans in hospital due to COVID-19 including 42 in intensive care units. There has been 135,537 total infections in the province with the amount of active cases being 4,649. Meanwhile, the amount of active cases on First Nations reserves, as of March 4 and according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is: Case numbers per region: Jacob Cardinal is an LJI reporter for Alberta Native News. Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
Facing elections for the first time in 15 years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is battling a growing rift within his powerful Fatah party that poses a new threat to his dominance over Palestinian politics. A breakaway bid by one of Abbas's party allies has intensified speculation he might cancel a presidential vote planned for July, fearing a potential challenge by Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader jailed by Israel. Abbas's office denies he has plans to delay or scrub the presidential vote.
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a wide circle of friends, Grade 12 student Alika White began Feb. 7 with a full schedule. But after a call from public health officials in St. John’s, N.L., she ended the day quarantined in her room, not knowing when and if she’d go back to school. "It just kind of gets snatched away from you in a blink of an eye," she said in a recent interview. "I was like, 'Oh my god I'm going to have COVID, I'm going to test positive, what am I going to do? My whole family is going to get it.' " That day, health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19 — an unremarkable number, given that the province’s daily count of new infections had mostly hovered between zero and five since an initial outbreak last spring. But things were going wrong very quickly. Like White, young people all over the St. John’s metro region were getting calls from public health officials telling them they were connected to a positive COVID-19 case and they had to isolate for 14 days. By midnight, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District board announced there were two positive cases associated with Mount Pearl Senior High School. The next day, the board cancelled all sports and extracurricular activities in the metro area as public health reported 11 new cases in the region. Three days later, with metro-area schools now closed, there were 100 new cases — the highest single-day COVID-19 tally recorded in all of Atlantic Canada since the pandemic began. Nearly three-quarters of those new cases were among people under 20, and all were in the eastern region that includes St. John's. On Feb. 12, officials called an evening news conference to announce that the rapidly spreading outbreak was linked to the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. Health authorities imposed a provincewide lockdown, prompting the cancellation of in-person voting in the provincial election that was supposed to happen the next day. Provincial chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said about 565 cases of COVID-19 are now associated with the outbreak, meaning it generated more new cases than the province saw in the previous 11 months. The provincial health authority said there were at least 185 cases across 22 different schools. White said 95 per cent of her friends and classmates had to quarantine. She avoided infection, but two of her eight closest friends tested positive. They didn't get sick, though. “One of them had a little bit of a cold and the other one barely had any symptoms at all,” she said. That’s one reason the outbreak was so explosive, according to health authorities. Dr. Patrick Parfrey, a clinical epidemiologist at Memorial University in St. John’s, said three factors combined to form one rapidly spreading outbreak. First, the B.1.1.7 variant is more easily transmitted than the original COVID-19 virus. Second, the initial spread was among young people who had milder symptoms or none at all, so they didn't know they were infected, he said. Third, he said, those young people were in situations where physical distancing is hard to enforce, like after-school sports and clubs. Parfrey said even with ramped-up testing, it would have been tough to predict the outbreak. "We probably wouldn't have identified schools as being the area of risk, because transmission was considered to be relatively low in young people," he said. The outbreak shows how quickly things can go off the rails, Parfrey said. But really, he said, it shows "how lucky we've been" to avoid a major outbreak until now. He points to previous clusters in the western Newfoundland town of Deer Lake, or in the southern Newfoundland town of Harbour Breton. In those instances, the regular COVID-19 virus was transmitted through older patients who had noticeable symptoms and thus got tested. As a result, those clusters remained small and contained, he said. It’s not known how the variant got in. The government restricts who can come into the province, requiring them to obtain permission and then isolate for 14 days upon arrival, but there’s room for cases to slip by, Parfrey said. Fitzgerald said last week that the variant and the province’s experience with it “changes the way we have to think about this disease altogether.” White thinks the outbreak has likely had a lasting impact on her and all her peers who went through it. Her school remains closed, and there has been no word as to when it will reopen. “Everything happening so quickly is taking a toll on my mental health,” she said, adding that teenagers have been targeted on social media by people looking for someone to blame. “It's really hard for people our age ... it's our last year of high school and we (may not get) to experience the last time that we'll set foot in that school.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press
A far-right proposal to ban facial coverings in Switzerland won a narrow victory in a binding referendum on Sunday instigated by the same group that organised a 2009 ban on new minarets. The measure to amend the Swiss constitution passed by a 51.2-48.8% margin, provisional official results showed. The proposal under the Swiss system of direct democracy does not mention Islam directly and also aims to stop violent street protesters from wearing masks, yet local politicians, media and campaigners have dubbed it the burqa ban.
TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $20 million jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw. However, the draw's guaranteed $1 million prize went to a lottery player in British Columbia. The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Mar. 10 will be approximately $23 million. The Canadian Press
BERLIN — A lawmaker with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party said Sunday he will give up his seat in parliament and leave politics after it emerged that his company profited from deals to procure masks early in the pandemic — drawing sharp criticism in an election year. Nikolas Loebel, a backbench lawmaker with Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union, was blasted by members of his own party and opponents after it emerged Friday that a company he runs earned commissions of 250,000 euros ($298,000) from brokering contracts to buy masks. Saying that he should have been “more sensitive," Loebel admitted that he had made a mistake and gave up his seat on parliament's foreign affairs committee. That wasn't enough for critics — particularly as his home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg elects a new regional legislature on March 14. A national election in which Germans will choose a new parliament, and determine who succeeds Merkel, follows on Sept. 26. Susanne Eisenmann, the CDU candidate for governor in Baden-Wuerttemberg, told news magazine Der Spiegel that “it is unacceptable for parliamentarians to enrich themselves in this serious crisis.” On Sunday, Loebel said he will leave the Union bloc's group in parliament immediately and give up his seat at the end of August. He apologized and said he won't run in the September election, the dpa news agency reported. “I am taking responsibility for my actions,” he said. Loebel's case wasn't the first to rattle the centre-right bloc. Georg Nuesslein — a prominent lawmaker with the Christian Social Union, the CDU’s Bavaria-only sister party — faces a corruption investigation by Munich prosecutors in connection with mask procurement deals. He denies wrongdoing. On Friday, Nuesslein's lawyer said he won't run for re-election in September and is giving up his position as a deputy leader of the Union's parliamentary group. ___ Follow all AP stories on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic. The Associated Press
“A book,” author Neil Gaiman may or may not have said, “is a dream you hold in your hand.” And right now, in an era of pandemic and polarization, Americans have — and need — a lot of dreams. We dream of unfettered travel, of a world free of face masks and hand sanitizer, of days that are exciting and new and not the grinding tedium of spending hour after hour staring, horrified, at the TV news. We dream of going back to school. Of eating a meal with family. Of hugs. And some of us — well, some of us dream of murder. Small-town murder. Gentle murder. Quiet murder. For those who find their dreams in books, there’s a group of readers who are hungrily consuming a particular style of narrative to escape from the past year's reality: “cozy” mysteries. In an unfathomably complex year, a gently told tale of murder and mayhem whittles the sharp edges of reality to a manageable, smooth surface. “Murder is definitely dark, but in a cozy the reader is with the protagonist every step of the way as each clue is revealed,” says Michelle Vega, executive editor of Berkley, who works with several cozy authors. “You can enjoy the perfect cup of tea and pretend you’re sitting in that comfy bookshop with the protagonist, smiling along with the banter as she and friends figure out whodunit. It is escapist perfection.” In television form, the cozy can be seen in popular shows such as “Murder, She Wrote,” “Midsomer Murders” and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” Cozies claim roots in early 20th-century British mysteries by such writers as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. But with the advent of the e-book, authors are setting their gentle crime scenes in RV campgrounds in the American South, tourist towns in the Pacific northwest and in neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, to name a few. The genre’s parameters are few: no swearing, no sex, and little to no gore. Just what the pandemic-era doctor ordered. “The cozy mystery is a familiar way to encounter the two seemingly unreconcilable realities of death and country peace at the same time,” says Sarah Allison, an associate professor of English at Loyola New Orleans who is working on a book about “escape reading.” “The restoration of order at the end of the novel might be less significant than the way this genre makes beautiful scenery and grisly details feel like they go together naturally,” she said in an email. Such mysteries, she says, promise a messy murder and a tidy resolution, “a welcome contrast to the way we’ve all been suspended between life as it was before COVID and life as it will be after.” Kelly Vaiman, a longtime cozy fan, has tried to avoid thinking about real life this past year. First she was wary of going places due to the pandemic, then her elderly mother’s health declined while in a Pennsylvania nursing home. Vaiman couldn’t travel to say goodbye, and her mother died. “After her passing, during the mourning period, I just couldn’t handle the grief,” Vaiman says. “So I’d pick up a cozy mystery to take my mind off everything.” She estimates that she reads 120 books a year. They're not all all cozies, but those are what she turns to when she needs a comforting read. Valerie Burns writes gentle murder mysteries under the pen name of V.M. Burns, and her “Mystery Bookshop” series is now six stories long. Since the pandemic began in early 2020, she’s noticed more readers are taking the time to email her about her work, seeking that human connection that’s sorely missing. Burns, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is an avid cozy reader as well as a writer of them. She acknowledges the unusual nature of cozies — that they revolve around a murder yet are also soothing to read. But, she adds, trying to solve a mystery gives a feeling of accomplishment when so much of life seems stalled. “It’s basically a puzzle, but there’s that safety net in knowing there’s not going to be a whole lot of blood and guts and violence,” she says, laughing. “It’s contradictory. A murder mystery with no violence. But I can pick up a cozy, and can figure out clues and try to figure out whodunit but I don’t have to live in all of the horror associated with true crime or a noir.” Esi Sogah, a senior editor at Kensington Books, says she’s seen an uptick in cozy mystery sales in the past year. She believes that the genre’s settings — often picturesque small towns, quirky villages, or unique neighbourhoods — allow homebound readers to travel in their minds. “Sitting in cafes, going book clubs. Browsing in a bookstore in fictional world,” she says. “All the stuff you can’t do right now.” Unlike big blockbuster stories that revolve around one near-superhuman character (who is usually a man), cozy series cultivate an amateur sleuth (usually a woman) and a cast of quirky secondary characters. Readers become attached to the entire ensemble, says author Bree Baker, and consider them old friends. That's why readers love series that stretch to multiple books. “I think we all need a place to belong, at the core of everything. We need to have our people,” Baker says. And at a time when we can’t see our own people in real life, fictional stand-ins will have to do. Solving a murder in one’s mind, dreaming of the day when we can languidly enjoy a coffee and conversation with friends, knowing that what’s right will prevail in the end — those are the reasons people turn to cozies. And, not coincidentally, they overlap with the ways people are coping at this moment in history. “We have enough horror in our day to day lives,” Burns says. “Right now, that’s all I want to do is escape. Escape into a world where justice prevails.” ___ Former Associated Press journalist Tamara Lush, who worked for the AP from 2008 to 2021, is the author, under the pseudonym Tara Lush, of “Grounds for Murder (A Coffee Lover's Mystery)” (2020), a cozy mystery published by Crooked Lane Books. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TamaraLush Tamara Lush, The Associated Press
A Victoria, B.C., man is one of the thousands around the world campaigning to win one of eight slots Japanese billionaire and fashion designer Yusaku Maezawa is offering for a trip to the lunar orbit with SpaceX.
Amanda Robinson used to work part time five days a week for an organization that supports adults with disabilities. She went to bingo and bowling on the weekends and attended a Friday night social. It all disappeared when COVID-19 struck. Robinson, 36, has Down syndrome and is largely non-verbal. Her mother keeps her close to home these days because she worries about what will happen if her daughter contracts the coronavirus. "Amanda going out puts her life at risk every day and she doesn't even know it," said Carolin Robinson, outside her family's home in Halifax. Robinson points to research in the U.K. that suggests people with Down syndrome who contract COVID-19 have a significantly increased risk of death. She is among the advocates across the country calling on governments to prioritize vaccinating people with disabilities. Amanda Robinson, left, with her mother, Carolin, and her brother, Aaron, in their Halifax home.(Eric Woolliscroft/CBC) Some Canadian provinces are prioritizing people with various disabilities to varying degrees, but Nova Scotia, which currently has 29 active cases of COVID-19, is among those that are not, unless the individuals live in congregate settings such as group homes. Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, says the province is focusing on vaccinating by age, beginning with people 80 and older, and working down by brackets of five years at a time. "We certainly understand lots of different groups thinking about their own risk or the risk within their group, and I understand that perspective," he said during a recent interview at Nova Scotia's Department of Health. In fact, Strang understands better than most. His son, who turns 16 in September, lives with severe physical and intellectual disabilities, including autism, chronic pain and a mutation in the GRIN2A gene that causes a range of neurodevelopmental disorders. Speed is key But Strang insists age is "by far" the biggest risk factor. He also said it's important to have a vaccine program that is fast and efficient, and trying to figure out how to prioritize a range of conditions would significantly delay the overall process. "It'll be so much slower," he said. Because of his age, Strang's son is going to be among the last to be vaccinated, he said. "But he's going to be well protected because we've rapidly built herd immunity all around him." Nova Scotia has a higher percentage of people living with disabilities than any other province in Canada. Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, with his son, now 15. Despite the fact his son has severe physical and intellectual disabilities, Strang says he's confident in the province's age-based approach to determining the order for vaccinating the public. (Submitted by Dr. Robert Strang ) Krista Carr, the executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada, a national organization that works on behalf of people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities, wants all provinces and territories to create a separate vaccination category for people with disabilities and to clearly define who that will include. She acknowledges different disabilities might need to be prioritized in different ways. For example, some people may need to be moved up the list because they've been more isolated or unable to protect themselves by physically distancing because they rely on support workers, and others need to be prioritized because of their physical health. "People with disabilities often have co-occurring health conditions that go along with their disability, so that puts them at higher risk for the virus," she said. She said by not creating a separate category to prioritize their vaccination, "we're telling people with disabilities they don't matter, and that's just the wrong message to send." Some provinces are prioritizing in various phases British Columbia plans to vaccinate people who are "clinically extremely vulnerable" including "adults with very significant developmental disabilities that increase risk" in Phase 3. New Brunswick intends to vaccinate people who have "select complex medical conditions," including people who live with Down syndrome, in Phase 2. Ontario has released a specific list of conditions that put people at an "increased risk of serious illness and death regardless of age" and will be included in Phase 2 vaccinations. Alberta says it will prioritize people "with underlying health conditions" in its Phase 2, but it has not yet determined the list of conditions that will qualify. Strang not 'rigid' in thinking Strang says he is very comfortable with Nova Scotia's approach but is not "rigid" in his thinking and will make changes if there is a shift in the science, epidemiology or vaccine supply. Robinson says the idea of building herd immunity doesn't give her peace of mind. She says the risks are just too high and the statistics too stark. "All my life, I've been fighting for her," she said. "I'm her voice, and I wonder when I don't need to be her voice, that it just happens because it should." Robinson said she's not asking for her daughter to be first, just prioritized, so she can feel safer, sooner.
Canadian Olympic hopeful Katherine Stewart-Jones can't remember when she first started experiencing a cough she and other cross-country skiers call "race hack," but she said it was probably when she started competing in her early teen years. "Sometimes, it goes like all the way into your back ... it's just this burning sensation," she said. "I'll lean over and just don't want to get up for a while because it hurts. "Generally, I'll get a race hack pretty much every race I do, but for sure, if it's cold out, it's affected me a bit more." The 25-year-old skier from Chelsea, Que., says she slows down on cold days when she's training but on race days, she pushes herself hard, sometimes so hard it can take weeks for the post-race coughing to subside. "It would be interesting to do some more research on it ... Like, are we ruining our lungs for the rest of our lives?" Katherine Stewart-Jones, a 25-year-old elite cross-country skier, skis along a winter trail. The Olympic hopeful says she first began experiencing symptoms of what she and her fellow skiiers call 'race hack' in her early teens.(Nordic Focus) Michael Kennedy, an associate professor in kinesiology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, has been interested in the effects of cold weather on lungs for more than a decade. His curiosity comes from working as a wax technician for Canadian elite cross-country skiers in the early- to mid-2000s while he was still getting his PhD. He travelled with teams for months and noticed how breathing issues would worsen as the ski season wore on. "By the time you got to national or the spring season races in March, they were hacking all the time, so they basically had chronic cough," he said. "It's not healthy to have chronic cough." A graphic representation of Stewart-Jones shows the airways in her lungs and how they appear like tree branches. (Sködt McNalty/CBC Graphics ) The condition for some can lead to problems such as interrupted sleep or speech, and yet, a chronic cough is sometimes normalized in Canadian cross-country ski culture, he said. Kennedy's last study on cold-weather exercise, published in 2019 in the journal Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology, looked at the effects of running a five-kilometre race outdoors in –15 C weather on 16 physically fit men and women compared to a lab-controlled test. All the participants exercised regularly in the cold, whether it was running outside, cross-country skiing or ski mountaineering. All participants reported having some type of respiratory symptom after running in the cold (most said they had a cough), and breathing tests revealed that nine out of the 16 showed symptoms of bronchoconstriction, or narrowing of the airways, consistent with levels that would be considered exercise-induced asthma. As the winter athlete begins to heavily inhale cold, dry air, the bronchioles can begin to constrict as if they are under threat. (Sködt McNalty/CBC Graphics) What happens to lungs in the cold A main issue with exercising in the cold, especially in temperatures –15 C and colder, is the lack of moisture in the air. When dry air hits the lungs, especially when someone is breathing heavily, it can provoke the lungs to react as if they were under threat. The airways essentially constrict to protect themselves. Kennedy has compared the effects of room temperature dry air against cold dry air, and his findings suggest that dry air that's also cold can provoke even more of a reaction, which may explain why chronic cough is so common among winter athletes, he said. Some research from around the world is beginning to suggest people who spend years exercising in cold, dry conditions might become more sensitive to lung irritants over time, according to Kennedy, although he cautions more data in this area is still needed. "Over time, if you repeat that irritation or that provocation, the lung just becomes less capable of healing itself," said Kennedy. A cross section of a bronchiole shows how muscles constrict to make the airway more narrow. It is the same process that takes place in people experiencing asthma symptoms. (Sködt McNalty/CBC Graphics) Ways to protect your lungs Gordon Giesbrecht, the director of the Laboratory for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, agrees the cold, dry air can be an issue for anyone who engages in heavy cardiovascular activity on a regular basis in the winter. He likens the experience of lung constriction to trying to take a deep breath through an ever-narrowing straw. "You can't freeze your lungs," he said. "You're not going to cause any damage although it is possible that continuous long-term training in the cold actually does make you more susceptible to this (bronchoconstriction)." Both Giesbrecht and Kennedy say a simple face covering, such as a fabric mask, neck warmer or scarf, can go a long way to protecting the lungs from being irritated. "If you cover your mouth, you're essentially warming the air and humidifying the air in a very productive manner," said Kennedy. "So essentially, your lung has to deal with less cold, dry air." A simple face covering, such as a mask, scarf or neck warmer, can help humidify and warm air before it hits the lungs. (Brian Morris/CBC) He also suggests that athletes take time to warm up before they exercise and take it easy on very cold days by slowing down their pace. He hopes his work helps to change the culture of winter sport in Canada so that athletes take steps to prevent symptoms such as chronic cough, lung pain and wheezing. "One of the things I want to do in the next 10 years is try to prevent some of this acute dysfunction from happening by improving the behaviours of younger skiers or winter sports athletes," Kennedy said. Later this month, he plans to begin his next study — a survey of cross-country skiers and biathlon athletes asking them to elaborate on any respiratory symptoms they have so researchers have a better sense of the scope of the issue. He plans to expand the study to winter runners and other recreational athletes as well. For now, Stewart-Jones brushes off the concerns about cold-weather exercise on her breathing. No serious athlete, including herself, would turn down a race because it's –18C, she said. As far as face coverings go, she wears them if her skin is at risk of freezing but she avoids them otherwise — neck warmers, like masks, can make it slightly more difficult to breathe. "I guess it's so normal and common for people to have irritated lungs that it's not something I think about," she said between a couple, short bursts of coughing after competing in Oberstdorf, Germany, at the World Championships in late February. "For sure it feels like it's probably not great for my lungs long term."
TORONTO — Ontario's drive to bolster staffing in long-term care homes hit hard by COVID-19 is leading to "destabilization" of the province's home care labour force, a group representing providers said Sunday as it pressed the government to standardize wages for personal support workers. Sue VanderBent, the CEO of Home Care Ontario, said a group of 50 service organizations is concerned with increasing worker movement from home care to higher wage jobs in long-term care homes, where personal support workers are paid an average of $5 an hour more than they earn in community care settings. The rate at which workers accept home-care assignments, a key indicator for service delivery levels, have dropped by nearly 40 per cent in recent months, she said. "This means that when we are asking our staff to go to see a patient, the PSW is saying, 'No, I'm not interested in doing that job'," she said. "This is unheard of." The province's long-term care sector has been devastated by the pandemic, where thousands of residents have died and staffing levels have declined dramatically. The province has created financial and educational incentives in a bid to recruit and retain thousands of PSWs to staff the nursing homes. VanderBent said those measures, when coupled with the wage gap, are enticing workers to leave home-care jobs. She said her association has been raising the concern with Premier Doug Ford's government, stressing the "unintended consequences" of the new policies. "We should be looking down the road and saying, 'this is the ultimate outcome of investing so heavily in one part of the system and not understanding the labour destabilization that you're going to create,'" she said. According to a staffing study released by the province last year, PSWs in Ontario long-term care homes make an average hourly wage of $22.69. That compared to the $17.30 average hourly rate paid to home care PSWs. The government-appointed advisory group behind the study, composed of academics and health-care industry executives, urged the province to ensure any steps it took to bolster staffing levels in one sector didn't leave any others behind. VanderBent said unless the government increases home care worker wages in the upcoming provincial budget, it will plunge that sector into crisis. "We've got to work really hard to recruit and retain and repatriate because a lot of people have left home care," she said. "This wage differential will cause a cascade." VanderBent said patients wind up in the province's overstrained hospitals when proper home-care supports are not available. "Every Ontarian who's lying on a gurney in an ER waiting for admission to a hospital bed was yesterday's home care patient," she said. A spokesman for Ontario's Ministry of Health said the government has included the home care sector in its broader PSW recruitment efforts. "Our focus is on recruitment, retention and training initiatives that will ensure that PSWs are available to meet the needs of patients and the health and social services system," David Jensen said in a statement. Jensen said the government launched a PSW "return to service" program last year with a $5,000 incentive provided for a six-month commitment for workers. That program applies to staff in long-term care and home and community care as well, he said. "As of February 26, 2021, over 600 PSWs have been hired through the program, including almost 200 in home and community care," he said. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said no matter where PSWs work in the province's health care system, they deserve a pay raise and fair treatment. “It’s not good enough for (Premier) Doug Ford to praise PSWs while doing nothing to permanently improve their salaries and working conditions," she said in a statement. "Worse yet, by allowing home care PSWs to fall even further behind, Doug Ford is putting homecare at risk and making it harder for seniors to live independently in their golden years," she added. Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said that in order to attract more people to work as PSWs, in all sectors, the province needs to treat them properly. "That means paying them a living wage, providing benefits like paid sick days, and ensuring safe and healthy workplaces," he said in a statement. "COVID-19 has exposed the massive gaps in precarious work across the province, and made abundantly clear just how vital essential workers like home care providers are." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
From best to worst in just one year. Put another way, winning the opening battle is no guarantee of winning the war. This is the story of the Czech Republic and COVID-19. This was a country seemingly well prepared — a member of the European Union since 2004 after overthrowing its communist government in 1989, modestly rich and boasting a solid health-care system. As the virus crept into Europe in early 2020, the Czech government acted. Starting in March of last year, the country of 10.6 million people went into almost total lockdown and stayed locked down for five weeks. Shops, schools, even the borders were shut. Masks had to be worn outside. The Czech Republic became the poster child of Europe with the lowest number of cases as a percentage of population in the European Union. But by March 2021, the situation was catastrophic. According to World Health Organization statistics, the Czech Republic now leads the world in new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population — 1,597 as of Saturday. That's a multiple of the rate in neighbouring countries and more than 10 times the rate in Germany next door, where the rate is 138 per 100,000 over the latest two-week period. More than 21,500 Czechs have died from the virus. Medical workers move a COVID-19 patient into an ambulance at a hospital overrun by the disease in Cheb, Czech Republic, on Feb. 12. The small city near the German border has a death rate six times the national average.(Petr David Josek/The Associated Press) Cheb, a small city of 32,000 near the German border, is nothing short of a disaster zone. With a death rate six times the national average, ambulances parked in the street with COVID-19 sufferers because there are no hospital beds and patients sent to other regions, now the city itself is sealed off from the Czech Republic itself. On Friday, the Czech government officially asked Germany, Poland and Switzerland to take some COVID patients because it couldn't care for them. Medical experts blame government A slew of Czech experts — doctors, epidemiologists, virologists — point their finger at whom they see as the culprit: their own government. "The situation is desperate," Dagmar Dzurova, a professor of demographics at Charles University in Prague, said in an interview with the magazine Respekt. Patients wait in the COVID-19 admissions room at the Regional Hospital Mlada Boleslav, in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, on Friday. More than 21,500 Czechs have died from the disease.(David Cerny/Reuters) "They committed three fatal mistakes: relaxing the rules, first in September before regional elections, then before Christmas in December, when restrictions were again lifted prematurely. And in January, we didn't react in time to the new mutations, when we knew the [strain first found in the U.K.] was already in Europe." Others have said the government lacks the expertise to handle the crisis. "This is a government run by a businessman," Dr. Frantisek Duska, associate dean of medicine at Charles University and head of the ICU unit of University Hospital Vinohrady in Prague, said in an interview with Denik-N, a Czech news site. The businessman is Andrej Babis, a billionaire, owner of a giant agricultural conglomerate and prime minister of the Czech Republic. He's now a very worried man. "These will be hellish days," Babis told his fellow citizens in late February as he announced severe new restrictions. "We have to do it to prevent a total collapse of our hospitals. If we don't, the whole world will watch Bergamo in the Czech Republic," he said, referring to the Italian province of one million where, officially, 3,300 people with COVID-19 died in 2020. Andrej Babis, prime minister of the Czech Republic, is shown last September in Poland. In late February, he announced severe new restrictions, including compulsory mask-wearing and limiting movement to a person's local district. Most shops, with the exception of food stores, are closed.(Omar Marques/Getty Images) Those restrictions, to last three weeks from March 1, include the compulsory mask-wearing and limiting movement to a person's local district. Most shops, with the exception of food stores, are closed. Like neighbouring Slovakia — a country of more than five million with the highest death toll per million people in the world in the last seven days, according to German data company Statista — the Czech government is ordering vaccines from China and wants the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, despite the fact that the European Union has approved neither so far. But Dzurova of Charles University and 40 other scientists and doctors published an open letter to the government at the end of February saying these measures were now not enough. They called for a complete shutdown of the country for 40 days. "Sooner or later, the government will hear us," Dzurova said. "The test and trace system hasn't worked. There is no other way to lower the incidence of the virus in the population." Mixed signals from officials What is seen as government ineptitude, along with growing distrust of their leaders among voters, hasn't helped. Dropping the insistence on wearing masks outside while keeping schools closed until last summer, when stores were reopening in the spring, deepened confusion and dissatisfaction, according to intensive care physician Duska. Restricting compensation to 60 per cent of salary for people under quarantine only increased dissatisfaction. Thousands of demonstrators take part in a protest against the government's restrictive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, in the capital of Prague on Jan. 10.(Petr David Josek/The Associated Press) The cavalier disregard displayed by the government's health minister for restrictions he himself had announced only made things worse. In late October, the country's biggest tabloid newspaper, Blesk, had a front-page photo of Dr. Roman Prymula leaving a restaurant without a mask. The restaurant was open illegally. He had eaten illegally and put his mask aside. Prymula was fired. But one result, among others, is that a number of underground taverns have opened for business, as people argue that they have the same rights as their ministers. Political manoeuvring at the top of the state has deepened public distrust. The country's president, Milos Zeman, is a populist and an admirer of both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. His position is largely ceremonial, but that didn't stop him from negotiating to have the Russians deliver some of their Sputnik V vaccine. WATCH | Recognition grows for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine: Zeman hadn't consulted Health Minister Jan Blatny, who was reportedly furious. Zeman then decided a new health minister was needed, and he announced in a television interview on Feb. 27 that Blatny was suffering from burnout. "He's very, very tired." But Babis, the prime minister, disagrees and says Blatny won't leave, at least not until the end of March. The public is hardly reassured. A man receives a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine during a trial run of a mass vaccination centre, located inside a gym in the town of Ricany, near Prague, on Feb. 25.(David Cerny/Reuters) Another populist is ex-president Vaclav Klaus, 79, who served until 2013. He's a COVID skeptic and has appeared in public frequently without a mask. He has railed against vaccinations and even attended an anti-mask demonstration in Prague in January. Klaus, who now has COVID-19, has stopped demonstrating. But he has contributed to the public's distrust and disbelief about new restrictions. As has the conviction, held by Duska and others, that the state's response to the crisis has been disjointed and disorganized. For instance, masks — at first compulsory and then not — are now compulsory again. Government faces reckoning In the midst of this, Babis manoeuvres to save lives and save his government. National elections are to be held in September. As his country has gone from first to last in the virus tables, his ANO party has seen its support slip from more than 30 per cent to 26 per cent in the polls as of March 2, according to Politico Europe's poll of polls. The opposition Pirate Party has climbed steadily and is now at 25 per cent, neck and neck with ANO. Police officers near Breitenau, Germany, check vehicles at the border with the Czech Republic on Feb. 15, following the introduction of restrictions by Germany due to the coronavirus pandemic.(David Cerny/Reuters) Babis, too, could be a casualty of COVID-19. All of this is happening on the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Good Soldier Svejk. This most famous Czech fictional character stumbled through the First World War unscathed as he blindly obeyed every mad order he was given, always with a smile. "A genius or an idiot?" was the headline of an article marking the anniversary of the satirical novel. In the case of the Czech government, say critics of its handling of the COVID-19 crisis, both descriptions could apply, within just one year.
VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of murdering their two daughters hope changes to Canada's Divorce Act will better protect children. Changes to the law took effect at the beginning of March. They place more emphasis on the needs of children during divorce and, as a result, aim to minimize legal battles between parents over custody orders, said Prof. Sara Ramshaw, a family law expert at the University of Victoria. She said the Christmas day, 2017 deaths of six-year-old Chloe and her four-year-old sister Aubrey were part of a recent discussion about the Divorce Act with her family law students. A British Columbia Supreme Court judge sentenced Andrew Berry to life in prison without chance of parole for 22 years in December 2019 after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder in the deaths of his two daughters. Berry is appealing his conviction and sentence. Berry was estranged from his partner, Sarah Cotton-Elliott, at the time he killed the girls. Ramshaw said the amendments to the Divorce Act change the way the presence and prospect of violence, including a child's direct or indirect exposure to family violence, is considered. "It signals to parents that it's not about them," Ramshaw said in an interview. "It's not about winning and losing. It's about children and who the children should be spending time with. "I'm really hoping that nothing like Cotton and Berry happens again." She said she will be watching future family court decisions to monitor where the issue of family violence factors in court parenting rulings. Cotton-Elliott supports the changes to the law. When she was in family court, she said she believed her children's safety and well-being took a back seat to arranging equal parenting for herself and Berry. "There's now a definition of all types of family violence written into national legislation, which has never been included before," she said in an interview. "I think the judges will be paying closer attention to these kinds of things when looking at making decisions." Cotton-Elliott said she believes the amended Divorce Act has the potential to protect more children from family violence. "I think for judges to make an informed decision in these family law cases they need a thorough understanding of family violence and the issues at play," she said. "The awareness is key. I really hope that these judges will take into account and recognize all signs of abuse." Berry was living in an apartment in the suburban Victoria community of Oak Bay where he was behind on his rent and the power had been cut off, his trial heard. He had quit his job and spent his savings to support a gambling habit. In sentencing Berry, Justice Miriam Gropper said he knew he was close to losing access to his children, prompting him to write a suicide note blaming Cotton-Elliott and his parents for his death. Instead, Berry killed his daughters and stabbed himself in a failed attempt to take his own life, Gropper said. In Canada, family law is a shared jurisdiction between the federal and provincial and territorial governments. The Divorce Act applies to married couples who are divorcing, while provincial or territorial legislation applies to unmarried or common-law couples, as well as married couples who are separated but not divorcing The federal government says the changes to the Divorce Act are the first substantive amendments in 20 years. In an online explanation of the changes, the federal government says the act did not previously include measures for dealing with family violence, but now the law defines it. The definition includes any conduct that is violent, threatening, shows a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour, causes a family member to fear for their safety directly or indirectly, and exposes a child to such conduct. "Courts will have to take family violence into account," the department said. "A list of factors have been added to the Divorce Act to help courts assess the seriousness of the violence and how it could affect future parenting when deciding what arrangements would be in the child’s best interests." Lawyer Shelley Hounsell-Gray, the Canadian Bar Association's family law secretary, said the Divorce Act changes will hopefully bring more peace to families, including children and their parents. "It's not about punishment," she said in an interview from Bedford, N.S. "It's about working collaboratively and more holistically with families so that children and their parents will end up with better parenting plans." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
When Joan Ortega's mother died in April 2020, he wanted to rush back to the Dominican Republic from his home in Antigonish, N.S. But the start of COVID-19 lockdowns prevented him from leaving. He waited through the summer and fall, hoping the situation would improve. "At Christmas, he was like, I can't — I have to go," says his wife, Jo Ann Ortega, a construction safety specialist in the Nova Scotia town. In January, he boarded a flight to the Dominican Republic and gathered with his family in Gaspar Hernández, a countryside community about 60 kilometres from the city of Puerto Plata, a popular tourist destination. But before he could book his flight home, Canada cancelled direct flights from the Caribbean to Canada until at least the end of April. "No flights in, no flights out. No boats in, no boats out. That was heartbreaking," his wife said. He tried to get on the last two flights out, but couldn't pull it off. Canadian rules require a negative COVID-19 test, but Puerto Plata is the nearest destination for testing. "Which doesn't seem very far, but if you don't have a car, it is pretty far. Especially if you're under restrictions that you can't travel after [2 p.m.]," Jo Ann Ortega said. "Of course it's monster stress. What's going to happen?" The only flights now go via the U.S. and as he's a permanent resident of Canada, but not a citizen, that would add complications. He'd have to book a special interview at the otherwise-closed U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo and apply for a special transit visa. Even then, he's not certain he would be able to continue on to Canada. Vaccines coming So Joan, which is pronounced Johan, Ortega remains stranded in the lush Dominican countryside, surrounded by chirping birds, buzzing motorcycles, and a longing to return to his wife and life in Canada. He's had some good news this week: his 86-year-old father got vaccinated Tuesday. Joan Ortega grew up in Gaspar Hernández, but met his future wife when she was in the Dominican Republic in 2009. They married in 2013 and he immigrated to Canada in 2016. He landed a job at the Antigonish Atlantic Superstore in 2017. They've told him his job will be waiting for him when he returns. When COVID-19 first hit and everyone was thinking about how it would change their lives, Jo Ann Ortega said her husband had a different thought. "Nobody has any money. There are no tourists, so there's no money. He decided he would start this food package. He didn't even tell me about it," she said. He sent money back to the neighbourhood and appointed a shopper to get goods and deliver them to areas most in need. His wife pitched in when she saw what he was doing. His neighbours sent a thank-you video, which she shared on social media. That led to more offers of help, and more aid packages sent to Gaspar Hernández. A cousin of Joan Ortega's delivers food supplies he sent to help his former neighbours during the pandemic. (Submitted by Jo Ann Ortega) In pre-pandemic times, he quietly organized back-to-school drives, sending money to one of the neighbourhood kids to buy and share supplies where they were needed the most. For some kids, not having a uniform or the right supplies means they're not allowed to go to school. The Ortegas hope one day to create an after-school sports club in the area. In the meantime, they're waiting for May and hope Canada will resume direct flights to the Dominican Republic. "I just wait. My hope is to wait and see what happens," he said. "It's the only thing I can do at the moment." MORE STOP STORIES
After nearly a year of bouncing in and out of various public health orders and reconfiguring her family's business on the fly, Lili Tran Anstee wants Monday to mark the start of a smoother and more predictable path back to normalcy. "We've had enough of this back-and-forth," said Tran Anstee, a third generation employee at the restaurant and cooking supply store Tap Phong Trading Company. "I'm hopeful, but the pragmatist in me is saying that it's probably going to continue on." On Monday, Toronto's stay-at-home order will be lifted and the city will emerge from the most restrictive measures to contain the pandemic since the initial shutdown in the spring of 2020. The shift back into Ontario's colour-coded framework means non-essential retail stores like Tap Phong will be allowed to re-open with limited capacity for the first time after they were ordered closed 104 days ago. Officially, the city remains under Ontario's grey lockdown level, though the province has adjusted its rules to permit retail stores to open at 25 per cent capacity even under lockdown restrictions. Indoor dining, gyms, and personal care services will remain closed. The city's business owners have responded to the news with relief, but also anxiety due to their experiences during the pandemic so far. "Frankly, I'm not sure we should be opening," said Elana White, the owner of the gift shop Outer Layer and a board member of the Queen Street West BIA. While White expressed concern that reopening retail stores could jeopardize Toronto's progress at containing the pandemic and potentially spark a third shutdown, she said the prospect of increased business will be too hard to resist. "Given that we're allowed to [open], we probably don't have any choice. It's been a long, tough winter and we'd like to have our sales increase," said White, who plans to open to customers later this week. 'We want this one ... to be the last one' Ontario's public health officials have repeatedly warned of a possible third wave of the pandemic that could trigger the return of more severe restrictions. They're worried a potential spike in cases could be driven by more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus, which threaten to spread rapidly and undermine Ontario's nascent inoculation campaign. Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said on Friday that it appears a third wave in her city is imminent. Her counterpart in Toronto, Dr. Eileen de Villa, noted that cases of variants of concern have doubled recently, though de Villa did recommend that Toronto be moved out of a stay-at-home order and into the less severe grey lockdown level. The most recent figures show Toronto has a weekly COVID-19 case rate of 68.3 per 100,000 residents. Ontario has stipulated that public health units must record rates of less than 40 per 100,000 before being moved in the red-control level. The Queen Street West BIA estimates a commercial vacancy rate in its district of more than 40 per cent.(Sam Nar/CBC) Peel Region, which is also moving into the grey lockdown level, has a weekly rate of 89.7 per 100,000. Toronto Mayor John Tory has said the city will do everything in its power "to stop the one thing that we want to stop more than anything else, which is another lockdown later." He expressed hope that a third shutdown can be avoided even with businesses slowly reopening. "We want this one, as it comes to an end, to be the last one," Tory said Friday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. Business owners also appealed to residents to keep following public health orders, so that Toronto's economy can begin a reopening without any further setbacks. "I would like to believe that everyone is at that point where they just want to do everything as much as possible to facilitate us opening the doors," Tran Anstee said. "Not going back depends on each and every one of us."
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Sunday March 7, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 76,108 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,329,622 doses given. Nationwide, 564,217 people or 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 6,146.877 per 100,000. There were no new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,622,210 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 88.84 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. In the province, 1.61 per cent (8,427) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. In the province, 3.32 per cent (5,273) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,657 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 38,676 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 39.631 per 1,000. In the province, 1.48 per cent (14,395) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.4 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. In the province, 1.56 per cent (12,142) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 21,533 new vaccinations administered for a total of 532,012 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 62.175 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.33 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 39,698 new vaccinations administered for a total of 860,412 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.575 per 1,000. In the province, 1.84 per cent (270,625) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 95.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,685 new vaccinations administered for a total of 87,622 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 63.632 per 1,000. In the province, 2.19 per cent (30,132) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 124,840 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.19 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 3,577 new vaccinations administered for a total of 90,456 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.713 per 1,000. In the province, 2.38 per cent (28,006) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 121.2 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 6,955 new vaccinations administered for a total of 282,674 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 64.214 per 1,000. In the province, 2.06 per cent (90,824) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 102.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 311,208 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.646 per 1,000. In the province, 1.69 per cent (86,865) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 1,660 new vaccinations administered for a total of 21,097 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 505.547 per 1,000. In the territory, 18.75 per cent (7,826) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 111.6 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. In the territory, 10.10 per cent (4,558) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,911 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 359.216 per 1,000. In the territory, 13.28 per cent (5,144) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 58.21 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
BARCELONA, Spain — Catalonia’s former regional president Carles Puigdemont says he will keep fighting extradition back to Spain if, as he expects, the European Union's parliament strips him of his immunity as a lawmaker this week. Puigdemont and two fellow Catalan separatists won seats in the European Parliament in 2019, two years after fleeing Spain because they had led a failed secession attempt for Catalonia, a move that Spain has deemed illegal. On Monday, Puigdemont, along with cohorts Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, faces a vote by the European Parliament on whether to lift their immunity as lawmakers, a move that has been recommended by the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee. “We contemplate all scenarios, obviously even that we will lose our immunity, which is the most likely,” Puigdemont told The Associated Press via on Sunday from his residence in Waterloo, Belgium. “But we know that would not be the end of the road.” Lifting their immunity would allow Spain to once again pursue their extradition to stand trial like their fellow separatist leaders who remained in Spain and were found guilty of sedition and the misuse of public funds for the 2017 breakaway bid. So far, courts in Belgium, Germany and Britain have refused to send Puigdemont and his colleagues back on grounds of sedition as requested by Spain. Puigdemont said besides resisting in the national courts, the three will also “take our case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.” Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — Changes to the federal Divorce Act went into effect on March 1. Here is a look at some of the changes: — The amendments outline specific factors to be considered when a court decides what would be in a child’s best interests, including relationships with parents and grandparents, a child’s linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage, and a child’s views and preferences. — Courts are required to order parenting time based on a child’s best interests. — The law includes a focus on the actual tasks of parenting, which means a parenting order also explains each parent’s “decision-making responsibilities” on important determinations to be made on behalf of a child. — The act now includes measures for dealing with family violence and requires the courts to take that into account. — A list of factors has been added to the act to help judges assess the seriousness of the violence when deciding what parenting arrangements would be in the child’s best interests. — The amended Divorce Act helps establish and enforce child support, including by allowing the federal government to release tax information to help determine accurate child support amounts. SOURCE: Federal Justice Department website. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
By the end of this year, a small batch of registered nurses will be the first in Nova Scotia to be able to write prescriptions. A pilot training program through Dalhousie University's school of nursing began in January with three participants who are on track to complete their certification in December. Ruth Martin-Misener, the director of Dalhousie's nursing school, said the first class includes nurses from emergency and primary care settings. Although the program is designed to apply to a broad range of health-care settings, Martin-Misener said having nurses with prescribing authority in busy emergency departments and primary care clinics stands to deliver the most obvious benefit. "There are gaps in access," said Martin-Misener, referring to the ongoing shortage of primary care providers. That shortage means many Nova Scotians seek out primary care through walk-in clinics or emergency departments. The hope is that by broadening the scope of work that nurses can do in those settings, health care will become more accessible and efficient. Nurse prescribing has been adopted in a handful of other Canadian provinces in the past few years, and it's been common practice in the U.K. for more than a decade. "It makes sense, given the international evidence, that registered nurses could be helping to address those gaps," Martin-Misener said. Antibiotics, contraceptives likely candidates for nurse prescribing The medications nurses will be able to prescribe will depend on the setting in which they work and decided by their employer. Martin-Misener said in other jurisdictions, it's common for nurses to prescribe antibiotics, contraceptives and medications related to wound care. The program has started small, but Martin-Misener said she expects demand to grow. "I think that the gaps in care that RN prescribing has the potential to address will mean that there will be more of an uptake." There's a possibility that another cohort of nurses could start the program this spring. The program is designed so that nurses can continue working while they study, taking one course per semester for two semesters, followed by a clinical rotation. Any registered nurse with at least three years of clinical experience in the setting where they would be prescribing can take the course, so long as they have a letter of support from their employer. 'RNs are going to really welcome this' Nova Scotia Nurses' Union president Janet Hazelton has been calling for prescribing authority for nurses, and said she's excited to see the program taking off. Nova Scotia Nurses' Union president Janet Hazelton says she hopes eventually, training to write prescriptions will be included in the undergraduate nursing curriculum. (Robert Short/CBC) "RNs are going to really welcome this," Hazelton said in an interview. "When they're in an [emergency department], they feel the frustration of the patients that have to wait. They get it. We want to be efficient, we want to be doing a good job, and we want people to come in, get what they need and get out as quickly and as efficiently as possible." Hazelton said she hopes it will eventually be integrated into the standard undergraduate program for registered nurses. MORE TOP STORIES
Despite the cold weather sticking around for another weekend in Ottawa, some restaurants aren't waiting for warmer days to welcome back customers to their patios. The pandemic has had a significant effect on the hospitality industry, with restaurants and bars being forced to halt indoor and outdoor seating multiple times over the past year. As Ottawa is currently in the orange zone restaurants can only welcome 50 patrons at a time, and a maximum of four people per table. Restaurants must also close by 10 p.m. "Every business right now is looking for different ways to kind of bring in customers and, I guess, make up for kind of like the limitations that we have right now," said Jason Sawision, owner and chef of Stofa restaurant. Sawision reopened Friday after the latest lockdown, but because of current restrictions can only serve about half the restaurant's normal capacity inside. Stofa restaurant has a bigger patio in the summer, but decided to offer a more intimate experience outside after the latest lockdown.(Stofa Restaurant/Facebook) So in an effort to bring in more customers, he decided to offer a special experience for patrons on the patio. A party of four can rent out the space, which comes with Muskoka chairs, a fire pit, heaters, and a special menu. "There's a couple of restaurants in town doing kind of outdoor patios and, you know, ours isn't huge, but we figured we could do kind of like a more intimate, private experience," he said. "[We] thought it might be something also that people were looking for, where you're definitely outside and then you're not around a whole bunch of people." Recouping revenue At Beyond the Pale Brewing Company, a tent and heater have been added to their outdoor patio in the hopes of offering space for more customers, and making up some of the money lost during the pandemic. "We lose almost half our revenue when we have to shut down our taproom and, you know, also are unable to sell beer to other bars and restaurants who had to shut down," said co-founder Rob McIsaac. He's still trying to see the silver lining in the situation. "It's certainly been an opportunity for us to try something new in terms of the outdoor seating." McIsaac hopes to continue to cash in on that creativity. He's working with the city to keep the tent up even as the weather improves in the coming months. "We're looking forward to some nice temperatures to hopefully get some people outside."