Details with Nathan Coleman
Details with Nathan Coleman
(NASA/JPL-Caltech - image credit) When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
Another type of COVID-19 vaccine was authorized by Health Canada on Friday. The new vaccines are manufactured by AstraZeneca, and developed in partnership with Oxford University. Canada also approved the Serum Institute of India’s version of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Afterwards, Anita Anand, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement announced that Canada has secured two million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through an agreement with Verity Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc./Serum Institute of India. AstraZeneca has licensed the manufacture of its ChAdOx1 vaccine to the Serum Institute. The first 500,000 doses will be delivered to Canada in the coming weeks. The remaining 1.5 million doses are expected to arrive by mid-May. “The Government of Canada continues to do everything possible to protect Canadians from COVID-19. This includes securing a highly diverse and extensive portfolio of vaccines and taking all necessary measures to ready the country to receive them,” Anand said in a release. “We remain fully on track to ensure that there will be a sufficient supply so that every eligible Canadian who wants a vaccine will have access to one by the end of September. I am grateful for the collaboration of our partners in India to finalize this agreement, and I look forward to continuing to work closely together in the weeks ahead.” The two million doses secured through this agreement are in addition to the 20 million doses already secured through an earlier agreement with AstraZeneca. Health Canada’s authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine allows the Government of Canada to advance its work with AstraZeneca to finalize delivery schedules for the 20 million doses. The application for authorization from AstraZeneca was received on Oct. 1, 2020 and from from Verity Pharmaceuticals Inc./Serum Institute of India (in partnership with AstraZeneca Canada Inc.) on January 23, 2021. After thorough, independent reviews of the evidence, the Department has determined that these vaccines meet Canada’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements. These are the first viral vector-based vaccines authorized in Canada. These are also two-dose regiments and can be kept refrigerated for at least six months. Health Canada’s authorization of the Verity Pharmaceuticals Inc./Serum Institute of India product relies on the assessment of its comparability to the AstraZeneca-produced version of the vaccine.. These vaccines were authorized with terms and conditions under Health Canada’s Interim Order on the importation of drugs for COVID-19 The process allowed Health Canada to assess information submitted by the manufacturer as it became available during the product development process, while maintaining Canadian standards. Health Canada has placed terms and conditions on the authorizations requiring the manufacturers to continue providing information to Health Canada on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccines to ensure their benefits continue to be demonstrated through market use. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will closely monitor the safety. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
RIO DE JANEIRO — On the morning of Feb. 10, a cyclist chugged his way up the curves of Rio de Janeiro’s most popular sport cycling road. A familiar scent wafted in the air. It was the smell of jackfruit, vaguely cloying and ripe with peril. Without warning, one fruit plummeted from the heavily laden canopy of Tijuca National Park. It hit the cyclist on the head, cracking his helmet and sending him sprawling. There had long been stories of the world’s largest tree-borne fruit divebombing passersby. Now it was no longer urban legend, and that was potential trouble for Marisa Furtado and Pedro Lobão, a couple who have taken up the challenge of rehabilitating the fruit’s public image. Jackfruit is abundant during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, but many Brazilians are loath to eat it. Historically, it has been consumed more by the poor or enslaved; in barbecue-mad Brazil, the idea of fruit substituting for meat is viewed with suspicion. It’s considered an invasive species, even if it arrived here centuries ago. Ecologists disdain it for crowding out native species in 13 federal conservation units across Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, especially Tijuca park, one of the world’s largest urban forests. And now cyclists spreading news of the accident on message groups and Facebook were accusing the fruit of assault. One posted that he had skidded out on jackfruit. Others shared close calls, like a jackfruit exploding so close it splattered a bike’s spokes with shrapnel. Riding under jackfruit, another said, was like Russian roulette. But this isn’t the jackfruit Furtado knows and loves. Furtado, 57, drinks a jackfruit smoothie every day. She dreams of a pilgrimage to the jackfruit’s point of origin, India. Her 2020 Christmas card? A photo of herself beside a whopping, 73-pound jackfruit -- enough to prepare roughly 150 dishes. Its Yuletide message: “May abundance be with you all in 2021”. She and her 54-year-old boyfriend, Lobão, collect unripe jackfruits from trees, process them for sale, donate whatever they can’t unload, and share free recipes. She rattles off entrees -- jackfruit cod, jackfruit lasagna, jackfruit pie, jackfruit tenderloin -- and insists that they are both tasty and nutritious. “History loads the jackfruit with prejudice. Today we hear about the jackfruit that stinks, ... the violent jackfruit, the invasive jackfruit,” Furtado said. “It’s true: Jackfruit adapted very well. So everyone who adapted this well to Brazil should be exterminated?” ___ In the 17th century, the Portuguese transported jackfruit seedlings to Brazil, where it was visual curiosity, and the tree soon reached Rio, according to Rogério Oliveira, an environmental and ecological history specialist. Rio’s forest was getting cleared for timber, charcoal, coffee and sugar cane plantations, said Oliveira, an associate professor at Rio’s Pontifical Catholic University (PUC). The emperor ordered massive reforestation. Jackfruit thrived in the degraded soil and produced gargantuan fruit that crashed to the ground and tumbled downhill, scattering seeds. The trees -- which can reach 80 feet tall -- took root, anchoring the soil and feeding animals. Thirty-four vertebrates in Brazil partake, including agoutis and black capuchin monkeys, according to a paper that journal Tropical Ecology published this month. Endangered golden-headed lion tamarins, too. Population densities are higher where jackfruit is their primary food. That belies potential problems, said Rodolfo Abreu, an ecology professor at Rio’s Federal Rural University. “Instead of favouring diversity of fauna, of amphibians, of insects, you prioritize those who use jackfruit. You simplify the tropical chain,” said Abreu, a biologist who has studied jackfruit’s invasiveness. “Some rare species start to disappear, or become rarer.” To the extent Brazilian humans consume jackfruit, it’s mostly eaten ripe. It tastes like a combination of pear and banana. Unripe jackfruit is used in savory dishes. In India, jackfruit has been a meat alternative for centuries, even called “tree goat” in West Bengal state, says Shree Padre, a farming magazine editor. Once considered a poor person’s crop, cultivation and export have increased, coinciding with global interest in the “superfood,” he said. In Rio’s tony Ipanema neighbourhood, plant-based restaurant Teva’ s top-selling appetizer is BBQ jackfruit tacos, said head chef Daniel Biron. His clientele is often surprised by a fruit normally encountered littering trails in a state of pungent rot. “They’re impacted because they start to open their minds to a universe they didn’t know,” said Biron, 44. “The jackfruit has that capacity.” Furtado and Lobao’s organization is Hand in the Jackfruit ( Mao na Jaca, in Portuguese), a twist on the phrase “foot in the jackfruit,” which means to slip up or go too far. The expression is evocative for anyone who has plunged a Havaiana sandal into decomposing mush, from which seeds protrude like garlic cloves. On a recent day, Furtado and Lobão loaded 139 pounds of seeds into a squeaky shopping cart for delivery to a chef in Babilonia, one of Rio’s hillside favelas. Regina Tchelly, who hails from poor, northeastern Paraiba state, enjoyed jackfruit flesh and roasted seeds as a girl. In 2018, with money tight, she dreamt up a spin on shredded chicken dumplings made from jackfruit. It sold like crazy, said Tchelly, who runs culinary project Favela Organica. Tchelly swapped some recipes, like her jackfruit seed ceviche, for Furtado’s seeds. She says jackfruit could end Brazilian hunger -- a fresh concern after the government ended COVID-19 welfare payments. “It’s a food that’s so abundant, and the jackfruit can bring lots of nutrients to your body and be a source of income,” Tchelly said. ___ During the pandemic, the road into Tijuca park has become an ideal venue for socially-distanced exercise, and so potential jackfruit targets abound. Some cyclists contacted authorities after the accident, demanding action that could include cutting overhead branches or tree removal. “Before, removal of jackfruit trees was an internal issue of the park. But now there are jackfruits threatening lives!” said Raphael Pazos, 46, founder of Rio de Janeiro’s Cycling Safety Commission. “If he hadn’t been wearing a helmet, or if it had fallen on a 4-year-old, it could’ve killed.” By phone, Furtado tried to calm the outcry by reaching out to cyclists, including the one who was struck. He declined AP interview requests. She sought to steer them toward mapping jackfruit trees’ locations, posting signs about their benefits and organizing collection of fruit. Along the road, she said, jackfruits could be snagged using a truck-mounted crane then donated to surrounding communities, with Hand in the Jackfruit holding workshops to teach the sticky, labour-intensive art of processing. She spoke at length with Tijuca park’s co-ordinator, too, and made her case. Furtado acknowledges the importance of diversity, but argues a centuries-old Brazilian resident shouldn’t be cast out of the garden. “It’s an inheritance that needs to be valued, from the social, economic, cultural and environmental points of view,” she posted on Instagram. “Eradicating it would be a huge error and part of the arrogance of those who don’t perceive life is dynamic.” But some scientists disagreed -- at least as far as Tijuca park is concerned. “I’m 100% in the camp of taking it out from the park; it’s exotic, we don’t need it, human livelihoods aren’t depending on it,” said Emilio Bruna, president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation. “Outside the park, we can have this conversation.” PUC’s Oliveira said there’s no doubt ecologically that native species should be substituted for jackfruit in Tijuca park. But in urban areas, it's free fruit for people who don’t always have access to it. Further, it’s apparently not as invasive as believed, he said. It becomes hyper-dominant where soil is degraded, but an experiment of his showed seeds didn’t germinate in robust forest. “A good forest has a certain amount of defence against the jackfruit tree,” he said. He said populations should be managed through girdling: slicing off a bark ring, which usually kills a tree in months. Abreu said herbicide injection is more effective, and his models indicate killing 5-10% of mature trees annually is enough to put a given population on the decline. The government’s management plan for Tijuca park says jackfruit eradication should be prioritized; some 2,000 trees were girdled there between 2016 and 2017. It isn’t clear what percentage of the park’s total that represented, Abreu said. ___ On Feb. 21, cyclists from the safety commission convened at Tijuca park’s entrance. Furtado’s efforts had worked -- to some degree. They embraced her proposal to collect and distribute jackfruit to surrounding communities, and decided to present it at the next meeting of the park’s consultative council, where the commission holds a seat. “We didn’t even know an association that did this existed,” Pazos said after the meeting, standing beside his bike. “There’s no way to dislike the idea of giving food to the population.” They supported emergency collection by Hand in the Jackfruit, too, but still favoured girdling all roadside jackfruit trees. He pointed out that another jackfruit had dropped just downhill, smack in the middle of the road. Furtado concedes a few roadside trees could be removed as a last resort if collection or pruning proves impossible, and after careful impact study. She vehemently opposes girdling or herbicide, and believes in management through consumption. “If we eat the jackfruit and their seeds,” she said, “we can contain them.” ___ AP writer Aniruddha Ghosal contributed from New Delhi David Biller, The Associated Press
(Giacomo Panico/CBC - image credit) Rocksane Forget, who works with the Association des Neurotraumatisés de l'Outaouais, was asked to find a way to improve folk hero Jos Montferrand's look, ultimately deciding to mobilize a group of knitters. One towering lumberjack of legend is getting a makeover this winter. The frame of Jos Montferrand on Gatineau, Que.'s rue Montcalm was created for Mosaïcultures, a horticultural exhibition held in Jacques-Cartier Park in 2017. The sculpture had been set on fire in a controlled setting by an artist tasked with stripping it and restoring its beauty. As a result, the tribute to the folk hero who steered logs down the Ottawa River in the early 1800s and inspired myths of his strength and fearlessness had seen better days. The sculpture of local lumber legend Jos Montferrand sported a face covering Jan. 13, 2021 before getting the scarf. "We needed to put some colour on this guy," said Rocksane Forget, who works with the Association des Neurotraumatisés de l'Outaouais, a support group for people with head injuries and strokes. Forget was tasked by the City of Gatineau with finding ways to freshen up Montferrand's look, ultimately deciding on mobilizing a group of knitters. The scarf was garter stitched and crocheted piece-by-piece by knitters who are all members of the Association des Neurotraumatisés de l'Outaouais. The group worked separately from home with wool and a plan, creating a 5.5-metre yarn scarf. Kaitlin Brown, who helped create the rainbow-coloured neck attire, said each patch took about six to seven hours to make. Each knitter spent 120 hours on their respective sections, she said, resulting in about 500 hours of labour in total. Jos Montferrand, sometimes called Grand Jos, felled trees and rolled logs down the Ottawa River in the early 1800s. While the knitters were unsure of the project at the outset, Brown said she's pleased with the final product, which they hope will raise awareness for their organization. "Having that colourful scarf on Jos is going to put a nice smile on everyone's face," Forget said.
Fresh air, blazing speed and spacious alpine terrain makes skiing and snowboarding low-risk activities for COVID-19 transmission, infectious disease doctors say. But the threat is never zero during a global pandemic, they add. And people working those snowy slopes may be at greater risk of catching the virus than those dashing down them. Most ski hills in Ontario were permitted to reopen Tuesday, joining other mountainous resorts across the country that have remained operational through the winter. Many have implemented extra safety precautions and operate under local restrictions, including asking patrons to wear face coverings on lifts, cancelling classes and limiting access to indoor spaces. While the activity of skiing is relatively safe from a transmission standpoint, experts say spread can still happen, and COVID outbreaks have been reported at larger resorts over the last couple months, mostly affecting staff members. One in Kelowna, B.C., in December began with workers living on site before it sprawled to include more than 130 cases. Popular Lake Louise and Nakiska resorts in Alberta also reported outbreaks among staff. Dr. Andrew Boozary, the executive director of population health and social medicine at the University Health Network, says it's clusters of cases like those that make ski hills concerning. "I have no anti-skiing bias — it's an activity that makes a whole lot of sense in Canada — but there's a lot of people who take on risk to ensure a ski hill is operational," he said. "A lot of the time we rely on people who are in temporary work or who've been underpaid, without living wages and without paid sick leave, to take on risk so some of us can have that pleasure and leisure activity." Boozary likened the recent emphasis on ski hills to that of golf courses over the summer, or to policy around cottages and seasonal vacation homes that were tailored to higher-income populations. Skiing, like golf, isn't affordable to everyone, he says. And while Boozary agrees that skiing and snowboarding can provide mental health benefits of exercise in a low-risk setting, he'd like to see more emphasis on ensuring lower-income populations have safe, outdoor spaces too. "We've seen this dichotomy, this tale of two pandemics. And we're seeing it now with skiing," Boozary said. "There's an income divide on who gets access to these spaces." Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert with the University of Alberta, says staff members at ski resorts are more likely than visitors to become infected because of the close proximity workers tend to be in. Sometimes they share indoor spaces like lunchrooms, which aren't conducive to mask-wearing when people are eating, Schwartz says, and "transmission thrives" in those settings. "The likelihood of infection is going to be a function of physical proximity, the amount of time they're in that proximity, the activities they're doing and whether there are precautions taken to minimize transmission." While skiers will generally be safe, those who wish to hit the slopes still need to be mindful of safety precautions, Schwartz says. He added that spread is more likely to happen before or after people glide down the mountains, like when they put on ski boots in a crowded indoor area. Those spots should be avoided when possible, Schwartz says, and masks should be worn when distance can't be maintained. Other factors could make trips to snowy resorts more dangerous, he added, including guests travelling from COVID hot spots and potentially bringing the virus with them into small ski towns. The rise of new variants of concern might require more stringent restrictions on skiers as well, says Parisa Ariya, a chemistry professor at McGill University who specializes in aerosol transmission. Ariya says while outdoor settings are far safer than indoors, spread "actually does happen outside" in some instances, and she recommends wearing a mask while skiing or snowboarding. Winters in Quebec and Ontario make air more dense, Ariya adds, which could have an impact on how long viral particles stay in the atmosphere. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says that while cold air may cause physical changes to aerosols "it does not translate to increased risk of disease transmission." He says risk of outdoor spread remains "quite low," except for situations with large crowds in close contact, like during concerts or sporting events. "From a public health standpoint I would much rather see 50 people skiing outdoors than a group of 10 watching TV together indoors," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2020. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — "Never Have I Ever" star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is among the Canadians on Time magazine's 100 Next list. Comedy star Mindy Kaling, who co-created Netflix's "Never Have I Ever," wrote the profile of the Tamil-Canadian teen in the newly released issue. Ramakrishnan is from Mississauga, Ont., and plays the leading role of a first-generation Indian-American dealing with the death of her father and the hormone-fuelled challenges of adolescence. The 19-year-old auditioned for the part in the coming-of-age comedy series after seeing an open casting call Kaling had posted on social media. Ramakrishnan beat out some 15,000 auditioners and recently got an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her performance. Also on the Time 100 Next list is Canadian-raised Apoorva Mehta, founder and CEO of grocery delivery company Instacart, and climate journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat, whose website says he is a member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil'Wat Nation of Mount Currie in British Columbia. Ramakrishnan made the "Phenoms" section of the list, which is an expansion of the magazine's flagship Time 100 franchise that highlights emerging leaders. The profiles are written by Time 100 alumni. Kaling wrote that Ramakrishnan is a "gifted comic actress" who "has an activist's heart and wants to use her platform to help others." "What’s most extraordinary about Maitreyi is that when you’re with her, you think you’re simply talking to a cool, smart teenager, but later, when you see her work onscreen, you realize you were actually interacting with a great artist at the beginning of her journey," Kaling wrote. "Thank you for seeing me as I am," Ramakrishnan tweeted to Kaling after the list was revealed Wednesday. In a video on the Time website, Ramakrishnan says she feels "a sense of responsibility to take strong roles that have actual character and story to them." "All genres are great, but it just matters about the actual character depth and what the project is trying to say to audiences." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Alongside the headline-grabbing race for a COVID-19 vaccine, the hunt for effective treatments has unfolded with its own share of flameouts and triumphs.Thanks to large randomized trials in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, administering steroids to patients with moderate or severe illness has become part of standard care, but clinicians say few other tools have emerged.The best known COVID-19 drug is likely dexamethasone, a corticosteroid with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects for hospitalized patients who need help breathing. But while that drug is credited with helping efforts to bring down hospital mortality rates, credit also goes to discoveries about what does not work against the novel coronavirus – thereby ensuring people get appropriate care.Here's a look at some of the drugs – deemed effective and not – that made headlines in recent months for fostering hype and hope:HEALTH CANADA-APPROVEDRemdesivir – Sold under the name Veklury, this Gilead Sciences drug was among various treatments given to former U.S. President Donald Trump when he successfully overcame COVID-19 last year. But its ability to cut deaths has since been largely discounted by a World Health Organization trial. An earlier study by Gilead found the drug helped moderately ill patients recover more quickly if given for five days, but that benefit was less clear if given over 10 days.Health Canada noted clinical trial data was limited when it approved remdesivir for COVID-19 last July but said "given the high unmet medical need and emergency context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Canada considered the balance of benefit and harm for Veklury to be positive."Bamlanivimab – The federal government paid US$32.5 million for 26,000 doses of this monoclonal antibody that targets the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Eli Lilly says an intravenous infusion can ease and prevent COVID-19 symptoms among mild-to-moderate cases in high-risk groups including seniors.Nevertheless, it has yet to be embraced by clinicians, with Hamilton infectious disease physician Zain Chagla calling it "a good example of a drug that might work on paper but really isn't a great drug to invest in."The associate professor of medicine at McMaster University points to barriers to implementation, which include the staffing and time required to implement the transfusion. Alberta Health Services says it's considering a trial to determine "potential for benefit and feasibility of use" while British Columbia said Monday a clinical trial in Surrey would be funded by AbCellera, the Vancouver company which helped discover bamlanivimab. CAUTIONS AGAINST EARLY HYPEHydroxychloroquine – Commonly used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, this drug earned infamy when U.S. President Donald Trump touted its efficacy with COVID-19 before the science was in. Since then, multiple rigorous trials have concluded it offers no benefit to preventing or treating illness while underscoring the dangers of mixing politics and science.Colchicine – Just last week, the Quebec government cautioned clinicians against embracing this anti-inflammatory as a COVID-19 therapy after the Montreal Heart Institute touted the common gout medication as "a major scientific discovery." Scientists at the National Institute for Excellence in Health and Social Services acknowledged the institute's study showed positive results, but said the benefit was too small.OTHER CONTENDERSTocilizumab – Dr. Niall Ferguson, head of critical care at the University Health Network and Sinai Health System, sees potential in early data for tocilizumab, approved for use in Canada to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although evolving data has been mixed and is still emerging, Ferguson notes the monoclonal antibody is already being used off-label for some severe patients.Heparin – Canadian scientists involved in a global trial for this blood thinner say interim data suggests it can keep some moderately ill COVID-19 patients from deteriorating further. University Health Network scientist Ewan Goligher says the probability of requiring life support dropped by about a third among subjects. He expects the study's findings to be released soon.Peginterferon-lambda – Research into this prospective antiviral treatment was recently published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Lead researcher Dr. Jordan Feld, a liver specialist at UHN's Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, says a small Phase 2 trial found it significantly sped recovery for outpatients. Although more research is needed, he suspected it could offer an important way to quickly bring down the virus level in infected patients and reduce their risk of spreading disease to others.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The Toronto Black Film Festival is hosting a panel discussion series with a title that speaks to a pervasive problem in the industry: Show Me the Money. Amid a racial reckoning sparked by the police killing of George Floyd last May, it seems awareness is heightened, and arts organizations are paying attention to systemic racism and barriers facing Black creators in Canada's film and TV industry, says festival president and founder Fabienne Colas. But money isn't flowing throughout the entire ecosystem, and there's still a lack of representation onscreen and in leadership positions behind the scenes, Colas adds. That needs to change soon, because as the clock ticks, "tons of white people are making decisions on what's going to be funded to go onscreen next year, and in two years," she says. "Billions of dollars are going through this industry, and tens of millions of dollars are being distributed through our public funders, and they don't necessarily go to Black producers and Black filmmakers. That's the problem," says Colas. As Colas's festival, which runs online through Sunday, and other screen projects help mark Black History Month in Canada, those in the country's arts world say the past year has been a critical one in terms of institutions responding to the calling out of racism, tokenism and microaggressions. Several organizations have announced funding for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) creators in Canada in the past year. Last summer, for instance, Telefilm Canada pledged $100,000 a year towards the creation of a Black Screen Office, and Bell Media partnered with the grassroots organization BIPOC TV & Film. But "the Canadian screen world has a long way to go," says Amanda Parris, a CBC TV and Radio host, writer, and playwright behind the monodrama "The Death News," which is part of the new CBC Gem anthology series "21 Black Futures" from CBC Arts and Obsidian Theatre in Toronto. "I feel like Canada is decades behind when it comes to representation onscreen of Black stories by Black creators," Parris says. "It's really depressing. And I think being so close to the United States and to the United Kingdom and seeing the things that are emerging there, it's hard to imagine when the time will come when Canada will see similar stories." Parris points to director Steve McQueen's recent "Small Axe" anthology series of five films for the BBC and Amazon Prime Video, which tells the story of London’s West Indian community. "It really hit home because there's such a huge Caribbean diaspora that lives here in Canada that has yet to see their historical stories told with the level of production, deep nuance of storytelling, the kind of budget that he clearly had," says Parris. Parris was born in the U.K. and felt a connection to the material but also "a certain level of sadness" at the idea that such programming may not be possible here for a while, she says. "I'm so reticent to have faith in a lot of the promises that have been made by so many of the networks. I'm not sure if they're going to feel a fire under them when the protests die down and when things get quieter in the same way." If Canada wants to have a vibrant screen industry, it needs to give everyone access to the same resources, says Colas. "Because otherwise, you're going to have white films that are really well done, and then you're going to have, what — Black films very low budget?" she says. "It doesn't make sense. So we need great, well-funded film across the board." Colas, who also founded film festivals in cities including Halifax and Montreal, says the Toronto instalment that's in its ninth edition still doesn't have all the support it needs from the industry. But several new partners have come onboard this year. She also sits on various diversity committees and says "things are moving in the right direction." Parris says she's encouraged by several projects underway in Canada, including the upcoming CBC series "The Porter," about railway workers in the historically Black Montreal community of Little Burgundy in the 1920s. Director Charles Officer, who helmed Parris's "The Death News," is working on the series along with several other Black creators. Then there's the CBC News prime-time show "Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa" and the new YouTube news program “The Brandon Gonez Show," launched in January by the titular Toronto broadcaster, who left CP24 to launch the project. Parris says Gonez as well as The Black Academy, recently launched by Toronto actor-brothers Shamier Anderson and Stephan James, are among several examples of a shift "away from a lot of these mainstream institutions to Black folks being like, 'What can we build ourselves?'" Anderson says he thinks change is happening, with even major Canadian broadcasters acknowledging a lack of diversity in their ranks, for instance. But "it needs to happen faster," he adds, noting The Black Academy is still looking for more funding besides that offered by the Canada Media Fund, as it builds its own award show and programming. "All these speeches and throne speeches and mandates and black squares and hashtags — I think we've got to put the money on the table, put the money where your mouth is," says Anderson. "Putting a social post just is not enough." In the theatre world, there's also "a very heightened, almost panicked awareness of the lack of diversity and the lack of Black representation," says Obsidian Theatre artistic director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, who conceived the idea for "21 Black Futures." Tindyebwa Otu says that conversation needs to extend beyond the faces seen onstage to those backstage and in the board rooms, so theatre companies don't burden any single individual working within a historically white institution to speak for the whole race. The "21 Black Futures" series, she says, is "almost like a catalogue of an example of who's out there and saying, 'Look at their work, see what they have to say, listen to their stories and contact these individuals,' so that there's never an excuse in the future of 'I have no idea who to reach out to or who to connect to' in the future.'" Black History Month gives institutions a convenient opportunity to think of funding and programming for four weeks out of the year, but the big shift is in realizing that "Black people are living these lives all year round," says Tindyebwa Otu. "Good for you for becoming more aware, but this is an investment, this is our daily lives, this is not a moment, this is our reality." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
NASHVILLE — Rita Fentress was worried she might get lost as she travelled down the unfamiliar forested, one-lane road in rural Tennessee in search of a coronavirus vaccine. Then the trees cleared and the Hickman County Agricultural Pavilion appeared. The 74-year-old woman wasn’t eligible to be vaccinated in Nashville, where she lives, because there were so many health care workers to vaccinate there. But a neighbour told her the state's rural counties had already moved to younger age groups and she found an appointment 60 miles away. “I felt kind of guilty about it,” she said. “I thought maybe I was taking it from someone else.” But late that February day, she said there were still five openings for the next morning. The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation. In some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones, with rural Republican lawmakers in Democrat-led states complaining of “picking winners and losers,” and urbanites travelling hours to rural GOP-leaning communities to score COVID-19 shots when there are none in their city. In Oregon, state GOP lawmakers walked out of a Legislative session last week over the Democratic governor's vaccine plans, citing rural vaccine distribution among their concerns. In upstate New York, public health officials in rural counties have complained of disparities in vaccine allocation and in North Carolina, rural lawmakers say too many doses were going to mass vaccine centres in big cities. In Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama, a dearth of shots in urban areas with the greatest number of health care workers has led senior citizens to snap up appointments hours from their homes. The result is a hodgepodge of approaches that can look like the exact opposite of equity, where those most likely to be vaccinated are people with the savvy and means to search out a shot and travel to wherever it is. “It’s really, really flawed,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who noted there are even vaccine hunters who will find a dose for money. “Ideally, allocations would meet the population’s needs.” With little more than general guidance from the federal government, states have taken it upon themselves to decide what it means to distribute the vaccine fairly and reach vulnerable populations. Tennessee, like many states, has divvied up doses based primarily on county population, not on how many residents belong to eligible groups — such as health care workers. The Tennessee health commissioner has defended the allocation as the “most equitable,” but the approach has also exposed yet another layer of haves and have-nots as the vaccine rollout accelerates. In Oregon, the issue led state officials to pause dose deliveries in some rural areas that had finished inoculating their health care workers while clinics elsewhere, including the Portland metro area, caught up. The dust-up last month prompted an angry response, with some state GOP lawmakers accusing the Democratic governor of playing favourites with the urban dwellers who elected her. Public health leaders in Morrow County, a farming region in northeastern Oregon with one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates, said they had to delay two vaccine clinics because of the state's decision. Other rural counties delayed vaccines for seniors. States face plenty of challenges. Rural counties are less likely to have the deep-freeze equipment necessary to store Pfizer vaccines. Health care workers are often concentrated in big cities. And rural counties were particularly hard hit by COVID-19 in many states, but their residents are among the most likely to say they're “definitely not” going to get vaccinated, according to recent Kaiser Family Foundation polling. Adalja said most of these complications were foreseeable and could have been avoided with proper planning and funding. “There are people who know how to do this,” he said. “They're just not in charge of it.” In Missouri, where Facebook groups have emerged with postings about appointment availabilities in rural areas, state Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, a Democrat from the Kansas City suburb of Independence, cited a need to direct more vaccine to urban areas. The criticism drew an angry rebuke from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who said vaccine distribution has been proportional to the population and critics are using “cherry-picked” data. “There is no division between rural and urban Missouri,” Parson said during his weekly COVID-19 update last week. In Republican-led Tennessee, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey notes that the Trump administration deemed the state’s plan among the nation's most equitable. Extra doses go to 35 counties with a high social vulnerability index score — many small and rural, but also Shelby County, which includes Memphis, with a large Black population. Last week, state officials revealed some 2,400 doses had been wasted in Shelby County over the past month due to miscommunication and insufficient record-keeping. The county also built up nearly 30,000 excessive doses in its inventory. The situation caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate and the county health director to resign. In Nashville, Democratic Mayor John Cooper says the fact that city residents can get shots elsewhere is a positive, even if the road trips are “a little bit of a pain.” “I’m grateful that other counties have not said, ‘Oh my gosh, you have to be a resident of this county always to get the vaccine,’” Cooper said. Nashville educators Jennifer Simon and Jessica Morris took sick days last week to make the four-hour round-trip to tiny Van Buren County, population less than 6,000. They got their first shots there in January, when Republican Gov. Bill Lee was pushing Nashville and Memphis area schools to return to in-person classes. Republican lawmakers even threatened to pull funding from districts that remained online. In-person classes started a couple weeks ago, but the city only began vaccinating teachers last week. “It was scary, frustrating, and feeling really betrayed,” Simon said. ____ Flaccus reported from Portland, Oregon. Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri; Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, N.C., and Carla Johnson in Washington state contributed. Travis Loller, Jonathan Mattise And Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said on Monday that Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka had gone back into lockdown due to rising COVID-19 cases and transmission of more infectious variants. Seven other public health units eased restrictions, as they moved down a level in the provincial framework.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Police in Sri Lanka said Monday they have arrested two people in connection with the death of a 9-year-old girl who was repeatedly beaten during a ritual they believed would drive away an evil spirit. The two suspects — the woman performing the exorcism and the girl's mother — appeared in court on Monday to hear charges over the girl's death, which occurred over the weekend in Delgoda, a small town about 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of the capital, Colombo. The court ordered the suspects detained until March 12. According to police spokesperson Ajith Rohana, the mother believed her daughter had been possessed by a demon and took her to the home of the exorcist so a ritual could be performed to drive the spirit away. Rohana said the exorcist first put oil on the girl and then began to repeatedly hit her with a cane. When the girl lost consciousness, she was taken to a hospital, where she died. An autopsy was scheduled for Monday. The woman who performed the ritual on the girl was known in the area for offering such services in recent months and police were investigating whether anyone else had been abused, Rohana said. Rohana urged the public to be careful about such services as the girl was not the first to die during such a ritual. Bharatha Mallawarachi, The Associated Press
Félixanne Harvey, alias Créations Art’vey, n’en revient pas de la chance qu’elle a. À 20 ans, l’étudiante en psychologie à l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) a réussi à trouver son créneau artistique : elle peint des portraits d’animaux réalistes avec une touche colorée qui sont très appréciés par les internautes. Pour ceux qui la connaissent, il n’est pas surprenant de voir Félixanne avec des pinceaux dans les mains. La jeune femme a toujours apprécié l’art et fait du dessin d’aussi longtemps qu’elle se souvienne. À l’âge de 10 ans, la jeune artiste a suivi quelques cours de dessin, ainsi que quelques cours de peinture, au fil des années. À compter de son 13e anniversaire, Félixanne préférait créer de chez elle. « Au début, dans mes cours de peinture, je faisais surtout des paysages. Quand j’ai commencé à peindre des animaux, j’ai vraiment trouvé ma voie. J’ai vu que j’avais plus d’intérêt, alors que je suis passionnée d’animaux », commente-t-elle, lors d’un entretien par visioconférence avec Le Quotidien. Sa spécialité est le portrait d’animaux réalistes en acrylique, sur lequel elle ajoute de la couleur et de la texture. « Il y a beaucoup d’artistes qui font des portraits réalistes d’animaux. C’est sûr que moi, j’ajoute ma touche de couleurs. Ça fait trois ans maintenant que j’ai peaufiné ce style-là », souligne-t-elle. Ses animaux préférés sont les félins et les pandas, mais elle essaie continuellement de diversifier ses créations. Ce style bien précis est devenu sa marque de commerce bien apprécié des internautes, qui sont plus de 3000 à suivre l’Almatoise d’origine à travers ses œuvres. « Je ne pensais pas que les réseaux sociaux pouvaient autant me propulser. Ça permet aussi de toucher des gens que je n’aurais probablement jamais touchés autrement », rappelle-t-elle. Avec des concours, collaborations et participations à quelques symposiums, Félixanne s’est fait découvrir sur la Toile. Ce sont davantage des gens dans le coin de Montréal et de Québec qui suivent la jeune artiste. Sa plus grande collaboration à ce jour est celle avec Confection Imagine. Les clients peuvent retrouver les œuvres de la jeune artiste sur des accessoires de l’entreprise jonquiéroise. « On essaie de rendre l’art accessible avec un produit dérivé fait au Québec. C’est un projet plaisant pour nos clients qui encouragent deux entreprises locales à la fois », raconte Félixanne. La collaboration dure depuis deux ans et n’est pas près de s’arrêter. De nouveaux produits sont continuellement mis en vente. En plus de faire les illustrations sur les accessoires, comme sur des trousses ou des sacs à main, elle fait aussi les motifs des boutons en époxy. Conciliation travail-études Quand Félixanne a commencé à dessiner, jamais elle ne s’était imaginé qu’à 20 ans, elle pourrait vivre de ce loisir à temps partiel. Pour elle, la peinture est son emploi étudiant, ce qui fait qu’elle peut continuer ses études en toute tranquillité. La pandémie est venue faciliter cette conciliation. « Je trouve ça plus facile, avec la pandémie, ça m’a vraiment aidée. Puisque je suis toujours à la maison, dès que j’ai un temps libre, je peux vraiment me consacrer à mon art », confie-t-elle. Avec l’école à la maison, elle peut travailler sur certains projets lorsqu’elle en a envie. À l’été, elle se concentrera encore plus sur ses créations. Elle ouvrira ses commandes personnalisées, en plus de participer à des symposiums. En deux ans, elle compte déjà cinq participations à ces événements. On pourra voir les œuvres de Félixanne au Symposium international de peinture et de sculpture du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, au Symposium de peinture de L’Ascension et probablement au Symposium en arts visuels Couleurs urbains à Granby, où elle avait gagné le prix du maire à son dernier passage. Son dossier est en attente d’approbation. Lorsqu’elle pense à la suite, la jeune artiste ne rêve pas à l’argent ou aux galeries. Elle a découvert sa mission, au fil des années : rendre son art le plus accessible possible, avec des toiles et des produits dérivés. Elle souhaite que ses œuvres conviennent à tous les budgets, elle joue donc avec les tailles et les différents produits. Elle espère pouvoir pratiquer ce loisir encore longtemps tout en trouvant sa voie dans le domaine de la santé. Myriam Arsenault, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
A study published Wednesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found the risk of death from COVID-19 was 3.5 times higher than from influenza. The numbers put a figure on the severity of the novel coronavirus, which experts have been speaking to since the pandemic began. The study analyzed hospitalized cases of COVID and influenza between November 2019 and June 2020 in seven Toronto-area hospitals, finding that people admitted with COVID-19 were 1.5 times more likely to need intensive care, and stayed in hospitals 1.5 times longer than patients admitted with influenza. The study used data extracted from hospital computer systems to describe details of patients' hospitalizations, says Dr. Amol Verma of St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto. That data included things like demographics, vital signs, laboratory test results, use of hospital resources like ventilators, and outcomes of their hospital stay — whether they died in hospital, needed intensive care, or were re-admitted. The findings from the Canadian study were similar to results recently reported in France and the United States, the CMAJ says. "We can now say definitively that COVID-19 is much more severe than seasonal influenza," Verma said in a release. The study described hospitalizations in Toronto and Mississauga, Ont. — areas with large populations and high levels of COVID-19 — and included all patients admitted to medical services or the intensive care units (ICU) for influenza or COVID-19. There were 1,027 hospitalizations for COVID-19 in 972 patients — some re-admissions were included in the study — compared to 783 hospitalizations for influenza in 763 patients. Those figures represent 23.5 per cent of all hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Ontario during the study period. Most patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had few other illnesses, and 21 per cent were younger than 50 years of age. People younger than 50 also accounted for 24 per cent of admissions to the ICU, the study found. While COVID-19 generally affects older adults more severely, Verma says the study highlights that the illness can also have serious impacts on younger people. The flu hospitalizations included in the study happened mainly from November 2019 to February 2020, Verma says. While COVID hospitalizations from the study occurred mainly from March to June, Verma adds there were some earlier cases in the Toronto area that were also included. Verma says the figures may be "magnified" by low levels of immunity to the COVID virus, compared to that of the seasonal flu. He adds that COVID vaccines should help decrease severity of the infection over time. "There is, unfortunately, also the possibility that variants of the virus could be even more severe," he added. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021. The Canadian Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):10:40 a.m.Ontario is reporting 1,023 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.Health Minister Christine Elliott says of the new cases, 280 are in Toronto, 182 are in Peel Region and 72 are in Ottawa.Ontario says 939 more cases were resolved since the last daily report.More than 17,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the province since Sunday's update.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
Some 329 nominations have been received for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, likely reflecting the profusion of pressing human rights issues around the world, the secretary of the committee which awards the prize said on Monday. "It is the third highest ever total number," Norwegian Nobel Committee Secretary Olav Njoelstad told Reuters. "It reflects a lot of international interest in the Nobel Peace Prize," he said.
TORONTO — On set they called her "COVID Cathy," or "CC" for short. As the COVID-19 supervisor on the new Toronto-shot CBC series "Pretty Hard Cases," Catherine Lang had to not only help develop pandemic protocols for the production, but also keep a close eye on the cast and crew to ensure they were following them. It can be a tricky position, having to police everyone while trying to prevent positive cases, but Lang says she was determined to keep the mood upbeat. "What I found the hardest about COVID supervising was that it's hard to spend 100 per cent of your day worrying about people's health. And unfortunately, I'm a bit of a worrier," Lang says. "Eating, breathing, sleeping — 24-7 — I couldn't get it out of my mind. Because at the beginning all I could think was, 'What if I do something or don't do something and somebody gets sick?' And that was quite a large stress for me." Lang's position, which is also sometimes called a COVID compliance officer, is a now common one on Canadian film and TV sets. And it's one she predicts will be around for another year or so. The supervisor typically works alongside the producers and a team of medical, health and safety professionals to create COVID protocols using government guidelines and ensure they're adhered to. Both industry and medical professionals can qualify for the position. "They were accepted, but definitely were the sort of hall monitors of the production shoot that can frustrate people when they're trying to do their jobs," Alex Jordan, a producer on Global's "Private Eyes," says of their COVID supervising team. "We had to be very cognizant of the mental health of everyone. To some people's opinion, you're not doing enough. And in some cases, people are like, 'This is too much. You're overkill.'" "Kim's Convenience" star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee says their COVID protocol officer was Cher Merlo, who has a background in film and TV production. She "worked tirelessly" on things like modifying the actors' masks and shields to ensure they would be effective but wouldn't disrupt their hair and makeup between takes. "She had the hardest job on set, because her job was to be the bad guy and to remind them of the protocols and of doing things like sanitizing your hands and wearing your mask and staying two metres apart," Lee says. "Pretty Hard Cases" stars Adrienne C. Moore and Meredith MacNeill say they went to great lengths to help Lang not feel "like a bad guy." "I remember when Cathy gave her first speech at the start, Adrienne and I looked at each other and then gave her the biggest cheer. We were like 'Cathy!'" says MacNeill. "We used to call her COVID Cathy. We were like 'CC, yes, in the house!' The staff knew Lang was "only trying to help," notes MacNeill. "So we approached it, and the whole crew approached it, with a 'thank you.'" Lang had worked as an assistant producer and production manager before becoming a COVID supervisor on "Pretty Hard Cases." Lang says she read everything she could about the virus and "spent many hours on the phone" with producer Wanda Chaffey and executive producer Amy Cameron. The three developed protocols for every department with a consulting physician. "As I would walk through the set, I would see people adjust their masks and pull their shields down. It was very cute," Lang says laughing. Of course, Lang also wore personal protective equipment, since she had to be in more spaces on set than most. She says she "never felt unsafe" but found the thought of somebody getting sick in the workplace "horrifying" and had to learn to stop worrying about things that were out of her control. "Eventually I had to say to myself, 'I can't stop this. I can control what happens in the workplace to an extent, but I can't control what happens outside of the workplace.'" The cast and crew were very compliant, Lang says, noting "everybody really wanted to be safe." Chassey and Cameron were with her every step of the way. In the end, they had no incident of anyone contracting COVID-19 at work, she says. While there were two positive cases, they were contracted outside production, caught through testing and had no community spread. Toronto nurse Meghan McKenna became a COVID supervisor on the CBC series "Coroner" through her employer, the third-party medical consulting firm Oncidium, which provided guidance and support to the show, including a full-time nursing staff. She hadn't worked in film and TV before and was "on a steep learning curve" in that regard as they collaborated with producers, she says. They held mandatory health sessions for everyone on set. One of McKenna's key goals was for the cast and crew to understand the uncertain nature of a pandemic, so if provincial case numbers rose and protocols changed, they would be onboard instead of feeling they were being fed misinformation. She also taught everyone how viruses or bacteria spread through communities, so when pandemic fatigue set in, they understood how to protect themselves and why every single protocol matters. The pressure on the job comes with not wanting to see the production fail, says McKenna. But her experiences working in hospital have taught her she "can't control what people are doing 100 per cent." She also likes the idea that should someone have a medical issue on set, she's able to guide them through it and manage it. McKenna's nursing background and experience in emergency rooms also helped her feel "fine with being the police" on set. "That is such a big part of health teaching, is telling people things they don't want to hear," she says. "I really like the challenge of getting through to someone over time." While producers say "Coroner" had "a few issues" with COVID-19 cases, they weren't on set, were easily contact-traced and had no community spread. And no one had to be reminded of the protocols later in production, McKenna says. "Everyone's helping remind each other," she says. "The crew is all keeping each other safe," adds "Coroner" executive producer Suzanne Colvin-Goulding. "Everybody has adopted the mentality that we are in this together." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The Tragically Hip will be toasted with this year's humanitarian award at the 2021 Juno Awards. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences says it selected the Kingston, Ont. rock band for its "timeless music and philanthropic pursuits" that affected generations of people around the world. Known to many Canadians as the musicians behind "Bobcaygeon" and "Ahead By a Century," the Hip have helped raise millions of dollars for various social and environmental causes. Among them, they've supported several charities, including Camp Trillium and the Special Olympics, and most recently sold face masks that raised more than $50,000 for the Unison Benevolent Fund, which provides counselling and emergency relief services to the music industry. The Hip's late lead singer Gord Downie was also part of the band's final Canadian tour, which helped raise more than $1 million for the Canadian Cancer Society and the Sunnybrook Foundation. Downie died of brain cancer in October 2017. The Hip will be presented with the honour as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Junos, which will broadcast from Toronto on May 16. Since first being presented in 2006, the humanitarian award has been given to artists that include Buffy Sainte-Marie, Sarah McLachlan, Rush and members of Arcade Fire. The Hip's members included Downie, Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois and Gord Sinclair. Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Before a late night rehearsal in December, Terrence Floyd couldn’t remember the last time he squatted on a drum throne, sticks in hand and ready to perform. Surely, he said, it had not happened since his brother, George Floyd, died at the hands of police in Minneapolis last May, sparking a global reckoning over systemic racism and police brutality. Now, Terrence is lending a talent he honed as a youngster in a church band to help produce and promote a forthcoming album of protest anthems inspired by the Black Lives Matter demonstrations prompted in part by his brother's death. “I want to pay my respects to my brother any way I can, whether it’s a march, whether it’s just talking to somebody about him, or whether it’s doing what I do and playing the drums,” Terrence told The Associated Press. “His heartbeat is not beating no more,” he said, “but I can beat for him.” The untitled project, set for release one year after George Floyd’s death, follows a long history of racial justice messages and protest slogans crossing over into American popular music and culture. In particular, music has been a vehicle for building awareness of grassroots movements, often carrying desperate pleas or enraged battle cries across the airwaves. Terrence was recruited for the project by the Rev. Kevin McCall, a New York City activist who said he believes an album of street-inspired protest anthems does not yet exist. “These protest chants that were created have been monumental,” said McCall. “It created a movement and not a moment.” Some songs make bold declarations, like the protest anthem album’s lead single, “No Justice No Peace.” The well-known protest refrain, popularized in the U.S. in the 1980s, is something that millennials grew up hearing before they joined the front lines of their generation’s civil rights movement, McCall said. McCall is featured on the track, along with his fiancée, singer Malikka Miller, and choir members from Brooklyn’s Grace Tabernacle Christian Center. The song is currently available for purchase and streaming on iTunes, Amazon Music and YouTube. Godfather Records, a label run and owned by David Wright, pastor of Grace Tabernacle Christian Center, plans to put out the seven-song album. His late father, Timothy Wright, is considered the “Godfather of gospel music.” “We’re mixing gospel music with social justice, to reach the masses,” Wright said. “We have always been strengthened through songs, like ‘We Shall Overcome’ and ‘Wade in the Water.’ I want to put a new twist on it.” There is a history of interplay between music and Black protest. The 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles Police Department officers — as well as the contemporary “war on drugs” — amplified NWA’s 1988 anthem, “F(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) tha Police,” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” released in 1989. More recently, Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” Beyoncé’s “Freedom” featuring Lamar, and YG’s “FDT” provided a soundtrack for many BLM protests. Legendary musician and activist Stevie Wonder released his hit 1980 song, “Happy Birthday,” as part of a campaign to recognize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday as a federal holiday. King’s Day, which faced years of opposition at the national level, was officially recognized in 1986, three years after it won the backing of federal lawmakers. Some historians cite Billie Holiday’s musical rendition of the Abel Meeropol poem, “Strange Fruit,” in 1939 as one of the sparks of the civil rights movement. The song paints in devastating detail the period of lynching carried out against Black Americans for decades after the abolition of slavery, often as a way to terrorize and oppress those who sought racial equality. The new film “United States vs. Billie Holiday” depicts the jazz luminary’s real-life struggle to perform the song in spite of opposition from government officials. Singer and actress Andra Day, who portrays Holiday in the film, recently told the AP the song's significance influenced her decision to take on the role. “It was her singing this song in defiance of the government that reinvigorated the movement,” Day said. “And so that was really incentivizing for me.” Todd Boyd, the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture at the University of Southern California, said many of the most well-known protest chants came out of the civil rights and Black power movements, and then inspired songs. “That’s how culture works,” Boyd said. “Something that starts out in one space can very easily grow into something bigger and broader, if the movement itself is influential.” Terrence Floyd said the protest anthem project feels like a fitting way to honour his brother’s memory. Many years before his death, George Floyd dabbled in music — he was occasionally invited to rap on mixtapes produced by DJ Screw, a fixture of the local hip-hop scene in Houston. “If his music couldn’t make it out of Houston, I’m using my Floyd musical ability to reach people in his name,” Terrence said. ___ AP entertainment reporter Jamia Pugh in Philadelphia contributed. ___ Morrison is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison. Aaron Morrison, The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska Department of Health and Human Services has reported fewer than 100 influenza cases in the state during this flu season, down from close to 400 cases at this time last year. While 13 state residents died with the flu last season, so far this season, only two flu deaths have been recorded in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reported on Sunday. The 2018-19 flu season yielded almost 12 times more flu cases in the state compared to the ongoing 2020-21 season, said Carrie Edmonson, a state nurse epidemiologist who compiles the state’s weekly “flu snapshot” report. Flu death data for the entire U.S. population is hard to compile quickly, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials maintain a count on how many children die from influenza. One pediatric flu death has been reported so far this season compared to 195 deaths in the 2019-20 season. During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the CDC estimated that influenza was associated with 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths across the country. “This is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials such as Edmonson have said that public health orders aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus have also prevented the flu from spreading. Officials also attribute the flu's decline to less influenza testing and increased flu vaccinations, the newspaper reported. The Associated Press