Business is booming for professional Christmas light installers as people search for a bit of brightness during the pandemic.
Business is booming for professional Christmas light installers as people search for a bit of brightness during the pandemic.
WASHINGTON — Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling. “To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said. The sober moment on the eve of Biden's inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation. During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam. Biden was joined by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice-president when she's sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday's Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that's been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing. “These are dark times," Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. "But there’s always light.” Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump's effort to leave the Paris climate accord, cancelling Trump's travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments. Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden's name. Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself. Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey. “I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks. Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions. The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring. Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies. Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden's immigration plan. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles. Many of Biden's legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump. As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defence nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned. Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Aides say Biden will use Wednesday's inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together. To that end, he extended invitations to Congress' top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting. ___ This story has been corrected to show that flags on the National Mall represent people who couldn't come, not COVID deaths. Bill Barrow And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
Greek coastguard officials recovered the body of one man and rescued 27 people from a rocky beach on the island of Lesbos after they apparently arrived by boat from Turkey, authorities said on Tuesday. The influx of refugees and migrants to Greece fell by 80% last year compared to 2019. Turkey hosts more than three million refugees and migrants and more than 90,000 are also in Greece, mostly housed in overcrowded camps while waiting for their applications for asylum to be processed.
Ninety per cent of physicians would feel comfortable getting immunized against COVID-19 today, if they could. That’s according to Doctors Manitoba vaccination survey, which saw 507 physicians respond — 75 per cent of whom are in the Winnipeg region. Some physicians indicated they would wait to allow those "more at risk" to get immunized first, according to the survey. "I would say no to the vaccine today, because I think there’s others who need it first. But I do want it when there’s enough to go around," stated one physician. Overall, physicians are supportive of the vaccine and are eager to participate in its delivery, said Dr. Cory Baillie, president of Doctors Manitoba and a rheumatologist who works at the Manitoba Clinic. Conversations with the province have begun, he said. Included in the survey results shared with media is a public poll which found that 90 per cent of people would be willing to go to their physician’s office to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Baillie said that’s because doctors know their patients’ histories and patients trust them. Baillie also said vaccine hesitancy does exist, and the main concerns relate to how quickly vaccines have been developed, as well as there not being a lot of resources and educational material related to them. Social media hasn’t helped in that regard. "There’s no end to different theories that are available on different social media sites. Talk to your physician. Talk to a health-care provider who you can trust to get appropriate information," he said. "These vaccines were studied and are safe and our future out of the pandemic is going to be essential on getting enough Manitobans immunized." According to the survey, doctors want more information about vaccines regarding safety and effectiveness. "In the survey, and one of the things I found particularly helpful about it, was that they outlined what types of tools physicians would find most useful when it comes to vaccine information," Dr. Joss Reimer said at Monday’s provincial news conference. Reimer is a member of Manitoba’s vaccination task force. "We’re going to take the information that they provided and take that back to the task force, to start looking at how we might be able to develop, in partnership, some of those tools, because we absolutely want our physicians, our nurses, our pharmacists, and all of our other immunizers to have every tool that they need to provide accurate information to their patients, to their clients, and to help inform Manitobans about this vaccine to demonstrate how safe and effective it is," she said. Tools include fact sheets and brochures, frequently asked questions, posters, webinars, videos and podcasts. Reimer also noted that for those few patients where there might be some risks that need to be considered, it’s important physicians have the tools to be able to have that conversation with them. The Doctors Manitoba survey results can be read at bit.ly/3sDHXSU Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has delayed its high school scenarios process yet again, leaving parents of junior high students waiting to find out where their child will attend high school. Some of those parents say it's time for the school board to "pull the Band-Aid off," allowing families to plan for the future. Christopher Usih, chief superintendent of the CBE, said the purpose of this work will determine the catchment areas for students entering high school in the 2022-2023 school year. The plan is meant to deal with growing capacity issues faced by numerous high schools in the city. "Otherwise what will happen is we'll have situations where if a school is way above capacity, then we run into challenges around safety and even our ability to be able to provide effective programming because there are just too many students in that one building," he said. "You probably heard in fall of last school year that one of our high schools, [Ernest Manning], was way over capacity and we were really challenged from a health and safety standpoint." Changing timelines Documents posted on the CBE website in May 2019 said the original timeline for the engagement process would see the scenarios finalized and communicated between July and October 2021. In February 2020, the timeline was adjusted, pushing back the engagement and presentation of possible scenarios from March to June 2020, to September to November last year. However, that never happened, and in November, CBE parents were informed that the board would be sharing the high school scenarios with them this month. But in an email sent home last week, the CBE informed parents there would be yet another delay — and that scenarios would be released and and engagement would take place between Feb. 23 and March 17. Kelly Van Webber has a daughter in junior high who will be directly impacted by these decisions. The area their family lives in is currently designated for Ernest Manning, but these potential boundary changes could see them designated to Central Memorial. "The concerning part around that is … when they redid the boundaries for [Ernest Manning High School] before, they basically said in November of that year, 'your kids are going to these schools,' and it was under a year to plan and families were thrown into chaos," he said. COVID-19 to blame for delays Usih said all of the delays to this process have been caused by COVID-19 and the challenges the school board has faced when it comes to school re-entry and online learning. He said it's been an adjustment to switch to engaging families and staff online, as opposed to an in-person session. Van Webber said he struggles to see how this work can be dragging on for more than a year-and-a-half. "[The CBE] knows the numbers, so make a decision and let people plan," he said. "Pull the Band-Aid off already." For his family, Van Webber said knowing which high school their daughter is designated to has big implications. "We're going to see where our designated high school is and we've talked to different families and said, 'Hey, do we form some sort of carpool to go to Bowness?' for example. A bit of a circuitous route to get there, but at least it's a shorter commute," he said. "We've kicked around the idea of, do we move basically a kilometre away to get on the other side of Old Banff Coach road to get into the catchment for Manning if we decide that's the best or the appropriate school? Should move into the catchment area? So, going back and forth with that." CBE confident parents will have time to plan Usih said he appreciates and understands that families want their child to attend a school where there's strong and effective programming. "And, if parents have concerns about programming or any aspect of the school there, we have processes in place for addressing those," he said. "But I cannot emphasize enough the need to ensure that we have strong programming in every one of our schools." Van Webber said the uncertainty of this process is beginning to weigh on students too. "My daughter is in Grade 8 now, and she and her friends are starting to talk about it and, you know, you kind of want some certainty for them as they go into high school, especially with all the wackiness that COVID has caused," he said. Usih said he knows the last year has been a difficult period for many. "We want to make sure that we are we are doing our due diligence to communicate clearly and to provide opportunities for families to know what our plan is going forward," he said. "And I'm confident that, you know, the timelines that we've we've indicated will will satisfy that expectation." Following the engagement in March, Usih said the scenarios are subject to change. But, he said the CBE is committed to finalizing all scenarios for 2022-2023 by no later than December 2021.
La proposition du conseiller de l’opposition David De Cotis de rebaptiser l’aréna Saint-François du nom de Jacques St-Jean a rallié les élus du parti au pouvoir, des deux oppositions et des élus indépendants lors de la séance du conseil municipal de janvier. Ainsi, il a été décidé à l’unanimité d’en saisir le comité chargé d’analyser les demandes de dénomination toponymique. «C’est un honneur en tant que représentant des citoyens de Saint-François d’appuyer cette proposition», a déclaré le conseiller et membre du Mouvement lavallois – Équipe Marc Demers, Éric Morasse. Son collègue Yannick Langlois, qui préside aux destinées du Comité de toponymie, a pour sa part qualifié Jacques St-Jean de «bâtisseur» et de «personnalité très importante dans l’histoire du hockey et du sport de Laval», précisant que «le comité analysera le dossier» à la lumière de la Politique de dénomination toponymique. Celle-ci, adoptée au printemps 2018, vise à mettre en valeur le patrimoine et la culture locale par l’attribution de noms évocateurs à des lieux et espaces publics. Aux yeux de M. De Cotis, le proposeur, il s’agirait d’un «honneur bien mérité» pour celui qui s’est dévoué pendant plus d’un demi-siècle auprès de la population lavalloise. Conseiller municipal de Saint-François pendant 24 ans, soit jusqu’à ce qu’il quitte la vie politique en 2017, Jacques St-Jean avait été régisseur des sports pour l’ancienne ville de Chomedey avant la grande fusion de 1965. Son nom est indissociable du hockey, lui qui a notamment dirigé dans les années 1970 le National de Laval à la belle époque de Mike Bossy. En 1975, il fonda sa propre école de hockey qui, pendant plus de 40 ans, a accueilli des milliers de jeunes Lavallois. Aujourd’hui âgé de 85 ans, M. St-Jean, qui fut intronisé au Temple de la renommée du hockey québécois en 1996, a fait carrière dans l’enseignement, plus précisément au sein de la défunte Commission scolaire de Chomedey où il a œuvré à titre de conseiller pédagogique en éducation physique. Si cette proposition devait être entérinée par le Comité de toponymie, l’aréna Saint-François deviendrait le 4e amphithéâtre à être rebaptisé sous l’administration Demers. En 2014, l’aréna Laval-Ouest est devenu l’aréna Hartland-Monahan en l’honneur de celui qui fut le premier Lavallois repêché par la Ligue nationale de hockey. Les défunts Golden Seals de la Californie en avait fait leur choix en 1971. Deux ans plus tard, ce fut au tour de l’aréna Samson de changer de nom pour celui de l’ex-grande vedette du Lightning de Tampa Bay, le Lavallois Martin Saint-Louis. Enfin, en 2019, l’aréna Chomedey était renommé l’aréna Pierre-Creamer en l’honneur de cet entraîneur lavallois qui a notamment eu le privilège de diriger Mario Lemieux à la barre des Penguins de Pittsburgh à la fin des années 1980. À lire également: Jacques St-Jean reçoit le Prix Artisan 2020 Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
In a moment of nation-splintering turmoil, an incoming American president, Abraham Lincoln, travelled by train to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., in a nerve-racking ride cloaked in disguise as he faced threats to his life. Now, 160 years later, an incoming president has cancelled plans for a train ride to Washington. It was supposed to be a symbolic journey highlighting Joe Biden's decades-long habit of riding the rails to D.C. each day from his family home in Delaware. Instead, it has taken on a sad new symbolism, of an American capital clenched shut in fear of political violence at Wednesday's inauguration. The question nagging at residents here, and at security analysts, is whether the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the worst of a passing storm, a one-off, or the start of a dark era of political violence. What's already clear is this will be no normal inauguration. The American capital has transformed into a heavily armed and tightly barricaded fortress. "Clearly, we are in uncharted waters," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told a news conference last week, urging tourists to stay away from her city during the inauguration. Fences are now up around Washington's downtown. Thousands of soldiers are patrolling the streets, bridges are blocked, parking garages are shut, bicycle-sharing services are suspended, Airbnb reservations are cancelled, and residents are being urged on neighbourhood chat groups against renting rooms to tourists. Suspicion strikes Capitol Hill neighbourhood Security concerns are most acute in the neighbourhood near the Capitol. Lawyer Matt Scarlato already has an overnight bag packed in case unrest spills into his neighbourhood and he's forced to flee the city with his family. He lives near one of the new security barriers near Capitol Hill, where police are forcing residents on some streets to show ID if they want to access their home. Scarlato was working from home the day of the riot in the Capitol building, when unexploded bombs were found near political party offices. He received a message from his son's daycare urging parents to immediately come pick up their children. Scarlato grabbed a baseball bat and tossed it in the car for the ride to the daycare. "It was a minute-by-minute escalation," Scarlato said. "We were all just sitting in the house saying, 'What the hell is going on?'" A longtime resident of the area, he compared the recent panic to a smaller-scale version of what he witnessed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On the day of the Capitol riot, he was concerned by the sight of an unfamiliar RV on his street given the reports of bombs in Washington and the recent explosion in Nashville. For her part, Monica Ingram, a retired health-care administrator, was rattled yesterday morning by the sound of helicopters hovering over the same Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Around that same time, the congressional precinct was ordered evacuated. The panic was the result of an explosion and fire nearby, caused by a propane tank in a homeless encampment. Ingram said people now look at each other differently, warily. Ingram saw a man taking pictures of streets near the Capitol the other day and she worried whether he was up to something nefarious. "We're suspicious of each other now. It's sad," she said. "It's very disheartening, upsetting. It's like I don't even know this country anymore." WATCH | Staff and media scramble as a blast goes off during inauguration rehearsal: Some call for indoor inauguration She's among the many people with mixed feelings about whether this inauguration should even be happening in public. Ultimately, she prefers it going forward, as opposed to moving to a makeshift indoor location, in order to deliver a message: that this country won't buckle in fear. There is, however, a part of her that hopes Biden might throw another inaugural party, a year from now, a real festive party, after this pandemic, and this panic. Biden should have a "redo" inauguration, she said. "It's so sad that president-elect Biden has to be sworn in like this. It should be a day of joy for this country." There's no guarantee this place will feel safer in a year. Mark Hertling, a retired lieutenant-general who led U.S. soldiers in Europe, said he worries about whether the United States is now entering an era of political insurgency. And he's not alone. One-time riot or preview of insurgency? Some analysts who study domestic political violence have warned for years (in thesis papers and books and government reports) that the conditions existed for an American insurgency on the right. Those conditions include a proliferation of guns, a surge in ex-military joining militia groups, two increasingly hostile political parties, and a split along racial and cultural lines in a rapidly diversifying country. A 2018 book, Alt-America, charts how membership in armed militia groups skyrocketed after the election of a first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, and these fringe groups began showing up at political protests. Alleged members of such militias are now accused of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where numerous people were dressed in paramilitary-themed clothing and several could be heard in the crowd warning they'd be back with weapons. "Welcome to the reality of other countries," said Greg Ehrie, who led FBI domestic terrorism units and is now vice-president of law enforcement and analysis at the Anti-Defamation League. "There is sort of an underlying belief that if we can get through Wednesday, this stops and then it moves on. And that's just not true.… This is going to be something we're going to be living with for several years — this heightened sense of security." Details released since the siege of the Capitol suggest things could have been worse. Jan. 6 could have been worse One man arrested that day allegedly had two guns and enough materials to make 11 Molotov cocktails, and another allegedly had a loaded gun, spare bullets and a gas mask. A federal prosecutor said one air force veteran who carried plastic handcuffs intended to take hostages. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City said in a YouTube video she believed she was going to die during the riot in the Capitol and that she experienced a traumatic event she declined to discuss: "Many, many, many members of Congress were almost murdered," she said in the video. "We were very lucky [to escape]." One police officer died as a result of injuries sustained during the riot. Another said he narrowly survived the angry mob and described how he was Tasered while some wanted to take his gun and kill him with it. Joseph Young, a professor at American University in D.C. who studies the factors that drive political violence, usually in other countries, said he is bothered by the trends he sees. "More and more, my work has been applicable to the United States," he said in an interview. "[And that's] troubling." A word of historical caution He said it's wrong, however, to conclude this is a more violent political era than the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. experienced hundreds of terrorist attacks back then, from white-supremacist church bombings to political assassinations to the activities of the left-wing group Weather Underground, which bombed the Capitol, the State Department and other government buildings. But he's still worried about the current U.S. situation. As are the authorities preparing for inauguration day. The Pentagon has authorized the Washington, D.C., National Guard to carry weapons on domestic soil amid ongoing worries about the possible use of explosives. About 25,000 National Guard troops from D.C. and several states were expected to be part of the security operation. National Guard members are being screened themselves for any extremist affiliations. On Tuesday, Pentagon officials said 12 National Guard members were removed from securing Biden's inauguration after vetting by the FBI, including two who posted and texted extremist views about Wednesday's event. A Secret Service member was reportedly under investigation over political comments related to the Capitol riot posted on Facebook. Jared Holt, an expert who monitors extremist chatter online, said it has gotten quieter lately. He said he was extremely worried before Jan. 6 about the heated and violent rhetoric he saw in online platforms. People were posting tips for smuggling guns into Washington and maps of the underground tunnels connecting the Capitol to lawmakers' offices. Those same forums erupted in joy after the attack. "It was initially jubilation," said Holt, of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank. "They were thrilled. They felt incredibly accomplished. [Now], the cohesion between groups has eroded." It became clear within hours of the riot that it might backfire — against those involved and against Donald Trump. It failed to stop the vote to certify Biden's election win. Then it led to Trump's swift impeachment in the House. WATCH | Preparations underway to fortify U.S. capital ahead of inauguration day: Has the threat already receded? Some rioters in the Capitol who posted triumphant images of themselves on social media have been arrested or fired from their jobs, with their posts used as evidence against them. Social media platforms are either limiting extremist rhetoric and shutting out Trump, are offline altogether (Parler), or are unusually slow (Gab). Holt now worries that violent rhetoric is moving to tighter channels that are harder to monitor publicly, such as Telegram and other private messaging apps. So residents of Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole, enter this historic transition week in a fog of uncertainty, about whether they've just witnessed a dark passing moment in the life of the American republic or a sombre omen. "It looks like a police state down here. We've never seen it like this," Emilie Frank, a communications professional, said in an interview a few days ago, referring to the imposing concrete-and-metal labyrinth being erected downtown. "It would normally be bustling, everybody's excited [for the inauguration]. But it's silent, blocked off, police cars everywhere." She doesn't know if any of this will be necessary. But she'd rather have this than the under-preparation by authorities that the city witnessed on Jan. 6, she said. "So, even if it's just [for] show, it's better than nothing, I guess," she said. "If some people will be convinced they should stay away after seeing all this stuff in place, then that's good." WATCH | Ex-FBI agent on the new domestic terrorism:
Self-driving car maker Cruise and majority shareholder General Motors Co said on Tuesday they would partner with Microsoft Corp to accelerate the commercialization of driverless vehicles. Microsoft will join GM, Honda Motor Co and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of the San Francisco-based startup to $30 billion.
Indian hyperlocal courier startup Dunzo has raised $40 million from existing investor Google and others, it said on Tuesday, after seeing a surge in usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many Indians stayed indoors for much of 2020 because of the health crisis, Dunzo and food-delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy recorded a fresh surge in popularity. Naspers-backed Swiggy also runs a hyperlocal courier service.
Despite a glitch in text messaging for the Brandon vaccination site, COVID -19 vaccinations took place as planned Monday morning. Joanna Robb, who works at Shared Health’s Westman Regional Laboratory, was the first to be vaccinated yesterday morning. Kirsten Boyce, Robb’s co-worker, was the second. They booked their appointments without issue early last week. Both say no one in their workplace had any issues with booking their appointments. The two, along with others in their workplace, work with body-fluid samples, primarily screening for cancer and pre-cancerous changes. “We’ve already started to see body fluids coming through where it says COVID-positive,” Robb said. As to how they felt about being vaccinated, they both said they were happy to receive the vaccine. Robb said she’s the one in the lab following all the daily numbers. She has a co-worker with family in Saskatchewan who hasn’t seen her parents since the summer. Robb has three children, including a daughter in Grade 12, who is experiencing a tumultuous final year in school. “Everything is just upside-down and to just have this hope that the vaccine is actually happening here in Brandon, now, it’s hopeful. It’s definitely moving the right way. If we could just give everyone a vaccine, like the Amazon dropoff, that would be great,” Robb said. “If there was just a way for everyone that wanted a vaccine, if they could get one … But, we have to be patient and wait.” However, Robb acknowledges how amazing it is that one year after COVID-19 began its spread, vaccines are being deployed. “It’s happening,” she said. “We’ve discussed it amongst ourselves, co-workers, and we talked to our clinical microbiologist — I always say he’s my panic button. If he panics, I panic. So, as long as he’s keeping his calm demeanour, I’m always good. Everyone was working for the same goal. I have confidence in it.” Boyce said her experience was also “easy peasy.” “Seeing how we just heard that they’re paring things back for now, I’m just so, so grateful to have the opportunity to be one of the people that actually gets it so soon. I’m super excited to get this done. I was talking with my family last night … My brother is like, ‘I have major vaccine envy,’” Boyce said. The province is not taking new appointment bookings, due to Pfizer announcing a slowdown in vaccine production, but all appointments currently booked will be honoured. Dr. Joss Reimer said Monday afternoon at the province’s daily COVID-19 update they are recalibrating the coming weeks as a result of that announcement. Robb said the flow through the various stations at the Keystone vaccination site went smoothly. Neither Robb nor Boyce felt the effects of the text issue, which sent the address of the Winnipeg vaccination site for their Brandon appointments. They both knew where they were booked. PetalMD, the company being paid $436,400 to manage COVID-19 screening services for the province, made that text mistake, and were lambasted in emails between provincial employees. “Per Adam’s note — we are now creating a process where we are checking PedalMD’s work. This is the same organization used by over 37,000 doctors across Canada. They are the largest, most reputable player in the space. They have now done this to us — twice. We are going to put them on training heels,” wrote Paul Beauregard to a list of several government employees. In the email thread, contractual penalties are discussed. NDP leadership has an issue with the government and PedalMD. They say this is one more glaring example of mistakes being made during the pandemic. “I think that this is another mistake in the vaccine rollout from the government. I think the average Manitoban probably understands that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but it does seem pretty odd that the government seems to be making so many mistakes so many times when it comes to the vaccine rollout, whether it was wasting doses or long waits on the phone, trouble booking appointments, and then, now, messing up the messaging of the addresses a few times,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. “In the emails, you see the government admitting themselves that they’ve made some mistakes, more than once. They’ve done it again. It causes concern, because at the end of the day it was health-care workers and other people at the front of the vaccine line in Brandon, who are caused unnecessary stress and confusion.” The province, via a spokesperson, admitted appointment reminder texts were sent with an incorrect address to 558 people with vaccination Monday appointments at the Keystone Centre. “The human error was quickly addressed by a followup text. Government is conducting a review to ensure the service provider is held accountable and that the mistake does not occur again. People with appointments are asked to keep them as scheduled,” the spokesperson stated. The Brandon site is set to deliver its vaccines as planned, two trays with 1,170 vaccines per tray. Both Robb and Boyce have appointments for their second mandated dose. As for possible reopening plans after current critical code red public health orders expire Friday night, Dr. Brent Roussin said more information would be forthcoming later in the week. MONDAY’S COVID-19 UPDATE The COVID-19 update from the province on Monday saw four additional deaths listed, none from the Prairie Mountain Health region. The province reported 118 new cases, as follows: • 11 cases in the Interlake–Eastern health region; • 46 cases in the Northern health region; • seven in the Prairie Mountain Health region; • nine cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region; and • 45 cases in the Winnipeg health region. The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate was 10.6 per cent in the province, and 7.3 per cent in Winnipeg. Lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba total 27,629, with 773 deaths or 2.8 per cent. The province reports 3,108 active cases, with 23,748 individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. The province has advised the active case count is less, and that number will better reflect the correct number soon. The province also reported 135 people are in hospital with active COVID-19, as well as 154 people in hospital with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require care, for a total of 289 hospitalizations. Twenty-three people are in intensive care units with active COVID-19, as well as 12 people with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require critical care, for a total of 35 ICU patients. In the Prairie Mountain Health region, there are 203 active cases, with 1,567 recovered. There are 13 people hospitalized, with one patient in ICU, and a total of 43 deaths. Brandon’s active case count is 66, with 821 recovered and 19 deaths. On Thursday, 1,322 tests were completed, for a total of 453, 481 since February, 2020. » Source: Province of Manitoba PRAIRIE MOUNTAIN HEALTH OUTBREAK NUMBERS As of Jan. 18, the status of COVID-19 outbreaks in Prairie Mountain Health were as follows: • Brandon Correctional Centre: 108 total cases, 18 staff infected, 90 non-staff infected, one active case, 107 recovered, zero death. • McCreary/Alonsa Health Centre: 43 total cases, 14 staff infected, 29 non-staff infected, 30 active cases, nine recovered, four deaths. • Fairview Personal Care Home: 109 total cases, 41 staff infected, 68 non-staff infected, 0 active cases, 92 recovered, 17 deaths. • Grandview Personal Care Home: 37 total cases, 12 staff infected, 25 residents infected, 0 active cases, 32 recovered, five deaths. • St. Paul’s Personal Care Home: one total cases, one staff infected, 0 residents infected, one active case, 0 recovered, 0 deaths. • Dauphin Regional Health Centre medicine unit: No information Note: An outbreak is considered over one incubation period (14 days) after the final active case. » Source: Province of Manitoba VACCINATION UPDATE To date, 17,751 doses of vaccine have been administered, including 15,607 first doses and 2,144 second doses. Manitoba’s focused immunization teams continue to immunize residents at personal care homes across the province. First doses of the vaccine will now be given to all eligible residents by the end of January, more than a week ahead of initial projections. Last week, teams visited 10 personal care homes, and all consenting and eligible personal care home residents were immunized with their first dose. This week, residents at 51 personal care homes will be immunized throughout the province. All new appointments were paused on Jan. 15 due to the uncertainty caused by the Pfizer vaccine supply disruption. However, Manitoba has revised its updated projections based on new forecasts received from the federal government detailing the revised vaccine delivery schedules. Manitoba will release additional details on the next steps of its immunization campaign later this week. » Source: Province of Manitoba Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
KABUL — Some 10 million children in war-ravaged Afghanistan are at risk of not having enough food to eat in 2021, a humanitarian organization said Tuesday and called for $1.3 billion in new funds for aid. Just over 18 million Afghans, including 9.7 million children, are badly in need of lifesaving support, including food, Save the Children said in a statement. The group called for $1.3 billion in donations to pay for assistance in 2021. Chris Nyamandi, the organization's Afghanistan country director, said Afghans are suffering under a combination of violent conflict, poverty and the virus pandemic. “It’s a desperately bad situation that needs urgent attention from the international community,” he said. The latest round of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators that began earlier this month in Qatar has been slow to produce results as concerns grow over a recent spike in violence across Afghanistan. The pandemic has also had a disastrous impact on millions of Afghan families. In 2020, the World Bank estimated that the pandemic had hugely disrupted imports, including vital household items, which in turn led to rapid inflation. The added health and economic strains of the pandemic have deepened the humanitarian impact across the country. Many Afghans also blame runaway government corruption and lawlessness for the country’s poor economy. The U.N. and its humanitarian partners will seek $1.3 billion in aid for 16 million Afghans in need this year, U.N. secretary-general spokesman Stephane Dujarric, said this month. That’s up from an estimated 2.3 million people last year who needed life-saving assistance. “It’s a huge increase in people who need aid,” he said. Nyamandi said that with no immediate end in sight to the decades-long conflict, millions of people will continue to suffer. “It’s especially hard on children, many of whom have known nothing but violence," he said. According to the U.N., nearly 6,000 people — a third of them children — were killed or wounded in fighting in Afghanistan between January and September last year, Nyamandi said. The violence continues to force hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes every year and limit people's access to resources including hospitals and clinics. In a Save the Children report in December, the group said more than 300,000 Afghan children faced freezing winter conditions that could lead to illness and death without proper winter clothing and heating. The organization provided winter kits to more than 100,000 families in 12 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. The kits included fuel and a heater, blankets and winter clothes, including coats, socks, shoes and hats. Nyamandi said the plight of the Afghan people is threatened by inadequate humanitarian funding pledged by wealthy nations at a conference in Geneva in November. “Aid to Afghanistan has dropped alarmingly at a time when humanitarian need is rising. We’re now in the unsustainable position where aid falls far short of what’s needed to meet the needs of the people” he said. The London-based Save the Children report cites 10-year-old Brishna from eastern Nangarhar province as saying her family was forced to leave their home and move to another district because of the fighting. “Life is difficult," she said. “My father, who is responsible for bringing us food, is sick.” Brishna said she and her brother collect garbage for cooking fires and it has been a long time since they had proper food and clothes. “My siblings and I always wish to have three meals in a day with some fruits, and a better life. But sometimes, we sleep with empty stomachs. During the winter we don’t have blankets and heating stuff to warm our house,” she said. ___ This story has been corrected to show that the aid group is calling for $1.3 billion, not $3 billion in aid money. Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press
Those surprised at U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s intention to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit might want to take a look at the incoming administration’s plans for environmental justice. In addition to Biden openly vowing to cancel the controversial project if he won office, the pipeline has faced stiff opposition from some U.S. tribes. Ignoring these Indigenous groups in the context of fossil fuel development would seem to go against Biden’s “climate crisis strategy,” specifically designed to support tribes as well as states and territories. Experts say if Biden follows through with his intention to kill Keystone XL, it should be seen in this broader context, as the incoming U.S. administration gets set to put Biden’s overarching “plan to secure environmental justice and equitable economic opportunity” into motion. “Climate justice is the idea that, rather than just looking at climate change as just an environmental or physical issue, it recognizes there are so many aspects to it that are also related to justice,” said Lindsey Bacigal, director of communications at Indigenous Climate Action, in an interview. “Capitalism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, anti-migrant sentiment, Islamophobia, anti-Indigenous sentiment, racism — all these things really help to uphold climate change, rather than work to fix it,” she said. “Rather than looking at these systems of power that have got us to where we are right now, how is it that we can work from the grassroots up, rather than from the top down?” Bacigal said ending Keystone XL would be “far from the only fight — it’s definitely a step in the right direction, but we’re far away from climate justice yet.” Environmental justice addresses the fact that in many parts of the world, the places where pollution is generated, toxic chemicals are processed or garbage is dumped tend to be near marginalized or low-income communities. Often, these communities have no power over the fact that they are exposed to threats to their health or safety. Environmental justice seeks to ensure that no community should be forced to endure this kind of exposure just because of its particular demographic makeup. The Biden campaign pivoted towards this approach after the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated “how profoundly the energy and environmental policy decisions of the past have failed communities of colour,” it stated in its plan. The administration intends to direct 40 per cent of clean energy spending towards “disadvantaged communities” to address the idea that “communities of colour and low-income communities have faced disproportionate harm from climate change and environmental contaminants for decades.” The plan says the administration will use a “climate and economic justice screening tool” to identify which communities are disadvantaged or “threatened by the cumulative impacts of the multiple stresses of climate change, economic and racial inequality, and multi-source environmental pollution.” The president-elect’s team has picked Cecilia Martinez, for example, the co-founder and executive director of the Minneapolis-based Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, to be senior director for environmental justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Also joining the team is Stefanie Feldman, who was national policy director for the campaign, worked on Biden’s climate plan and will now serve as deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser to the director of the Domestic Policy Council. Feldman is credited with securing support from environmental justice advocates during the presidential race. Tim Gray, executive director at Environmental Defence, also said he thought a decision to cancel Keystone XL should be seen in the context of environmental justice, and he expected to see more action on that front from the administration. Gray noted that Biden had nominated North Carolina environmental regulator Michael Regan to run the Environmental Protection Agency following a campaign by dozens of advocates to block the candidacy of Mary Nichols, who chaired the California Air Resources Board, over concerns she did not adhere to recommendations from environmental justice bodies. “Many urban areas and non-urban areas in the U.S., where a lot of fossil fuel manufacturing is occurring … a lot of those are disproportionately impacting marginalized communities,” said Gray. “I think you’ll see a lot more attention on that from the Biden administration, for sure.” Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Carl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Brandon Sun readers request specific questions be asked about COVID-19. QUESTION: if a person from Rapid City, for example, were to test positive at the Brandon site, would they not be added to Brandon district numbers? PROVINCIAL SPOKESPERSON: Numbers are tracked by home address — i.e., the address on the Manitoba Health Card is where that case will be attributed to in our numbers, not the testing location. As to your example, if that person’s home address were to show as Rapid City on their health card, that’s where we would consider the case to be from, not the testing location (Brandon). QUESTION: I understand Moderna’s vaccine efficacy in participants 65 years of age and older appears to be lower than in younger adults 18 to 65 years — 86.4 per cent compared to 95.6 per cent. Considering First Nation elders are top of list for vaccination — is this on your radar at all as an issue? The question would apply, as well, regarding any personal care homes using Moderna. DR. JOSS REIMER: We are constantly looking at the data that’s provided by the companies, as well as by other jurisdictions. We will be sure to analyze it on an ongoing basis. What we have right now shows it as a very effective vaccine and we are confident that it will be beneficial to those who are receiving it. QUESTION: People who work at a COVID testing site are eligible to receive the vaccine. Why aren’t people who work directly with COVID-positive clients at alternative isolation accommodation sites included in the eligibility criteria? REIMER: We have looked at a number of different issues when it comes to determining the eligibility criteria. We looked at issues like whether or not the people would potentially be exposed to the virus in the workplace. We’re also looking at how vulnerable the patients or clients in that setting might be. So for example, for personal care homes, it’s essential that the staff be immunized so that they’re not a source of infection or the individual living in that setting because they’re more likely to experience severe harm. We’re also looking at where we’ve seen evidence of outbreaks and disease transmission, particularly between staff and residents or patients. We’re looking at where we have a specialized workforce with specialized skills or those where any work disruption would be quite critical to the system. All of those factors have to be considered at the same time. So one of the reasons that the COVID immunization clinics became a priority was around that workforce issue. It is critical that these clinics be up and running with as many people as we need in order to give every vaccine as fast as we can. So it was important that not only that we have the eligibility in there to help recruit some of the workers to that batch location, but also to prevent that from ever becoming a source of infection. The last thing we would want for Manitobans is to have one of our vaccine clinics become the site of an outbreak, and so we wanted to ensure that we were protecting everyone who was working there, as well as protecting everyone who is coming through to get their vaccine. Do you have a question? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Readers Ask. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Celebrity birthdays for the week of Jan. 24-30 Jan. 24: Fiddler Doug Kershaw is 85. Singer Ray Stevens is 82. Singer Aaron Neville is 80. Singer Neil Diamond is 80. Actor Michael Ontkean (“Twin Peaks”) is 75. Country singer-songwriter Becky Hobbs is 71. Comedian Yakov Smirnoff is 70. Actor William Allen Young (“Code Black,” “Moesha”) is 67. Keyboardist-turned-TV personality Jools Holland (Squeeze) is 63. Actor Nastassja Kinski is 60. Drummer Keech Rainwater of Lonestar is 58. Comedian Phil LaMarr (“Mad TV”) is 54. Singer Sleepy Brown of Society of Soul is 51. Actor Matthew Lillard (“Scooby-Doo,” ?She’s All That”) is 51. Actor Merrilee McCommas (“Friday Night Lights,” ?Family Law”) is 50. Singer Beth Hart is 49. Actor Ed Helms (“The Office”) is 47. Actor Christina Moses (“A Million Little Things”) is 43. Actor Tatyana Ali (“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) is 42. Guitarist Mitchell Marlow of Fliter is 42. Actor Carrie Coon (“Leftovers”) is 40. Actor Daveed Diggs (“black-ish”) is 39. Actor Justin Baldoni (“Jane the Virgin”) is 37. Actor Mischa Barton (“The O.C.”) is 35. Jan. 25: Country singer Claude Gray is 89. Actor Leigh Taylor-Young (“Peyton Place,” ?Soylent Green”) is 76. Actor Jenifer Lewis (“The Preacher’s Wife”, “The PJ’s”) is 64. Actor Dinah Manoff (film’s “Grease,” TV’s “Empty Nest”) is 65. Drummer Mike Burch of River Road is 55. Singer Kina (Brownstone) is 52. Actor-TV personality China Kantner is 50. Actor Ana Ortiz (“Devious Maids,” ?Ugly Betty”) is 50. Drummer Joe Sirois of Mighty Mighty Bosstones is 49. Guitarist Matt Odmark of Jars of Clay is 47. Actor Mia Kirshner (“The L Word,” “24”) is 46. Actor Christine Lakin (“Family Guy,” “Step By Step”) is 42. Singer Alicia Keys is 41. Actor Michael Trevino (“The Vampire Diaries”) is 36. Bassist Calum Hood of 5 Seconds to Summer is 25. Actor Olivia Edward (“Better Things”) is 14. Jan. 26: Sports announcer-actor Bob Uecker is 86. Actor Scott Glenn is 82. Singer Jean Knight is 78. Actor Richard Portnow (“Trumbo,” ?The Sopranos”) is 74. Drummer Corky Laing of Mountain is 73. Actor David Strathairn is 72. Musician Lucinda Williams is 68. Percussionist Norman Hassan of UB40 is 63. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres is 63. Keyboardist Charlie Gillingham of Counting Crowes is 62. Guitarist Andrew Ridgeley (Wham!) is 58. Singer Jazzie B. of Soul II Soul is 58. Actor Paul Johansson (“One Tree Hill”) is 57. Actor Bryan Callen (“The Goldbergs”) is 54. Gospel singer Kirk Franklin is 51. Actor Nate Mooney (“American Odyssey,” ?It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”) is 49. Actor Jennifer Crystal (“House,” “Once and Again”) is 48. Drummer Chris Hesse of Hoobastank is 47. Actor Gilles Marini (“Sex and the City”) is 45. Actor Sara Rue (“Mom,” ?Less Than Perfect”) is 43. Actor Colin O’Donoghue (“Once Upon a Time”) is 40. Guitarist Michael Martin of Marshall Dyllon is 38. Jan. 27: Actor James Cromwell (“Murder in the First,” ?Babe”) is 81. Drummer Nick Mason of Pink Floyd is 77. Singer Nedra Talley of The Ronettes is 75. Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov is 73. Country singer Cheryl White of The Whites is 66. Guitarist Richard Young of The Kentucky Headhunters is 66. Actor Mimi Rogers is 65. Guitarist Janick Gers of Iron Maiden is 64. Actor Susanna Thompson (“Arrow”) is 63. TV host Keith Olbermann is 62. Singer Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies is 60. Keyboardist Gillian Gilbert (New Order) is 60. Actor Tamlyn Tomita (TV’s “Teen Wolf”) is 58. Actor Bridget Fonda is 57. Actor Alan Cumming (“Spy Kids”) is 56. Singer Mike Patton (Faith No More) is 53. Country singer Tracy Lawrence is 53. Rapper Tricky is 53. Guitarist Michael Kulas of James is 52. Comedian Patton Oswalt is 52. Actor Josh Randall (“Ed”) is 49. Country singer Kevin Denney is 43. Drummer Andrew Lee of St. Paul and the Broken Bones is 35. Drummer Matt Sanchez of American Authors is 35. Actor-musician Braeden Lemasters of Wallows (TV’s “Men of a Certain Age”) is 25. Jan. 28: Actor Nicholas Pryor (“Risky Business”) is 86. Actor Alan Alda is 85. Actor Susan Howard (“Dallas”) is 79. Marthe Keller (“Marathon Man”) is 76. Actor Barbi Benton is 71. Director Frank Darabont (“The Green Mile,” “The Shawshank Redemption”) is 62. Guitarist Dave Sharp of The Alarm is 62. Singer Sam Phillips is 59. Guitarist Dan Spitz (Anthrax) is 58. Bassist Greg Cook of Ricochet is 56. Gospel singer Marvin Sapp is 54. Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan is 53. Rap artist DJ Muggs with Cypress Hill is 53. Rapper Rakim is 53. Actor Kathryn Morris (“Cold Case”) is 52. Humorist Mo Rocca is 52. Keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna of Fitz and the Tantrums is 51. Singer Anthony Hamilton is 50. Singer Monifah is 49. Actor Gillian Vigman (“The Hangover” films) is 49. Keyboardist Brandon Bush (Train) is 48. Actor Terri Conn (“One Life To Live”) is 46. Rapper Rick Ross is 44. Singer Joey Fatone of ’N Sync is 44. Actor Angelique Cabral (“Life in Pieces”) is 42. Actor Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) is 42. Singer Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys is 41. Actor Vinny Chhibber (“The Red Line”) is 41. Actor Elijah Wood (“The Lord of the Rings”) is 40. Rapper J. Cole is 36. Actor Alexandra Krosney (“Last Man Standing”) is 33. Actor Yuri Sardarov (“Chicago Fire”) is 33. Actor Ariel Winter (“Modern Family”) is 23. Jan. 29: Actor Katharine Ross is 81. Actor Tom Selleck is 76. Singer Bettye LaVette is 75. Actor Marc Singer is 73. Actor Ann Jillian is 71. Drummer Louie Perez of Los Lobos is 68. Singer Charlie Wilson of The Gap Band is 68. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey is 67. Country singer Irlene Mandrell is 65. Actor Diane Delano (“The Ellen Show,” ?Northern Exposure”) is 64. Actor Judy Norton (“The Waltons”) is 63. Guitarist Johnny Spampinato of NRBQ is 62. Drummer David Baynton-Power of James is 60. Bassist Eddie Jackson of Queensryche is 60. Actor Nicholas Turturro (“NYPD Blue”) is 59. Singer-guitarist Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera is 57. Director-actor Ed Burns is 53. Actor Sam Trammell (“True Blood”) is 52. Actor Heather Graham is 51. Actor Sharif Atkins (“White Collar,” ?ER”) is 46. Actor Sara Gilbert is 46. Actor Kelly Packard (“Baywatch”) is 46. Actor Justin Hartley (“This Is Us”) is 44. Actor Sam Jaeger (“Parenthood”) is 44. Former “The View” co-host Jedediah Bila is 42. Actor Andrew Keegan (“Party of Five”) is 42. Actor Jason James Richter (“Free Willy”) is 41. Guitarist Jonny Lang is 40. Singer Adam Lambert (“American Idol”) is 39. Country singer Eric Paslay is 38. Jan. 30: Actor Gene Hackman is 91. Actor Vanessa Redgrave is 84. Country singer Jeanne Pruett is 84. Country singer Norma Jean is 83. Horn player William King of The Commodores is 72. Musician Phil Collins is 70. Actor Charles S. Dutton (“Roc”) is 70. Actor Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) is 65. Comedian Brett Butler (“Anger Management,” ?Grace Under Fire”) is 63. Singer Jody Watley is 62. Actor Wayne Wilderson (“Veep”) is 55. Country singer Tammy Cochran is 49. Actor Christian Bale is 47. Guitarist Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket is 47. Actor Olivia Colman (“The Night Manager”) is 47. Singer Josh Kelley is 41. Actor Wilmer Valderrama (“That ’70s Show”) is 41. Actor Mary Hollis Inboden (“The Real O’Neals”) is 35. Actor Kylie Bunbury (“Pitch”) is 32. Actor Jake Thomas (“Lizzie McGuire,” ?AI”) is 31. Actor Danielle Campbell (“The Originals”) is 26. The Associated Press
Reports that U.S. president-elect Joe Biden plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion are reverberating in Saskatchewan.
THE LATEST: As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 465 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths. There are currently 4,331 active cases of the coronavirus in B.C. 329 people are in hospital, with 70 in the ICU. 92,369 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. There are no new health-care facility outbreaks. B.C. health officials confirmed 465 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and said 12 more people had died of the disease. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 329 people, 70 of whom are in intensive care. A total of 1,090 people in B.C. have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. B.C. recorded no new outbreaks in health-care facilities. The outbreak at The Emerald at Elim Village, a long-term care facility in Surrey, has been declared over. For the first time since a second round of restrictions was implemented in November, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry offered a glimmer of hope that B.C.'s COVID-19 case count could be tipping in the right direction. Henry said in a Monday afternoon news conference that outbreaks are slowing in B.C. and the province is at a "tipping point" she feels positive about. "Clearly the things we are doing in our community are working," Henry said Monday, while acknowledging that outbreaks continue in essential workplaces and long-term care homes. She said that if B.C.'s case count continues to trend downwards, there is a possibility some restrictions could be lifted by the Family Day weekend in mid-February. B.C.'s current health restrictions are in effect until at least Feb. 5 at midnight. The current orders include a ban on gatherings with people outside of one's immediate household. But Henry said that while B.C.'s numbers continue to decrease, the risk of transmission remains high in all areas of the province, and that outbreaks in Interior Health and Northern Health are of concern. B.C. 'prepared' for vaccine delays Henry said the province will soon finish vaccinating all residents of long-term care homes in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, and is on track to complete vaccinations in all long-term care homes by end of next week depending on when doses arrive. She said visits to long-term care homes could possibly resume by late March, or once two incubation periods have passed since a long-term care home outbreak has ended. The federal government on Friday announced Pfizer is temporarily reducing shipments of its vaccine in order to expand manufacturing capacity at a facility in Belgium. The move means there will be fewer shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech coming to Canada until at least March. Henry said on Monday that the delay is a "setback" and will temporarily slow the province's delivery of the vaccine to at-risk people. But she said the province is working to ensure the highest number of people are immunized. Henry added that the province will be providing more first doses of the vaccine in March than originally planned, with second doses being pushed to later in March when supply increases. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 9 p.m. PT on Monday, Canada had reported 712,816 cases of COVID-19, and 18,120 total deaths. A total of 73,919 cases are considered active. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Albertans logged hundreds of rat reports in 2020, double a typical year, but it's not necessarily because more pests are scurrying around the province. Norway rats are considered to be extremely destructive — they can carry disease and eat through valuable crops. For more than 70 years the province has been determined to stop these pests from calling Alberta home, concentrating efforts along the Saskatchewan border, banning the animals as pets, and investigating any hint of a rat inside the province's borders. Out of 481 rat reports, just 17 turned out to be the real deal last year. Karen Wickerson, specialist with Alberta's Rat Control Program, said the province set up an email in 2020 which helps turn around a case faster than the 310-RATS number. The new reporting method could have helped bolster reporting numbers last year. "When they're out in the environment outside, they have their phones with them and so they can easily take out their phone and email us in a photo, and then we can respond very quickly and tell them which species it is," Wickerson said. "If it is a confirmed rat then we can contact the appropriate people and have them go out and investigate." Wickerson said while Albertans are diligent about reporting rats they usually get it wrong. "What I've noticed about Albertans is they feel a really strong responsibility to report a rat sighting because they know that we are rat-free, which is great," Wickerson said. "Because we don't have a resident population of rats in Alberta, they don't know what a rat looks like." Muskrats more common About half of the sightings in 2020 turned out to be muskrats. But Wickerson doesn't mind. "I'd rather have 100 muskrat emails and, you know, not miss out on a rat sighting or a confirmed rat than people think, 'oh, it might be a muskrat, I'm not going to send an email,'" she said. She added there may be an educational campaign coming in the spring to help Albertans better identify what rats look like. For her, the difference between a waddling muskrat, and a scurrying rat is night and day — but she has daily practice identifying the critters that land in her inbox. It's unclear if the pandemic played a role in last year's rat sightings. Dr. Kaylee Byers is the Regional Deputy Director with the B.C. Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. She's also a researcher with the Vancouver rat program. Byers said throughout the pandemic rats made headlines. The pests were seen in the daylight, reportedly on the move scouring the streets for scraps of food as more humans retreated indoors. "We would certainly expect to see some changes in rat behaviours in relation to major changes in the environment," Byers said. "What exactly those have looked like? All of those reports have been largely anecdotal." Rat research still in its infancy Byers said in many areas there aren't baseline studies or statistics to help better understand what kinds of effects the pandemic has had on rat populations. Rats are notoriously hard to research, as studying wild ones means catching them, sometimes more than once to monitor behaviour. "Wouldn't it have been nice if we were set up to study this in advance?" Byers said. "The way we answer these kinds of questions is through having systems of reporting so we can say whether or not rat sightings have gone up or down." Alberta's Saskatchewan border is patrolled several times a year to check rats aren't crossing over into the province. Rats can't live in mountainous areas, which is good as it keeps British Columbia rats at bay. But, Wickerson said the rodents are crafty hitchhikers. Out of the 26 rats found in 2020, many rode into Alberta on transport trucks or even personal vehicles, which is something Wickerson hopes to work on. There's also been a trend of rats ending up at recycling centres across the province. Wickerson said in Calgary, a family drove from Vancouver Island back to Calgary, making a stop in Kelowna before parking their SUV inside their garage at home. The next morning the homeowner found a rat dead in the garage, floating in a pail of water. Rats like to hitchhike "Check your vehicle when you come back from B.C. so that it doesn't increase our risk of rats entering into the province," Wickerson said, adding many Albertans own property in the neighbouring province. Wickerson hopes to collect more data on rats found in Alberta, mapping out where they are found, recording their specific species, all to see if she can tease out a pattern. "Location, urban-rural, the type of rat and then where it was reported, I'll put in the GPS location, alive or dead, how many, that sort of thing," Wickerson said. "I would like someone to come along, like a grad student, to do a study."
A busy thief smashed out the glass doors to two businesses in downtown Halifax early Tuesday morning making off with two cash registers, according to Halifax Regional Police. The first break in happened around 2:55 a.m., an alarm went off at Boston Pizza on Granville Street drawing police to the scene. When police arrived they found part of the restaurants' glass door had been smashed. A cash register and other items had been stolen from inside, according to a news release from the Halifax police. Then around 3:05 a.m. another business' alarm went off this time at Creamy Rainbow, a bakery and cafe on Dresden Row. Once again the thief had smashed the business' glass door to get inside, and taken the cash register. So far no one has been arrested. The suspect in both break ins is a white man about 30 years old, with short brown hair and glasses. The man was wearing a black jacket with a white hoodie underneath, black pants and black sneakers with white soles. Police say anyone with information about the incident or suspect should contact them or send an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers. MORE TOP STORIES
Alberta First Nations leaders say they are frustrated with the way the province is handling COVID-19 vaccine distribution after the government paused the rollout of first doses until supply is restocked. "The province continues to make unilateral decisions on First Nations health with questionable First Nation involvement. How many times must it be said that sovereign First Nations must be involved in the decisions that affect them?" Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras said Monday. Poitras released a statement after Premier Jason Kenney announced that Alberta is expected to run out of vaccine doses by late Monday or early Tuesday, citing shortages of the Pfizer vaccine announced last week. Kenney said Monday that means there is a pause on booking new first dose appointments, and that the expansion of the vaccination program to all Albertans over 75 and Indigenous people over 65 is being pushed back. Both those groups are included in the National Advisory Committee on Immunization's (NACI) guidelines that outline which groups of Canadians should be prioritized for phase one vaccinations. Poitras said First Nations in Alberta are at a "breaking point" with COVID-19 as cases have climbed even as provincial case numbers have fallen. She said that the province needs to do a better job of consulting and communicating with them. "There was some hope that access to a vaccine would help us. However, given recent decisions of the provincial government, which lacked meaningful First Nations involvement, trust and commitment to partnership continues to be in question," she said. The Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre posts weekly data on how First Nations are affected by COVID-19. As of Jan. 13, 2,066 of the 12,838 active cases in Alberta were among First Nations people living both on and off reserve. First Nations people accounted for 127 of the 820 people hospitalized, and 33 of the 137 ICU patients. On that day, 66 of the 1,368 people who have died of COVID-19 were First Nations. According to data published by Statistics Canada in 2016, Indigenous people, including First Nations, make up just 6.5 per cent of Alberta's population. Chief Tony Alexis of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation said he's also disappointed in disparities between what he says he and other chiefs were told during their regular meetings with provincial officials, and what's been happening. "It was disappointing and upsetting at the same time to know that people are hearing about this, and at the chiefs' table we're not hearing what is happening," he said in an interview Monday. Alexis said after having almost zero cases in November and low numbers in early December, his community is now experiencing a spike with 54 active cases. Over the course of the pandemic, he said six people from his nation have been hospitalized, and that three have died. "We need to get the vaccine to communities faster. We need to get it to our nations, we need to get it to our people and have that available for everyone," he said. In a statement Monday, Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said the province is working closely with the federal government on a vaccine distribution plan for First Nation communities. "Vaccine doses have been provided to staff and residents at six First Nation congregate living facilities on-reserve as part of the roll-out of vaccine doses to continuing care facilities around the province," he said "The four First Nations at Maskwacis are currently experiencing a serious rise in cases. Recognizing this, a limited number of doses were provided to Maskwacis Health Services on an emergency basis to help manage a large COVID-19 outbreak and support those in critical need." McMillan said as soon as more vaccine becomes available, phase 1B will begin and will include everyone over 65 living in First Nations communities or on Métis settlements, and all Albertans over the age of 75, including Métis and First Nations who don't live in settlements or on-reserve. In a statement Monday night, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said that the government has prioritized the vaccine rollout. "I have spoken to many First Nations chiefs to assure them that we want to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible," he said. "Unfortunately, due to delays caused by the vaccine manufacturer and a lack of supply from the federal government, the rollout to First Nations communities has been delayed. "We renew our call on the federal government to speed up the process of providing vaccines. Canada is now receiving less vaccines than other countries. This is not acceptable." 'We deserve health' Dr. Lana Potts, medical director of the Piikani Nation and a primary care physician in Siksika in southern Alberta, called the Monday announcement a blow, especially after months of efforts to advocate and plan for vaccine rollout in Indigenous communities across the province, "Again we are left behind and not a priority," Potts said, adding that it's frustrating because there has been extensive advocacy and planning by many committees and levels of leadership to prepare for rollout. "First Nations peoples' health is often put in the back, we often do get the leftovers. And in this case we get nothing," she said. She said there needs to be clear information, set dates and plans for staffing, and said the government must ensure First Nations are at the table when these types of decisions are being made. "First Nations people, because we do have the worst health statistics across this country, need to be priorities to get health equity. We deserve health like everyone else," she said.
Codiac Regional RCMP say the force will take some kind of action regarding anti-mask protesters in Moncton who violate the province's emergency measures order. Supt. Tom Critchlow, the commanding officer of Codiac RCMP, told Moncton councillors Monday police would act this week. He didn't offer specifics. "This group obviously wants some type of showdown," Critchlow said. "There's methods in how we deal with that. Rest assured, I will deal with that. We will deal with [it]. At this point, because of the current state that the province is morphing into, we will take action." His comments followed questions last week and by councillors Monday about what the force is doing regarding the protesters who appear to flout rules meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. A board member of the Codiac Regional Policing Authority, which oversees the force that polices Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview, last week questioned why tickets weren't handed out to those defying the rules. RCMP officers observed the protests held on weekends outside Moncton city hall. Under the orange recovery phase, outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people and masks are required outside when physical distancing can't be maintained. Critchlow told the police authority that the force is taking a "measured" approach, observing the protesters and trying to educate them about the rules. His comments Monday suggested a change in approach. Moncton deputy mayor Shawn Crossman said he understands people have a right to protest, but said he's anxious to see COVID-19 rules enforced. "It's really frustrating," Crossman said of those violating rules. Coun. Paulette Thériault also said she's not impressed by the protests. She said more than two million deaths worldwide have been linked to COVID-19. "To say that we shouldn't be concerned is beyond my comprehension," Thériault said. "I don't think we can ever educate these people because I don't think they really want to hear what the realities are out there." "But if we can find solutions so that at least we can protect our citizens, I think this is extremely important."
Brock University is joining the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business as a member. The council will provide Brock with a conduit to more than 1,000 businesses operated by Indigenous peoples and access to diverse programming, tools and training. Acting vice-provost of Indigenous engagement Robyn Bourgeois said joining an organization meant to support Indigenous businesses illustrates how everyone plays a role in the university’s decolonization and Indigenization efforts. “It’s such a great example of how we can operationalize what we mean by that pillar of fostering a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization and showing our support for Indigenous peoples,” she said. Chuck Maclean first suggested that the university join the council. Maclean, who helps units across the university with purchasing, said he learned about it at a conference and realized the school could benefit from joining. “If Indigenous businesses can give us like services and a good value, why not be supportive of them when it’s appropriate?” he said. “It’s a great collaboration. We’ll start from a foundation and build up, introducing these businesses to the university and the value of their work.” While 2021 marks Brock’s first full year as a CCAB member, it has a connection going much further back. One of the CCAB’s founding members was Suzanne Rochon-Burnett, who died in 2006. She was an important figure in Brock’s history who served two terms on the board of trustees and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university in 2002. The Suzanne Rochon-Burnett Scholarship at Brock has helped opened the doors to post-secondary education for more than two dozen Indigenous students. Michele-Elise Burnett, a trustee and co-chair of Brock’s Aboriginal education council, said her mother would be proud of Maclean’s vision. “My mother always believed Brock University would lead by example and become Canada’s Indigenous school of excellence, raising the bar for all universities to emulate.” Bourgeois hopes Maclean’s example will help lead to others thinking about what role they can play in Indigenizing the university. “Quite often, when we think about Indigenizing, we think in siloed terms,” she said. “In reality, that commitment to Indigenization and decolonization should be infused throughout the university, and that means all levels and areas could be involved.” Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.com Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review