Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Michael Gardam shares insight on Canada’s current vaccination plan and whether or not officials should vaccinate more people in the first doses.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Michael Gardam shares insight on Canada’s current vaccination plan and whether or not officials should vaccinate more people in the first doses.
Saskatchewan will start to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses, as supplies run short. Second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine will be administered up to 42 days after the first dose. Official guidelines say the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is meant to be given as two doses, 21 days apart, while Moderna recommends spacing doses 28 days apart. The National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI), a body made up of scientists and vaccine experts, say provinces should follow the dosing schedule as closely as possible, but the panel is now offering some wiggle room. WATCH | Canada's COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee approves delaying 2nd dose NACI recommends spacing out the doses up to 42 days when necessary. The recommendation is also supported by the World Health Organization and Canada's chief medical health officer. "The flexibility provided by a reasonable extension of the dose interval to 42 days where operationally necessary, combined with increasing predictability of vaccine supply, support our public health objective to protect high-risk groups as quickly as possible," reads a statement released Thursday from Dr. Theresa Tam, as well as the provincial and territorial chief medical officers of health. The same day, Saskatchewan announced it would further space out its doses. "Saskatchewan will be implementing these recommendations of up to 42 days where operationally necessary in order to deliver more first doses to eligible people," the government of Saskatchewan said in a news release. WATCH | Dr. Howard Njoo addresses questions on taking first and second dose of vaccine 42 days apart: Saskatchewan's supply runs short As of Friday, 96 per cent of the province's vaccines have been administered, and new supplies coming in are not enough to replenish what has been used. Pfizer has said it will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium, to boost capacity. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, says it's very reassuring to have the length between doses extended to 42 days. "When there's a sudden, further disruption that does present challenges," Shahab said during a news conference on Tuesday. "Most provinces are able to give the second dose of both Pfizer and Moderna within 42 days ... and that becomes very important with the disruption of shipment." Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, agreed. "It does mitigate some of the decreased doses coming in. We also know through contact with the federal government that once the Pfizer plant is back online, they'll be increasing our shipment," Livingstone said during Tuesday's news conference. Livingstone said the new shipments coming in will be allocated for an individual's first and second shot. WATCH | Canada facing delays in vaccine rollout More vaccines on the way Another shipment of vaccines will arrive in Saskatchewan on Feb. 1, says the government. The province is expecting 5,850 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine and 6,500 doses of Moderna's vaccine. The government says they will be distributed to the Far North West, Far North East, North East and Central West. A second shipment of 7,100 doses from Moderna will arrive on Feb. 22, and will be distributed to the Far North East, North East and Central East. "Our immunization team is trying to be as nimble as possible knowing that we could at any time through the pandemic receive more vaccines, but also then having to readjust our targets and still focusing on the most needy in this Phase 1, and we will continue to do that as vaccine supply keeps coming back up," Livingstone said.
MILAN — Italy’s data protection authority said Friday it was imposing an immediate block on TikTok’s access to data for any user whose age has not been verified. The authority said it was acting with “urgency” following the death of a 10-year-old girl in Sicily, who died while participating in a so-called “blackout” challenge while using the Chinese-owned video-sharing social network. Prosecutors in Sicily are investigating the case. The data protection authority noted it had advised TikTok in December of a series of violations, including scant attention to the protection of minors, the ease with which users under age 13 could sign up for the platform — against its own rules — the lack of transparency in information given to users and the use of automatic settings that did not respect privacy. “While waiting to receive a response, the authority decided to take action to ensure the immediate protection of minors in Italy registered on the network,’’ the authority said in a statement. The block will remain in place at least until Feb. 15, when further evaluations will be made. TikTok earlier this month rolled out some tightened privacy features for users under the age of 18, including a new default private setting for accounts with users aged 13 to 15. The new practices, affecting users around the world, followed a move by U.S. regulators to order TikTok and other social media services to disclose how their practices affect children and teenagers. The Associated Press
VICTORIA — The federal economic development minister says business leaders in British Columbia want to work with a new development agency aiming to help them endure the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for the future. Melanie Joly said she's heard from entrepreneurs and business owners across B.C. about the support for a home-based economic development agency, including during an online forum Friday with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. Joly said the promised B.C.-based agency will provide targeted economic support and relief in the form of loans, subsidies and advice about federal programs. "People want to be able to have access to levers to survive the economic crisis and the pandemic, but at the same time people want to talk about the future and want to be optimistic as the vaccinations roll out," she said in a phone interview. Joly said she's heard in panel discussions with business leaders that they're concerned about the distance between Ottawa and B.C. as entrepreneurs argue for an agency that is closer to home. "There's a feeling of disconnection towards the federal government," she said. "That has created sometimes frustration on the part of people in B.C. We need to increase our impact, our footprint. We need to make sure that people trust the fact that the federal government is there for them." Joly, who is also the minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada, said B.C. entrepreneurs have told her the province's economy was growing before the COVID-19 pandemic and they need help now to get them through. Last December's federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year, she said, adding the budget for the new B.C. agency has not been set and there's no date yet for an opening date. "I always have a sense of urgency in life," Joly said after her meeting with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. "I'm a very impatient person, so the team and I are working extremely hard to make sure we can launch this new B.C. agency but we need to make sure we do things right." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
PITTSBURGH — The son of a couple killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue attack that killed 11 worshippers is suing the National Rifle Association, arguing the group’s inflammatory rhetoric led to the violence. Marc Simon, the son of Sylvan and Bernice Simon, filed the wrongful death lawsuit Thursday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court against the NRA, the gun maker Colt’s Manufacturing Co., and accused shooter, Robert Bowers, news outlets reported. Colt manufactured the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle allegedly used by Bowers. A fourth defendant is the unknown business that sold Bowers the gun. Bowers is charged with killing 11 congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. Police said the former truck driver expressed hatred of Jews during and after the October 2018 rampage. “Bowers was not born fearing and hating Jews,” the suit claims. “The gun lobby taught him to do that.” Bowers has pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The plaintiff argues gun lobbyists like the NRA radicalized people with “mendacious white supremacist conspiracy theories.” The lawsuit also says Colt could have prevented the AR-15 from “bump firing,” or using a modification that allows the rifle to fire more rapidly. An NRA spokesperson declined comment on the lawsuit. The group filed for bankruptcy last week, and the claims against them in Simon’s lawsuit will be stayed as a result of the group’s reorganizing. Colt did not respond to request for comment. Besides a wrongful death claim, the complaint accuses Colt of product liability and says the gun is more akin to a military-style weapon than a civilian product. The Associated Press
BERLIN — Marcus Thuram scored on his Bundesliga comeback from suspension to seal a 4-2 win for Borussia Mönchengladbach over Borussia Dortmund on Friday. Thuram, who missed four games after spitting at an opponent in December, scored with a header from Florian Neuhaus’ corner in the 79th minute after coming on as a substitute. Dortmund’s winless streak stretched to three games, increasing the pressure on coach Edin Terzic, who took over from the fired Lucien Favre on Dec. 13. League leader Bayern Munich can move 13 points clear of Dortmund on Sunday, while Terzic's team now faces a fight to secure the last place for Champions League qualification. Gladbach replaced Dortmund in fourth place ahead of the rest of the 18th round, when Dortmund could drop lower with Wolfsburg, Union Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt all still to play. It was Dortmund’s first loss to Gladbach since April 11, 2015, when Favre as Gladbach coach oversaw a 3-1 win at home over Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund team. Gladbach made a furious start and had the ball in the net inside the first minute. However, Neuhaus’ goal was ruled out through VAR for a foul by Jonas Hofmann on Jude Bellingham. The home side didn’t have to wait long before Nico Elvedi opened the scoring with a header off Hofmann’s free kick in the 11th. Erling Haaland replied in fine fashion in the 22nd. Raphaël Guerreiro won the ball from Alassane Plea and played it to Jadon Sancho, who sent a perfectly weighted pass for Haaland to chip over goalkeeper Yann Sommer inside the far post. The Norwegian got his second six minutes later, again set up by Sancho after he combined with Marco Reus to elude a host of Gladbach defenders. Haaland turned sharply and fired inside the left post. But Elvedi scored his second four minutes later, scoring on the rebound after Roman Bürki stopped Lars Stindl’s free kick. Both sides missed good chances before the break – Haaland failed to connect with the ball when he might have completed his hat trick – before Neuhaus set up Ramy Bensebaini for Gladbach’s third in the 50th. Thuram replaced Hofmann in the 65th. Breel Embolo, who generated headlines for breaking coronavirus restrictions last week, came on shortly afterward. Thuram scored on his comeback while Bürki denied Embolo a few minutes later. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP CiaráN Fahey, The Associated Press
The RM of Edenwold will go a little longer yet without a permanent chief administrative officer in place, following the retirement of Kim McIvor. A possible replacement candidate for McIvor was preparing for a move to the area in December but for family reasons was not able to make the move.For now that leaves Karen Zaharia, the RM’s assistant administrator, as acting CAO, with Jedlic also assisting with some of the CAO duties on a temporary basis. “We had initiated a search to replace (McIvor) last summer and into the fall,” Jedlic said. “We had a number of excellent candidates and ultimately one we worked with over a period of time who surely would have been an excellent candidate for the RM of Edenwold.” Due to personal circumstances, that candidate withdrew during late stages of the search process. That forced the RM of re-initiate the search process. While the CAO search continues, Reeve Mitchell Huber has also assisted with administration duties in the interim. The CAO opening has been posted by Boyden Canada, an executive search firm. Job requirements include having a Rural Class A certificate in Local Government Administration or a relevant professional degree, along with 10 years of related municipal government experience. Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
LA QUINTA, Calif. — Canada's Nick Taylor shot a second round of 6-under 66 Friday to put him in the mix at the PGA's The American Express. Taylor, from Abbotsford, B.C., was in second place among Friday's early finishers at 10 under, one stroke back of South Korea's Sungjae Im. Taylor birdied three of his final four holes to make the climb. Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., shot 5-under 67 to sit three strokes off the pace at 8 under. David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., (68) was at 5 under, one stroke clear of the projected cut. Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford and Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., were still on the course. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — It's a proven political strategy: Underpromise and overdeliver. President Joe Biden, in his first three days in office, has painted a bleak picture of the country's immediate future, warning Americans that it will take months, not weeks, to reorient a nation facing a historic convergence of crises. The dire language is meant as a call to action, but it's also a deliberate effort to temper expectations. In addition, it is an explicit rejection of President Donald Trump’s tack of talking down the coronavirus pandemic and its economic toll. Chris Lu, a longtime Obama administration official, said the grim tone is aimed at “restoring trust in government” that eroded during the Trump administration. “If you’re trying to get people to believe in this whole system of vaccinations, and if you want people to take seriously mask mandates, your leaders have to level with the American people,” he said. Biden said Thursday that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better” and offered “the brutal truth” that it will take eight months before a majority of Americans will be vaccinated. On Friday, he declared outright: “There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.” It's all part of Biden's pledge that his administration will "always be honest and transparent with you, about both the good news and the bad.” That approach, aides say, explains Biden’s decision to set clear and achievable goals for his new administration. The measured approach is drawing praise in some corners for being realistic -— but criticism from others for its caution. Trump often dismissed the seriousness of the virus and even acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward that he deliberately played down the threat to the U.S. to prop up the economy. Even as death tolls and infection rates soared, Trump insisted the country was already “rounding the turn.” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said Biden’s pledge for 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office might fall short of what’s needed to turn the tide on the virus. “Maybe they’re picking a number that’s easier to achieve, rather than the number that we need to achieve. I would urge people to be bolder than that,” he said. Adalja argued that the goal they’ve set “should be the bare minimum that we accept.” But he also acknowledged that there’s a major political risk in overpromising. “You don’t want people to be discouraged or feel like the government is incompetent” if they fail to meet a goal, he said. “It’s a disappointingly low bar,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician. Biden on Friday acknowledged the criticism, saying he was hopeful for more vaccinations, but he avoided putting down a marker that could potentially fall out of reach. “I found it fascinating that yesterday the press asked the question, ‘Is 100 million enough?'" he said in the State Dining Room. "A week before, they were saying, ‘Biden, are you crazy? You can’t do 100 million in 100 days.’ Well, we’re — God willing — not only going to 100 million. We’re going to do more than that.” In fact, while there was some skepticism when Biden first announced the goal on Dec. 8, it was generally seen as optimistic but within reach. The Biden administration might be taking lessons from the earliest days of the Obama administration, when there was constant pressure to show real progress in turning around the economy during the financial crisis. One former Obama administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about internal conversations, said there was a fevered effort during the first few months of Obama's first term to play down the focus on evaluating the president’s success within his first 100 days because aides knew the financial recovery would take far longer than that. In one notable misstep, Obama’s National Economic Council chair, Christina Romer, predicted that unemployment wouldn’t top 8% if Congress passed the administration’s stimulus package to address the financial crisis. It was signed into law a month into Obama's first term, but by the end of that year, unemployment nevertheless hit 10%. The risk in setting too rosy expectations is that an administration might become defined by its failure to meet them. President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003 — at a time when the Iraq War was far from over — became a defining blunder of his presidency. Trump provided an overreach of his own in May 2020, when he said the nation had “prevailed” over the virus. At the time, the country had seen about 80,000 deaths from the virus. This week, the U.S. death toll topped 412,000. Trump’s lax approach and lack of credibility contributed to poor adherence to public safety rules among the American public. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Trump’s handling of the virus caused so much damage to public perceptions of its severity that it’s important for Biden to set a contrasting tone. “I think it is really important to start telling the American people the truth. And that has not happened in a year, since we found the first case of coronavirus, so he’s got a lot of damage to undo,” she said. “This is a very serious, very contagious, deadly disease, and anything other than that message — delivered over and over again — is, unfortunately, adding to the willingness of lots of people to pay no attention to how to stop the spread of the disease.” Alexandra Jaffe And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
A supervisor with the Cape Breton Regional Police testified Friday that he was instructed by another department to arrest Christopher Garnier in 2017 for breaching conditions of his release. Sgt. Dave MacGillivray told a hearing of the Nova Scotia Police Review Board there was no discussion regarding a warrant when the request came from Halifax Regional Police to detain Garnier, who was awaiting trial for murder. Members of Cape Breton's municipal force did not charge Garnier after he was taken into custody. "We did not know at the time that there was a definite breach," MacGillivray told the three-member panel. MacGillivray reiterated that Halifax police were handling Garnier's file and keeping track of his whereabouts. 2 constables sent to make arrest He said two Cape Breton constables were sent to pick up Garnier in Millville, N.S., on Feb. 19, 2017 — about 33 hours after Garnier failed to show up at his mother's door as part of a bail compliance. That same year, Garnier was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of off-duty Truro police officer Catherine Campbell. The hearing into the conduct of four Cape Breton Regional Police officers was launched Monday, after Garnier's father, Vincent Garnier, complained police violated his son's rights. Causeway handover After he was taken to a central lockup in Sydney, Christopher Garnier was driven to the Canso Causeway where he was picked up by Halifax officers. MacGillivray was asked if it is uncommon for charges to be laid outside a jurisdiction where an alleged offence took place. "It's not our practice, but in this case it did happen," he said. Governed under the Nova Scotia Police Act, the review board is an adjudicating body for complaints in relation to municipal policing organizations in the province. Board chair Jean McKenna said written arguments are expected, noting the panel could make recommendations on how interdepartmental affairs are handled. "It may seem as though there was information that may not have been properly transmitted," she told hearing lawyers and Vincent Garnier, who has been representing himself as a complainant. The board also has the authority to dismiss the matter, find a complaint valid and award or fix costs where appropriate. Hearing to wrap The constables accused of misconduct are Steve Campbell, Gary Fraser, Dennis McSween and Troy Walker. All of the men, with the exception of McSween — who was given a medical exemption — have testified. In total, 11 witnesses have given testimony, including members of Christopher Garnier's family and an ex-girlfriend. A Halifax police constable is the final person who will give sworn evidence when the hearing resumes Monday. Vincent Garnier alleges police unlawfully arrested his son, took photographs on private property without the knowledge or consent of the homeowner, and invited themselves into the home where his son was staying. Officers who spoke at the hearing said they were only performing their duties according to proper police protocols. MORE TOP STORIES
VICTORIA — British Columbia's health minister says the province will release a report assessing its COVID-19 response in the province's long-term care homes. Adrian Dix says the Health Ministry commissioned the report by Ernst & Young to learn lessons from the first wave of the pandemic. Dix says the report will be released on Monday and it is "overwhelmingly favourable" of the government's actions. He says the goal was to determine how the province could do a better job of delivering services and all the recommendations in the report have been implemented. Dix says more than 40 groups representing care homes were consulted last summer and fall. Canada's first COVID-19 infection occurred a year ago at a long-term care home in North Vancouver, and Dix says more than 650 residents at facilities around the province have died since then. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — A former senior employee with the Ontario government has repaid more than $11 million in COVID-19 benefits the province alleges he took fraudulently, his lawyer said on Friday.The unproven civil claim named Sanjay Madan, who had a senior IT role and helped develop the computer application for applying and approving the benefit for families with children.In a brief statement, Madan's lawyer Christopher Du Vernet confirmed his client had made the repayment."In fact, the province has recovered in excess of the funds it presently alleges Mr. Madan took from the Families Support Program," Du Vernet said. "However, it is also seeking its legal costs, interest and punitive damages, so the action continues."In its untested lawsuit filed last fall, the province alleged Madan, his wife and two adult children who all worked for the Ontario government in information technology defrauded the province of at least $11 million.The civil claim, which also sought $2 million in punitive damages, accused them and others of illegally issuing and banking cheques under the program that aimed to defray the cost of children learning at home."The Madan family exploited their positions of employment with Ontario and unique access to the (program) and payment processing system," the government alleged in the claim. "The plaintiff was uniquely vulnerable to Sanjay, particularly with respect to the integrity of the...application."The Ministry of the Attorney General did not immediately confirm the recovered money, first reported by the Toronto Star. Du Vernet said his client "deeply regrets" his actions and was awaiting results of medical opinions on his condition.According to the lawsuit, Madan and his family opened more than 400 accounts at the Bank of Montreal between April and May. They then deposited around 10,000 cheques made out to fictitious applicants with thousands of non-existent children under the support program.Most deposits were made over a four-week period starting on May 25, coinciding with a rule change that allowed more than five payments to be made to an applicant. The government alleges Madan either sparked the rule change or knew about it and took advantage.In other court filings, Madan is said to have told the government that he could explain "all of this" and that he has "helped many families."The government had served notice it intended to seize any money the family obtained fraudulently and obtained a court order to have their bank accounts turned over to the court pending the outcome of the lawsuit.The government also obtained a court order freezing the family's assets, which included a list of properties in Toronto.Madan was fired in November. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
The Ontario government is kicking off a new social media campaign with actors, singers, athletes, and business owners who are all asking you to remain at home. Meanwhile, data tracking mobility in the city continues to show progress. Matthew Bingley reports.
A Komoka resident and lifelong environmentalist is building Middlesex Centre’s first net-zero energy house, hoping to spark a trend in the region. A net-zero home minimizes energy use for heating and cooling, while producing its own energy through solar panels. “It’s been a personal mission and passion of mine to try to educate, not to preach, and to live by example,” said Terry Keep. “Even a guy who is not a builder can do this with the right people around them.” Keep has been building his new carbon-neutral family home amid the pandemic and expects to be finished by April. He spent years researching the process before breaking ground last fall. The 2,300-square-foot (214-square-metre) home will feature solar panels on its steel roof, along with thicker walls for better insulation and triple-pane windows to reduce energy use. The lumber used is all Forest Stewardship Council certified. The driveway will use permeable pavers so stormwater can drain through into the ground. “It’s a nicer, quieter, dryer, tighter home,” Keep said. It’s also one of few homes to feature an electric furnace — the home uses no natural gas — and a heat pump. The house is divided into three zones, each heated only when necessary. Though net-zero homes are available in the London region — Sifton’s West Five development, for example, is geared toward sustainable living — Keep said building one independently in other neighbourhoods isn’t common. He’s documenting the building process — he calls it a “labour of love” — on YouTube, aiming to show carbon-neutral homes can be accessible and affordable for everyday consumers, not just environmentalists. He also wanted to prove you don’t have to move to a new neighbourhood to get a carbon-neutral house. “It’s the desire to show people it’s a regular neighbourhood, my home will stand beside a regular, code-built home,” Keep said. “I want people to see it can be done.” Walk through Keep’s house in progress, and it looks like any other mid-century modern home — with hints of Frank Lloyd Wright — not something out of The Jetsons. About 20 per cent of the average home's carbon footprint comes from household energy consumption. It takes about seven years for a solar-powered house to recoup the investment costs. But Keep has faced many hurdles getting his environmentally sustainable house off the ground, even without pandemic hiccups, such as labour and supply shortages. Finding architects, builders and tradespeople with knowledge and experience in developing net-zero houses was a challenge, Keep said, and getting them to commit to a single house even harder. “It’s been a really interesting ride,” said the home's builder, Frank Oosterhoff, who owns Great Lakes Construction. Keep said Middlesex Centre is a progressive area in terms of sustainability, citing the newly built net-zero firehall, and the community centre’s solar panels. Once his own house is finished, Keep plans to pursue building a row of affordable, net-zero townhouses. “The next generation is starting to realize there's value in that,” he said. “If everyone can afford one, they’ll buy it — if they can’t afford one, they won’t.” Keep drives a plug-in hybrid vehicle and is also a vegetarian. He was a founding member of EnviroWestern, a group at Western University that promotes sustainability. “We make small steps to get to a big impact over our life,” Keep said. “It doesn’t happen over a short period.” email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
The Grand River Conservation Authority is sharing its technical expertise with the public in a live webinar series covering topics of interest for landowners in the watershed. The four-part series includes sessions on the conservation authority’s popular cost-sharing tree planting program, invasive tree diseases and pests like the gypsy moth and oak wilt, aquatic species at risk in the Grand River watershed, and the water quality program where conservation staff work with landowners to customize a cost-sharing plan to reduce pollutants entering the river. Each webinar will consist of a presentation given by a conservation expert followed by a dedicated time for participants to ask questions. “We all have a role to play as landowners in improving watershed health,” said Louise Heyming, supervisor of conservation outreach at the Grand River Conservation Authority. “This series of webinars focuses on supporting rural landowners with information on programs that they can access to help make further improvements to benefit the watershed, and their properties and water quality.” The program was announced earlier this week and 40 participants have registered. The series is designed for rural landowners with more than two-and-a-half acres of land but is open to anyone. The sessions are free of charge but require registration. Recordings of the webinars will also be posted to the conservation authority website and will be free to access. Typically, the conservation authority hosts in-person workshops or attends outreach events to interact with landowners. An online format is being piloted this year because of COVID-19. If all goes well and there is enough interest, Heyming said more sessions will be added. Two of the webinars will focus on the Grand River Conservation Authority’s private land tree planting and rural water quality programs — programs the conservation has been running on behalf of the watershed’s municipalities for decades. “I love working with the individual landowners and those relationships that we have,” said Heyming. “We have a team of staff that has been delivering the program, some of us, for 20 years.” “When we drive through the watershed now, we see the individual projects on the landscape, and know that they’re still there and we get to play a role in supporting those landowners.” The private land tree planting program has been running for more than 60 years, said Heyming. The conservation authority works with an average of 70 landowners to plant about 100,000 trees in the watershed each year. Trees provide multiple benefits for a watershed, including preventing erosion and providing habitat for species at risk. The rural water quality program is a cost-sharing program between the Grand River Conservation Authority on behalf of municipalities and landowners to complete projects designed to improve the watershed’s water quality. Since the program began in 1998, nearly 7,000 projects have been completed with more than $56-million invested in water quality. In Waterloo Region, nearly $500,000 was invested into 65 water quality improvement projects for the 2020 year. More information and registration details can be found at grandriver.ca Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record
HONG KONG — Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down Saturday in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening outbreak in the city, authorities said. Hong Kong has been grappling to contain a fresh wave of the coronavirus since November. Over 4,300 cases have been recorded in the last two months, making up nearly 40% of the city’s total. Coronavirus cases in Hong Kong’s Yau Tsim Mong district – a working-class neighbourhood with old buildings and subdivided flats – made up about half of the infections in the past week. Sewage testing in the area picked up more concentrated traces of the COVID-19 virus, prompting concerns that poorly built plumbing systems and a lack of ventilation in subdivided units may present a possible path for the virus to spread. Authorities said in a statement Saturday that an area comprising 16 buildings in Yau Tsim Mong will be locked down until all residents have undergone tests. Residents will not be allowed to leave their homes until they have received their test results to prevent cross-infection. “Persons subject to compulsory testing are required to stay in their premises until all such persons identified in the area have undergone testing and the test results are mostly ascertained,” the government said in a statement. Hong Kong has previously avoided lockdowns in the city during the pandemic, with leader Carrie Lam stating in July last year that authorities will avoid taking such “extreme measures” unless it had no other choice. The restrictions, which were announced at 4 a.m. in Hong Kong, are expected to end within 48 hours, the government said. It appealed to employers to exercise discretion and avoid docking the salary of employees who have been affected by the restrictions and may not be able to go to work. Hong Kong has seen a total of 9,929 infections in the city, with 168 deaths recorded as of Friday. Zen Soo, The Associated Press
The province’s largest vaccination effort in history is projected to vaccinate all 4.3 million eligible British Columbians by the end of September, health officials announced today. The province is prepared to deliver 8.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — both of which require two doses — to all adults who want one at a rate of up to 500,000 per week as vaccine supply increases. No vaccines have been approved for use by B.C.’s 900,000 children and youth under 18. “By the end of September, everyone who wants a vaccination will have one,” said Premier John Horgan. The province has changed early plans to continue prioritizing specific at-risk groups as is being done in other provinces. Instead, the vaccine will be administered largely based on age in B.C.’s four-phase strategy. “Our immunization plan is based on evidence and data,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “And we know the single greatest risk factor for serious illness and death from COVID-19 is increasing age.” Initially the province said frontline workers such as those in law enforcement, grocery stores and essential businesses and teachers and emergency responders could be prioritized in its plans. But research from B.C. and the rest of Canada indicates that risk of serious illness and death due to COVID-19 increases “almost exponentially” with age, Henry noted. Those over 80 are almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as those in their late 60s, who are five times more likely than people under 45. Even the other chronic conditions proven to increase the risk of hospitalization and death, such as serious asthma, heart disease and diabetes, are heavily correlated with age, Henry said. “Going on an age-based model captures the majority of people with underlying risk factors first,” she said. “This is going to be, and needs to be, an all-B.C. effort to make sure we can protect those most vulnerable and all of us in our communities.” Phase 1 of the strategy is already well under way, focusing on long-term care staff and residents and essential visitors, health-care workers treating COVID-19 patients and remote First Nations communities. More than 100,000 people have been vaccinated so far, and the phase will wrap up by March, Henry said. Under Phase 2, starting in March, 172 communities will see stadiums, high school gyms and public plazas turned into mass immunization centres. Mobile vaccination clinics and house-call teams will also be available for smaller communities and people who can’t make it to a vaccination centre. More than 240,000 seniors over 80 living in the community will be immunized, as well as Indigenous seniors over 65, hospital staff and community practitioners and homeless or vulnerable populations living in settings like shelters and group homes. At the same time, vaccination pre-registrations will start for the general population by phone and online, opening two to four weeks before each age group is eligible on a rolling basis. In Phase 3 starting in April, about 980,000 seniors in the community will be immunized. The plan is to start with people 75 to 79 and move through the population in five-year increments until everyone over 60 is vaccinated. B.C.’s vaccination lead Dr. Penny Ballem said immunocompromised adults and teens over 16 will get the vaccine if it’s deemed medically necessary during this phase, as well as organ transplant recipients and those with other clinical vulnerabilities. And the final phase starting in July will see about three million people aged 18 to 59 vaccinated in descending age order. Patients will also receive physical or digital vaccination records noting the date and kind of vaccination they received, and all immunization records will also be available through the provincial health gateway. The plan is based on the increasing availability of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as the anticipated approval of additional vaccines on order. Vaccine shortages have already delayed vaccinations in B.C. and across Canada. The province expects more than 800,000 doses to arrive in B.C. before the end of March, 2.6 million from April to June and six million by the end of September. Planning also assumes 100-per-cent uptake in the population, which surveys indicate will not be the case. Henry hopes around 70 per cent of those eligible will be vaccinated to build community immunity. “This can be reached if the large majority of people in B.C. choose to be immunized,” she said. Officials say the timeline could shift if the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved and available in the province, or if vaccines need to be rerouted to deal with community outbreaks, clusters or high-risk workplaces. Ballem said the baseline estimates “allows us to know how to schedule human resources, supply chains for vaccines and other supplies that are necessary.” Horgan said more delays are possible if vaccine production is slower than expected. But the plan is a good starting point and can be adapted as vaccine supplies increase or acute needs emerge in communities, he said. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix urged people to continue washing their hands, staying home when sick and masking up in public areas. It will be a long time until any sense of normalcy can return, and this is a critical time to protect the most vulnerable before they are immunized, they said. “What’s really important for success and us getting through these next few months is continuing to take the precautions that we know work,” said Henry. Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
WASHINGTON — Newly confirmed Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will have to contend not only with a world of security threats and a massive military bureaucracy, but also with a challenge that hits closer to home: rooting out racism and extremism in the ranks. Austin took office Friday as the first Black defence chief, in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where retired and current military members were among the rioters touting far-right conspiracies. The retired four-star Army general told senators this week that the Pentagon’s job is to “keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.” Ridding the military of racists isn’t his only priority. Austin, who was confirmed in a 93-2 vote, has made clear that accelerating delivery of coronavirus vaccines will get his early attention. But the racism issue is personal. At Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, he explained why. In 1995, when then-Lt. Col. Austin was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, three white soldiers, described as self-styled skinheads, were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who was walking down the street. Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race. The killing triggered an internal investigation, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinhead and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views. They included 17 who were considered white supremacists or separatists. “We woke up one day and discovered that we had extremist elements in our ranks,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And they did bad things that we certainly held them accountable for. But we discovered that the signs for that activity were there all along. We just didn’t know what to look for or what to pay attention to.” Austin is not the first secretary to grapple with the problem. Racism has long been an undercurrent in the military. While leaders insist only a small minority hold extremist views, there have been persistent incidents of racial hatred and, more subtly, a history of implicit bias in what is a predominantly white institution. A recent Air Force inspector general report found that Black service members in the Air Force are far more likely to be investigated, arrested, face disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct. Based on 2018 data, roughly two-thirds of the military’s enlisted corps is white and about 17% is Black, but the minority percentage declines as rank increases. The U.S. population overall is about three-quarters white and 13% Black, according to Census Bureau statistics. Over the past year, Pentagon leaders have struggled to make changes, hampered by opposition from then-President Donald Trump. It took months for the department to effectively ban the Confederate flag last year, and Pentagon officials left to Congress the matter of renaming military bases that honour Confederate leaders. Trump rejected renaming the bases and defended flying the flag. Senators peppered Austin with questions about extremism in the ranks and his plans to deal with it. The hearing was held two weeks after lawmakers fled the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, in which many of the rioters espoused separatist or extremist views. “It’s clear that we are at a crisis point,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., saying leaders must root out extremism and reaffirm core military values. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., pressed Austin on the actions he will take. “Disunity is probably the most destructive force in terms of our ability to defend ourselves," Kaine said. "If we’re divided against one another, how can we defend the nation?” Austin, who broke racial barriers throughout his four decades in the Army, said military leaders must set the right example to discourage and eliminate extremist behaviour. They must get to know their troops, and look for signs of extremism or other problems, he said. But Austin — the first Black man to serve as head of U.S. Central Command and the first to be the Army's vice chief of staff — also knows that much of the solution must come from within the military services and lower-ranking commanders. They must ensure their troops are trained and aware of the prohibitions. “Most of us were embarrassed that we didn’t know what to look for and we didn’t really understand that by being engaged more with your people on these types of issues can pay big dividends,” he said, recalling the 82nd Airborne problems. “I don’t think that you can ever take your hand off the steering wheel here.” But he also cautioned that there won't be an easy solution, adding, “I don’t think that this is a thing that you can put a Band-Aid on and fix and leave alone. I think that training needs to go on, routinely." Austin gained confirmation after clearing a legal hurdle prohibiting anyone from serving as defence chief until they have been out of the military for seven years. Austin retired less than five years ago, but the House and Senate quickly approved the needed waiver, and President Joe Biden signed it Friday. Soon afterward, Austin strode into the Pentagon, his afternoon already filled with calls and briefings, including a meeting with Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He held a broader video conference on COVID-19 with all top defence and military leaders, and his first call to an international leader was with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Austin, 67, is a 1975 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He helped lead the invasion into Iraq in 2003, and eight years later was the top U.S. commander there, overseeing the full American troop withdrawal. After serving as vice chief of the Army, Austin headed Central Command, where he oversaw the reinsertion of U.S. troops to Iraq to beat back Islamic State militants. He describes himself as the son of a postal worker and a homemaker from Thomasville, Georgia, who will speak his mind to Congress and to Biden. Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
Approximately 30 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel have been deployed to Garden Hill First Nation to provide humanitarian assistance and address the emergent needs of the community. Between Jan. 17 and 18, members of the CAF were sent to support an Indigenous Service Canada-led liaison and reconnaissance team to rapidly assess the situation in the northern Manitoba community. Following a formal Request for Assistance, the CAF arrived at the First Nation on Wednesday to work alongside other community members and other government departments and agencies. “In Island Lake, we have been working hard to try to mitigate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” Alex McDougall, executive director of Four Arrows Regional Health Authority (FARHA) told Winnipeg Sun on Friday. “Bringing down the number of cases in the region is something we want to see very quickly, and having the military personnel in the community to assist with the immunization plan is something that needs to continue.” FARHA oversees health services for all Island Lake Anishininew Nation communities, including Garden Hill First Nation, Wasagamack First Nation, St. Theresa Point First Nation and Red Sucker Lake First Nation. Garden Hill First Nation is located 610 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg and 350 air kilometres southeast of Thompson. Manitoba’s Island Lake district saw a total of 300 active cases as of Thursday with 266 of those cases from Garden Hill First Nation. According to CAF spokesperson Jessica Lamirande, tasks which the CAF has been called to do are: · Provide general duty support to the community and nursing station for clerical, maintenance, cleaning duties of isolating personnel where required; · Integrate into the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) command post in the community to coordinate activities with the Chief and his Council and other government partners; · Assist in the establishment and operating of a local Alternative Isolation Area (AIA), · Arrange for training and support to incoming staff in the operation of the AIA; · Provide limited assistance with patient management tasks, including triage, secondary assessment, monitoring of patients, testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients; · Where necessary assist with home wellness checks; and · Offer transportation assistance to other responding government departments in and out of the affected area for cargo and personnel, if required. Last Friday, approximately one-third of the 5,300 Moderna vaccines allocated to Manitoba First Nations arrived at Island Lake. Garden Hill First Nation received 320 doses of the vaccine during the weekend. Despite many COVID-19 cases in the region, there is still some who refuse to receive immunity against the virus. “We are seeing apprehension within the community members in Garden Hill. The situation there is bad as well as overall in Island Lake. Community members are frustrated and scared at the same time,” said McDougall. “This is a strong indicator that we need to continue with our education and awareness piece, and share with our members the importance of participating in the immunization plan,” he added. The FARHA has been working with the provincial and federal government for two decades to bring in critical infrastructure in the area such as a hospital that can provide services to the residents of Island Lake. McDougall said that patients suffering from COVID-19 in Island Lake need to be flown out to Winnipeg to receive treatment. Currently, the Garden Hill community is under lockdown, with non-essential travel prohibited. Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun
The motor kicks in, slowly raising the viewing hatch to reveal the celestial bodies shining on this crisp January night — ready for their close-up from the Celestron CPC 1100 telescope mounted in the University of Prince Edward Island observatory. The silver dome-shaped tower sits atop Memorial Hall on the Charlottetown campus. Megan Glover, a laboratory technician in the physics department, controls the direction of the telescope using a computerized control pad to find the bright cratered surface of the first quarter moon. Even thought the opening of the dome and telescope can swivel in all directions, Glover said they are still somewhat limited as to what a group of students can see in the artificially illuminated city skies. "We're still able to show them things like planets, some star clusters, nebula, the occasional galaxy if the weather is cooperating enough," Glover said. "It's just a way for them to have a firsthand view of something — rather than just seeing it as a picture on a textbook or a website." Behind her, placed on a wall near the exit of the 2.5-metre diameter dome, is a newly added plaque. "The Earl L. Wonnacott Observatory," it reads, dedicating the structure to the former professor who was instrumental in getting it installed in 1980. 'Just a tremendous experience' Wonnacott began teaching at Prince of Wales College in the 1940s. He continued as a PWC professor — with breaks to upgrade his own education, as well as serve in the Second World War — until the college merged with St. Dunstan's University to form UPEI in 1969. There he taught physics and astronomy and was the chair of the physics department in the 1980s. Bill Whelan, current chair of the department, took one of Wonnacott's two astronomy courses as an undergrad and calls it "just a tremendous experience. "He had a very soft-spoken, very gentle manner and such an enthusiasm for physics and astronomy. He just sort of… brought you right in and helped you experience the wonders of looking up at the sky." In 1980, Wonnacott was able to get funding for the new observatory. It would consist of a telescope, a dome to cover it and all the infrastructure to support it in a sheltered space on top of a new wing being built at Memorial Hall. "He said that he and his student assistants often got very excited about what they were seeing and they hoped that the people that were visiting would get just as excited — and he thought that it would rub off a little bit on them," Glover said, recalling a paper Wonnacott wrote about the observatory in the early 1980s. "I think that's what we continue to do, is let people see some of these astronomical sites for themselves and get interested and it's a great way to get interested in science." Wonnacott was a founding member of the Royal Astronomical Society, Charlottetown Centre. After he retired, the Professor Earl Wonnacott Prize in astronomy was established in his honour in 1998. He was named a Founder of the University in 2001 for his contributions to education in the province. He continued to teach astronomy into the early 2000s, and would still show up at public viewing events to join in spreading knowledge about astronomy. Whelan recalls a 2017 solar viewing event, when the university partnered with the Charlottetown chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society to set up devices and telescopes to help the public safely take in the event. They were expecting a couple dozen people to show up, but hundreds of community members attended, including Wonnacott. "I can tell you that it electrified a lot of people who attended because many hadn't seen him in a number of years," Whalen said. "We were very pleased to see him there. He has always shared his knowledge about solar eclipses in these solar events and he just elevated the entire event." Wonnacott died on October 18, 2019. To commemorate the 40th year of the Observatory, in 2020 the physics department proposed to the university that it be dedicated in Wonnacott's honour. The university agreed and the dedication was made in October. Sharing the sky with the public Over the years, the observatory has been used often for public viewings, either for the general public or for community groups. Glover said that continues to respect Wonnacott's original intention of helping people see things in the sky with their own eyes. It also lets those leading the public viewings to share in the magic of someone's first-timer delight. "It can be a bit like getting to see it yourself again for the first time," said Glover. "When someone else gets very excited about seeing it, it's a little bit — kind of gets you caught up in it as well." New camera equipment, including a special filter, will help students collect the different spectrum of light from the stars. "Our hope is that students will be able to get a spectrum from a star themselves and study it and learn what they can about the star," Glover said. More from CBC P.E.I.
Nicola Mining, the company who owns the old Craigmont Mine site on Aberdeen Rd., has announced its 2021 Exploration Objectives at the New Craigmont Copper Project. Last year, the company applied for a multi-year area-based (MYAB) exploration permit that would facilitate a five-year exploration plan. The 2021 program includes five new trenches, the reactivation of six historic trenches and up to 21 drill holes. Trenching is aimed at developing three target areas where copper occurrences have been observed but have not been drill tested. The 2021 season has been divided into two phases, with the second phase contingent on results from phase one. A complete explanation of both phase one and phase two of the 2021 program is available in a report by Yahoo Finance found here. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald