Authorities in Columbus, Ohio, have released police body camera footage showing the moments when an officer on a nonemergency call fatally shot a Black man who was holding a cellphone as he emerged from a garage. (Dec. 23)
Authorities in Columbus, Ohio, have released police body camera footage showing the moments when an officer on a nonemergency call fatally shot a Black man who was holding a cellphone as he emerged from a garage. (Dec. 23)
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances. Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances. He is expected to start work on Wednesday after being sworn in, according to State Department officials. “American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.” Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.” Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote. Opposition to Blinken centred on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement. Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Ani Di Franco, "Revolutionary Love” (Righteous Babe Records) Pioneering folkie activist Ani Di Franco is a standout instrumentalist whose guitar could kill fascists. Alas, on “Revolutionary Love,” her six-string doesn’t play a major role — or many notes. Not that Di Franco has gone mellow. With characteristic passion on her first studio album since 2017, she makes the personal universal, and the political personal. Her title cut is a seven-minute pledge to propel social movements with love and forgiveness, the message underscored by a slow-burn soul groove. Elsewhere Di Franco quotes Michelle Obama, skewers an ex-president and calls for resilience in the wake of depressing news headlines. Such topics are mixed with couplets about personal pain and bliss, sometimes within the same song. The best of “Revolutionary Love” is very good. Di Franco's acoustic guitar is most prominent on “Metropolis,” and it's beautiful — a love ballad with shimmering reeds that evoke her description of “fog lifting off the bay.” The equally compelling “Chloroform” laments domestic dysfunction as a string quartet creates dissonance of its own. Elsewhere Di Franco blends elements of folk, jazz and R&B, and makes music suitable for a rally. She's at her most politically vociferous on “Do or Die,” singing about “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to a Latin beat. Di Francophiles will find it positively patriotic. Steven Wine, The Associated Press
An Australian gold mining company was arraigned on a slew of environmental charges in provincial court in Dartmouth, N.S., Tuesday morning. Atlantic Mining NS Inc. faces 32 charges under the province's Environment Act related to its gold mining operation in eastern Nova Scotia. Atlantic Mining NS Inc. is a subsidiary of St Barbara Limited, but is better known for its corporate name, Atlantic Gold Corp. The company is accused of "failing to comply with the conditions of an approval" and "releasing substances into the environment in amount, concentration or level in excess of approval level or regulations." The offences allegedly took place between February 2018 and May 2020. Most of the charges are related to the area of Mooseland and Moose River Gold Mines, where the company has an open pit gold mine. The other alleged offence locations named in the charging information are 15 Mile Stream, Jed Lake and Seloam Brook. The company was granted a request to adjourn the case until March 15, when it will enter a plea. Atlantic Gold plans to develop three more open pit gold mines on the Eastern Shore and truck the ore to a central processing facility at Mooseland where it operates the Touquoy mine. The company recently told investors it will proceed next with 15 Mile Stream and Beaver Dam locations. The startup date for its controversial Cochrane Hill site on the St. Marys River has been delayed by several years. There is uncertainty over whether the province will allow the company access to the water supply it wants to use at Cochrane Hill. There is some local opposition because of its proximity to the St. Marys River, home to a remaining Atlantic salmon population. MORE TOP STORIES
New results extend hopes for drugs that supply antibodies to fight COVID-19, suggesting they can help keep patients out of the hospital and possibly prevent illness in some uninfected people. Eli Lilly said Tuesday that a two-antibody combo reduced the risk of hospitalizations or death by 70% in newly diagnosed, non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients at high risk of serious illness because of age or other health conditions. All 10 deaths that occurred in the study were among those receiving placebo rather than the antibodies. Separately, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said partial results from an ongoing study suggest its drug combo completely prevented symptomatic infections in housemates of someone with COVID-19. Importantly, the drug was given as multiple shots rather than through an IV. The need for an infusion has greatly limited the use of antibody drugs in the pandemic because of health care shortages. None of the new results have been published or reviewed by other scientists, and the Regeneron ones were based on only one quarter of patients in its study and were not a planned early analysis. Antibodies are proteins that attach to a virus and block it from infecting cells, but it takes several weeks after infection or vaccination for the most effective ones to form. The drugs aim to help right away, by supplying concentrated doses of one or two antibodies that worked best against the coronavirus in lab tests. U.S. regulators have allowed emergency use of some Lilly and Regeneron antibodies for mild or moderate COVID-19 cases that do not require hospitalization while studies of them continued. The drugs are also being tested to prevent infection in those at high risk of it. That’s called “passive vaccination” because it supplies antibodies rather than prompts the body to make them. Both companies are asking regulators to expand authorization of their drugs based on the new findings. Regeneron’s results were on the first 409 people in a study that has enrolled more than 2,000 so far. All tested negative for the virus but live with someone who has COVID-19. There were roughly half as many infections among those given the drug versus a placebo, and none on the drug developed any symptoms. Infections also were shorter and the amount of virus lower among those given the drug. Lilly’s new results were from a study of 1,035 non-hospitalized patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19. About 2% on the drug were later hospitalized or died versus 7% of the placebo group. Last week, Lilly said one of the two antibodies helped prevent illness among residents and staff of nursing homes in a different study. The four deaths that occurred in that study were all among those given placebo. ___ Marilynn Marchione can be followed on Twitter: @MMarchioneAP ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press
That "smile" is totally contagious. How cute is this dog?!
Weather is getting cooler and beards are getting bushier as some Canadian men look to add an extra layer of warmth to their faces this winter.Others, motivated by lockdown measures and extended work-from-home terms, may view this as a perfect time to see how unruly those whiskers can get before a trim is needed.But as long as mask-wearing is encouraged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, should they worry about facial hair interfering with the effectiveness of face coverings?Some experts say men should shave their beards in order to obtain the best mask fit, but others say it depends how long the stubble gets, and if their job requires a tighter-fitting respirator.The CDC has an infographic on facial hair and N-95s on its website, outlining styles that are safe, including handlebar mustaches and soul patches. Other looks — like extended goatees, muttonchops and Van Dykes — cross the seal of the mask and need to go. Dr. Christopher Labos, a Montreal-based physician, says that advice is fine for health-care workers, but when it comes to regular cloth masks, breaking a seal isn't as much of a concern."If it's covering your mouth and nose, it's doing what it's supposed to do," he said. "Whether there's a gap on the side isn't really here or there because there's always a gap." Dr. Jane Wang, a clinical instructor at UBC who has studied face masks extensively, disagrees.Wang's recent research suggests men with beards experience more leakage — droplets expelling through gaps in the mask — than those without. Leaky areas of masks are most prominent around the nose, chin and the cheeks, and pleated masks tend to leak more than other styles.Having facial hair jutting out of a mask increases that leakage zone, she said. So the most effective way to ensure a cloth mask fits around the face is to remove the beard."Having more leaks decreases the filtration," Wang said, adding that research on mask fit and leaks date back to the 1990s. "So the air we breathe will go through the leak and not the filter of the mask."Dr. Lisa Bryski, an emergency-room physician in Winnipeg, has seen many colleagues shave off their beards in order to properly wear masks in the health-care field. While a cloth covering doesn't provide the same level of protection as an N-95, Bryski suggests men outside front-line work settings might want to pick up the razor too."It's a personal choice, but anything you do to increase your own protection and protection of others is appropriate in these times," she said. "Where shaving is not an option, keeping the beard groomed and trimmed may reduce the amount of hair and help with mask seal."Bryski acknowledged that for some men, like those in the Sikh community, beards may be an integral part of religious identity.Sukhmeet Sachal, a second-year medical student at UBC, recognized that and is offering a solution. Sachal is part of a group that has been handing out modified face masks to Sikh men at gurdwaras, or places of assembly and worship. The masks, made by volunteers, wrap around beards and tie over turbans, offering Sikh men a better alternative than a regular face mask they could buy at a store.Sachal said he got the idea when he walked into a gurdwara with his father and saw hardly anyone wearing a mask. While he says there may have been a combination of reasons for that, the beards played a part."We heard from people directly that there were no masks available for them," Sachal said. "When they went to the store, they didn't find any."Sachal says hair, whether it's on your face or head, is seen in Sikhism as a gift from God. Turbans are wrapped around hair to protect it, and most Sikh men refrain from cutting their hair or shaving their beards."That's why these masks are important," Sachal said. "They allow people to practise their religion while being safe."Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, looks at beards as a "variable" in how well a mask fits, but "not a determiner."A mask can be ill-fitting whether you have a beard or not, he explained. And while the length of facial hair will impact fit further, he says mask-wearing is only one safety precaution we should be practising."I don't think beards should be demonized, because it's not just about wearing a mask," he said. "You're also maintaining physical distance, you're also not doing large crowds... "It's when you start thinking that masks protect you completely that beards become more risky."Wang says those keeping their beards should still wear face masks."It'll be less effective, but it's better than nothing," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
TBILISI, Georgia — Europe's top human rights court on Thursday found Russia responsible for a swath of violations in Georgia's breakaway regions after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Georgia hailed the verdict by the European Court of Human Rights as a major victory. President Salome Zurabishvili described the ruling as “historic,” noting that Georgia was “recognized as a victim of this war and it is a great achievement for our country, our society, our history and our future." Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia also described the verdict as a landmark move, saying that “the case against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights has ended with Georgia’s victory.” The August 2008 war erupted amid rising tensions over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, much of which was under control of Russia-backed separatists. Georgia said it launched an artillery barrage on the regional capital after Russian combat troops entered the region and shelled Georgian villages, but Russia claimed the troops entered only in response to the artillery. After the war, Moscow set up military bases in South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian province, Abkhazia, and recognized them as independent states, while most of the world has continued to consider them part of Georgia. In its case against Russia, Georgia accused it of violating the European Convention on Human Rights both during and after the war, but the ECHR only accepted the Georgian complaints related to the period after the fighting. The Strasbourg-based court ruled that Russia exercised effective control over Georgia's separatist regions after the hostilities and was responsible for ill-treatment and acts of torture against Georgian prisoners of war, arbitrary detentions of Georgians and "inhuman and degrading treatment” of 160 detained Georgian civilians, who were held in crowded confinement for more than two weeks in August 2008. It also held Russia responsible for preventing forcibly displaced ethnic Georgians from returning to the separatist regions after the conflict. The court ordered Moscow to conduct a probe into human rights violations during the hostilities and in their aftermath. Georgia’s Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani hailed the ECHR’s ruling as “an unprecedented international victory of the Georgian state." Russia's Justice Ministry voiced disagreement with some of the court's conclusions blaming Russia for the incidents in South Ossetia and Abkhazia "despite the fact that the Russian troops' direct involvement in them was never proven." At the same time, the ministry emphasized the ECHR's decision that the Georgian complaints related to the period of fighting were inadmissible. ___ Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Sophiko Megrelidze, The Associated Press
When the COVID-19 pandemic first turned video calls into the prevailing platform for social interaction, there was a voyeuristic thrill to peering inside people's homes in all of their poorly lit, pixelated and bare-walled non-glory. But in the months since Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other video chats became a facet of daily life, new standards have been set for virtual presentation, prompting people to consider how to best frame themselves on a computer screen. The Canadian Press asked experts for tips on how people can take their video calls to the next level by upgrading their production skills, digital manners and background décor. If you wouldn't do it in person, don't do it on camera While the shift from the boardroom to the Zoom room has given rise to a new digital etiquette, many of the rules of in-person decorum still apply, says Carolyn Levy, president of technology for human resources consultancy Randstad Canada. For example, she said most professionals wouldn't check their emails, get some work done or talk to a colleague in the middle of an office presentation, but such attention slips have become all too common online. "The rule of thumb is (if you wouldn't do it) when you were in person, don't do it if you're virtual." Eye contact is crucial to virtual communication, Levy said, so participants should look directly into the camera when talking, and turn their gaze to the speaker's window to show they're listening. Levy said hosts can help prevent digital faux pas by establishing expectations in their meeting invites, such as whether cameras should be on and when to use the mute button. She also urged attendees to check their setups before they click to join a meeting to avoid technology-related mishaps. Lights, camera, Zoom Cinematographer and photographer Gary Gould says all it takes is a few simple steps to put yourself in the best possible light on your next video call. The Ryerson University professor said one way to show your best angles is to put your laptop on a stack of books so the camera is at eye level. Gould suggested people position themselves as if they were posing for a "passport photo" — your face should take up most of the frame, but leave some space around your head and shoulders so it doesn't seem claustrophobic. Placing yourself close to the camera has the added benefit of ensuring that your laptop's microphone can pick up the sound of your voice when speaking at full volume, said Gould. While a little sunshine never hurts, Gould warned that having a window in the back of your shot will likely obscure your face in shadows. He said the issue can often be fixed by turning the camera 180 degrees. He also recommended arranging your desk lamps so the light is shining toward your face, noting that warm-coloured bulbs such as LEDs tend to be the most flattering. Learn from the pros: YouTubers and video-game streamers Kris Alexander, an assistant professor at Ryerson University's media school, warns his students that it takes more than an impressive resume to win a position. In the Zoom marketplace, Alexander says, "your camera feed is a job interview." For tips on professional virtual presentation, Alexander encourages people to turn to those who have built lucrative livelihoods based on at-home digital production — the stars of YouTube and the video-game streaming platform Twitch. "Currently, we are all in competition with Twitch streamers and YouTubers, whether we want to believe it or not," said Alexander, a video games researcher and Twitch streamer. Thankfully, these video gurus have uploaded their secrets in tutorials on lighting, sound, colour correction and graphics, often using tools that can be found in your own home, said Alexander. "The beautiful thing about it is it starts with you," he said. "It starts with what technology you have available to you." You should be the focal point of your video call Toronto interior designer Nike Onile says the background for your video calls can serve as a palette to show off your esthetic tastes, but the centrepiece of every Zoom room should be the same. "You want you to be the focal point," said Onile, founder of the spatial design studio Ode. "The backdrop should be subtle enough that you still remain the thing that people are looking at." You don't want to compete for your audience's attention by overwhelming the frame with cluttered walls, contrasting loud colours or busy patterns, said Onile. She suggested adding a large piece of art, curtains or a plant to liven up a plain background and create dimension. Décor with uniform, repetitive patterns, such as a bookcase, is also visually engaging without risking distraction, she said. Onile said video call users should also consider how their outfit fits into the frame. Wearing black against a dark backdrop can make you seem like a floating head, she said, while clothes that contrast with the colour of the wall can help you pop onscreen. There's nothing like a personal touch Jessie Bahrey of Port Moody, B.C., and her partner, D.C. politico Claude Taylor, have established themselves as the reigning connoisseurs of video-call backdrops as the minds behind Room Rater, a Twitter account that has racked up more than 350,000 followers by scoring the setups of at-home news segments on a scale out of 10. Bahrey said Zoom rooms with a personal touch tend to earn higher points than those with professional-grade production. She said media figures can show a more relatable side of themselves with details such as sports jerseys, political messages, meaningful quotations, family heirlooms and children's artwork. Some even shake up their set dressing with hidden symbols, she said. Bahrey said simple knick-knacks can serve as conversation starters that help people feel more connected on video calls, even when they can't be in the same room. "I think working from home is going to be the new norm," said Bahrey, who works at a greenhouse. "So people better get their rooms ready." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2020. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Members of Premier Jason Kenney’s caucus have refused an Opposition NDP bid to make public details of Alberta’s $7.5-billion investment in the failed Keystone XL pipeline project. The eight members of the governing United Conservative caucus rejected an NDP motion in public accounts committee today to ask Kenney for the details, along with any financial risk advice he was given when he made the investment last March. At that time, the Keystone XL line was facing multiple court challenges and the emerging Democrat party candidate, now President Joe Biden, was on record against the cross-border pipeline. The line was to take more Alberta oil through the U.S. Midwest and on to refineries and ports along the Gulf Coast to fetch a better price on overseas markets. Biden promised in his election campaign to cancel Keystone and did so last week on his first day in office, saying more product from Alberta’s oilsands does not mesh with his larger goal of combating climate change. Alberta has directly invested $1.5 billion with another $6 billion in loan guarantees, but the NDP says Albertans need to know the rationale Kenney used to make what it calls a risky decision and what the final bill will be now that the project is shelved. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
The arrival of COVID vaccines have stirred excitement and optimism for a swift end to the global pandemic, with some seeing the shot as a "free pass" to soon gather and socialize as they did pre-2020.Not so fast, experts say.Canada's first phase of vaccine rollout — targeting front-line health-care workers, long-term care residents and staff, and some Indigenous populations — began last month and is expected to stretch into March before the inoculation process is opened to a broader population this spring.While experts agree the end of the pandemic is in sight, they say it will take time to determine what level of protection the new vaccines actually provide — and whether they prevent us from spreading the virus.Experts expect mask mandates, limits on gatherings, and physical distancing measures to continue even as more of us get vaccinated, at least through part of 2021."Until we get to a level of herd immunity where we have around 70 per cent of our population vaccinated worldwide, there's going to be that question of transmission," said Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba. "And that's certainly a concern for us."Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the two vaccines currently approved for use in Canada, were shown in clinical trials to have a 95 per cent efficacy in preventing severe infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. And while Moderna has some evidence suggesting it also decreases transmission, more data is needed.Some vaccines, like the one for HPV, offer complete protection from infection and transmission, while others like the flu shot primarily work against acquiring the virus and lessening the severity of symptoms. Kindrachuk says part of the reason for that is the way our immune systems respond to different vaccines.The COVID vaccine seems to effectively produce neutralizing antibodies, he says, "but not necessarily enough to stop the virus from potentially getting into some of our cells."Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician in Mississauga, Ont., says answers to the transmission question will only come as "large swathes of the population" start getting vaccinated worldwide.We may see that the inoculations do decrease transmission, he says, and restrictions could be lifted earlier than experts expect."But as it stands in January 2021, when you get vaccinated you'll want to still act like you were doing before: physical distancing, keeping contacts low, masking indoors," Chakrabarti said. "As the pandemic starts to ease up, things will change."Being able to still transmit the virus becomes less of a problem as more and more people are vaccinated, experts say.But Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor of infectious diseases at UBC, doesn't expect SARS-CoV-2 to ever be eradicated. If 30 per cent of the population isn't immunized, the virus will continue to circulate through them, he says. So effective treatment for COVID-19 will be needed to deal with lingering cases."Viruses don't have brains but they're not stupid," he said. "They will continue to find hosts."Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, says COVID-19's potential staying power will have less of an impact once pressure is relieved on the health-care system. And that will be achieved by vaccinating high-risk populations early in the rollout.The first indication that vaccines are working will be a reduction in deaths as long-term care and other high-risk groups are immunized, he says, while case counts will be the last to decrease. That means infection prevention controls will need to be followed while community transmission is still happening."Eventually you'll start to see a reduction in cases as these vaccine programs roll up, and then we'll start to see public health measures slowly lifted as the year progresses, post-April," he said. "We'll probably see a gradual shift allowing larger outdoor gatherings, then indoor gatherings, and eventually lifting of mask mandates." An exact timeline for reaching that level is hard to predict, however.While a highly effective vaccine will allow us to reach herd immunity quicker, Bogoch says a 95 per cent efficacy in a clinical trial might not actually translate that successfully in the real world.Since efficacy was based on a two-dose regime, Bogoch expects that number to drop if people don't return for a second shot. It's also still unknown how effective the vaccine is for segments of the population excluded from clinical trials.So visiting a grandparent or other high-risk individual in the next couple months will be risky, Bogoch says, even if they've been vaccinated."The effectiveness is probably going to be lower (than the trials showed)," he said. "And we'll need to see how this plays out in real time to help drive our behaviours."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2020. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Sharon Bala knows the power of recognizing yourself in a story, and the pain of seeing your identity smeared across the page. The Sri Lankan-Canadian author says misrepresentations in fiction can feel like a form of literary violence, warping the way some readers see the real-life harms against people who aren't like them. "When we see ourselves misrepresented on the page, it just feels like the writer has taken their pen and shoved it into our eyes," said Bala, who won awards acclaim for her 2018 debut novel "The Boat People." "We can't pretend that we live in some rarefied bubble as writers where we are separate from the world." From using sexual violence against women as a plot point in a male hero's arc, to killing off an Indigenous character for dramatic tension, Bala said storytelling tropes often serve as a mirror of the systemic indifference toward the suffering of marginalized groups. But as society reckons with these injustices, the St. John's, N.L.-based novelist said a long-simmering conversation among authors about how to responsibly write about identities other than their own, whether that be a character of a different race, gender, sexuality, ability or class. In the past, she said, the public discourse about literary representation has been dominated by a privileged few stoking fears over perceived threats to authors' purported "right" to pluck inspiration from other communities as they please, said Bala. Examples include the 2017 CanLit controversy over an online campaign to fund a writing prize for cultural appropriation, or the tastemakers who rose to American author Jeanine Cummins' defence after the January release of her much-hyped book, "American Dirt," drew criticism from Latino writers and activists for trading in stereotypes about Mexicans. But Bala, who hosted an online workshop on literary representation earlier this month, says the strong turnout shows that writers know they can no longer afford to weaponize "the other" as a cudgel in someone else's narrative. Rather, she said, creators are grappling with questions that in some ways cut to the core of the mission of fiction: How do you write about who you don't know, and should you? "None of us are perfect. We're all going to make mistakes," said Bala. "But I think that if we ... have tried and still made the mistake, there's actually a lot of empathy for that within the writing community." Bala said she only writes about communities she has ties to, and people she'll have to answer to for any distortions. She's also a proponent of bringing in "sensitivity readers" — cultural experts who review manuscripts for inaccuracies — early in the writing process to catch misconceptions before they become embedded in the narrative. Emma Donoghue, the London, Ont.-based author behind "Room," said she's also enlisted the help of cultural consultants as part of her process. But ultimately, Donoghue said she and other white writers have a responsibility to assess their own abilities and motives before depicting different demographics. "I think it's a richer cultural landscape," she said. "If that means that the writers who used to sort of costlessly write about anything have to be a bit more careful, then that just comes with the territory." Acclaimed author Thomas King, who is of Greek and Cherokee descent, said he tries not to stray too far from his realm of experience in writing his protagonists. Characters of diverse backgrounds often populate his narratives, but King said he wouldn't write from another community's point of view because he wouldn't feel comfortable "taking on that skin." King said some of the most persistent pop culture narratives play into cliches and stereotypes to reinforce the audience's pre-existing biases. "While they're not authentic, to the public mind, they appear to be," he said. "Certainly, for Native people that happened with non-Native writers writing about Native characters." Novelist Andre Alexis holds that being too beholden to the burden of accurate representation can restrict the imaginative possibilities of literature. The Trinidad-born, Ottawa-raised writer said problems can arise when playing pretend with someone else's reality, and writers should have to answer for their misrepresentations. However, Alexis maintains that imagining "the other" serves a vital function not only in the arts, but for society at large. "It's important for the Americans to imagine what it's like to be a member of one of the countries they've attacked and ruined," said Alexis, who won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize for "Fifteen Dogs." "That imagining of the others who you have made to suffer is a tremendously significant moral step." Sanchari Sur, a genderqueer writer who uses the pronouns "she" and "they" interchangeably, said growing up they never saw queer characters, particularly South Asian ones, represented in fiction. "When you don't see yourself represented, or when you see yourself represented as a stereotype or negatively, that does impact you," said Sur, who is earning a PhD in English at Wilfrid Laurier University. Still, Sur said there needs to be space for writers to make mistakes and engage with critical feedback. Sur confronted this issue during a writers' retreat when they received a negative response to a piece they wrote that centred on a transgender woman's experience of familial emotional trauma. Sur, who was wrestling with their own gender identity at the time, said some trans participants at the retreat took issue with a non-trans author writing about the trans body in relation to trauma. Sur said the critiques caught them off guard, and it took months to work up the wherewithal to return to fiction. In the time since, Sur has come to see that there were technical problems with the story that contributed to the blowback, and feels they're a better writer because of the incident. "If you're being called out for something that is inherently wrong or dehumanizing in some way, then you have to acknowledge that and you have to learn from it." Kim Davids Mandar, an emerging writer in Guelph, Ont., said the complexities of literary representation have personal resonance for her as the daughter of immigrants who fled post-apartheid South Africa to provide a better life for their mixed-race family in Canada. When a publisher approached her about conducting a series of interviews for a collection, Davids Mandar said she jumped at the chance to ask some of Canada's finest literary minds about how they work through questions of difference, identity and appropriation. The editor of "(In)Appropriate," which was released earlier this month, said she didn't reach any tidy conclusions during her conversations with the book's contributors, including Sur, Eden Robinson, Michael Crummey and Ian Williams. One theme that emerged was the role that publishers and booksellers play in amplifying certain voices at the expense of others, she said. A 2018 survey by the Association of Canadian Publishers on diversity found 82 per cent of the 279 respondents who worked in the industry identified as white. "I think we can't pretend that we don't live within this context, and that it doesn't actually impact the books industry," said Davids Mandar. Overall, Davids Mandar said she walked away from the book with a renewed sense of urgency for Canada's literary community to engage in these shifting, sometimes messy conversations. "It really reflects where we're at, each of us as individuals, but also as a community, in truthfully embracing the fact that we need unity, but we also need diversity and we have to have them together." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
When drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna learned to successfully incorporate messenger RNA technology into a COVID-19 vaccine, experts say they likely opened the door to a significant shift in the future of immunization.The milestone in vaccine development was met with enthusiasm from most, but the seemingly swift pace and novel approach is causing hesitancy in others. Experts say the new technique shouldn't dissuade people from getting the vaccine. While the mRNA method is new to inoculations, the actual technology has been around for decades. The difference now, they say, is scientists have ironed out the kinks to make a useful product."It sounds fancy, mRNA, but there's nothing outlandish about it," said Dr. Earl Brown, a virology and microbiology specialist with the University of Ottawa. "This is the way our cells operate — we live by mRNA."Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were the first inoculations approved for humans to use mRNA, which provides our cells with instructions to make proteins. In the case of COVID vaccines, the injected material shows cells how to make a harmless piece of the coronavirus spike protein, which then teaches our immune system to recognize the virus and fight off a future infection.Scientists made the vaccine by programming genetic material from the spike protein into mRNA, a process that theoretically could work for other viruses."As long as you know how to create those instructions — that genetic code you need to convince your body to create that target — you can design an mRNA vaccine against any antigen," said Nicole Basta, an associate professor of epidemiology at McGill."But the question is whether it will be effective, and whether it will be safe."The development of future mRNA vaccines might be quick, Basta says, but they would need to go through the usual evaluation process and clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. So vaccines for other viruses won't be popping up overnight.Still, Basta adds, there's potential for using mRNA to either improve upon existing vaccines or to develop new ones against other pathogens.Dr. Scott Halperin, a professor at Dalhousie University and the director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, sees mRNA vaccines as "evolutionary rather than revolutionary."Part of the reason COVID vaccines came together so quickly was the technology had been developing for years, Halperin said. The global pandemic offered scientists a pressing opportunity — and unprecedented funding and collaboration — to try again for a viable injection.Previous research had been done on creating mRNA vaccines against Zika and other viruses, Halperin added, and there were earlier efforts focused on cancer treatments. Coronavirus-specific research was further sped up by spike protein analysis from SARS and MERS.While the mRNA technology itself is impressive, Halperin says improvements need to be made to create a more temperature-stable product before these types of vaccines and treatments "truly take over.""The logistics of delivering mRNA vaccines right now, we wouldn't want to have to do that for every vaccine we produce," he said, referencing the ultra-cold storage temperature that's currently needed. "But I do think it's an important milestone."Scientists are expected to continue advancing the technology, just as they did recently in solving two confounding problems with mRNA — its fragility and instability.Brown says fragility was resolved by packaging the mRNA in a fat coating, giving it something to help bind onto cells so it wouldn't disintegrate upon injection. The instability was conquered by modifying the uracil component of RNA, one of the four units of its genetic code."The technology application is new, but the science is mature," Brown said. "We've just reached the point at which we can apply it." Traditional vaccines typically contain a killed or weakened virus, Brown said. Those methods are still being used in COVID vaccine development, including by AstraZeneca-Oxford, whose product has not yet been approved in Canada.A benefit to using mRNA is the speed at which a vaccine can be developed or updated once scientists know what to target, Brown says. While experts believe current vaccines will work against recent variants of the COVID virus — including one originating in the U.K. that's more transmissible — Brown says mRNA's adaptability could theoretically come in handy if new strains emerged that necessitated an update. "In six weeks they could produce something," he said. "It would still have to go through Phase 3 trials, but it does give you more flexibility and a big leg up."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says even one case of COVID-19 coming in from abroad is a case too many. He says new restrictions on travel are coming and he is urging Canadians to cancel all travel plans they may have. He says that includes travel abroad and travel to other provinces. He says while the number of new cases linked to travel remains low, the government won't hesitate to impose stricter measures at the border. He says the bad choices of a few won't be allowed to put others in danger. The Liberal government has been hinting that tougher border controls are coming and Trudeau says they are working on what can be done without interrupting trade flows. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Valeria Melia felt a tug on her heartstrings when her daughter asked if the pandemic would force Santa Claus to cancel his visit to their Toronto home this year. Seven-year-old Michela and her four-year-old brother Massimo had seen other holiday events nixed over the last nine months, and their mother wanted to make sure they knew Christmas was still on the table. So Melia turned to her computer, typing up a letter from Santa that would ensure her children he was safe and on his way. "I wanted to tell them Santa's been given the all-clear to fly, saying 'don't worry, I'm still coming,'" Melia said. "Even before Christmas, (Michela) would say things like: 'I can't wait until this virus is over so I can go hug my friends again.' So when she asked about Christmas, it was heartbreaking." Melia's children are among many Canadian kids who will experience the holidays differently this year as public health officials urge us to modify our traditions. While some families don't want pandemic reminders to cloud Christmas within their own homes, others are finding whimsical ways to incorporate COVID-related elements into their rituals. London, Ont., mom Ursula Goncalves is leaving hand sanitizer for Santa this year, placing a bottle next to the milk and cookies her eight-year-old daughter Halina and six-year-old son Daniel usually set out for the clandestine gift-giver. "I thought it would be kinda cute, considering the year we're having," Goncalves said. "It was my idea, but the kids actually did wonder about Santa's safety, asking if he was still coming." Dr. Todd Cunningham, a child psychology expert at the University of Toronto, says adding pandemic themes to our merry festivities can be helpful by reinforcing messages kids have been hearing for months. "We've talked often about ways of keeping ourselves safe," he said. "So it would make sense to them in terms of our current context to (incorporate) those things." It also isn't surprising some kids are expressing concern for Santa's safety, Cunningham added, especially if they understand his advanced age might make him more susceptible to the virus. So it's a good thing Santa is a magical being, as some of Canada's top doctors have clarified. B.C.'s Dr. Bonnie Henry said recently Kris Kringle is likely immune to COVID-19, while Prince Edward Island's Dr. Heather Morrison announced that Santa and Mrs. Claus had been granted essential worker status along with their elves and reindeer. Sheri Madigan, a child development researcher at the University of Calgary, says introducing COVID safety elements may help calm worried youngsters, and further their understanding of the virus. "A lot of these concepts around COVID are hard to grasp because it's this germ they can't see," she said. "So Santa coming presents an opportunity to say: 'we're leaving sanitizer so he can wash his hands, and that keeps another family safe.'" Melia won't be doling out the Purell for Santa, but she did purchase an Elf on the Shelf for the first time, adding a pandemic twist by sealing it in a glass jar to "quarantine" for 14 days. Goncalves did the same, sequestering her family's elf for one week. The mischievous doll is meant to be a scout for Santa, typically arriving from the North Pole a month before Christmas. Parents place the elf in quirky tableaus each night for kids to spot in the morning. While the elf isolation is a charming reminder of pandemic precautions, Melia admitted that keeping Sugarpuff in a jar for two weeks serves another purpose. "This is gonna sound terrible," she said with a laugh, "but it's nice to not have to figure out what to do with it for 14 days." The quarantined sprite has added an element of excitement for Melia's children, with Michela periodically checking in on the "isolation station" and gleefully counting down the days until Sugarpuff is free. The Goncalves's elf, named Sparkle, was liberated from quarantine last week. "Oh God, there was so much excitement in this house when we let her out," Goncalves chuckled. Dr. Martha Fulford, an infectious disease pediatrician at McMaster Children's Hospital, says another option for parents of anxious children is to double down on the messaging that Santa and his helpers are immune from the virus. "You can leave the hand sanitizer or you can say: 'Santa is not affected by COVID and elves are not human so you don't need to worry," she said. Fulford cautions, however, that adding pandemic motifs to holiday flair could dampen some kids' Christmas spirit. It's up to individual families to determine how their children would react to those inclusions, she added. Fulford says she's more concerned with children feeling disappointed in having certain Christmas traditions, like gathering with family, taken away — though she suspects that might be harder on some parents and grandparents than the kids themselves. Cunningham agrees, adding it's important that parents "give themselves a pass" this year when it comes to trying to replicate extravagant celebrations of the past, especially for families facing financial hardships. He suggests parents welcome input from their children on ways to modify their favourite traditions. "A lot of the holidays is about anticipation of what's to come, and we can continue that excitement by co-planning activities together," Cunningham said. "When we invite children into those conversations, it's amazing what they come up with." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2020. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had the incorrect surname for Valeria Melia's children.
Le bilan quotidien de ce mardi 26 janvier mentionne qu’il n’y a aucun cas suppléentaire dans la région, et 3 guérisons supplémentaires. Le nombre de cas actifs est actuellement de 6 et il y a 1 hospitalisation en cours. NOTE : Confinement du Québec et instauration d’un couvre-feu entre 20 h et 5 h pour la période du 9 janvier au 8 février 2021 : Restez à la maison et consultez la page Confinement du Québec pour connaître les détails. Vous pouvez aussi consulter toute l’information sur la COVID‑19. *En date du 26 janvier 2021 – 11 h Nombre de cas confirmés : 340 Répartition par MRC : Cas guéris : 331 (+3) Décès : 3 Cas actifs : 6 (-3) Cas actifs provenant d’une autre région : 0 Hospitalisation en cours : 1 Éclosions en cours : Éclosions terminées récemment : Vaccination contre la COVID-19 :Pour consulter le nombre de doses administrées sur la Côte-Nord (Les données concernant la vaccination sont disponibles chaque jour dès 13 h.)Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
TORONTO — Few things have lifted Rojhan Paydar’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic quite like a Netflix watch party.Isolated inside her home, the Toronto resident is too often short on social opportunities and long on streaming options. So like many people, she’s recreated the experience of watching Netflix with friends through an unofficial web browser application called Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party.It’s been an opportunity for Paydar to gather with pals on a virtual couch while they gasp over the twists of true crime series, “Unsolved Mysteries." Even more often, she's used the app with her boyfriend for date nights watching the dysfunction unfold on “Tiger King" and other bingeable series.“Sometimes we’d eat dinner and set up our webcams to see each other,” she said.“Knowing he was there and we were doing something in real-time — it felt really good and made me less lonely."Not long ago, viewing party technology was a tool reserved for unique situations: a long-distance couple or fans of a niche TV series searching for like-minded people.But a year into the pandemic, weekly rituals have evolved, and online watch parties have proven many of us are desperate for some semblance of connection.As the winter months stretch on, and strict stay-at-home orders grip large parts of the country, observers say the watch party, and apps that help make it happen, are due for a second wave of popularity.“I think we may have seen a cultural shift,” suggested Daniel Keyes, associate professor of cultural studies at the University of British Columbia.“The pandemic and the fact we had to self-isolate totally accelerated it. It made it more mainstream.”For younger generations raised on YouTube and Twitch, watch parties are already part of the zeitgeist. Everyone else, including streaming giants themselves, seem to be playing cultural catchup.Last year, as the pandemic wore on, Amazon Prime Video introduced group chat elements into the laptop version of its platform. Disney Plus took a more restrained approach with a feature that allows up to seven people to sync their screens, but only communicate through emojis.Other streamers, such as Netflix and Crave, have so far chosen not to launch social elements on their platforms. That move could be strategic as the companies observe a sea change in how some viewers consume television, suggested Carmi Levy, director at technology advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group."It's almost as if the snow globe has been shaken and companies like Netflix are waiting for everything to settle down before they decide where to place their bets," he said."Social TV is a thing and it isn't going anywhere. It's very much like remote work: considered the exception before the pandemic, but now the rule."Levy said the entertainment industry couldn't have predicted how quickly the change took hold with casual viewers. For years, upstart tech companies launched second-screen watch party innovations, and most of them failed miserably.That's left the door open for the latest generation of alternatives to capitalize on filling the void, among them TwoStream, a paid monthly watch party option, and Syncplay, which is free.One of the most ambitious newcomers is Scener, a venture-funded operation out of Seattle that currently supports the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, Vimeo and horror platform Shudder. In a few clicks, viewers can react to a show through their webcam or type out thoughts on their keyboard.Co-founder Joe Braidwood said replicating the in-person experience, in particular, “the laughter, the screams and the horror,” was a goal of his company long before the pandemic. But it wasn’t always easy getting others to see the value.“Two years ago I would talk to investors about social TV and they would laugh at me,” he recalled over a Zoom chat.“They told me, ‘People don't want social experiences when they're watching television.’ But all you need to do is look on Twitter.”Even before the pandemic, he said, people were engaging over social media platforms about their favourite shows. Now, since everyone's holed up in their homes, Scener's growth has been exponential. Cumulative weekly minutes of programming watched grew nearly 42,000 per cent from March 2020 to January 2021 (57,785 minutes versus 24.2 million minutes), according to data provided by the company.“People who haven't hung out with their best friend while watching ‘The Flight Attendant’ or shared a family Christmas while watching an old classic movie on Scener, they just don't know what this feels like,” he added.“There's this real texture to it... it's warm engagement with people that you care about.”Hoovie, a Vancouver-based virtual watch party service, aims to bridge the gap between art house cinema outings and the comfort of a living room chat.Hosts can dive into the company’s independent film catalogue and book ticketed showings for small groups, typically in the range of 10 to 20 people. After the movie, they’re encouraged to engage in a webcam conversation on the platform that’s inspired by the film’s themes.Co-founder Fiona Rayher describes Hoovie as a platform meant to evoke those experiences outside the cinema where groups of people – sometimes strangers – would passionately discuss what they’d just watched and maybe head to a nearby restaurant for drinks."You’d meet new people and you’d stay connected," she said. "It was all serendipitous."Hoovie plans to debut a "book club for movies" early this year that'll build on connecting movie fans. Every month, subscribers will gather for online screenings that include a post-film conversation with members, filmmakers and critics. Each film will be rounded out with a wine pairing sent by mail.Selling nostalgia for the pre-pandemic days may sound appealing in lockdown, but the question remains on how attractive watch parties will be once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.It's a question Paydar said she thinks about often as she logs onto a watch party for another episode of "Unsolved Mysteries.""Whenever someone asks, 'If COVID ended right now, where would you go?' the first thing I say is, 'I'd like to go to a movie theatre,'" she said."There's something about being in a physical theatre and going with a group of friends...Those end-of-the-night goodbyes, getting late-night eats with my friends.. (we're) creating memories I get to hold on to forever," she said."I don't think that can be replaced."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
Instead of looking to attract more jobs to the region, the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce is hoping to attract more people who already have one. The Workcation program is aimed at attracting people who work remotely to the region for a test spin. Participants would temporarily move to Saint John and experience what the city has to offer, while continuing to work in their remote jobs. David Duplisea, the chamber's CEO, said he thinks if people experience Saint John living, they won't want to leave. "The simple concept behind it is that if we can attract people that already have jobs to come to the Saint John region, then we will really be able to highlight some of the things that make it most attractive to those of us that already live here," said Duplisea. Duplisea pitches the idea as a "subsidized concierge service" where, depending on the applicant, some of the cost of the temporary move may be covered by the program. The program also helps participants find a place to live, as well as connects them with businesses and groups that can make them feel more at home. At the moment the chamber is focusing on attracting other Canadians to come to Saint John, since COVID-19 has made entering the country more difficult. "Toronto, we know they lose about 50,000 people a month just looking to 'Get out of Dodge' type of thing for a quieter lifestyle," said Duplisea. Duplisea said the pandemic gives the group an opportunity to get people thinking about the possibility of coming to Saint John. "We get into their decision making cycle while they're still sitting there thinking about where they might want to go and how it's going to work out," said Duplisea.
Nonfiction 1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 2. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 3. How to Train Your Mind by Chris Bailey, narrated by the author (Audible Originals) 4. Atomic Habits by James Clear, narrated by the author (Penguin Audio) 5. Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White, narrated by the author (Thomas Nelson) 6. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, narrated by the author and Adam Skolnick (Lioncrest Publishing) 7. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, narrated by Robin Miles (Random House Audio) 8. Becoming by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 9. Fast This Way by Dave Asprey, narrated by the author (HarperAudio) 10. Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta, MD, narrated by the author (Simon & Schuster Audio) Fiction 1. 1984 by George Orwell, narrated by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) 2. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn, narrated by Rosalyn Landor (Recorded Books) 3. When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal, narrated by Sarah Naughton and Katherine Littrell (Brilliance Audio) 4. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn, narrated by Rosalyn Landor (Recorded Books) 5. The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis, narrated by Amy Landon (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) 6. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton (Random House Audio) 7. Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner, narrated by Hillary Huber (Brilliance Audio) 8. Dragon Blood – Omnibus by Lindsay Buroker, narrated by Caitlin Davies (Podium Audio) 9. Dispossession by Tayari Jones, performed by Gabrielle Union (Audible Originals) 10. Extinction Shadow by Nicholas Sansbury Smith and Anthony J. Melchiorri, narrated by R.C. Bray (Blue Heron Audio) The Associated Press
Canada will seek exemptions to a U.S. effort to ensure federal agencies buy American-produced goods, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, as business groups expressed concern about the potential impact. U.S. President Joe Biden vowed on Monday to leverage Washington's purchasing power to strengthen domestic manufacturing by clamping down on foreign suppliers. Asked whether he would seek exemptions to the "Buy American" program when it is unveiled, Trudeau told reporters: "We will continue to be effective in advocating for Canada's interests with this new administration."
Studies have suggested previous COVID-19 infections may result in promising levels of immunity to the virus, leading to questions of whether those who've already recovered from the disease still need a vaccine. And is there urgency to inoculate them, or can they move to the back of the vaccination line? Experts say a vaccine will likely offer the safest bet for longer-term protection, meaning those with previous infections should still get them. And prior COVID illness shouldn't determine someone's place in the queue. The exact level of immunity acquired from a natural infection is yet to be fully determined, says Dr. Andre Veillette, a professor of medicine at McGill who's also on Canada's COVID-19 vaccine task force. It may be that protection begins to wane quicker in some people, or that those with previous mild infections aren't as protected as someone who had more severe symptoms, he says. Still others may think they've had a COVID-19 infection but can't be sure if they didn't get tested at the time. "I would say the simple rule would be that we vaccinate people who've had prior infections, just like everybody else," Veillette said. "If you had the infection, yes, you may have some protection, but it may not last a long time, and it may not be as good as the vaccine." Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy in clinical trials in protecting against severe disease. But there are still questions around whether the vaccines can actually prevent someone from catching the virus and spreading it to others. While Moderna has some data that their product may protect against acquiring the virus, it's still unclear. Antibodies from natural infections suggest the same — that they may protect us from getting really sick again, but not from getting the virus a second time. While there have been some cases of reinfection around the world, immunology expert Steven Kerfoot says the fact we're not seeing more of those suggests the immune response from initial COVID-19 infections is probably "pretty strong." Kerfoot, an associate professor at Western University, says vaccines are designed in a way that should produce an immune response "at least as good or better" than what we get after a natural infection. "So it may help fill in holes where people may not have developed an immune response effectively to the virus," Kerfoot said. "If anything, the vaccine could as act as its own booster that would improve your immunity." While some studies have suggested antibodies may disappear relatively quickly after COVID-19 infections, others have found a more lingering immune response. An American study published this month showed antibodies present for at least eight months, and possibly longer. Even studies suggesting an early drop-off of antibody levels aren't concerning, Kerfoot says. Infections trigger the body to produce other immune cells and memory cells that reduce slowly over years and help fight off future invasions from the same virus. If the immune response in those with past COVID infection is expected to be lengthy, could there be justification to defer their inoculations, especially if vaccine supply is low? It will be up to provinces to decide priority in each stage of their rollouts, but Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba, says that will be a tricky decision. "I don't think we can use prior infection as an indicator of priority, because we just don't know what that person's immune response actually is," Kindrachuk said. "We don't know what long-term immunity looks like in those folks. "The recommendations are going to be that everybody gets vaccinated because that way we know — across vulnerable groups and all ages and different demographics — they'll all get a robust immune response." Veillette adds that many people with previous COVID cases were also in higher-risk settings — either because of their jobs or living environments — that would theoretically put them at risk for reinfection. And if they were to get the virus again but not show symptoms, they could still pass it on to other people. "There's probably a whole spectrum of situations there, and when there's so many variables it's better to have a simple rule," he said. "So I think that's another reason to vaccinate previously infected people." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press