FullContact CEO Bart Lorang on why the company is giving its employees $7,500 if they take a vacation, as long as they follow three rules.
FullContact CEO Bart Lorang on why the company is giving its employees $7,500 if they take a vacation, as long as they follow three rules.
Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration at the news that Canada will not receive any new doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, though the general overseeing Ontario's vaccine rollout plan remains hopeful the distribution delay won't impede plans to immunize the general population by early August. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ford called the news that Canada will receive no new Pfizer vaccines next week "troubling" and "a massive concern." "Until vaccines are more widely available, please stay home, stay safe and save lives," he said. The news comes as the province recorded another 1,913 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with officials cautioning that Toronto Public Health — which consistently logs the most new infections each day — is "likely underreporting" its number of cases. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the artificially low total of 550 new cases reported by the city was due to a "technical issue," but did not provide any further details. For reference, over the three previous days, Toronto Public Health logged 815, 1035 and 903 cases, respectively. Other public health units that saw double- or triple-digit increases were: Peel Region: 346 York Region: 235 Durham Region: 82 Windsor-Essex: 81 Waterloo Region: 79 Middlesex-London: 73 Halton Region: 71 Hamilton: 63 Niagara Region: 52 Simcoe Muskoka: 48 Ottawa: 41 Huron-Perth: 37 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 31 Lambton: 28 Southwestern: 22 Eastern Ontario: 14 Chatham-Kent: 13 (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.) Over 200,000 Ontarians vaccinated so far At a technical briefing for media Tuesday morning, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force offered a rough breakdown of which groups received a first dose of vaccine: About 83,000 long-term care residents, staff and caregivers. About 25,000 retirement home residents, staff and caregivers. More than 99,000 health-care workers in other sectors. With the more than 200,000 vaccines administered, Ontario has completed the first round of immunization at all long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex — the four regions with the highest transmission rates of the virus. The first round of immunizations has also been administered at all long-term care homes in Ottawa, Durham and Simcoe-Muskoka. Still, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton cautioned, "The rise of community spread during the second wave is posing a serious threat to our long-term care homes." The province aims to finish vaccinating those at all remaining long-term care homes by Feb. 15. At Tuesday's technical briefing, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force also addressed how the province is responding to Pfizer's announcement last week that it was slowing down production of its vaccine, resulting in delivery delays for Canada. WATCH | An exasperated Premier Ford appeals to incoming U.S. president for vaccines: The impact in Ontario will vary week to week, officials said, with an 80 per cent reduction in the number of doses that were originally expected the week of Jan. 25; 55 per cent the week of Feb. 1; and 45 per cent the week of Feb. 8. In turn, the province will reallocate its available doses of the Moderna vaccine to more regions, while also extending the interval between doses of the Pfizer vaccine in some situations to ensure that everyone who has had a first shot will have access to their second. Residents and staff at long-term care and high-risk retirement homes who have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will receive a second dose in 21 to 27 days, the province says. All others who receive the Pfizer vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 42 days after the first. For those who receive the Moderna vaccine, the 28-day schedule will remain in place. As for whether the province still expects to immunize the general population of Ontario by late July or early August, General Rick Hillier said that will come down to whether there are any further hiccups with vaccine availability, but that he remains optimistic. Toronto to halt operations at mass vaccination clinic Following the announcement of the delay, the province asked the City of Toronto late Tuesday to immediately stop operating a "proof-of-concept" mass vaccination clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The clinic, which began operating only on Monday, had aimed to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that was entirely dependent upon vaccine supply. People scheduled to receive the shot at the clinic over the next three days have had those appointments cancelled, Toronto Public Health said in a statement. "The City's Immunization Task Force is continuing to plan for city-wide immunization clinic roll-out and will continue to work with the province to determine next steps once vaccine supply is re-established," the city said. Just over 34,000 new tests processed Meanwhile, Ontario's network of labs processed just 34,531 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 6.8 per cent. Testing levels often fall over weekends, but there is capacity in the system for more than 70,000 tests daily. The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 2,893, the lowest it has been since Jan. 4 this year. For the seventh time in eight days, the numbers of cases reported resolved outpaced new infections. There are currently about 27,615 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said there were 1,626 patients in hospitals with COVID-19. Of those, 400 were being treated in intensive care, the most at any point during the pandemic, and 292 required a ventilator to breathe. Notably, a daily report generated by Critical Care Services Ontario and shared internally with hospitals puts the current number of ICU patients with COVID-19 at 418, with 303 still on ventilators. Public health units also recorded 46 additional deaths of people with the illness, bringing the official toll to 5,479. Twenty-nine of the further deaths were residents of long-term care. A total of 254, or just over 40 per cent, of long-term care facilities in Ontario were dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. The province said it administered another 14346 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, and that 224,134 people have been given a first dose. A total of 25,609 people in Ontario have gotten both shots.
ATLANTA — Georgia's secretary of state has certified the results of the two U.S. Senate runoff elections, paving the way for Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to be sworn in and for Democrats to take control of the chamber. They'll take office just as the Senate considers whether to convict President Donald Trump in an impeachment trial for inciting the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol and as President-elect Joe Biden seeks to jump-start his agenda after inauguration. They could be sworn in as early as Wednesday, the same day as Biden's inauguration. The certification by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger officially seals Warnock and Ossoff's victories over their Republican opponents in the Jan. 5 runoffs. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both incumbents, conceded days after the election. Once Warnock and Ossoff are sworn in, there will be a 50-50 partisan divide in the Senate, giving Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote. Warnock will be the first African American senator from Georgia, while Ossoff will be the state's first Jewish senator and the Senate's youngest sitting member. Their wins bookend a divisive and drawn-out election cycle that brought seismic shifts to Georgia politics and made the once reliably red state a key battleground. Biden in November became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992, while Warnock and Ossoff are the first Democrats to win a U.S. Senate election in Georgia since 2000. During their nationally watched overtime races, Warnock and Ossoff benefited from Trump's continued false attacks on Georgia's election results, which contributed to lower GOP turnout, as well as intense mobilization efforts by Democratic organizers. Perdue, who served one term after being elected in 2014, and Loeffler, who took office last year after being appointed to replace retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, were among Trump's closest allies in the Senate. The Democrats, who essentially ran as a team during the runoffs, head to Washington at a time of tumult but also opportunity for their party. In addition to considering whether to convict Trump in the impeachment trial, the Senate will also begin considering confirmation of Biden appointments and early legislative proposals from the new administration. Biden recently unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan that aims to administer 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration and deliver another round of economic aid. Ben Nadler, The Associated Press
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
Southgate Council held its regular meeting by electronic means at 9 a.m. on Jan. 13. IN-OFFICE STAFF DECREASED CAO Dave Milliner reported that staff in office had been rolled back from six to minimal levels in response to the latest provincial order. The doors remain closed. There is departmental access spread out through the week. Council asked about what building was going forward. If residential is started it can go ahead. Agricultural buildings only fall under essential if they are for food production. Chief Building Official Bev Fisher said that the department was continuing to prepare permits, so that there would not be a backlog when non-essential construction can resume. LAND FOR CEMETERY Steps will be taken to establish a new Old Order Mennonite Cemetery on the site of the inactive Watson’s Cemetery owned by the township. Southgate is the administrator of the site on the east side of the road, west of the Egremont-Proton Townline. The Bereavement Authority of Ontario would set requirements for needed studies and arrangements, including investigations for any burials. The group proposes to add some lands to the existing lot to be able to have a church and expanded cemetery. Before the project went any farther, they wanted to know if the township would be willing to dispose of the land. The planner noted that the land is only a potential liability to the township. The property cannot be developed otherwise, council heard, so no appraisal will be sought. The Ontario Geneaological Society gives an alternate name, Mount Zion Methodist Cemetery, and on the Bruce-Grey OGS website it notes one recorded monument, for James Nickle, died 1856 age 42 years and his daughter Elizabeth, died Nov. 18, 1864 age 16 years. It is not known whether there are any burials. M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald
A new series of online videos will be taking a tiny home on a 16-city Canadian tour in a project that will spread the word about the scaled-down housing option — and end with a giveaway of the custom-built unit. Kenton Zerbin, an Edmontonian who teaches tiny house workshops, is the producer of The Tiny House Master Plan project, which is getting help from a team of NAIT students as well as from business sponsorships. The premise of the series? Build a tiny home that doubles as a mobile entertainment centre and then take it on the road. Edmonton will be the tour's first stop. Entering the giveaway is as simple as filling out a form on the website and subscribing to the project's YouTube channel. "I love the idea of providing a moral uplift for people in these times," Zerbin said in an interview with CBC's Radio Active on Monday. The planned mobile unit includes a pop-up stage, sound system and FM transmitter that could be used for a drive-in movie theatre or other entertainment. "In the iterations of the design, it very quickly became apparent that we got to make more than just a state-of-the-art house, we got to use it for this community cause," Zerbin said. "So people could come to have a concert event that could literally pop up anywhere." Plans are being made so people can attend from their car in line, to ensure adherence to any possible COVID-19 restrictions. Zerbin has been teaching about sustainable living for about eight years and said he has seen interest grow. Edmonton, he said, is one of the most tiny house-friendly cities in Canada. In 2019, city council approved zoning bylaw changes aimed at allowing for further development of tiny homes. Zerbin had he had intended to take his work to the United States this year but COVID-19 put a halt to those plans. He started teaching online and then got into videography, which he realized was a great way to reach a lot of people. "That's the story [that] led up to the show," he said. "Because it was like, 'Well, how do I reach people for free and still teach them and excite them?'" Zerbin submitted the proposed project as an internship option for NAIT. "When that kind of popped-up on the list … that was my absolute first one," said Amanda Keys, a NAIT student pursuing a bachelor of technology management. She is working as the project's general manager and hopes to one day own a tiny house of her own. Besides managing the capstone project, Keys also helps seek out companies for sponsorship. So far, the project has met about 50 per cent of its funding goals. "It's been really interesting because it's a lot more involved," Keys said. "When you think about, 'Oh yeah, you just build the house on the little trailer. It's so easy.' "It's a lot more complicated." The tiny house is still in the design phase but Zerbin hopes to get the show on the road by April 9. "Unless things get really seriously locked down, I think we're going to be OK," he said.
The ice skating season is over in the Sundridge region. In the words of Sundridge Coun. Steve Rawn, the ice in the Sundridge Strong Joly Arena is coming out “immediately.” The decision at an arena board meeting after the province announced further lockdown measures, which include arenas as it continues to fight COVID-19 outbreak numbers. Rawn says the original hope was the arena could be used by residents of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit area once the province's previous two-week lockdown of Northern Ontario ended. But Rawn says the board voted to remove the ice after the province invoked the stay-at-home order. Rawn says the latest lockdown would take the arena situation well into February and that's getting closer to the end of the regular ice season. In a statement, Rawn said “this last extension would be too long to keep the ice sitting and not be used.” In neighbouring Magnetawan, it's a different story. Although the lockdown has closed the community's outdoor skating rink, Mayor Sam Dunnett says it will reopen once the order ends. “We had people using it for public skating and they were in groups of no more than five people,” he says. The local Lions club was instrumental in creating the covered outdoor rink, which is appropriately named Lion's Pavilion. Dunnett doesn't know for certain how long the latest lockdown will last since the province could change the length at any time. And while this reason alone is enough for other communities to end the ice skating season, Dunnett says “we're not taking out our ice. “We'll continue to maintain it,” he says. Dunnett says the outdoor nature of the Magnetawan rink makes it easier to maintain compared to the indoor arena ice in surrounding towns. If COVID outbreak numbers can fall low enough, Dunnett believes the province “can start opening stuff back up a little like ice-skating rinks. “And if it does re-open, people can come out and enjoy themselves,” he says. “There will still be no hockey, but they can get some exercise.” Dunnett says the municipality will continue to maintain the outdoor ice until warmer spring temperatures arrive. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
WASHINGTON — Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling. “To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said. The sober moment on the eve of Biden's inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation. During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam. Biden was joined by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice-president when she's sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday's Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that's been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing. “These are dark times," Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. "But there’s always light.” Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump's effort to leave the Paris climate accord, cancelling Trump's travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments. Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden's name. Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself. Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey. “I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks. Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions. The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring. Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies. Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden's immigration plan. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles. Many of Biden's legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump. As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defence nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned. Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Aides say Biden will use Wednesday's inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together. To that end, he extended invitations to Congress' top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting. ___ This story has been corrected to show that flags on the National Mall represent people who couldn't come, not COVID deaths. Bill Barrow And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Stevie Wonder, whose advocacy helped make the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, is urging the incoming Biden administration to form a national commission on equality. Wonder released a video message Monday in the form of an open letter to King, who was assassinated in 1968 and whose birthday was made a federal holiday late in 1983. Wonder met King when he was a teenager and later wrote the tribute song “Happy Birthday," which urged that the government formally establish a Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and his birthday celebrated on the third Monday in January. “For 36 years, we’ve had a national holiday honouring your birthday and principles, and you would not believe the lack of progress. It makes me physically sick,” Wonder said in his message. “It is time for all to take the only stand. We can not be afraid to confront a lie and a liar. Those in leadership who won’t or don’t acknowledge the truth should be held accountable. Dr. King, these times require courage, as they did when you lived and paid the ultimate price.” The Associated Press
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Family members of a Roberta Place resident who died Friday evening say the Barrie long-term care home was clearly in need of help. “They’re so woefully understaffed,” said Jennifer Raedts. “It’s like a ghost town in there.” Her mother-in-law, Jean Raedts, passed away Friday evening at the age of 79. She had medical complications prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19 the previous Sunday. Over the weekend, the NDP called for the military to be summoned to help out at the Essa Road facility in south-end Barrie. Also over the weekend, Simcoe-Muskoka medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner issued an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to ensure Roberta Place's long-term care home gets the support necessary to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, which was declared on Jan. 8. Staff from Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital will take a lead role. As of Sunday, nine COVID-positive Roberta Place residents have died. The health unit reported on Monday there were also 63 positive cases of the virus among residents at the home as well as 53 confirmed cases among team members. Gardner’s order also directs that there be “sufficient staffing at all times to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak at the institution and ensure the development of an effective staffing recruitment plan for if/when same is necessary.” Meanwhile, 71 Roberta Place residents who were not cases or ill, as well as eligible staff were vaccinated against COVID-19 on-site Saturday through the health unit’s mobile immunization unit. Staff and essential caregivers of all long-term care homes in Simcoe-Muskoka have been receiving their vaccination at the COVID-19 Immunization Clinic in Barrie, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit advised. Members of the Canadian Red Cross have also been at the Essa Road facility assisting in the COVID outbreak. Additionally, staff from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) were on-site last week and members of its infection prevention and control team are on site today. RVH's swab team is expected to return on Tuesday. On Twitter today, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said he was heartened to hear that a major effort is now underway to provide co-ordinated support, which also includes the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care, the County of Simcoe and Georgian College. “While extensive support is being provided, it is an incredibly difficult time for the residents, staff and families of Roberta Place," the mayor tweeted. "I can only imagine the pain for all involved. The best thing we can do to help is do our part to stop community spread so it doesn't reach (long-term care)." Jennifer Raedts said the care her mother-in-law received at Roberta Place has been wonderful since she first arrived there following a stroke about 18 months ago. And that care continued during the last two days of the senior’s life, although Raedts said she saw only one of the regular staff members she’s come to know, and those who were working there were clearly quite busy. Raedts’ husband, Gary, became his mom’s essential caregiver in December and was the sole family member permitted to see her and help her in her room until a full lockdown was issued and visitors were prohibited. “They’ve been wonderful about sending emails… to keep us updated,” said the daughter-in-law. As the deadly virus entered the facility, family members were notified and visitations stopped on Jan. 8. The Raedts were also asked if they could once again test Jean for COVID-19. The following Sunday, they received a call that Jean had tested positive for the virus and she was placed in isolation. She had a low-grade fever, but it was gone the next day and there were no obvious symptoms. On Thursday, however, Jean took a turn for the worse. Roberta Place staff reported to the family that her health was declining and they were permitted to spend her last moments with her, providing her with comfort care. Four of her five sons, along with Jennifer Raedts, were permitted to go into her room two at a time, “which was very nice, for all of us to say goodbye and spend some time with her," she said. “And the staff was amazing.” When family members entered the facility Thursday and Friday, they had to undergo COVID screening accompanied by a questionnaire and had their temperatures taken. They were instructed to sanitize their hands and phones and then given masks, shields, gowns and gloves and instructed to go directly to Jean’s room. Over the course of those two days, they followed the strict protocol every time they entered and exited the facility, leaving only to go to their car to wait while the other family members went inside to spend time with Jean. “Someone was always with her the last two days,” said Raedts. Jean Raedts, born Georgina Kinsella, had spent her entire life in Barrie. Her husband, Harry, came here from Holland during his teens and passed away 37 years ago, leaving Jean — as she was known — to raise the boys on her own. “She was a pretty amazing lady,” said her daughter-in-law. Jean met Harry when they were both teenagers working at the General Electric plant in Barrie, but Jean spent most of her career as a receptionist in a local real estate office. “She was the quintessential mother,” said her daughter-in-law. “She loved her children and her grandchildren and would have done anything for them.” Raedts said her own family was blessed to have Jean living with them for 18 years before she moved into Roberta Place where she was comfortable and well cared for. Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
OTTAWA — Nearly half of Canadians who plan to make an early return to concerts, theatres and other mass cultural experiences say it’ll take a vaccination before they feel comfortable to do so, according to a new survey.A report commissioned by the charitable organization Business/Arts, which links the businesses and arts communities, and conducted by Nanos Research, found respondents highlighted the vaccine as an essential step in their return, more so than a previous survey last summer.Forty-six per cent of those polled in November said that while they plan to attend indoor events within five months of reopening, they would still want a vaccine first.That’s an increase from the 28 per cent of eventgoers who said so in a survey conducted by the organization last July.Respondents who answered on the prospects of returning to mass outdoor events felt similarly, with 44 per cent saying they’d want a vaccine first, versus 15 per cent in July.The survey, conducted in partnership with the National Arts Centre, highlighted that safety and exposure to COVID-19 remain the key obstacles for a return to normalcy in the arts community, while people not respecting health measures was also mentioned.About one in 10 respondents said they do not currently have any obstacles to attending an in-person cultural event.The survey polled 1,096 Canadian adults by phone and online between Nov. 26 and Nov. 29, 2020. According to the polling industry's generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Donald Fisher, known to some as ‘Scotty,’ is known to others as: Don, Pappa, Grandpa, very recently great-grandpa, ‘Buddy’ to his sister-in-law Evelyn, ‘My hero’ to his other sister-in-law, Jeannette, and Donnie-Onnie (thanks to his love of rhyming everyone else’s name.) You can also replace Fisher with its original, Odjig. More on that later. There is also ‘Odiepop,’ the name given to him by his grandson, Drake, and often called out to his grandfather while Fisher would take his daily walks past the school. A name also given to him by the entirety of Drake’s schoolmates, who would call out to him just as his grandson did. Other titles? Veteran of the Second World War, chief engineer on The Philip R. Clark, beloved Wiikwemkoong community leader, nonagenarian, recipient of the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Union of Ontario Indians, golf-enthusiast, a joker and … The first COVID-19 Vaccine recipient in Northeastern Ontario. He said it only hurts a little, just in case you were wondering. Donald Fisher (Odjig) was born in Wiikwemkoong (as it was then called) on June 18, 1926, to Dominic and Joyce Odjig (née Peachy). Fisher and his three older siblings were raised on a small family farm. Fisher left home at 15 to work at a lumber camp in Sault Ste. Marie, but the stories his father told of the First World War made him dream of fighting as well, and in 1943, Donald Odjig left the lumber yard to enlist, lying about his age in order to do so. He changed his name from Donald ‘Odjig’, to the English translation of the word, ‘Fisher’. An often-repeated story has Fisher telling the enlistment officer that, as the man’s friends recall, “Indians don’t have birth certificates.” Just like that, he’s going to war. Of course, while Fisher heard many stories of the war from his father, his own seven children never heard much. “Painful memories linger for Scotty,” said his daughter-in-law, Lynda Fox Trudeau. “He will not openly talk about his personal experiences of the war. He always swore he would never talk about it with his children, a personal promise he keeps to this day.” They know he received his training in Shilo, Man., and volunteered to become a paratrooper. As a member of the 1st Canadian Paratroop Battalion, Fisher was sent overseas on Christmas Day, 1944. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and on March 17, 1945, he crossed the Rhine River, fighting for his country until the end of the war. Well, sort of. The end of Fisher’s service is somewhat legendary among his friends and family, as related to Sudbury.com by his friends Patrick and Patricia Ryan, both retired teachers who have known Fisher since 1970. “He was with the first group of Canadians who met up with the Russians near the end of the war,” Patricia said. “While busy ‘celebrating’ with them, he fell off a horse, broke his ankle, and was shipped back to England. He used to laugh about his noble war injury!” She also said this sense of humour is the core of who Fisher’s being. “Don is a fun-loving extrovert. He never hesitated to voice his opinions and had no time for people who complained, but did nothing to change a situation. He is smart, well-read and kind. He does not suffer fools and demands the best from everyone. If Don was running anything, you knew it would be done the right way, and efficiently.” And her descriptor, ‘well-read,’ is an understatement. His favourite book? “Anna Karenina” (Leo Tolstoy, 1855). Another core part of who Fisher is? Wiikwemkoong. “With the ending of World War Two,” Fox Trudeau said, “Don began his 27-year chief engineer career, shipping iron ore on the Great Lakes. Upon the passing of his wife, Rosemary Peltier, he returned home to look after and raise his family. He embarked upon his next career working for the then Department of Indian Affairs for 17 years.” Fisher worked as a local government advisor for the department, a position that his colleague Larry Leblanc describes as “the federal government had finally realized that having Native people to communicate with Natives was a good idea.” Leblanc was also the person who sparked Fisher’s interest in running, something Fisher was not keen on previously. When he learned that Leblanc was a marathon runner, Fisher got curious and began training in secret on the island. He was shy, so he would run at dawn or at night, and no matter how hot the weather, never in shorts. Leblanc said Fisher told him, “I don’t want those old ladies seeing my butt.” But he later loved running so much, he helped the youth on the Island understand and love the sport as well. In addition to this, Leblanc describes him as a true community member. “He volunteered to coach countless hockey teams for I don’t know how many years. He initiated and developed community projects such as, Thunderbird Ballpark, the Wiikwemkoong Recreational Centre and, his pride and joy, the Rainbow Ridge Golf Course.” Those who speak of the golf course say that Fisher was the driving force behind its creation. Fisher is a big fan of golf and his grandson, Drake Trudeau, remembers getting ice cream with his grandfather and driving by to check on who was golfing at the golf course. Of all his accomplishments, Trudeau thinks his grandfather is proudest of “anything to do with golf.” Of course, because it is Donald Odjig Fisher we speak of, there are many other descriptors for him, courtesy of family and friends. For instance, he is regimented. Or so says his sister-in-law, Evelyn Corbiere, the one who calls him ‘Buddy.’ “Mostly everything he did was on a schedule. Our fond memory to illustrate this were their (Fisher and his late wife, Lori) Sunday morning coffee visits. Guaranteed, their vehicle would come down our road precisely at 8:25 a.m. so he and Lori would be here for 8:30. After a good visit, jokes and coffee and Lor's one or two slices of bacon at exactly 9:10 he would say, ‘Okay Lor, time to go as I have to go for my walk’." And there are few things Fisher likes better than a good joke. “Scotty always has a good joke,” said Donna Debassige, his friend and former colleague. Sister-in-law Corbiere adds, “He would tell jokes at social gatherings or after Couples' Night at golf. Although the jokes were often repeated, or whether he needed reminders with the punchlines, we would all have a good laugh. He would always look at Lor for help, which made it funnier.” Plus, he knows the keys to good health, said his family. “He believes that a healthy diet of fish, a glass of red wine a day, exercise, and a good joke is the secret to living a long and fulfilling life,” said Fox Trudeau. A vaccine helps with that, too. “Scotty is important in so many ways that Wiky would not be the welcoming community it is today,” says Leblanc. “He was a band councillor, education committee leader, community recreation director, and a multi-sport player and coach. He loves children and would go out of his way to help them be better in every way. “This honourable man is more than just a friend to me. He is a mentor, a brother, a man devoted to the humanity around him. He always gave of himself – his all. He is a devout giver and leader. It is easy to say, ‘He is my brother.’ Chi miigwech Nitchke.” Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Hallie Knight, a high school senior from Jacksonville, Florida, has some well formed ideas about where the country is and how she'd like to see it change. The 17-year-old has won a contest organized by the Academy of American Poets for which students under 18 wrote their own inaugural poems in anticipation of Wednesday's swearing in of President-elect Joe Biden. Applicants for the Inaugural Poem Project were urged to submit work that reflects “on the country’s challenges, strengths, and hope for its future," according to the guidelines. Knight says she "wanted to acknowledge the greatness of the potential for our country at this present moment, and the opportunity we have as citizens to choose what it becomes out of all this chaos.” Inspired by works ranging from W.H. Auden's “As I Walked Out One Evening” to Adrienne Rich's “Storm Warnings,” Knight crafted a piece called “To Rebuild” that likens the U.S. to a house that has been severely but not hopelessly damaged. The work is not complete until The walls protect all who live there, No exceptions. Abandonment of all Unnecessary despair. Knight will receive $1,000, and her work — along with the poems of two runners-up — will be featured on Poets.org and in American Poets magazine. The official inaugural poem will be read during Wednesday's ceremony by Amanda Gorman, the country’s first Youth Poet Laureate. She is 22, just a few years older than Knight. “She is proof to people of all ages, but especially those younger than her, that there is no need to wait to make an impact,” Knight says. A former inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, served as judge for the contest finalists. Blanco said he was impressed by Knight's imagery, likening it to Abraham Lincoln’s famous warning that a “house divided against itself cannot stand.” He added that he was taken by the level of craft Knight and others demonstrated, and by their remarkably unbroken idealism. “Even after everything we've been through the past few years, they're not giving up," says Blanco, who read at the 2013 inaugural of President Barack Obama. “We don't want to sugarcoat what's going on and be a Hallmark kind of poem. We're looking for that balance of truth and hope.” Mina King, a 17-year-old from Shreveport, Louisiana, came in second for “In Pursuit of Dawn," in which she wove in the common American theme of rising from poverty. My stepfather created opportunity from the destitute nothing he was dealt, consoled only by the American dream that came as whispers under snow-dappled stars. And from these muffled mumblings he bettered his situation. The third-place finisher is just 12 years old: Gabrielle Marshall, from Richmond, Virginia. Her “The Power of Hope” acknowledged the country’s profound divisions, and possibilities: Today’s hope is peering beyond the lingering barrier, but still recognizing the diversity in ourselves. Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
Whether it's a slight cough or a scratchy, sore throat, some may be tempted to dismiss mild symptoms as "just the flu" amid a serious global pandemic. But experts say a drastic drop in the circulation of the influenza virus this season means signs of flu are more likely to be COVID-19 than another respiratory virus. A FluWatch report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released last week shows laboratory-confirmed incidents of flu are exceptionally rare this season, despite "elevated testing" for it during the pandemic. Experts say a confluence of factors are playing a role in the abnormally light flu season, including public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 and the reduction of international travel. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says the low prevalence of flu underscores the need to get tested for COVID if people develop symptoms. "You can't tell by looking if somebody has influenza or COVID," he said. "And right now, depending on where they live, if someone has acute viral symptoms, the chances of it being COVID over other things is much higher." PHAC's report shows there have been 51 influenza detections in Canada to date this flu season — significantly lower than the nearly 15,000 cases averaged by this point in the past six seasons — and there were zero lab-detected cases (from 13,000 tests) over the first week of 2021. Chakrabarti expects there to be more cases of influenza than what PHAC's data shows, since not everyone with flu-like symptoms is tested for that virus. But in the segment of the population that is getting tested — typically older adults seeking medical care — influenza isn't coming up. People admitted to hospital with symptoms are given respiratory multiplex tests that can detect multiple viruses at once, Chakrabarti said. "And we've picked up very little in the way of other viruses. So if you're seeing a reduction in those cases, it suggests that the overall amount of flu in the community has dropped." While experts assumed public health measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing would also lessen flu prevalence, the level of drop-off has been surprising, says Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist with McMaster University. He believes travel restrictions have likely played a significant role. Whereas COVID-19 can continue to spread easily because the virus is already entrenched here, Chagla says influenza is usually brought in each winter from tropical climates. A population confined largely indoors due to cold weather helps it spread. "Border restrictions, quarantine rules, that probably limits the amount of influenza coming in in the first place," Chagla said. "And the odd case that does come in, it's harder to spread because people aren't congregating." Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa, agrees that a reduction in international travel likely explains the light flu season more than just the implementation of public health measures. He says places in South America are also seeing dips in flu numbers even though mask-wearing hasn't been as widespread there. A level of immunity to influenza may also be contributing to the stifling of the virus, he added. "More people got a flu vaccine this year," Deonandan said. "That can't be underestimated." Chagla says other respiratory viruses also seem to have decreased this season. While there was an uptick in the common cold rhinovirus in the fall — usually correlated with children going back to school — PHAC data shows it's been dropping since. Hand-washing and sanitizing high-touch areas may be playing a role in controlling viruses that are more transmissible on surfaces, experts say. Chagla says cold or flu-like symptoms should raise a red flag for anyone right now, and he worries about people mistaking COVID signs for another virus. "In years past you could say: 'this is just a cold,' doctors would say: 'don't even come in,'" Chagla said. "And now we have to switch the mentality to say: 'actually, no, go get tested.'" Chakrabarti warns the "just the flu" mentality also diminishes the significance of influenza, which can lead to serious disease in vulnerable people too. So there's need for caution, even if symptoms are from the flu virus. "A lot of people say 'it's the flu, who cares? I get it all the time,'" he said. "This is going to sound familiar, but the reason it matters is because you can spread it to somebody else." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Workers trapped in a Chinese gold mine for more than nine days received more medical and food supplies on Tuesday, including bandages, blankets and porridge, but one of the group is in a critical condition with a severe head injury, state media said. A total of 22 workers were left trapped in the Hushan mine, in Shandong province, after an explosion on Jan. 10. A drilled channel on Sunday located 11 of the miners, who were working more than 600 metres underground, and rescuers were subsequently able to speak to them via wired telephone.
CENTRE WELLINGTON – Centre Wellington council has approved allocating slots revenue toward two arts and culture groups’ capital projects. Based on Centre Wellington policy, five per cent of OLG payments received in the previous year can be put towards arts, culture and heritage purposes. A report by Dan Wilson estimates approximately $46,000 in eligible funds from 2020 OLG revenue. With casino closures, Centre Wellington saw a $2 million decline in OLG funds in 2020. At Monday afternoon’s council meeting, councillors were presented with an option to give funding to the Elora Centre for the Arts (ECTA) and the Fergus Scottish Festival, or to retain the funding and allocate it in 2022. Councillors spoke in favour of allocating funding towards the two groups who had delegated at a December budget meeting with asks for funding. The ECTA requested $20,000 to help with ongoing maintenance that has been identified through a building audit. Some repairs noted in a ECTA presentation included: The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games requested $50,000 for infrastructure projects at the CW Sportsplex. A letter to council said the festival is looking to improve fibre communications infrastructure, pavement improvements and campground upgrades at the sportsplex. The two requests couldn’t be fully met but council approved a suggestion from councillor Ian MacRae’s of $17,000 to ECTA and $29,000 to the Fergus Scottish Festival. Council approved this recommendation in a 6-1 vote with councillor Kirk McElwain against. McElwain said he felt the ECTA made a reasonable ask and wanted to fulfill their request. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
Talks aimed at overcoming a years-long deadlock over disarmament at the United Nations began in acrimony on Tuesday with two countries blocking rivals from taking part in widely criticised manoeuvres that sparked concern about the forum's future. Iran blocked Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from joining as observers, lashing out at the former's military record, while Turkey blocked Cyprus in a trend that marks a significant departure from normal U.N. protocol and might set a precedent for other bodies that operate on a consensus basis. Iran's delegate said that Saudi Arabia had used the forum as a platform for a "distraction and disinformation campaign" and called Riyadh "the largest military offender in the region".
Grey Bruce Health Services is relocating its Owen Sound COVID-19 Assessment Centre to more comfortable quarters. As of Thursday, January 21, the Assessment Centre will be located at 1100 16th Avenue East, Unit C, in Owen Sound (the Sun Life building north of the hospital). In another media release, GBHS said that as COVID=19 numbers remain relatively lower here, its hospitals will be asked to play an active role in meeting the demand of patients across the province. This means more transfers between facilities are likely. So Grey Bruce residents may not be admitted to the hospital that is the closest to their home community. That could also be the case when patients are transferred back here from a larger hospital for recovery. GBHS has opened an additional 28 beds at different sites in preparation to play this role. On Jan. 18, there were two people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Grey-Bruce. There are six hospitals in the two counties. M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald
Though there are signs that COVID-19 cases are plateauing in Windsor-Essex, deaths and outbreaks across the region continue. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 15 COVID-19-related deaths on Tuesday, including six residents of long-term care and retirement homes. The number of active outbreaks has risen to 53. Twenty-seven are in workplaces, while 20 outbreaks are active at seniors' homes. The health unit also issued a "low risk" COVID-19 exposure notice Tuesday for a Dollarama located at 25 Amy Croft Dr. in Lakeshore for Jan. 4 to 9 and Jan. 13. Anyone who visited the store on those dates should monitor for symptoms 14 days from the time of exposure, the health unit said. The region also saw an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases of 173, bringing the cumulative case count to 11,230. Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health with WECHU, said there are day-to-day fluctuations in new cases, but the seven-day average shows cases are "stabilizing." On Tuesday, the average stood at 177.1, virtually the same as Monday. He also said there has been a bit of a slowdown in numbers of people seeking a COVID-19 test at Windsor Regional Hospital. "That could mean a good thing because maybe people are not symptomatic. That's why they're not going to the assessment centre, or it could be some other factors," he said. Death of retirement home resident under investigation Ahmed confirmed that the death of a Windsor-Essex retirement home resident is being investigated. This person had received the COVID-19 vaccine. He would not provide details because of patient privacy concerns. Ahmed said when it comes to adverse reactions, there can be a correlation or there can be two completely isolated events. "Sometimes, it's just the timing of one event versus the other," he said. Ahmed said that based on the international data, the vaccine is safe and the most effective way of preventing COVID-19. Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine shipments delayed Ahmed says the region should be able to achieve its current vaccination target, despite delays in shipment for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. Canada is only expected to receive half of its allotment of the vaccine over the next four weeks, according to Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics. Ahmed said he has been provided with projections for receipt of vaccines after discussions the premier's office and retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who is leading vaccine rollout in Ontario. Staff and caregivers connected to seniors' facilities will continue to be the priority for vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNtech product. Second doses are already being administered. "Based on the projection, we should be able to achieve that target, and we will continue to prioritize and reprioritize to make sure the long-term care, retirement home staff, residents, essential caregivers are given the first priority with any vaccine that comes in our region," he said. Active case count down to just over 2,500 There are 2,519 active cases of COVID-19 in the region. Of the new cases announced Tuesday, 15 are connected to outbreaks, 12 are close contacts of confirmed cases and two were community acquired. The majority remain under investigation. Overall in the pandemic, 271 people in Windsor-Essex have lost their lives with COVID-19. There are currently 121 people in hospital, 17 of them in intensive care. Four hospital outbreaks active The health unit declared a new outbreak at Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare Monday. There are also three outbreaks active at Windsor Regional Hospital, two at the Ouellette campus and one in a unit of the Met Campus. Two community settings, both Assisted Living Southwestern Ontario locations, are in outbreak. Outbreaks are active at 27 workplaces: Six in Leamington's agricultural sector. Five in Kingsville's agricultural sector. Three in Windsor's health care and social assistance sector. One in Leamington's health care and social assistance sector. One in Lakeshore's health care and social assistance sector. One in Kingsville's health care and social assistance sector. One in Windsor's food and beverage service sector. Two in Windsor's manufacturing sector. One in a personal service setting in LaSalle. Three in public administration settings in Windsor. One in a retail setting in Essex. One in Essex's finance and insurance sector. One in a transportation and warehousing setting in Windsor There are 20 active outbreaks at long-term care and retirement facilities: Chartwell Leamington in Leamington with one staff case. Regency Park in Windsor with three resident cases and one staff case. Chartwell Royal Marquis, with one resident case and one staff case. Harrow Woods Retirement Home, with five resident cases and one staff case. Seasons Retirement Home in Amherstburg, with three staff cases. Devonshire Retirement Residence in Windsor, with 31 resident cases and six staff cases. Chartwell Royal Oak in Kingsville, with two staff cases. Rosewood Erie Glen in Leamington, with 31 resident cases and five staff cases. Chateau Park in Windsor with four staff cases. Leamington Mennonite Home with seven staff cases. Augustine Villas in Kingsville, with 51 resident and 15 staff cases. Sunrise Assisted Living of Windsor, with 13 resident cases and eight staff cases. Huron Lodge in Windsor, with 44 resident cases and 26 staff cases. Sun Parlor Home in Leamington, one resident case and 10 staff cases. Banwell Gardens Care Centre in Windsor, with 115 resident cases and 62 staff cases. The Shoreview at Riverside in Windsor, with 28 resident cases and 11 staff cases. Extendicare Tecumseh, with 90 resident cases and 57 staff cases. Berkshire Care Centre in Windsor, with 94 resident and 61 staff cases. The Village at St. Clair in Windsor, with 161 resident cases and 126 staff cases. Village of Aspen Lake in Tecumseh, with 60 resident cases and 29 staff cases. Cases in Chatham-Kent, Sarnia In Lambton County, officials reported 28 new cases Tuesday. There have been 1,675 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. Chatham-Kent saw 11 new cases, bringing its total to 1,028.