Former Obama economic adviser Robert Wolf and FreedomWorks economist Stephen Moore weigh in on the impact of the economy ahead of Election Day.
Former Obama economic adviser Robert Wolf and FreedomWorks economist Stephen Moore weigh in on the impact of the economy ahead of Election Day.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
Hundreds of COVID-19 tests conducted at two Ottawa schools detected no new cases, the city's medical officer of health said Thursday.Public health officials swabbed about 200 staff, students and some of their family members at Manordale Public School in Nepean on Sunday, in addition to about 100 students and staff at another undisclosed school the previous weekend.All the subjects were asymptomatic, and included close contacts of confirmed cases as well as a random sampling of others within the school community, said Dr. Vera Etches."That's encouraging so far. We're going to continue ... to examine the situation in other schools," Etches told CBC's Ottawa Morning on Thursday."We are finding when we bring the testing to the school community, more people are likely to be tested."In Toronto, similar asymptomatic testing at Thorncliffe Park Public School this past weekend saw 18 students and a staff member test positive.In a statement to CBC, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) spokesperson Darcy Knoll thanked everyone who took part in the voluntary testing."It is wonderful to see the school community come together in an effort to stop the spread of this virus," Knoll said.An outbreak was declared at Manordale on Nov. 23, several days before the asymptomatic testing began. Three students and one staff member tested positive in the outbreak.Ottawa Public Health told CBC it will continue to test in schools where there's a benefit to the school community, or to its own COVID-19 surveillance work.Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, whether they belong to a school community or not, should book a swab at a regular COVID-19 testing centre, public health officials say.
CALGARY — One child asks for a coat for her dog in case her family gets evicted. Another girl hopes Santa can bring her pet medication he needs. Another wishes for enough dog food.A charity that provides subsidized pet care, including food hampers and medical treatment, for low-income residents is receiving Christmas letters from children asking for help for their furry friends.Parachutes for Pets in Calgary has delivered 2,000 pet food hampers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. But demand, especially during the second wave of the pandemic, is taking its toll on both the organization and those receiving help."Instead of Santa I wanted to write to you guys. My dog Badger is really cute and my best friend. He needs pills or he gets really, really sick. Could you bring me his pills for my Santa gift? I've been really good and so has he," reads a letter signed Hanna and Badger.The organization says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week that normally would have gone to Santa."My Christmas wish this year is a coat for my dog Max. Mom says we can't pay rent after this month and I want Max to be warm if we have to stay in our car," wrote Kaylee."I have a warm coat and I think one would be good for him to stay warm. Please tell Santa this is my only wish. Merry Christmas."Melissa David, who founded the charity, said the messages from the kids are heartbreaking."Instead of writing to Santa, they've written to us. Their Christmas wish is either for their dog to get medication and their dog to get food, so they don't have to share their meal with them."David said the charity referred Kaylee's mom, who was at risk of being evicted, with an agency to deal with her rent arrears.She said the charity made it through the first wave of the pandemic, but the resurgence of COVID-19 in the last months has resulted in demands coming at a "fast and furious rate.""This second wave is going to cripple us. The amount of additional homeless with pets and domestic violence incidents involving pets is astronomical," David said.People are still donating food items, she said, but there's also a need for cash, which is in short supply."This (pandemic) in addition to everyday challenges that are still here, such as cancer and illness, is really making it difficult for people to keep their pets at a time they can't afford mentally to lose them."David said she is reaching out in desperation since there are limits on what help the charity can arrange."We were passed over for most COVID grants because animals were not considered essential."There are also messages asking for help from physically abused women who are afraid to leave their pets behind."They want to take their pet with them. They're at the lowest of lows and they don't leave with anything but the clothes on their back. And if that pet stays, statistics are 80 per cent that it will be tortured or killed or used as some sort of revenge by the abuser."The head of the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter said crisis calls between April and September were up nearly 65 per cent compared with the year before.Shelter CEO Kim Ruse confirms many women stay where they are for fear of their pets being harmed. "Not having a place for pets to go often stops women from leaving abusive and dangerous situations," Ruse said. "Many are unaware that there are options for keeping pets safe while finding safety for themselves and their children."She said the agency does have pet-friendly rooms to accommodate small animals."Allowing pets in the shelter will help provide emotional and healing support for women and their children during their stay."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020\-- Follow @BillGraveland on TwitterBill Graveland, The Canadian Press
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Public Health Sudbury & Districts decreased on Thursday as no new cases were reported, and one case was declared resolved. There are now seven active cases of COVID-19 in the region. According to the health unit’s weekly summary, five new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last seven days and 11 were resolved. Of the new cases, two were close contacts of a confirmed case and two were travel related. The investigation into the exposure category of the 5th case remains ongoing. All five cases were in Greater Sudbury. Public Health's territory also takes in Espanola, Manitoulin Island and the District of Sudbury. “By end of day on December 2, contact tracing information was available for all 5 of the new cases," Public Health said in its weekly report. "Through our investigation, we identified 30 people who had high-risk close contacts with these cases. That is an average of 6 high-risk close contacts per case, which is consistent with last week. “Public Health follows up directly and regularly with every high-risk close contact to monitor them for symptoms, ensure they are self-isolating, and make recommendations for testing according to provincial guidance.” The seven-day incidence rate was 2.5 per 100,000 compared to 9.1 in the previous week. The percent positivity was 0.3 per cent compared to 0.5 per cent last week. Public Health Sudbury and Districts remains in the Yellow-Protect category of the provincial COVID-19 response framework. While Sudbury didn't report any new cases, the same can't be said for the rest of Ontario. Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 14 new deaths due to the virus. In her message to the community, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe reminded the public about staying safe as the holiday season approaches, and to treat everyone with kindness. “For some of us, the upcoming winter holidays are a time to celebrate and connect with friends and loved ones. For many, the holidays also can be stressful – and this year, especially so. Remember, you are not alone. Reach out to friends, loved ones, or connect with local agencies and resources,” she said. “Treat yourself with kindness and respect and offer the same to others who may need support. This pandemic is not a forever-thing, but the lives we touch can be. Share a smile (behind the mask), practice patience, and lend a hand when it is least expected.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
In the midst of the worst public health emergency in a century and the greatest economic disruption since the Great Depression, Erin O'Toole apparently also sees a culture war playing out."It comes down to a clash of vision," the Conservative leader told the House of Commons on Monday, "between the 'Somewheres' and the 'Anywheres' — those who love their trade, their pursuit, and are loyal to local businesses, versus those whom the government wants to flock to a trendy job that is no way connected to the community or the betterment of our country."The question now is what, if anything, O'Toole wants to do to either bridge the divide or stoke this supposed conflict.Readers of Stephen Harper's book Right Here, Right Now, published in 2018, will be familiar with O'Toole's framing. The former prime minister was quite taken with the idea that many Western democracies can be divided between rooted "Somewheres" and relatively rootless "Anywheres".But the theory originated with David Goodhart, a British writer whose own book, The Road to Somewhere, linked the Brexit vote to leave the European Union — and other populist revolts, including the election of Donald Trump — to divisions over culture and identity.In short, Goodhart posits that the traditional politics of left and right, liberal and conservative, are now overlaid by a "larger and looser" distinction "between the people who see the world from Anywhere and the people who see it from Somewhere."Urban cosmopolitans vs. small-town valuesAccording to Goodhart, the typical Anywhere is a well-educated professional living in a large city away from where they grew up. They generally vote for left-of-centre parties. They are mobile, embrace change and take "egalitarian and meritocratic attitudes on race, sexuality and gender and think that we need to push on further."They do not entirely accept the idea of a borderless world but are individualist and internationalist in disposition and "are not strongly attached to larger group identities, including national ones." In Goodhart's words, "they value autonomy and self-realisation before stability, community and tradition."The average Somewhere, he says, is less well-educated, earns a lower income, comes from a small town or a suburb and is more grounded in a specific place. "They do not generally welcome change and older Somewheres are nostalgic for a lost Britain," Goodhart writes. "They place a high value on security and familiarity and have strong group attachments, local and national." They tend to vote for conservative parties.These Somewheres, Goodhart adds, "accept the equality revolution but still value traditional family forms and are suspicious of 'anything goes' attitudes." They are not authoritarians, he writes, but they "regret the passing of a more structured and tradition bound world."Attitudes toward immigration, Goodhart says, "have probably become the single biggest litmus test of Anywhere/Somewhere difference and over time have come to stand for more general attitudes toward social change and whether people feel comfortable with and feel they benefit from it, or not." (Canada, he notes, is a "partial exception" to the rule that "large scale immigration" is universally unpopular.)The Anywheres, Goodhart argues, have been dominant in culture and society and must now be more conscious of how their fellow citizens from Somewhere are feeling.Like any tidy explanation, this theory has notable gaps and limitations to it, as does Harper's application of it. Goodhart acknowledges that these are not monolithic groups. It's also impossible to explain the election of Donald Trump without examining the pivotal role played by racial resentment.But broadly, it could be argued that both Brexit and Trump were driven by voters who felt uncomfortable with, or even disempowered by, the last 50 years of social and economic change, and who were consequently energized by populist, nationalist campaigns.Does a meaningful divide along those lines exist in Canada? O'Toole is at least not the first person to suggest it.He may have been building up to this Somewheres/Anywheres theory for a while. He has argued some Canadians have been "left behind" by the Trudeau government's agenda. He takes issue with those who would like to topple statues of John A. Macdonald and remove the first prime minister's name from buildings. In a speech in October, O'Toole said "middle-class Canadians" had been betrayed by "political elites, financial elites [and] cultural elites.""These elites have only one set of values centred on unchecked globalization [and] political correctness," O'Toole argued, "while middle-class Canadians have another set rooted in family, home and nation.""While this prime minister seems to think that every Canadian can simply work on their laptop from the local café," O'Toole said Monday, "that is not reality, nor is it what Canadians want. Conservatives are here to fight for those who build things in Canada, those who get their hands dirty and take pride in doing a job well before they come home for the night."Purity and corruptionTo burnish his credentials among those who "get their hands dirty," O'Toole said that his first job in high school was dishwasher and short-order cook. He did not mention that he went on to become a corporate lawyer in Toronto and in-house counsel to a major multinational corporation (Procter & Gamble).Asked in September whether he saw himself as a populist, O'Toole said he was simply "trying to address the hopes, aspirations and concerns of Canadians." But nearly every politician in the history of civilization would say they were doing more or less the same thing.Populism is more usefully defined as an ideology that suggests society can be divided between the 'pure' public and the 'corrupt' elite. It is based in conflict. And O'Toole seems willing to embrace the idea of a fundamental clash between middle-class Canadians and the elites, between the Somewheres and the Anywheres — or at least to accuse the Liberal government of working to make sure there are a lot more Anywheres everywhere.Many of those who work so-called "trendy" jobs (O'Toole didn't actually state which career paths qualify as trendy) might counter that they do feel connected to their communities and are equally engaged with the betterment of their country. Trudeau's Liberals would certainly argue that many of their policies have improved the lives of middle-class Canadians — these Liberals have embraced a rhetorical focus on the "middle class," subsequently extending their mantra to include "those working hard to join it."But O'Toole's hints at a political philosophy only lead to more questions. If there is a fundamental disconnect in Canadian society, how willing is he to exploit it? If there are frustrations or resentments — if many Canadians truly are being left out or left behind — what solutions does he propose?O'Toole has lamented that wages have stagnated, private sector union membership has dropped and many Canadians no longer have robust pensions or benefits. What would he do to address those things?O'Toole's Conservatives like to say that Canada has become more divided since Justin Trudeau became prime minister, an argument that rests heavily on the idea of "Western alienation." But would O'Toole's approach produce less division — or would it simply anger a different set of people? Should those whose opinions are more in line with the Anywheres worry that their priorities would be neglected or attacked under an O'Toole government?Division and frustration can be used to drive political campaigns, but it's not obvious that they make it any easier to govern. Durable, lasting change typically requires broad support.
An Alabama man who spent World War II repairing bomb-damaged trains in France recovered from a fight with COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday on Thursday. Major Wooten left a hospital in Huntsville, Alabama on Tuesday. (Dec. 4)
CALGARY — It seems like a no-brainer to use clean-burning hydrogen to offset the environmental negatives of natural gas for warming homes, but pilot projects to do just that starting next year illustrate nothing is simple about this trendy new energy source.As companies consider ways to commercialize hydrogen as a cleaner alternative fuel and projects advance in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and Markham, Ont., most observers concede it will take time and government support to overcome its cost competitiveness issues and lack of infrastructure."All hydrogen is not created equal," says Tahra Jutt, director of the clean economy program for B.C. with environmental think tank The Pembina Institute and co-author of a hydrogen primer published in July.“If you blend the lowest carbon hydrogen, you're going to get a much better outcome in terms of climate benefit."Hydrogen has many advantages as an energy source. When it burns it leaves only water behind — no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. It can be used for high-energy-intensity applications such as trucking, shipping and steelmaking. It can be compressed for energy storage and transportation. It's non-toxic and dissipates quickly when released.But there are disadvantages, too. Its low ignition temperature and nearly invisible flame when burning pose potential safety issues. Concentrated hydrogen can damage metal, requiring enhanced protection for pipelines. The act of creating hydrogen requires energy, whether to tear apart water molecules with the electrolysis method or breaking down natural gas molecules through thermal processes which themselves create greenhouse gases."The economics in our view for blue and green (hydrogen) are challenged right now but support will increase, costs are bound to come down, so (it's) another good opportunity for us to capitalize on our infrastructure," said Al Monaco, CEO of pipeline company Enbridge Inc., on a recent conference call, echoing the cautious stance taken by many industry leaders.Almost all of the hydrogen created in Canada today is considered "grey," created by burning fossil fuel and then used in industrial processes such as refining petroleum or producing fertilizer. Pembina estimates it costs between 91 cents and $1.42 per kilogram to make.If the carbon dioxide and other pollutants from making grey hydrogen are captured and stored, it becomes "blue" hydrogen, but the cost jumps to between $1.34 and $1.85 per kilogram."Green" hydrogen is separated from water using only renewable electricity and, while it is the most environmentally benign, it is also the most expensive at between $3 and $5 per kilogram, according to Pembina.Utility subsidiaries of Enbridge and Atco Ltd. are embarking on plans to inject hydrogen into the natural gas stream leading to home furnaces and water heaters in Markham and Fort Saskatchewan. Electricity can’t be stored as is, but at Enbridge’s power-to-gas facility in Markham it is used to create hydrogen from water that can be stored until eventually being turned back into electricity with Enbridge's 2.5-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell when needed.Markham's hydrogen is considered green because it is made with intermittent renewable electricity. The facility opened in 2018 after investments of $4.5 million by an Enbridge partnership and $4 million by the federal government. Its operation is supported by a three-year contract from Ontario’s electric system operator to supply surplus renewable power.The system works to level out energy availability but when more hydrogen is created than can be stored, it has to be vented, says Cynthia Hansen, president of gas distribution and storage for Enbridge.A partial solution is to blend the surplus at about two per cent into the local natural gas stream to reduce its overall GHG emissions, a $5.2-million project (with $221,000 from the federal government) expected to begin for about 3,600 customers starting next summer.Atco, meanwhile, is building a $6-million hydrogen blending project backed by $2.8 million in Alberta provincial grants and expected to be operational in early 2022. It is to deliver about five per cent hydrogen in the gas stream to about 5,000 homes in Fort Saskatchewan, a small city just northeast of Edmonton, with the hydrogen coming from an unnamed local supplier."When it starts up it will be grey and then it will transition to blue as the supply in the area builds out,” said Jason Sharpe, Atco's general manager of natural gas, estimating it will take two to three years for blue hydrogen to become available.The Fort Saskatchewan area, with its refineries and petrochemical facilities, is ground zero for carbon capture and storage in Alberta.Shell Canada's Quest project, opened in 2015, has injected more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide into underground storage from its oilsands upgrader.The recently completed Alberta Carbon Trunk Line is a pipeline system designed to collect CO2 from industrial sites in the region and take it to mature oilfields where its permanent storage also results in enhanced oil recovery.The global market for hydrogen could easily triple from current levels of about $200 billion per year by 2050 as countries adopt its use as a decarbonization strategy, according to GLJ, a prominent Calgary energy resource consulting firm.Canada is well-positioned to become an exporter into this growing market because of its current and potential production, GLJ said.Pembina's Jutt, however, says hydrogen usage should be targeted. While it may make sense to use it for home heating in some regions, that application doesn't necessarily make sense in B.C., where energy from renewable hydroelectric sources is potentially more environmentally friendly.Much is riding on promised federal and provincial government regulatory, strategic and financial commitments to hydrogen, as well as other alternative fuels that can help Canada meet its goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, she added."Businesses will do what's right for them from an economic perspective but I think everyone's looking to government for signals that it's good to invest in these things — hydrogen being one of many fuels that we'll need to reach our 2050 goals."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:ENB, TSX:ACO)Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
City officials say they'll continue to keep a close eye on Ottawa's increasingly crowded malls to make sure holiday shoppers are following public health protocols.Bylaw officers will be out in force patrolling shopping centres and big box stores across the city, a city spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. They'll also be on hand to respond to any complaints.Customers are "reminded to practice physical distancing from others and to ensure their masks are worn properly," the statement said.Business owners, too, are being reminded to follow protocols aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19."As we head into the holiday shopping season, we encourage business owners to review their current practices and make any necessary changes to ensure they are creating a safer shopping experience," an Ottawa Public Health (OPH) spokesperson said in an email. Shoppers thronged Ottawa's major malls last weekend in search of Black Friday deals, and the crowds are expected to continue through Christmas and Boxing Day."We did see some good traffic on Black Friday and leading up to that. I think people are trying to get their shopping out of the way," said Brian O'Hoski, general manager at Rideau Centre. Both Rideau Centre and St. Laurent Shopping Centre have hired extra security guards to enforce mask rules, and have posted pandemic rules and regulations throughout. More signs show shoppers which way to walk, and where to stand to wait their turn to enter busier stores. "There's footprints outside each store, and then there's an overflow line for some of those busier stores," said Kristina Sparkes, marketing coordinator at St. Laurent Shopping Centre. "We're also asking people to use a bit of courtesy and common sense."Both O'Hoski and Sparkes recommend customers visit during non-peak hours to avoid crowds and long waits.
A Brampton college student is accusing his school of mishandling his complaint about a fellow student after it dismissed anti-Sikh comments the man made to him during an online class, referring to the statements simply as "historical fact." Prabhjot Singh, 25, says he was making a presentation via Zoom to his immigration class at CDI College in Mississauga in October when he was interrupted by another student. "He jumped into my presentation and he said all the people from Punjab are frauds," Singh told CBC News from his Brampton home.Singh says the student then referred to the killing of thousands of Sikhs in India 36 years ago following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards."'I know you are Sikh, you are from Punjab. Did you forget how you guys were slaughtered in 1984?"' Singh quotes the student as saying. He says the remarks were all the more hurtful because some of his relatives were killed in the violence.'Nobody can forget what happened'"Nobody can forget what happened," Singh explained during the interview with CBC News. "Family members ... seeing a person burned alive." Singh says he felt threatened, and that the instructor in the class made no attempt to intervene and stop the verbal attack."I was feeling ashamed, I was feeling ... a victim of harassment," he said. But when Singh lodged a formal complaint with CDI College, he says he received a call from the school's educational manager, Mary Liideman, who said that the student was making comments about a "historical fact." Singh also filed complaints about the student's remarks with Peel Regional Police and with the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO).The WSO says it wrote to the college explaining the significance of the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, "and the serious nature of the threats made against Prabhjot Singh." CDI, a private, for-profit career college with 23 campus locations across Canada, replied that an internal investigation "determined that although culturally insensitive remarks were made, there were no direct threats" to Singh.The WSO's vice president for Ontario, Sharanjeet Kaur, calls what happened to Singh outrageous,"however it is equally shocking that CDI College would dismiss threats that reference the 1984 Sikh Genocide as 'historical fact' and merely 'culturally insensitive.'"1984 attacks called a 'genocide'The sectarian bloodshed started after the Indian Army launched an attack on Sikh militants in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a site sacred to Sikhs. Gandhi's subsequent murder led to a wave of bloody reprisals. India has said fewer than 3,000 people died in the attacks against Sikhs, but some Sikh leaders say the number is closer to 10,000.In Canada, Crown lawyers at the Air India bombing trial stemming from the 1985 attack that killed 329 people on a flight from Montreal to New Delhi, alleged it was the work of Sikh militants who were seeking revenge for the temple attack and the post-assassination violence. In 2018, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Canada to declare the killings a genocide — saying there is clear evidence the 1984 attacks on Sikhs by Hindus were not spontaneous, but rather organized by the government. College reopening investigationAfter CBC News contacted CDI about Singh's story, the college said in a statement it's reopening its investigation."Upon reflection it is clear that this did not properly address Mr. [Prabhjot] Singh's concerns," wrote Rodney D'Souza, the associate regional director of operations for CDI in central Canada.The student who made the remarks was sent a warning letter, the college says. He and Singh have since graduated from the Mississauga campus, but the college says it nonetheless "will be following up with staff disciplinary action for lack of appropriate action and sensitivity when the incident occurred."D'Souza added that while what happened was an isolated incident, regular mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all staff will also be instituted."We feel it is extremely important for all staff and instructors to be aware of how they can best support their students and fellow colleagues through any distressing or inappropriate situations that may arise."
Organigram now says cooling towers atop its cannabis production plant in Moncton caused a legionnaires' disease outbreak in the city last year that sent 15 people to hospital."Organigram deeply regrets the impact of this incident on members of our community and their families last year," the company said in a statement Thursday. The company did not provide an interview.Richard Melanson also wants an apology. Melanson is among 16 people who became ill and spent a week in hospital because of the severe form of pneumonia. Last fall, he voiced frustration the province had kept the source of the outbreak secret."I don't know if I'll ever get an apology," Melanson said this week. "I really, really hope I do. It would mean a lot to me."Public Health revealed the outbreak on Aug. 1 and announced it was over on Sept. 12. At the time, the province refused to release where the outbreak originated. CBC News filed several right to information requests to learn more about the outbreak's source. The last batch was released last week, and for the first time the company's name was not blacked out. "I suspected that it was them, but I just didn't want to point a finger or say 'you're guilty,'" Melanson said. "I'm just glad I'm alive, I'm glad it didn't kill anybody in our group."Legionnaires' disease is caused by inhaling water droplets containing legionella bacteria. Outbreaks are often traced to cooling towers. The mechanical system can be part of a large building's cooling system. Heat is dissipated by spraying water in the towers. But the combination of the heat and water can be a breeding ground for legionella bacteria if the system isn't properly maintained. Mist from the towers can carry the bacteria for kilometres into the surrounding environment. There's no indication Organigram's products were affected.In October last year, CBC reported Organigram had told its staff about "elevated bacteria counts" in a new cooling tower system. However, the company had refused to publicly acknowledge its role. "Organigram is commenting on this incident in co-ordination with information recently released by Public Health," the company said Thursday. "Previously, consistent with directives in the public interest issued by Public Health, Organigram has not provided any comment."The company says testing since the outbreak has found bacteria levels in the system that are "within acceptable limits."Chris Boyd said outbreaks caused by cooling towers are largely preventable. Boyd worked for New York City's health department and was part of its response to the largest legionella outbreak in the city's history.He's now general manager of building water health for NSF International, a product testing, inspection and certification organization based in Ann Arbour, Michigan.Boyd was involved in a report urging creation of cooling tower registries and posting of test results as a way to track and prevent outbreaks.The province of Quebec implemented a registry after repeated outbreaks in Quebec City. Vancouver passed a bylaw last year to create a registry. Hamilton, Ont. has a registry. The City of Moncton last year called for the New Brunswick government to implement a registry. Isabelle LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Moncton, said the city isn't considering its own bylaw because it believes the issue is a provincial responsibility. A spokesperson for the province has said a report by Public Health about how the outbreak was handled will include a recommendation for such a registry. It's not clear when that report will be complete or whether the province will act on the recommendation. Emails released by the New Brunswick government to CBC show health officials exchanged information with Boyd, who offered to help the province as it considered a cooling tower registry. Boyd says he last heard from the province this fall.He said there has largely been an inconsistent approach to tackling the issue. "What is holding Public Health back from being more proactive and focusing on the preventive ability rather than the emergency response approach, which is the most common approach in North America?"New Brunswick's Health Department did not provide an interview.WATCH | Richard Melanson speaks in 2019 about the outbreakMelanson said he believes the province should quickly implement a cooling tower registry."That would prevent this maybe from taking place again here," Melanson said. "You know, instead of you interviewing somebody in another couple of years and somebody else in another couple of years, this might put an end to it."Melanson and others who became ill retained Halifax law firm Wagners, which specializes in class-action lawsuits. So far, nothing has been filed in court. Melanson said he had lingering health effects and spent time off work because of the illness. He said he's doing better today, but still gets tired faster than he did before he had legionnaires' disease. He said he spent this summer trying to enjoy life as much as possible. He occasionally talks with others who had legionnaires' disease"I think we're all thankful that we're all here still and we might not all be doing as good as we did before, but we're still alive," Melanson said.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli government on Thursday urged its citizens to avoid travel to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing threats of Iranian attacks. Iran has been threatening to attack Israeli targets since its chief nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated last Friday near Tehran. It accuses Israel, which has been suspected in previous killings of Iranian nuclear scientists, of being behind the shooting. Israel has not commented on the killing. But Fakhrizadeh has long been on Israel's radar screen, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying at a 2018 news conference about Iran's nuclear program: “Remember that name.” Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons — a charge Iran denies. In recent months, Israel has signed agreements establishing diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab states of the UAE and Bahrain — its first normalization deals with Arab countries in a quarter century. The agreements, brokered by the Trump administration, have generated widespread excitement in Israel, and thousands of Israeli tourists are scheduled to travel to the UAE for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah this month. That may change following Thursday's warning. “In light of the threats heard recently by Iranian officials and in light of the involvement in the past of Iranian officials in terror attacks in various countries, there is a concern that Iran will try to act in this way against Israeli targets,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s National Security Council. It also advised against travel to Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Kurdish area of Iraq and Africa. Israel's military is well prepared to deal with the threats of Iranian troops and their proxies in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Israeli media say the government also has beefed up security at embassies around the world. But protecting Israeli travellers, conspicuous and spread out at countless hotels, restaurants and tourist sites, represents a different type of challenge. “This is going to be a nightmare, and I really hope that both governments, UAE and Israel, are co-ordinating and doing the best they can to safeguard those Israelis,” said Yoel Guzansky, a former Israeli counterterrorism official who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “I’m really worried that that something might happen, and especially now because of the context of Fakhrizadeh, because Iran is really looking for revenge,” he added. He spoke before the travel advisory was issued. The Israel Airports Authority estimates that about 25,000 Israelis will fly to the UAE this month on the five airlines now plying the route between Tel Aviv and the Gulf state’s airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Celebrities, entrepreneurs and tourists already have been flocking to Dubai. With the coronavirus appearing to be under control in the UAE, it is one of the few quarantine-free travel options for Israelis during the coming Hanukkah holiday vacation, adding to its appeal. At a time when few people are travelling, Israeli visitors speaking Hebrew could be extra conspicuous. Israel this week also signed a tourism agreement with Bahrain. Amsalem Tours, an Israeli travel agency, said that there was “very serious” demand for travel packages to Dubai but did not provide specific figures. Iran and its proxies have targeted Israeli tourists and Jewish communities in the past. Agents of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group bombed a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, killing six and wounding dozens. That year, Israel also accused Iran of being behind attacks targeting Israeli diplomats in Thailand and India. Iran and Hezbollah also bombed the Israeli Embassy and Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, claiming the lives of scores of civilians. Concerns for the safety of Israelis in Dubai also is not without precedent. In 2000, an Israeli ex-colonel was kidnapped by Iranian proxy Hezbollah and held captive in Lebanon until he was released in a prisoner exchange in 2004. Today, Dubai, famous for its glittering shopping malls, ultra-modern skyscrapers and nightlife, is a crossroads for travellers from around the world, including many nations that do not have relations with Israel. Iran maintains a major presence in Dubai, due to historical and current trade ties, and Dubai is believed to be a major station for Iranian intelligence services. The family of a California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile says he was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai just a few months ago. In a possible sign of Emirati security concerns, travel agencies in countries across the Middle East and Africa say the UAE has temporarily halted issuing new visas to their citizens. With tens of thousands of Iranians working or doing business in the UAE, Iran is also among the countries facing the visa restrictions. Israel had already had a travel warning in place advising citizens against nonessential travel to the UAE. Similar “basic concrete threat” advisories are in place for visiting other Arab states with which Israel has peace treaties. But the language of Thursday's warning was especially tough. The UAE, for its part, is known for its strict security. Dubai, home to 3.3 million people in 2019, with just over 3 million of them foreigners, has published major crime statistics that are among some of the lowest in the world. Before Israelis began arriving, Dubai held a highly publicized drill of a police SWAT team storming a replica metro car in October and suggested facial-recognition technology could be implemented at stations along its driverless track. Experts already believe the UAE has one of the highest per capita concentrations of surveillance cameras in the world, a system that’s only grown amid the coronavirus pandemic. And despite the recent tensions, Iran may be hesitant to strike on Emirati soil, wanting to maintain its economic interests there. The UAE meanwhile has gone out of its way to say it wants to de-escalate tensions in the region despite its own suspicions over Iranian behaviour. It called the killing of Fakhrizadeh a “heinous assassination.” In an interview before Thursday's advisory was issued, Pavel Israelsky, co-founder of Salam Dubai, said the boom in his UAE-based Israeli tour operator’s bookings was “significant” ahead of the Hanukkah holiday. While a handful of Israeli clients cancelled over security concerns, he said, “I can say that the UAE is one of the most secure places in the world in terms of the resources they invest in security.” “I don’t think there’s cause for worry,” Israelsky said. “Today, no place is really safe.” ___ Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed reporting. Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
Premier Blaine Higgs' concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten the long-term financial support New Brunswick receives from Ottawa has turned out to be prophetic, a new report by a national think-tank shows.Ben Eisen and Milagros Palacios of the Fraser Institute released a study Thursday suggesting contractions in the economy caused by the pandemic and other forces are flattening economic differences across the country and hastening the creation of new have-not provinces. The new order would dilute the federal government's critical $21 billion equalization program – New Brunswick's most important source of support. "It's a fundamentally transformative change," Eisen said in an interview."Where there used to be a big gap between the so-called haves and have-nots, I'm not even sure that bifurcation makes sense any more."Five have-not provinces are currently eligible for money under the program's formula, including Manitoba, Quebec and all three Maritime provinces.As Canada's poorest province, New Brunswick is receiving a record $2.2 billion in equalization funding this year, 10.7 per cent of the entire federal funding pool. The amount to New Brunswick has grown by $502 million in the last four years, an amount boosted in part when Ontario stopped receiving money two years ago. But as quickly as equalization payments can escalate for poor provinces when national economic disparities are growing, they can also recede, either by a poor province getting richer or rich provinces getting poorer. Eisen said economic data has been revealing a steady "convergence" between rich and poor provinces for several years that has accelerated during the pandemic, moving some like Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario close to requalifying for equalization money. He claimed changes are so dramatic it is not out of the question that Alberta will become a have-not province in this decade, a development with major implications for provinces currently in the equalization pool."There's a set amount of equalization dollars. If a new province becomes eligible for equalization payments, what's left for the other provinces that were receiving them before goes down," said Eisen."If you think of everyone eating a pizza and one more person comes and sits down, that's obviously less for the people who were there before. Equalization is no different." Tombe is an associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary and one of Canada's leading experts on equalization.He calls research behind the new study "top notch," but says it is difficult to predict what will happen in the near term."Forecasting these days is tricky, to say the least," Tombe said in a message Thursday.Equalization is based on three-year rolling averages of economic activity and works from a formula completely in the hands of the federal government, which can change the formula as it wishes. The formula also has protections built in to shield the poorest of provinces and, according to Tombe, that means equalization cuts are less of a threat to New Brunswick than to Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba."Those (with economies) furthest from the national average will tend to gain relative to those closer to it," Tombe said. "Hence Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick aren't as likely to be adversely affected." Higgs has been expressing concern since last spring about the federal government's ability to sustain funding of the equalization program and the effect Alberta's economic troubles might have on how the formula works.> Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'we won't worry about that today.' Well, for me, I'm very worried about it. \- Premier Blaine Higgs"I'm very concerned about next year and our transfer payments, because I don't know what's left in the federal government," he said in May."Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'well, we won't worry about that today. We'll worry about that tomorrow or the next day,' or maybe someone believes they'll never have to worry about it. Well, for me, I'm very worried about it and very concerned."Eisen believes it's likely more provinces will qualify for equalization, and that provinces in the program should prepare for what that could mean."It's important to recognize this is a development that could very well affect the budgets of Maritime provinces," he said.
Clearwater Seafoods is dropping Marine Stewardship Council certification for its Canadian offshore lobster fishery, calling it "a voluntary decision driven by business considerations."The blue MSC eco-label tells consumers the seafood they are buying is sustainably caught and has been a point of pride for North America's biggest shellfish producer.Clearwater's offshore lobster fishery off southern Nova Scotia was the first fishery on the Eastern Seaboard to receive MSC certification in 2010.The current five-year certification expires at the end of the month."Clearwater is confident in the ability of this fishery to meet the MSC standard today, but has chosen not to initiate recertification at this time given the internal resources required to support recertification," Clearwater vice-president Christine Penney said in an email statement to CBC News.Maintaining certification has become more onerous recently for the fishery.Two years ago, Clearwater was convicted of a gross violation when it was caught illegally storing thousands of lobster traps on the ocean floor even after it had been repeatedly warned by Canadian authorities to stop the practice because it was a conservation risk. The traps were left on the bottom with escape hatches open, but continued to catch and kill lobsters.The conviction triggered a Marine Stewardship Council audit and new conditions were imposed to demonstrate compliance."The question comes to mind whether they're unable to show that evidence and therefore they wouldn't pass the certification," said Shannon Arnold, an environmentalist with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax."And so by just walking away from it, they're not forced to show that to the consumers that they're actually fishing within the law."Clearwater defends lobster fisheryClearwater said the fishery was always and remains sustainable."While Clearwater has chosen not to enter into recertification of the offshore fishery MSC program at the end of 2020, the sustainability measures that were in place for 10 years of successful certification continue to be in effect," said Penney."The offshore lobster fishery remains sustainable. The fishery has not been suspended or failed, and it maintains its current certificate until December 2020."The Marine Stewardship Council declined to directly comment on Clearwater's decision to drop its lobster certification."Clearwater is a long-standing partner of the MSC, and its other MSC-certified fisheries in Canada and globally remain in our voluntary program," spokesperson Vianna Murday said in a statement.Other core Canadian species are staying with the council.They include offshore scallops, snow crab, arctic surf clam, cold water shrimp and lobster harvested in the Maritimes by an inshore fleet independent of the company.Clearwater said an internal tracing system will allow it to separate lobster it buys from the inshore and the 720 tonnes it harvests under its offshore licences."This fishery accounts for a small portion of Clearwater lobster volumes, and the use of the eco-label is very limited on products from this fishery," Penney said.Partnership buying companyClearwater is in the process of being sold. If approved by shareholders, the new owner of the company will be a partnership between Premium Brands of British Columbia and a coalition of Mi'kmaw First Nations led in part by the Membertou band in Cape Breton.Membertou had previously bought two of the eight offshore licences held by Clearwater. No one from the band was available for comment.Clearwater management and the company lobster boat, the Randell Dominaux based in Shelburne, N.S., will continue to run the coveted offshore lobster fishery.Offshore lobster fisheryClearwater has enjoyed exclusive rights to Lobster Fishing Area 41, which starts 80 kilometres from shore and runs to the 200-mile limit, extending from Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.The company fishes entirely off southern Nova Scotia. Unlike every other lobster fishery, there is no season and Clearwater has been awarded a quota of 720 tonnes, which it has said represents about 15 per cent of all lobster it sells.For environmentalists like Arnold, the loss of Marine Stewardship Council certification is a blow."That transparency from the MSC process, that extra layer, is what really allowed us to dig in and see what was happening with this fishery in the offshore and how they were fishing outside the legal boundaries," she said. "So we're concerned that we're losing that level of oversight."MORE TOP STORIES
Despite the Ford government’s recent attempts to increase standards of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, a co-chair of Pioneer Manor’s Family Council said that while it’s nice, it’s too little too late. “The announcement about increasing personal care to four hours per day is great. But’s it’s all of the other details around it that make absolutely no sense,” said Terry Martyn, who also sits on Ontario’s Northeast Family Council Network. “Nothing will come into effect for another four to five years. That’s not good enough. Residents need more care right now.” On Nov. 2, Ford announced that the provincial government would provide additional funding in the 2020 budget to increase average daily direct care from 2.75 to 4 hours per resident by 2024-25 in a move that was met with both praise and criticism. “This is a bold step on a big issue,” said Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge Ontario, a non-profit association that represents more than 36,000 long-term care residents and more than 8,000 seniors in housing units across the province. “Almost without exception, any report or study looking at the challenges in providing safe, quality care to seniors living in long-term care has pointed to the need for more staff. There is absolutely nothing that could have a more direct and positive impact on the quality and enjoyment of life for residents than more staff.” The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), which has been advocating for increased standards of care for more than 20 years, would like to see something more substantial. “We are happy that the minimum care standard is finally, belatedly, adopted as policy but we cannot allow this to be the way that this government tries to shut down the legitimate criticism about their inadequate response,” said executive director Natalie Mehra. “We desperately need staff in the homes now. It is in this government’s power to do more. Why will they not do it?” The province has also announced it is launching a new recruitment program called the Ontario Workforce Reserve for Senior Support that would train and deploy resident support aides (RSA) to work in long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The province is hoping that those who are unemployed or have been displaced from the retail and hospitality industries or administrative roles as well as students in education programs will take advantage of the opportunity. “COVID-19 has amplified persistent staffing challenges in the long-term care sector, highlighting the need for immediate action,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, minister of Long-Term Care. “I encourage those who are looking for new opportunities or those who have been displaced during the pandemic to consider working in a long-term care home. This will not only be personally satisfying work, but it will also help out our frontline staff and greatly improve the quality of life for our seniors.” But while it seems that the provincial government has finally heard the voices calling for change, Martyn still isn’t impressed. “RSAs do not help get residents up in the morning, dressed, and bathed – that’s the direct care that we need and only PSWs do that,” he said. He doesn’t believe that the government’s actions address the real need for a concrete recruitment plan to hire more PSWs in Ontario – and he’s not alone. “The NDP, alongside families, frontline workers, and experts, have been fighting (to increase personal care standards) for literally years, including introducing the bill that would make it the law in Ontario four times since 2016,” said MPP Teresa Armstrong, the NDP critic of long-term care. “Prior to the pandemic, we all heard heartbreaking stories of seniors dehydrated, injured without explanation, left to develop bedsores, and not being given the time or the help to eat, dress themselves, bathe or even get to the bathroom. A revolving door of underpaid, part-time workers, like PSWs, have been run off their feet for years.” Since the pandemic started, conditions in long-term care facilities seem to have gotten worse,, critics say. The Service Employees International Union estimated that nearly 30 per cent or 7,500 of the nurses and PSWs they represent left their jobs since the start of the pandemic. Martyn added that adequate, full-time work as a PSW is difficult to come by – many PSWs work multiple part-time gigs at more than one long-term care home, something that increases the possibility of spreading COVID-19. Dot Klein, the co-chair of the Sudbury Health Coalition, said that almost 2,000 long-term care residents and staff died during the first wave of the virus this year. According to Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission, 55 per cent of the province’s long-term care facilities experienced an outbreak of the virus during the first wave, and about 75 per cent of all COVID-related deaths in Ontario were in long-term care. “Some common characteristics among the most impacted homes were: location in communities with high infection rates, insufficient leadership capacity, pre-existing and COVID-related staffing shortages, and a lack of strong infection prevention and control measures, including difficulty cohorting and isolating positive residents, often because of limitations of the physical environment,” said a letter written by the Commission on Oct. 23. The letter was addressed to Minister Fullerton, and it outlined five recommendations for the provincial government to follow to prepare for the second wave of COVID-19 this fall. The first item on that list is increasing the supply of PSWs and ensuring that recruitment efforts address the need for various staff to meet the increasingly complex needs of residents. “The issue with staffing shortages is the same everywhere in Ontario. Long-term care homes are funded by the Ontario government depending on how many residents they have and what kind of care they need,” said Martyn. “They are given a certain level of funding to hire PSWs, and that’s it. They cannot hire more PSWs above that number unless they have excess money or profits in the bank. It’s impossible to do that.” The Ontario government announced $405 million in funding for the province’s long-term care homes to help with operating pressures due to COVID-19 in late September. The funding can be used for infection prevention and containment measures, staffing supports, and purchasing additional supplies and PPE. The government also announced that it would extend the $3 per hour pay raise for PSWs until March 2021. “The bottom line is that the Ford government’s approach is piecemeal, does not include a robust recruitment strategy, and does not address the longstanding problems in working conditions,” said the OHC. “The Ford government’s approach is far less and far later than the program launched by the government of Quebec four months ago in which the province itself drove recruitment, hiring 10,000 PSWs (the Quebec equivalent), paying them for training and providing a wage of $26 per hour.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
When Bob Murphy began his search for an affordable housing unit in Toronto, he said the process felt something like blindly throwing darts at a map.As a person with a disability on a fixed income, Murphy's options for an affordable unit within the Toronto Community Housing system were even further limited."You're just basically looking at an address on a map and just picking five choices you would possibly want," he said of the process.Three years later, he says there's been no movement on his application, and a total lack of communication about the status of his search.Murphy says he's now resigned to quietly languishing on Toronto's massive waiting list for affordable housing, which numbers 79,768 according to the city's latest count."I call it the never, ever housing list," said Murphy, who also volunteers with the advocacy group ACORN Canada. "I don't plan on anything ever developing from this list."Frustrating experiences like Murphy's are now driving a push to transform the city's outdated affordable housing application system, which has been described as an inconvenient relic from a pre-digital age."It's a barrier to entry," said Mark Richardson, an affordable housing activist behind the grassroots organization HousingNowTO. He's critical of the current system's reliance on physical documentation and the need for applicants to frequently update their files."I think it's a cumbersome system for people who are looking for housing," said Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, who is also the chair of the city's planning and housing committee.All eyes on NYCImprovements to Toronto's affordable housing application process could make the system easier to access, more responsive, and ultimately more capable of matching applicants with suitable housing, say those calling for change.Those advocates can now point to New York City, which in June rolled out a similarly ambitious makeover of its affordable housing application system to early positive reviews.Prospective tenants in New York can now access and update their applications on a smartphone, and the streamlined system is said to be more effective at matching tenants to possible homes."I think it would make a major difference and possibly create a little bit more hope," said Murphy of New York's revamped system.Richardson said a more sophisticated and intuitive system could also remove a burden on applicants to apply for various lotteries when new units become available. Rather than applying for a handful of buildings like Murphy has done, an improved system could match tenants with any building with an availability."You're not waiting to see some sign up on the side of the building, or the sign in a lobby of a building saying some units are becoming available," Richardson said.Change coming early next year, city saysBailão calls the updated system in New York "a great example" and said Toronto's social housing application process will take cues from it for its next update."It is an excellent system and that's what I'm hoping we're going to be able to roll out in Toronto," she said.She said that could happen as soon as the first quarter of 2021 for subsidized units in the Toronto Community Housing network. The same system would later be used for other forms of affordable housing, including below-market-rate units, Bailão said.A recent pilot project that tested an enhanced application system created the equivalent of 200 new units by more efficiently matching tenants to homes, she added.Despite possible improvements to the application process, Toronto will still have to grapple with a demand for affordable housing that still vastly exceeds the current supply of units.The city's HousingTO plan has a target of 40,000 new affordable housing units by 2030, which covers about half the applicants currently on the city's waiting list.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is on the brink of a new stay-at-home order that would close businesses and curb travel in regions that could see hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new rules that take effect Saturday, designed to keep local health systems from collapsing under the weight of skyrocketing COVID-19 caseloads. Previous restrictions were based on infection rates in counties.The new order divides the state into five broad regions and restricts those with intensive care unit bed capacity below 15%. On Thursday, Newsom said four regions — all but the San Francisco Bay area — could meet that threshold “within a day or two.”California’s virus hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled since mid-October and now stand at 8,240, including 1,890 in intensive care units. The Department of Public Health reported 19,437 deaths since the start of the pandemic, including 220 health care workers.“If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see our death rate climb, more lives lost,” Newsom said.Affected regions must close hair salons, barber shops and movie theatres, ban restaurant service except for takeout and delivery, shutter playgrounds, and limit retail stores and shopping centres to 20% customer capacity.The new stay-at-home order will last at least three weeks, cutting sharply into the most profitable shopping season and threatening financial ruin for businesses already struggling after 10 months of on-again, off-again restrictions and slow sales because of the pandemic.“This means no income for the rest of the year,” said Lam Nguyen, who owns a nail salon in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights. “I’m sad and scared, not only for myself but all my friends with nail and hair salons. A lot of us are in debt.”Amy Lovece, a hairstylist who rents a chair at Salon 544 in downtown San Luis Obispo, said she already lost about half of her yearly income.“It’s sad that (Newsom) keeps closing us down. It’s unnecessary because salons are not the problem,” said Lovece, 56. “For the ones who are following the rules, it’s just not fair. I just go between home and work. I don’t go to parties or bars and I just want to keep working.”Lovece said she was angry that the county was grouped in the Southern California region with counties hundreds of miles away with far greater demands for ICU beds. Only one out of 53 ICU beds in San Luis Obispo county was occupied with a COVID-19 patient as of Thursday.The order is the latest balancing act as the state tries to slow the exploding infection rate — blamed on people gathering outside of their households — without further crashing the economy.After California closed all but essential businesses in March, the state lost 2.6 million jobs in two months. About 44% of those jobs returned when restrictions were eased as people heeded social distancing and mask-wearing precautions and new cases fell dramatically.But by fall people were congregating more for holidays and celebrations, while cooler weather drove them inside, where the virus flourishes. California is now averaging nearly 15,000 newly reported cases daily.Public health officials warn that the toll from Thanksgiving gatherings could start to swamp hospitals by Christmas.In the last month, the state imposed restrictions in 52 of the state’s 58 counties, including asking people not to leave the state and implementing an overnight curfew for all but essential trips, such as getting groceries.But it hasn't worked because data shows people are ignoring the rules, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top public health officer, acknowledged Thursday.“We of course had hoped and wanted to see more from that already, but we haven’t,” he said.The state might not need such a broad shutdown if it had better data on where people are being infected, said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health.Are stores and nail salons chiefly to blame or should restrictions be focused elsewhere? Lack of that knowledge reflects “a failure of public health," Klausner said.He likened the current approach to shutting down food production, restaurants and grocery stores because of a salmonella outbreak.“That’s not the way we traditionally work in public health,” he said.Some counties also have bucked the rules, following cues from state and local elected officials who have criticized the governor for going too far.Shannon Grove, Republican leader in the state Senate, criticized Newsom on Thursday for continuing “to disrupt life as we know it without releasing the full data behind his decisions.”But in Los Angeles County, the nation's largest with 10 million residents, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that his department would be conducting “targeted enforcement on super-spreader events." The sheriff previously said he had relied on voluntary compliance with health orders.Even state government has felt the impact. Newsom and his family are self-quarantining at home after three of his children were exposed to an infected person. Two staff members in the governor’s office have tested positive for COVID-19 but hadn’t been in contact with Newsom, the office said.Beginning Monday, state government offices will close for three weeks except for those involved in “critical functions” such as public safety, prisons, social services and unemployment insurance claims processing, according to a Human Resources Department email sent to department leaders, the Sacramento Bee reported.Newsom acknowledged the difficulty in following the rules. But he urged people to stay vigilant and said progress is being made on a vaccine.“There is light at the end of the tunnel," he said.___Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco contributed to this report.Adam Beam And Kathleen Romayne, The Associated Press
Health-care workers feel muzzled and alone: Study Colleen Romaniuk Health-care workers in Ontario are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, but according to a new study, they are feeling “sacrificed” and “violated” by their employers and the provincial government. Researchers affiliated with the University of Windsor in collaboration with CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union co-authored a report titled “Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19.” Health-care workers represent 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the province, according to the study, a number that is much higher than the global rate of 14 per cent. Due to fear of reprisal, those on the frontlines are extremely hesitant to speak out – but those who participated in the study told a story of “dismal” working conditions and “unrelenting” stress. “Health-care workers in Ontario are suffering from much higher rates of COVID-19 infection than the general public,” said Dr. James Brophy, one of the lead authors of the new study. “While we are all facing COVID-fatigue and worry, health-care workers are suffering disproportionately from serious psychological distress. They are burning out from overwork, fear and anxiety.” Led by Dr. Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, the study examines in-depth, anonymous interviews conducted with 10 health-care workers who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout Ontario. The respondents, who work in facilities that range from small northern-rural to large urban, were contacted by phone in April and May. Frontline workers, including PSWs, RNs, RPNs, and custodial and clerical staff, all reported feeling unprotected and unsupported in their place of work. “We have lost about 100 staff who have either taken a leave of absence because of fear or have taken a leave to go work other jobs. We have a few who have taken early retirement,” said a participant in the study. “When I leave this interview, I’m heading into work and I’m going to work 44 out of the next 60 hours. I’ve prepared enough food for six meals and they’re in two shopping bags right now. That’s what it’s doing to me.” Some interviewees reported going home to cry after their shifts, sleeping in separate bedrooms away from their spouses, and experiencing increased social isolation because they fear infecting their family and friends. “The words on the page cannot convey the level of emotion we heard in the voices of healthcare workers we interviewed,” said Brophy. “We did not expect to hear the degree of anger and desperation that came out. The stories they told us were tinged with anger, frustration and fear.” There are a number of factors that contribute to the distress of health-care workers in the province, including inadequate protection against the virus, government failings, and barriers to exercising their agency. The study suggests that the provincial government, for example, has not applied the “precautionary principle” identified by the SARS Commission in 2006 which stipulates that, when in doubt, policies should err on the side of caution. “An ongoing debate that has direct impact on health-care workers’ safety is whether or not the virus can be transmitted through airborne particles,” said the study. “The evidence has grown that SARS-CoV-2 can indeed become aerosolized through coughing, sneezing, or even just breathing.” These tiny, aerosolized particles can breach surgical masks, according to Brophy. Researchers have recommended the use of N95 masks or powered air-purifying respirators for more adequate protection. Surgical masks are still considered safe for use in a health-care setting under most circumstances, although the health-care workers that participated in the study expressed some skepticism. “I had an infected patient on one of my shifts. I had my own N95 mask and I had my own goggles, and I had my own hair cover and I made sure I double gloved,” said an interviewee. “I put the cheap level two mask over top of my N95.” The study suggests that the government’s policy was probably “supply-based rather than science-based.” Another contributing factor is the health-care workers’ lack of recourse when it comes to addressing these challenges. Employers generally don’t allow their workers to speak publicly about their experiences at work, and, according to reports, the Ministry of Labour has been unhelpful. “All the frontline workers fear reprisal. We are told, ‘You can’t talk to the media. You have to send your manager to talk to them. We have corporate relations. You can’t be outside holding signs',” said one individual. “It’s just a travesty and these issues need to be said and people need to know what’s really going on.” Another said that they were “disheartened” by the Ministry of Labour during the pandemic. “They’ve totally taken the employers’ side and not the workers. There is no consultation with any frontline worker,” they said. “The ministry is not showing up to calls. They’re doing a lot of phone calls, but it’s not how they should be working. They still need to be out there on the frontlines. They should use PPE and come out to the hospital if we’re saying it’s not safe.” Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union and co-author of the study, explained that health-care workers have a limited right to refuse unsafe work. “They can’t refuse if it would result in a danger to a patient or resident,” said Hurley. “The evidence shows that in every case when the Ministry of Labour was called in, they did not support the workers.” To address these issues, the study recommends increasing staffing levels, adequate PPE and protective administrative and engineering controls, increased mental health supports, and reinvestment into a “weakened public health-care system.” There also needs to be a chance in workplace culture so that health-care workers concerns will be heard, respected, and addressed. “Health-care workers' health and wellbeing is essentially being sacrificed. We all need to pay attention to their pleas during this frightening time,” said Dr. Margaret Keith. “Not only does their wellbeing matter, but we also need to realize if they are not being kept safe, they can’t properly care for their patients or residents.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Even though Lacie Krzemien knew she had been a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, she still had to book an appointment and wait to get tested. "I think what should change is anyone that wants to get tested and is saying they have a close contact should be tested and even waiting 24 hours for me was very stressful," she told CBC News. Krzemien works with Windsor's Overdose Prevention Society and is helping to house people from Tent City. After a man they housed tested positive, Krzemien knew she had to get tested as she said she was a close contact. But, because of a province-wide rule, she wasn't able to just walk-in.Yet, Krzemien isn't the only one who had to wait. Pharmacies conducting tests and one local assessment centre is finding the demand for testing in Windsor-Essex has spiked in recent weeks as cases continue to climb. On Thursday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) reported 63 new COVID-19 cases and 19 outbreaks. WECHU CEO Theresa Marentette said in some cases there could be up to a three-day wait for an appointment at assessment centres, though lab results are coming in within a day or two. Testing demand has more than doubled"All of that combined, there is a little bit of delay in people getting tested and then getting their results at this time," she said.Erie Shores HealthCare Chief of Staff Ross Moncur told CBC News Thursday that they're testing more than 160 people per day at their assessment centre, which is more than double what they were seeing back in October. "As the cases have gone up, [we] have seen increased number of folks looking to be tested," he said. "So our teams have regrouped. This is a year of re-invention and we have re-invented our assessment centre a few times now and in response to the demand we'll be increasing the capacity at the assessment centre by about 20 per cent immediately with eyes to increase it further than that in the coming weeks as we see what happens with demand." The wait time to get a test is about two days right now, Moncur said, adding that he hopes that will decrease as they increase their capacity on Friday. He said they are also willing to set up another assessment centre, though it all comes down to having enough staff on hand. Meanwhile, pharmacist Tim Brady of Brady's Drug Stores in Essex, Ont. and Belle River, Ont., who has been testing at his Essex location for about a month says he's also seeing an increased demand. "It's definitely escalating, the amount of people that are coming in," he said. The pharmacy performs tests for asymptomatic people only, Brady said, meaning it's for those who need a test for work or travel. "These are people that we need to make sure aren't positive so that they don't potentially be the spreader to a bigger issue," he said. They are doing tests three to four days a week and people are typically waiting a day or two to get in.His pharmacy is receiving results in 48 to 72 hours.
The performers at Russia's majestic Bolshoi Theatre have danced their way through the Bolshevik revolution, bombing by the Nazis in the Second World War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but surviving the COVID-19 pandemic may be their greatest challenge yet.The historic Moscow landmark closed for six months over the spring and summer as the city went into a lockdown to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but it reopened this fall for a 245th season and is attempting to stage a busy schedule of Christmas season events."It's incredibly difficult," said prima ballerina Yekaterina Shipulina, 41, during a recent break in rehearsal where she was dancing Preludes to Bach as part of a tribute to Russian ballet great Maya Plisetskaya."We are in this … dilemma where we actually can't social distance. We have to take our masks off to perform and be shoulder to shoulder with our dance partners," she told CBC News backstage at the Bolshoi."But there's this term, 'stage therapy' and that's what's happening now," she said of the intensive group effort that's been required to rehearse and perform despite the restrictions."We take energy from [the audience] and we give energy."Within days of the theatre reopening this fall, 30 performers and workers out of more than 3,300 tested positive for COVID-19. The number is even higher now, with more than 100 employees off work. It's unclear how many of those are dancers, but for the Plisetskaya tribute, three dancers had to be replaced at the last minute because either they or a close family member had contracted the virus. In normal circumstances, the ballet would also be hosting guest dancers from around the world in prominent roles, but not now. Costly closureThe financial implications for the Bolshoi have been dire. The six-month shutdown cost the theatre roughly $15 million Cdn, prompting director Vladimir Urin to warn the venue's future was at risk.Right now, tickets, which can range up to $200 US each, are being sold for just 25 per cent of the seats in an auditorium that usually seats more than 2,000. Until mid-November, half the seats at the ballet performances were full, but capacity was further reduced as infection rates in Moscow soared.WATCH | How a gala ballet production comes together in a pandemic:Russia is the fifth most-infected country in the world and has been consistently registering more than 25,000 new cases a day for the past 10 days. Moscow has been seeing from 6,000 to 7,000 new cases a day and the city's mayor has acknowledged the hospital system is "under great pressure."In Canada, the National Ballet of Canada has cancelled the remainder of its 2020/2021 season and it is unclear when performances will begin again.The Royal Winnipeg Ballet cancelled its 80th season in March and this Christmas for the first time in 20 years there will not be a production of The Nutcracker.The Bolshoi hosts the world's largest ballet company, with more than 200 dancers. The interior walls of the building's ornate, gold-leafed rooms are adorned with photographs of world figures and celebrities who have visited over the decades.The director of the Plisetskaya tribute insisted it would be a catastrophe if the dancing were to stop for the pandemic."It's in our nature," said Andris Liepa, who as a dancer, choreographer and director has had a long association with the Bolshoi Ballet.He heads a ballet troupe in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but travelled to Moscow for the Plisetskaya production.Personal risk"People should feel that life is going on, and if you close the theatres and close the concerts, then people feel more suffering just by not having the chance to be part of that … culture."He said everyone who performs has to accept some risk."You cannot perform without being close to each other. The pas de deux [duet] has to be done as close as possible — sometimes we roll over each other, going over and over the bodies getting very close," he said, using his hands to illustrate two dancers weaving their bodies together.His own personal risk now, however, may be lower than others as he contracted the coronavirus a few months back and spent weeks at home in bed with a high fever."We are more careful now because we are wearing masks, we are always doing tests," he said referring to the precautions at the theatre for cast, crew and spectators.In fact, very few of the dancers or performers that the CBC News crew saw during the dress rehearsal were wearing masks. Shipulina, the prima ballerina, was the notable exception."I'm always in a mask. I only take it off for the real performance," she said.Most members of the orchestra, who were crammed together tightly beneath the front of the stage, were not wearing masks. Bolshoi officials told CBC News that rules on wearing masks are up to individuals but it didn't appear the conductor or many of the other musicians were covering their faces.Social beingsOn the performance night, patrons were getting their temperatures checked at the door but once inside the theatre, many wore their masks low underneath their noses. "We are social beings, we can't be without this," ballet goer Tatiana Telokova said on continuing with the performances during a pandemic."This is the main theatre of the country so the government has to think about this if there are hard times."WATCH | A young Russian ballet star keeps dancing during COVID-19:One of the Bolshoi's rising stars, 22-year-old ballet dancer Alyona Kovaleva, told CBC News she is strongly in favour of keeping the Bolshoi open despite the significant risk of infection, but she personally finds wearing a mask while dancing during rehearsals too uncomfortable. "It's really hard. I tried it once — but I can't," she said.Kovaleva missed out on dancing a new lead role because of the summer shutdown and said it was very hard to practise and stay prepared. "It was a disappointment. We all stopped and were thrown from our usual world, from our lives and how we used to see them," said Kovaleva."This was the biggest thing we missed during the quarantine and the time away from the theatre — this feeling of entering the stage, of giving your emotions and then receiving the energy back from the audience."I think we have to dance and perform as long as we are able to."