Water moving under ice creating a cool illusion in Quispamsis, New Brunswick.
Water moving under ice creating a cool illusion in Quispamsis, New Brunswick.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech - image credit) When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Tuesday: ENGLAND Manchester City looks to make it 21 straight wins in all competitions by beating Wolverhampton to move 15 points clear in the Premier League. Wolves has caused City issues recently, beating Pep Guardiola's side home and away last season, but does not have star striker Raul Jimenez this time round as he recovers from a fractured skull. “The history against them shows us how tough it is and we know it perfectly," Guardiola said. “We know exactly the type of game we have to play — to be so intense but, at the same time, calm." City is in the middle of a hectic period featuring games every three or four days so will rotate again, with Raheem Sterling, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva among those likely to be recalled. Manchester United is City's nearest challenger, 12 points back, and plays Crystal Palace on Wednesday. GERMANY Borussia Mönchengladbach has lost all three games since the club announced that coach Marco Rose will be joining Borussia Dortmund next season. The teams meet in the German Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday, when Rose will hope to end the negative spiral against his future employers. Gladbach’s troubles started before Rose’s departure was made known. It hasn’t won its last five Bundesliga games. While Gladbach has been on a slump, Dortmund’s fortunes are looking up after three wins in a row including a 4-0 rout of Schalke in the derby and a 3-2 win at Sevilla in the Champions League. Coach Edin Terzic seems to be enjoying his role now the pressure has been taken off with Rose’s arrival at the end of the season. Both teams know the German Cup is a realistic chance of a trophy with reigning champion Bayern Munich already knocked out of the competition. ITALY Injury-hit Juventus needs a win against lowly Spezia to boost its faltering title defence. The nine-time defending champion drew at Hellas Verona 1-1 last weekend to leave it 10 points behind Serie A leader Inter Milan, albeit having played a match less. Juventus will still be without Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado, Arthur and Paulo Dybala, who are all injured. Forward Álvaro Morata could recover enough for a place on the bench. Also, Lazio could move level with fourth-place Atalanta if it wins at home to relegation-threatened Torino. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
TORONTO — When earnings season rolls around, Duncan Fulton spends days preparing for calls with media, analysts and investors, but hardly ever gets a chance to deliver his messages directly to the people who frequent his Tim Hortons coffee shops or Popeyes drive-thrus. That changed in February when the chief operating officer of Restaurant Brands International joined chief executive Jose Cil on Clubhouse — an emerging audio platform that gives anyone with an iPhone and an app the ability to host and access discussions on every topic imaginable. "It's like reimagined talk radio with calls, but we are the producer," said Fulton, who hosted an "open kitchen" talk the day after RBI released its latest quarterly earnings. "Our guests don't care about our adjusted EBITDA. They care about real stuff, about our food, our brands, and so we said, 'Why don't we use Clubhouse?'" Fulton and Cil are the latest Canadian executives to turn to the app started by San Francisco serial entrepreneurs Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth last spring as a new way to host public conversations. As COVID-19 spread throughout the globe and lockdowns kept millions of people at home, executives from top venture capital and tech firms began to jockey for access to the invite-only audio platform. By the start of 2021, hundreds of business leaders and other Canadians had joined Clubhouse, which has offered increasing numbers of invites since late last year. Members have been able to hear SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discuss whether he believes in aliens, Shopify executives Tobi Lutke and Harley Finkelstein wax poetic about entrepreneurship and Wattpad founder Allen Lau talk about his recent decision to sell the company. "It's really democratizing corporate Canada and corporate America in a way," says Fulton, "because normally consumers wouldn't get this access to senior business leaders." He pitched a Clubhouse talk to Cil after being introduced to the platform by Ottawa restaurateur Stephen Beckta, who got his invite from Finkelstein. After dipping into music conversations, Fulton found he liked the exploratory nature of the platform and that moderators have control over who can speak and when. "If you're a business leader that wants the safety of not taking questions, you can still go on there, share your views, and there's lots of people that are happy to not participate, not ask questions and just listen," he said. Richard Lachman, a digital media professor at Ryerson University, agreed the platform can be helpful for executives wanting to manage their image, but said users will quickly drop out of conversations if a speaker is boring them or recognize when someone is too scripted. Though executives go through media training, he said a few "embarrassments" will likely arise on the app if people don't know how to respond to "aggressive" questions or can't kick someone out of a discussion fast enough. While the app doesn't overtly market itself as private, its invite-only nature has built a casual atmosphere, even as its userbase grows. Clubhouse did not respond to a request for comment, but has a "rule" banning transcribing, recording or sharing personal information heard on the app. The company recently removed a bot it found sneaking into discussions to restream them to people without the app. Still, a quick search on social media reveals dozens of recordings and quotes from the app available online. Prominent venture capitalists faced criticism last year when audio leaked of them ridiculing New York Times journalist Taylor Lorenz and complaining that so-called cancel culture — sometimes described as withdrawing support for someone caught misbehaving or using outmoded language and expressions — had gone too far. There have also been privacy complaints from users who opted not to give the app access to their contact lists, but say it is detecting their sign-ups and alerting friends whose numbers they have stored. Once on the app, some users reported they stumbled upon misogyny and racism in discussions, despite rules against abuse and bullying and a feature to report problematic users. "Some of the challenges (Clubhouse) is facing is that this content is very unmoderated and we are not in 2003 in (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room, pretending that anything we make we know where it'll go and we'll just let the market figure it out," said Lachman. "We know what might happen. Online spaces can be incredibly toxic, they can be harsh and we know that things can be taken out context very quickly and easily duplicated on other platforms." Despite the issues, Deepak Anand, chief executive of medical cannabis company Materia Ventures, joined the app. He hosts several pot discussions on it every week, but is careful in his approach. He doesn't share anything on Clubhouse he wouldn't be comfortable with if it were leaked, but has seen several instances of people not realizing how public the app is. "People generally like to share more than they normally would on the platform because it's easy to get carried away and it almost seems like you're having a conversation with friends," he said. Among the positives, Anand says Clubhouse has helped him discover new ways to network while stuck at home during the pandemic and increased his social media followers. He's unsure the app will continue to be his go-to because a competitor, Twitter Spaces, has caught his eye. Tech Crunch reported that users who mined Twitter's coding have found Spaces, which is still in pilot mode, experimenting with ways to embed tweets into discussions, offer transcription for users with disabilities and enhance blocking capabilities. Facebook is said to be developing a similar platform, but hasn't formally released any details. The number of emerging audio apps and the flood of new Clubhouse users will make it even tougher for executives to stand out, Lachman predicted. "This might have value right now, but in a year or two from now, that might get lost." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:QSR, TSX:SHOP) Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Quebec’s mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 began in earnest in the Montreal area Monday with long lines and grumbling from some seniors upset at the wait times to get a first injection. Hundreds of people, many holding walkers or in wheelchairs, waited in lines inside Montreal's Olympic Stadium; some were discouraged, others were angry. "It's a catastrophe," Jean-Yves Plourde, 75, said moments after being vaccinated against the virus that has killed more than 10,000 people in the province, mostly seniors. Plourde said his appointment was for 11:45 a.m. but he wasn't vaccinated until 1:20 p.m. "For the elderly, it seems to me that this is not a nice way to act," he said. Another man in line nearby commented: "This is badly organized." Others were visibly relieved after they had received a shot. "I will be able to get out of the house and see my grandchildren," said a delighted Pasqualina Mancini, 72. The province announced last week it was booking appointments for seniors aged 85 and up across the province, or 80 and above in Montreal. But by Monday morning, public health officials announced they were widening eligibility to those 70 and older in Montreal, Laval and the Cote-Nord region, while the age limit was lowered to 80 in three other regions, including Quebec City. At the Olympic Stadium, some of those awaiting shots were in line close together, not respecting physical distancing rules. Folding chairs had been set up along the queue, and motorized shuttles transported some seniors around. The operation has the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 people a day, Julie Provencher, a spokeswoman with the regional health authority, said in an interview. She asked people not to be too harsh because it was the first day. She also asked people not to arrive too early for their appointment to avoid creating long lines. Provencher said given the size of the operation, things were going relatively smoothly. "For the first day of the biggest mass vaccination in the history of humanity, I think it's going OK," she said. "People are happy when they get out; it's clear there is a delay." The campaign began as health officials on Monday reported the lowest number of new, daily infections since September: 613 COVID-19 cases. Officials reported six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one that occurred within the previous 24 hours. Hospitalizations rose by 11, to 612, and 122 people were in intensive care, a rise of five. As of Monday morning, 200,000 appointments had been booked, Health Minister Christian Dube said on Twitter. Quebec began accepting appointments last Thursday. Quebec expects to receive 100,620 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, with no deliveries of the Moderna vaccine scheduled. The Health Department said 6,308 doses of vaccine were administered Sunday, bringing the total so far to 438,815. Some regions started vaccinating members of the general population late last week, but the campaign is expected to speed up considerably with the opening of mass vaccine clinics in the Montreal area. Outlying regions are expected to ramp up vaccinations after the March break holiday, which takes place this week. Quebec has so far concentrated its vaccination effort on health-care workers, people living in remote regions and seniors in facilities such as long-term care and private care residences. The province has chosen to delay giving second doses in favour of administering a first jab to as many people as possible, but Dube said last week it will provide second doses beginning March 15. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Stephanie Marin and Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — A lawyer for the Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States says there's evidence showing the case against her is "manifestly unreliable" and he wants that evidence admitted to the record. Meng Wanzhou's lawyer Frank Addario says emails between staff at the telecom giant and international bank HSBC show the bank was well aware that Huawei controlled another company called Skycom, therefore Meng wasn't responsible for any violation of U.S. sanctions again Iran by the bank. He told the B.C. Supreme Court hearing that staff at HSBC knew that Skycom was sold to Canicula, that Canicula was Skycom's parent company and that Huawei controlled the Canicula account. Addario is asking the judge to admit affidavits including emails and bank account information into evidence to support the defence team's case at Meng's committal hearing, to be heard in May. Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in 2018 on a request by U.S. officials who allege she misrepresented the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, causing HSBC to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran. Both she and Huawei deny the allegations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
KENORA — Members of the Kenora Ontario Provincial Police responded to nearly 180 calls over the weekend. Police responded to a total of 177 calls between Friday, Feb. 26 and Monday, March 1, according to a police news release. Some of the calls police responded to included seven assaults, 11 ambulance assistance, eight attempts or threats of suicide, two impaired offences, 17 liquor licence acts, six traffic complaints, eight domestic disputes, 16 police assistance, 11 police information, five trespassing incidents, two mental health-related calls, four motor vehicle collisions, one R.I.D.E check and 29 unwanted persons. Police laid a total of 17 charges under the criminal code and highway traffic act. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
We can learn about the spread of diseases through populations by studying naturally occurring instances of herd immunity. Avian cholera in the Canadian Arctic provides a useful case study.
EDMONTON — An Edmonton chiropractor has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting six female patients between 1981 and 1990. Ronald Harry Latch, who is 67, was facing multiple counts of sexual assault, sexual interference and gross indecency against eight girls and women. He was charged in March 2019 after one of his victims reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted as a child in the 1980s when she attended his clinic for appointments. Seven other women came forward to police and reported they had also been sexually assaulted. Latch pleaded guilty today to six counts in the Court of Queen's Bench. Latch admitted in an agreed statement of facts to massaging some of the patients' breasts and using a vibrating tool between others' legs. The case is to return to court for a pre-sentence report on June 2. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021 The Canadian Press
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit Aucun résident de foyers de soins de longue durée de l’Ontario n’a perdu la vie en raison de la COVID-19 ni n’a reçu un diagnostic positif au virus, dimanche. Dans ces établissements, quatre employés ont été déclarés positivement à la COVID-19 au cours de la journée de dimanche, selon le plus récent bilan, publié lundi, par la province. En tout, plus de 21 500 cas de COVID-19 ont été répertoriés en FSLD depuis le début de la pandémie, dont 6 622 chez les employés. La province a déploré le décès, causé par le virus, de 3744 résidents de ces établissements, ainsi que de 11 employés. Dimanche, 1023 nouveaux cas de COVID-19 ont été ajoutés au bilan de l’Ontario, qui se situe maintenant à plus de 300 000 infections enregistrées jusqu’à présent. La province a répertorié 535 cas du variant du Royaume-Uni, 27 de l’Afrique du Sud et trois du Brésil. Décès Dimanche, le coronavirus a emporté six Ontariens. En tout, la maladie a causé la mort de 6986 résidents de la province. Au cours de la dernière journée, 659 personnes aux prises avec des symptômes de la COVID-19 étaient à l’hôpital, dont 280 aux soins intensifs avec des effets plus graves. Parmi ces derniers, 175 avaient besoin d’un respirateur pour rester en vie. L’Ontario a administré 714 695 doses du vaccin contre la COVID-19 jusqu’à présent. Dimanche, 17 424 Ontariens ont roulé leur manche pour recevoir une dose du vaccin. On compte, en date de dimanche à 20h30, 704 424 Ontariens pour qui la vaccination est terminée. Ces personnes ont reçu leurs deux doses jugées nécessaires par les fabricants pour être considérées comme immunisées. Un peu plus de 97% de la population de l’Ontario n’a encore reçu aucune dose du vaccin contre le coronavirus. Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
Hamilton schools reported 49 COVID-19 cases and one outbreak in the third week after the return to in-person learning. School boards reported 41 cases of the virus the previous week. The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, which has a student population of approximately 50,000, reported 29 cases — 26 students and three staff — between Feb. 22 and 28. In the same week, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, which serves approximately 29,000 students, reported 20 confirmed and probable cases of the virus — 14 students, three staff, two adult learners, and one “third-party employer.” There are currently 17 schools in the Catholic board with cases. An outbreak was declared at St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School reporting three confirmed cases of the virus — a staff member on Feb. 23, a “third-party employee” on Feb. 22 and a student on Feb. 15 — at the school. There is also an outbreak at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in central Hamilton, where there are three positive staff cases. Outbreaks at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School, which reopened on Monday after being closed for more than a week, and A.M. Cunningham Elementary School were declared over. Hamilton public health lists the schools in outbreak as having “no variant” associated. Schools in Hamilton reopened for in-person learning on Feb. 8 with enhanced health and safety measures. Since students returned to in-person learning, there have been 100 cases and four outbreaks at school boards in Hamilton. Two cases of the virus were reported at Mohawk College over the weekend. A case of the virus was reported on Sunday in a student at the Mohawk Centre for Aviation Technology. The student was last in classes on Feb. 25. Public health has “carried out the investigation … and is in the process of contacting everyone who is considered to have been in close contact with the infected student,” reads a Feb. 28 update from the college. A case of the virus was reported on Saturday at Mohawk College’s Fennell campus. The infected student last attended class on Feb. 24. The college says “no other students have been asked to self-isolate related to this case.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
B.C. is moving into the second phase of its immunization plan, vaccinating seniors in the community aged 80 and up over the course of this month. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said the second dose of the three approved vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca—will be delayed to four months or 16 weeks, to provide more protection to more people sooner. Henry said the initial dose provides “a very high level of real-world protection.” In Phase 2, more than 400,000 people in B.C. will receive their first vaccine dose from March to early April, including: • seniors and high-risk people residing in independent living and seniors' supportive housing (including staff); • home-care support clients and staff; • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years and older); and • seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and older). Today, first-dose immunizations begin for those living and working in independent living centres and seniors' supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff. Health authorities will directly contact those in this priority group to book appointments—there is no need to call. Beginning Monday (March 8), seniors aged 80+ and Indigenous peoples aged 65+ who are not living in independent living or seniors' supportive housing can make one call to book their appointment through their local health authority call centre according to a staggered schedule. This is to avoid long waits and system overload. Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15: • March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; • March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; and • March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment. Health authority contact information, complete call-in schedules, hours of operations and step-by-step instructions on how to call to book an appointment for yourself, for a family member, for a friend or neighbour will be available on March 8, here: www.gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst "We can now see the light at the end of what has been a difficult and challenging time for us all. To get us through, we need to continue to work together and support each other," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "We are working hard each and every day to make sure that everyone who wants a vaccine gets one, and my new provincial health officer order significantly expands the range of health professions and occupations who can support our immunization clinics, including dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, firefighters and retired nurses." For health professionals who want to sign up to support B.C.'s immunization efforts as immunizers, visit: https://forms.hlth.gov.bc.ca/registry-covid-19 Immunizing other priority groups identified in Phase 2, many of whom have already received their first dose, is also underway, including: • Indigenous communities, Indigenous Elders, hospital staff, community general practitioners and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1; • vulnerable populations living and working in select congregate settings; and • staff in community home support and nursing services for seniors. In mid-April, Phase 3 will begin mass vaccination of people aged 79 to 60 years, and people aged 16+ who are extremely clinically vulnerable, at community immunization clinics throughout B.C. Mobile clinics will be available in some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues. In Phase 3, British Columbians will register and book their appointments to receive their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine through an online registration tool. People born between 1942 and 1946 (ages 79-75), and Indigenous peoples born between the years of 1956 and 1960 (ages 64-60), will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31. As of last week, 252,373 people in B.C. have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 73,808 who have received their second dose. “Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this,” said Premier John Horgan. “We have a long way to go.” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
The Village of Big Valley council heard a report from their new chief administrative officer (CAO) that repairs to the municipal water tower will likely be in the $270,000 range. The report was made at the Feb. 24 regular meeting of council, held one day earlier than normal. The meeting was streamed via Zoom and Coun. Art Tizzard was absent from the meeting. CAO Tracy Mindus noted a contractor has provided an estimate of $270,000 to repair the cracked water tower, but instead of installing a bladder they will use carbon fibre to seal it. This would have a life expectancy of 20 to 50 years. The CAO noted several provincial government grants may be available for this work, including one that may cover up to 75 per cent of the cost. Municipal Sustainability Initiative money may also be available. Mindus said the village continues to receive information from the contractor and it appears the work can be done no earlier than spring. Councillors accepted the report for information. Garbage concerns Mindus read a letter sent from the Big Valley Historical Society, requesting the society no longer be charged for garbage pick-up because it appears their garbage isn’t being picked up. The letter noted the McAlister site hasn't had garbage pick-up in 10 to 12 months and the tool museum hasn’t had garbage pick-up at all in the roughly four years it’s been there. The society requested the village no longer bill them for the service and the volunteers would handle garbage pick-up themselves. CAO Mindus noted garbage pick-up is based on the number of users in the village, and if one or more users opt out, the rates will likely increase for everyone else. Coun. Harry Nibourg stated the garbage pick-up fee is about $8 a month and waiving it would set a precedent. Nibourg also noted he would recuse himself from a vote on this issue as it affects his own property. Mayor German stated the item would be tabled until March, as Tizzard’s absence and Nibourg’s recusal meant a vote could not be held. Invoice concerns Councillors read a letter from the Village of Donalda regarding their concerns about the County of Stettler's recent invoice for the Regional Emergency Management Agency. It was stated in the letter Donalda is concerned about the dollar amount, $7,944.32, which included a substantial increase and the village was requesting more information about why the invoice was so large. Mayor German noted he saw nothing wrong with the request and felt taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going. Coun. Nibourg stated the fee may seem high, but if the village decides to, for example, handle emergency services itself, costs may be much higher. Councillors passed a motion for CAO Mindus to contact the County of Stettler and get a breakdown of where the emergency management funds are going. Village election Councillors decided they will hold an advance poll for the village election next fall, and also advertise the position of returning officer after reading a report from the CAO. Mindus noted the municipal election will be held Mon. Oct. 18 and nominations close on Mon. Sept. 20. She noted Big Valley is small enough that it’s not mandatory to hold an advance poll but pointed out it would be convenient for people who work and aren’t able to vote on election day. S he suggested two Saturdays, Oct. 9 or 16, for the advance poll. She also noted advance polls can’t be held within 24 hours of the regular election day. Councillors passed a motion naming Oct. 9 the advance poll in Big Valley, appointing Mindus as returning officer and also authorizing the CAO to advertise for a deputy returning officer. Get the MOST The CAO reported Big Valley will receive $40,339 in Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) funding from the provincial government, intended to help with COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue. She estimated the village’s expenses at about $10,000, and asked councillors what they would like to do with the rest. She noted other communities have granted the funds to non-profits who have losses related to the pandemic. Mindus also noted the province has given a March 31 deadline to disperse the funds. Councillors instructed Mindus to reach out to non-profits and similar groups and offer the money while asking for an accounting of their losses due to the pandemic. The CAO will report back at the March regular council meeting. Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
MILAN — AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out again with injury and could miss his side’s Europa League match against Manchester United. Ibrahimovic had to come off on Sunday in the second half of a 2-1 win at Roma after injuring a muscle in his left thigh. The Swedish forward will be re-evaluated in 10 days. That is the date of the trip to Old Trafford for the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 against his former club. The 39-year-old Ibrahimovic will definitely be out for the Serie A matches against Udinese and Hellas Verona. The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The Tony Awards could bring Cynthia Erivo another Emmy. Days after the British performer belted Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” during a red carpet interview at the 2019 Tonys — explaining that it’s her guilty pleasure song — she got a call from the producers of the National Geographic series “Genius: Aretha.” “I was like, ‘I beg your pardon,’” she continued. “In my head I’m like, ‘There is another film happening and I’m excited to see that, so what is this?’” NatGeo had already completed series on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, and wanted to focus on the life of Franklin, who died 2018 and was arguably the greatest singer of all time. When Erivo, 34, went to meet with the producers, she had a bit of an epiphany. “Nothing else was playing in the hotel, it was just mood music,” she said. “All of a sudden ‘Day Dreaming’ comes on as I go to sit down. I’m like, ‘Am I the only one that noticed that?’” Laughing with a huge smile on her face, she continued: “I was like, ‘Either you planned that or someone’s trying to tell me something.’’” Fast forward two years and Erivo is playing the Queen of Soul in the eight-episode series debuting March 21. “Respect,” a film about Franklin starring Jennifer Hudson, will be released in August. In an interview with The Associated Press, edited for clarity and brevity, the Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner talked about meeting Franklin, playing icons on-screen and more. AP: What does Aretha mean to you? ERIVO: She means the world to me. As a singer, I truly believe that my job is to communicate and tell the stories that sometimes are difficult for people to tell for themselves ... Aretha did that with her eyes closed. She had a wonderful way of communicating the things that she had been through, through song. AP: She has this thing by which she can take someone else’s song and make it her own. ERIVO: Totally and it’s such a special thing. Not only does she take the song and make it her own, she takes the song and you forget it was someone else’s. That to me, it’s a really special thing that she was able to do. I don’t know that people realize that “Respect” wasn’t her song first. She finds messaging in songs, in music that you didn’t realize were there in the first place. I don’t know how, but she always managed to find a way into a song that you didn’t know existed. I know that this might not be a popular opinion but when she did her version of (Adele’s) “Rolling in the Deep,” I was like, “Huh, never heard this song like this before. Didn’t think about this song like this before.” At that point because she was an older woman singing this song, you’re like, all the experience that this person must have gone through to get to this point, I didn’t hear this before. Now I’m hearing it with her voice. She was one of a kind, truly. AP: Did you get a chance to meet her? ERIVO: I met her the first time when she’d come to a performance of “The Color Purple.” I didn’t know she was there. When I saw her, I felt like an idiot because I was just in shock. There is Miss Aretha Franklin standing in front of me and I’ve just finished singing a show in her presence, oh my goodness. How do I do this? She was funny and lovely. She sang the last line of “I’m Here” back to me. That was a moment I had to put my heart back together. I was like, “This is happening for real.” She was wonderful. When you meet someone like that, you don’t think they’ll remember your face. I met her again at the Kennedy Center Honors. I was singing the very first time I did it. She remembered me. She said, “You’re the girl who was in that play. You can sing. You can sing.” I was like, “Yes that’s me. Thank you very much.” I remember she was wearing red. My favourite thing about that day was when I saw the recording of it, when it finally aired, during my performance they pan to Aretha and she’s singing along with her eyes closed. AP: How do you feel about the people who say, “Cynthia doesn’t really look like Aretha?” ERIVO: No, in the same way that Diana Ross didn’t really look like Billie Holiday, but she did an incredible, incredible job when she did “Lady Sings the Blues.” ... I don’t think anyone does look like Aretha. If you found someone who looks like Aretha who couldn’t do the work, who can’t sing the songs, then that’s where you have a problem. I’d rather someone that doesn’t look like her but can give me the essence. AP: Are you excited to see the Jennifer Hudson version? ERIVO: I am. I know that they were close, and I know that they had a conversation. This is something she had been dreaming of doing. I am excited to see it. AP: How’s it been playing real-life icons on-screen? ERIVO: It’s a huge honour and it’s part of what I want for my lifetime — to be able to tell these stories of women whose stories wouldn’t get the chance to be told, whose stories deserve to be told. The more I can do that whether it be Harriet, Aretha or a woman you don’t know about who I’ve done the research to find out about, I want to keep bringing these stories to the forefront because they deserve to be told. Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has eased slightly more restrictions tied to COVID-19. Libraries can now open at 15 per cent capacity and gyms can now host indoors low-impact group activities, like Pilates and tai chi. Kenney had been expected to ease rules in other areas, such as retail capacity and hotels, but he says the COVID numbers have hit a plateau and they need more time to assess just to be safe.
Residents of a backpackers’ hostel now being used as housing for low-income people hope they’ll be able to stay permanently, but the future of 1025 Granville St., along with 20 other Metro Vancouver hotels recently leased by the province, is up in the air. “I have friends, good friends here, who lived on the streets for years,” said Chris, a resident who became homeless last February when he lost his job. “You know what I see here? I see them smile every day.” The building is a standard single-room occupancy hotel, an older style of hotel that features small rooms and shared bathrooms, and often houses very low-income people. Between 2002 and 2020, the Granville hostel was operated as a low-cost tourist accommodation by Hostelling International Canada. But with tourism falling during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became one of 21 Metro Vancouver hotels leased by the province to provide shelter or to use as COVID-19 isolation space. Some residents came from a tent city that had been located at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside for two years, while others had been living rough in other parts of Vancouver or staying in shelters. With the hotels in place, the province and City of Vancouver removed the Oppenheimer Park encampment in May 2020. The province also bought the 110-room Howard Johnson Hotel at 1176 Granville St. for $55 million, just a block away from the Granville hostel, and awarded an operating contract to Atira Women’s Resource Society. Community Builders operates the former hostel at 1025 Granville St. Initially, public reception to the new housing on Granville Street was rough, with neighbours complaining about discarded needles and an increase in street disorder. But the current operator of the hostel says leasing 1025 Granville St. to formerly homeless Vancouverites has worked out well, with residents now thriving in a well-maintained building that has fostered community. “The Granville hostel has been a really remarkable success story,” said Julie Roberts, the executive director of Community Builders. “Some people that have been long-term residents of the park hadn’t been housed for a number of years or longer. We just found that people have really settled in, and a really strong community has formed.” Martin, who had been homeless for three years before ending up in the hospital with pneumonia, went first to a shelter and then to the hostel last June. “It’s fantastic here,” Martin said. “It’s safe and it’s clean, they feed us if we’re hungry. They really take good care of us. I hope I’m staying here for life!” Along with building staff, Martin, Chris and other residents often do volunteer work to keep the sidewalk clean and have made an effort to build relationships with nearby business owners. Roberts also sits on a community dialogue committee that includes other housing operators, businesses and neighbouring residents. “We’ve been an operator of shelters and non-profit housing on Granville Street for the last 15 years, so we know that homelessness has been a long-standing issue,” Roberts said. “And I think that sites like the Granville hostel and some of the shelters we operate actually make the businesses safer because people are inside and not outside, and they have a safe place to be. That’s our perspective, though I do know that there are some concerns that remain.” When it comes to how long the residents will be able to stay at 1025 Granville St., BC Housing says the length of the leases for the hotels vary, “and we typically have the option to extend by mutual agreement for as long as necessary.” Laura Matthews, a communications staffer with BC Housing, told The Tyee in an email that the agency usually has the option to extend the lease if the building owner agrees. But Matthews said BC Housing cannot release lease terms for any of the hotels and will not reveal the locations of the hotels. “Generally, as we get closer to a lease expiring, we either work to help people stay where they are by extending the lease or through other means, or we support them to transition to alternate accommodation,” Matthews wrote. “We understand the concerns people may have and we will communicate as much as possible with people as plans are finalized for individual locations. We do not want to see anyone forced back into homelessness.” A spokesperson for the owner of the hostel, Hostelling International, said the association cannot comment on the terms of the lease. Hostelling International operates 50 hostels across Canada. “Out of an abundance of caution, we made the very difficult decision to temporarily close our hostels in light of public health advice at the time,” Shelby Sy wrote to The Tyee in an email. “With our properties closed, HI Canada was pleased to give back to the city by leasing HI Vancouver Central as a housing solution to the most vulnerable in our city.” Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
Ahuntsic-Cartierville - Après avoir ouvert les inscriptions au public pour la prise de rendez-vous pour le vaccin contre le coronavirus jeudi dernier, c’est aujourd’hui que se met en branle l’opération de vaccination de masse, notamment dans Ahuntsic-Cartierville. Élargissement aux 70 ans et plus Initialement réservée aux 85 ans et plus et à leurs proches aidants de 70 ans et plus, la première phase de la campagne a rapidement été élargie. Depuis vendredi, les 80 ans et plus étaient également invités à prendre rendez-vous. Il y a une quinzaine de centres de vaccination sur l’île de Montréal, dont quatre sont situés sur le territoire du Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal. Pour le reste de la population, la prise de rendez-vous doit se faire via le site Clic santé ou, pour les personnes qui ne peuvent pas utiliser Internet, par téléphone au 1 877 644-4545. Rappelons qu’il n’est pas nécessaire ni recommandé d’arriver à l’avance, car le processus est pensé pour éviter la création de files d’attente, comme celles qui ont été observées dans certains centres aux premières heures de la campagne. Quatre sites dans le Nord de l’Île, mais aucun dans Ahuntsic Les sites de vaccination du CIUSSS du Nord sont des sites de moyen à très haut débit, c’est-à-dire qu’on pourra, à terme, y administrer respectivement entre 5000 et 10 000 doses par semaine et plus. Vendredi, on estimait la capacité de vaccination à environ 8500 doses par jour, mais cette capacité est « toujours tributaire du nombre de doses reçues », indique Zina Benshila, directrice de la vaccination au CIUSSS. Frédéric Abergel, PDG du CIUSSS, explique que la capacité de vacciner est plus grande que le nombre de vaccins reçus à ce stade-ci. Pour l’heure, les quatre sites du Nord-de-l’Île ont donc une capacité d’environ 3500 rendez-vous par jour. « La demande est très forte. Entre le moment d’accéder au site et la complétion du formulaire, une journée complète de rendez-vous était déjà envolée », constate André Vaillancourt, directeur des ventes au Journaldesvoisins.com. Notre collègue s’est inscrit lundi matin et a obtenu son rendez-vous pour le 14 mars, dans un centre de vaccination situé sur le territoire du CIUSSS de l’Ouest, situé sur le boulevard Gouin (ndlr: M. Vaillancourt est résidant de l’Ouest-de-l’Île). Lors de l’inscription, les personnes peuvent entrer leur code postal pour voir quelle est la clinique la plus proche de leur domicile, note cependant Zina Benshila. Elle explique que les équipes du CIUSSS ont sillonné le territoire à la recherche de lieux qui permettent de maintenir la distanciation physique. La démographie des quartiers est l’un des nombreux facteurs qui ont été pris en compte, dit-elle. Elle souligne que d’autres facteurs comme l’accessibilité, notamment en transports en commun, a également fait partie des critères de choix de sites. Des brigades de marcheurs En point de presse la semaine dernière, les autorités de la santé montréalaises assuraient que tout allait être mis en œuvre pour offrir des services de transports aux aînés qui ne seraient pas en mesure de se déplacer seules, mais demandaient aussi aux proches d’aider avec le transport, dans la mesure du possible. Les brigades de sensibilisation formées l’an dernier seront à nouveau mises à contribution pour s’assurer que toutes les personnes admissibles au vaccin soient rejointes. Comme ils le font depuis plusieurs mois, les intervenants iront à la rencontre des gens, des leaders religieux et des organismes communautaires sur le terrain. En outre, des informations sur la vaccination sont prévues dans plusieurs langues, explique Frédéric Abergel. La directrice régionale de la santé publique, docteure Mylène Drouin, précisait pour sa part qu’une attention particulière était portée pour rejoindre les personnes âgées isolées et que la DRSP disposait notamment de listes de personnes ainées vulnérables, par exemple celles constituées pour veiller à leur sécurité lors d’épisodes de chaleurs accablantes. Avec des informations de François Robert-Durand. Simon Van Vliet, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal des voisins
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Biden administration is pulling back an environmental review that cleared the way for a parcel of federal land that Apaches consider sacred to be turned over for a massive copper mining operation in eastern Arizona. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that it likely will take several months to further consult with Native American tribes and others about their concerns over Oak Flat and determine whether the environmental review fully complies with the law. The agency cited President Joe Biden's recent memo on strengthening relationships with tribal nations, and regularly consulting with them in a meaningful way. The USDA and the U.S. Forest Service acknowledged they can only do so much. Congress mandated that the land be transferred to Resolution Copper no later than 60 days after the final environmental review was published. The document was released in the last days of Donald Trump's administration. Michael Nixon, an attorney for the Apache Stronghold group that filed the first of the lawsuits, said the USDA's decision is welcome but doesn't have much impact. “Oak Flat is still on death row,” he said. “Essentially, they're just changing the execution date.” Dan Blondeau, a spokesman for Resolution Copper, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The parcel of land in the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix was set to be transferred to Resolution Copper by mid-March. At least three pending lawsuits have raised concerns over religious freedom rights, land ownership and violations of federal law. The land transfer was included as a last-minute provision in a must-pass defence bill in 2014 after it failed for years as stand-alone legislation. Resolution Copper would get 3.75 square miles (9.71 square kilometres) of national forest land in exchange for eight parcels it owns elsewhere in Arizona. Apaches call Oak Flat “Chi’chil Bildagoteel.” The land near Superior has ancient oak groves, traditional plants and living beings that tribal members say are essential to their religion and culture. Those things exist elsewhere, but Apache Stronghold said they have unique power within Oak Flat. San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler said Monday that the tribe will continue working to permanently protect Oak Flat. Resolution Copper, a joint venture of global mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP, has spent millions of dollars prepping the area to mine copper, but actual mining isn't expected to start for at least 10 years. Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press
(CBC - image credit) With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continuing to decline, Alberta eased some public health restrictions on Monday to allow fitness centres and libraries to partially reopen. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement at a news conference on Monday. "Today, I am here to announce that Alberta is ready to safely and cautiously enter Step 2 of our path forward," Kenney said. "I want to thank every Albertan who has responsibly observed [public health] measures through Step 1 over the past several weeks to protect lives and our health-care system in the process. "I know this has not been easy, especially with cold weather in February limiting our ability to gather outdoors. But the sacrifices Albertans have made are the reason that we're able to take another step forward today. COVID-19 is still here and it is still very much a threat to our health and our health-care system. Still, over the past few months, Alberta has made tremendous progress." Libraries will be allowed to reopen as of Monday with 15 per cent of fire-code capacity and fitness centres will be allowed to resume low-intensity individual and group workouts for adults, Kenney said. Numbers down The premier highlighted the progress made in reducing case numbers and hospitalizations, which peaked at about 950 patients and have now dropped to 257, which is about 200 below the threshold the province set for entering Step 2. "Our long-term care and designated-supportive living facilities, typically called nursing homes, have seen cases plummet," Kenney said. "Thankfully, active cases in our long-term care facilities have now declined by more than 95 per cent from December's peak, and the active cases in designated-supportive living facilities for seniors have dropped by over 92 per cent. Kenney was joined at Monday's news conference by Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health. On Feb. 8, the province moved into Step 1 of its reopening, when restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen for indoor service. At the time, Kenney said, there were 432 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, with 76 in intensive care. On Monday, Alberta reported two more deaths and 291 new cases of the illness, with 247 patients being treated in hospitals, including 48 in intensive-care beds. Another 35 cases of a more-contagious variant of the coronavirus were confirmed over the past 24 hours. "All of which means that we're not out of the woods," Kenney said, "but we can continue taking small steps forward as we go into Step 2." 'Careful approach' As a precautionary measure, possible changes to current restrictions for retail, hotels, banquets, community halls and conference centres have been delayed, the premier said, given that the province has seen a slightly increase recently in the testing positivity rate and the number of active cases. No decision has been made about easing the remainder of those Step 2 restrictions , Shandro said, but they will not necessarily be delayed until Step 3 begins. Those changes "could come before Step 3," he said. WATCH | Kenney discusses province's 'careful approach' to easing restrictions Kenney said if the numbers continue to decline and the province is satisfied the variants are under control, the measures could "absolutely" be taken as part of Step 2. The province is taking a "careful approach" to reopening, Kenney said, and despite the fact that hospitalizations are well below Step 2 thresholds, there has been a small increase in the daily number of new variant cases. "I know that many Albertans want us to relax many more health measures today, but we cannot and we must not allow exponential growth to start to take hold, driven by these new, more contagious variants," he said. "To every Albertan that is worried that we're moving too slowly, and who longs for life to get back to the way things used to be, I hear your concerns, I share them. We all want to get back to that place as soon as possible. But for that to happen, the game-changer is the vaccine. Kenney called it "incredibly frustrating and totally unacceptable" that Canada ranks 40th in the world for per-capita inoculation against this virus and again called on the federal government to catch up with the rest of the world. "To every Albertan that is worried that we're moving too fast, I hear you as well. Please know that we're watching the spread of this virus very closely. By moving to Step 2 we are protecting both lives and livelihoods, and taking a safe step forward for Alberta." Variants cause for vigilance It's critical that Albertans continue to avoid indoor social gatherings, Kenney said. Any easing of restrictions increases the chance that the virus will spread, Shandro said. The variants are estimated to be 30 to 50 per cent more infectious than the common strain of the virus, the health minister said. "Now that the variants are in Alberta, we have to be even more vigilant, even as we ease measures." The province will wait "at least three weeks" before the cabinet COVID-19 committee makes a decision about moving forward with Step 3, Shandro said. "So please stay the course and abide by the public health measures, and remember that the lower that we bend the curve the more we can safely open up in the weeks ahead."