Fishing boats keep shelter as wild winds and waves crash in the open waters.
Fishing boats keep shelter as wild winds and waves crash in the open waters.
WASHINGTON — A conference dedicated to the future of the conservative movement turned into an ode to Donald Trump as speakers declared their fealty to the former president and attendees posed for selfies with a golden statue of his likeness. As the Republican Party grapples with deep divisions over the extent to which it should embrace Trump after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress, those gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday made clear they are not ready to move on from the former president — or from his baseless charges that the November election was rigged against him. “Donald J. Trump ain’t going anywhere,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of several potential 2024 presidential contenders who spoke at the event, being held this year in Orlando to bypass COVID-19 restrictions. Trump on Sunday will be making his first post-presidential appearance at the conference, and aides say he will use the speech to reassert his power. The program underscored the split raging within the GOP, as many establishment voices argue the party must move on from Trump to win back the suburban voters who abandoned them in November, putting President Joe Biden in the White House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and others worry Trump will undermine the party’s political future if he and his conspiracy theories continue to dominate Republican politics. But at the conference, speakers continued to fan disinformation and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, with panels dedicated to amplifying false claims of mass voter fraud that have been dismissed by the courts, state election officials and Trump’s own administration. Indeed, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., another potential 2024 hopeful, drew among the loudest applause and a standing ovation when he bragged about challenging the election certification on Jan. 6 despite the storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters trying to halt the process. “I thought it was an important stand to take," he said. Others argued the party would lose if it turned its back on Trump and alienated the working-class voters drawn to his populist message. “We cannot — we will not — go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who outlined a new Trumpian GOP agenda focused on restrictive immigration policies, opposition to China and limiting military engagement. “We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be,” echoed Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the fundraising committee tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate. “If we do, we will lose the working base that President Trump so animated. We’re going to lose elections across the country, and ultimately we’re going to lose our nation." Scott is dismissing pressure on him to “mediate between warring factions on the right” or “mediate the war of words between the party leaders." He has refused to take sides in the bitter ongoing fight between Trump and McConnell, who blamed Trump for inciting the deadly Capitol riot but ultimately voted to acquit him at his impeachment trial earlier this month. “I’m not going to mediate anything," he said, criticizing those who “prefer to fan the flames of a civil war on our side” as “foolish” and “ridiculous." But in speeches throughout the day, the GOP turmoil was front and centre. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., lit into Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who has faced tremendous backlash for her vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. And as the program was wrapping up, Trump issued a statement endorsing Max Miller, a former staffer who has now launched a campaign challenging Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, another Republican who voted in favour of impeachment. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News Channel host and Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, offered a pointed message to those who stand in opposition to the former president, who will not arrive at the conference until Sunday but was present in spirit in the form of a large golden statue erected in a merchandise show booth, where attendees could pose for pictures with it. “We bid a farewell to the weak-kneed, the spineless and the cowards that are posing in D.C. pretending that they’re working for the people,” she said. “Let’s send them a pink slip straight from CPAC.” Trump Jr., who labeled the conference “TPAC” in honour of his father, hyped the return of his father and the “Make America Great Again” platform to the spotlight. “I imagine it will not be what we call a ‘low-energy’ speech," he said. “And I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party.” Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Chinese officials have signalled that Beijing plans sweeping electoral changes for Hong Kong, possibly as soon as next week, when China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), opens in Beijing. WHAT IS BEIJING PLANNING? Xia Baolong, director of China's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, has said the electoral system in the global financial hub needs to be changed to allow only "patriots" to govern.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker. Israel’s Channel 13, in an unsourced report, said the assessment in Israel is that Iran was behind the blast. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Iranian government did not comment on the blast Friday. The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago. Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago. Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Persian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe. It discharged vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam. While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defence officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents. A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. The U.S. Maritime Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued a warning to commercial shippers early Saturday acknowledging the explosion and urging ships to “exercise caution when transiting” the Gulf of Oman. While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military." As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. In the tense summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes. The U.S. also had attributed a series of other suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. Since the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the scientist's killing. Friday's incident also follows normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, met with scathing criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic. __ Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell And Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
Community leaders in Kenora, Ont., are rallying to support First Nations individuals who say they are being denied services from businesses in town after a COVID-19 outbreak in a surrounding community. Tania Cameron, a First Nations community advocate in the area, said she’s received complaints from nine people from Wabaseemoong First Nation who allege that some local businesses have refused them service. Wabaseemoong, about 100 kilometres north of Kenora, was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this month, infecting several households. Kenora is a hub for dozens of rural and First Nations communities in the area that travel to the small city for essential services such as shopping and health care. Ms. Cameron is organizing support to those who want to pursue action such as filing formal complaints to the police and Ontario human-rights tribunal. She said her own teenage children feel unsafe shopping in town, worried that others might think they’re infected with COVID-19 because they’re First Nations. Facebook posts began to circulate last week with allegations that people from Wabaseemoong were spitting on produce at local grocery stores. One post to the local Kenora Rant N Rave Facebook group said that people from the First Nation didn’t care about small local businesses trying to survive. The poster said they were infecting innocent people who “actually” work for a living. Ms. Cameron shared that screenshot and another one on her own Facebook page, calling the posters “garbage people with ugly hearts” and encouraging others to “rise above their hate.” She said she was later contacted by an Ontario Provincial Police officer who asked her to take the screenshot down because the person who posted the comment and her employer were receiving threats. Ms. Cameron says she was only bringing attention to the harmful damage racism has on the broader community, and that there was nothing in her own posts that incited hate or violence. She says she hasn’t deleted the screenshots but has since removed the names and photos so they aren’t identifiable. Inspector Jeff Duggan, Kenora OPP Detachment Commander, told The Globe and Mail that allegations that people from Wabaseemoong were spitting on produce were false and baseless. He said the original poster took down the post before she contacted police because she was receiving threats and realized it was harmful. The treatment of Wabaseemoong members has drawn condemnation. On Monday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller took to Twitter to denounce “ignorant and bigoted behaviour from certain businesses and organizations in Kenora, as well as online.” People from across the province shared positive messages and support on social media for Wabaseemoong, using the hashtag #wabaseemoongstrong, in response to the community’s COVID-19 outbreak and the racism that followed. More than 50 people were infected at the onset of the outbreak and the community went into immediate lockdown, according to information posted to the Wabaseemoong website. In response to one of the Facebook posts, local community-services organization Firefly condemned what it called “an act of racism” from one of its employees. Firefly said the company was heartbroken to see the racially insensitive and offensive comment posted by the employee who also had their workplace identified. Insp. Duggan said police are concerned for the safety of everybody in the area, including those from Wabaseemoong, and that if they are being denied service they should contact police to investigate. “If they’re being denied service, that’s against the human-rights code,” Insp. Duggan said, adding that they haven’t received any complaints from anyone from Wabaseemoong. Ms. Cameron says many First Nations people in the area don’t trust the police to investigate racist encounters and consider police action a privilege not afforded to Indigenous people. The Ontario Human Rights Commission also issued a statement encouraging all Kenora residents to stand up to the racism in their community, advising that “discriminatory action against individuals who are Indigenous or who have, or are perceived to have, COVID-19 is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.” Terence Douglas, a Kenora lawyer, is part of an ad hoc group of concerned citizens, lawyers and service providers that have come together recently to assist those who have been denied service because they’re from Wabaseemoong, including possibly filing applications to the human-rights tribunal. “Clearly upon its face, refusal of service based on a person’s race or place of origin is contrary to and denies a person’s right guaranteed under Section 1 [of the human-rights code], and is an affront to a person’s human dignity,” Mr. Douglas said in an e-mail. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
TORONTO — The Ontario government's switch to a centralized procurement system stalled the replenishment of the province's stockpile of personal protective equipment in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, an independent commission heard this week. Health Minister Christine Elliott told the commission examining the crisis's impact on long-term care that the government expected its supply of PPE to be restocked, and that she was not aware at the time that the process had been held up by the change. The commission has heard that much of Ontario's supply of PPE was destroyed by December 2019 because it had expired. The panel's co-counsel, John Callaghan, said previous testimony indicated only 10 per cent remained by then, most of which was meant to deal with Ebola rather than a disease like the novel coronavirus. "You never went to cabinet, you never went to anyone to suggest that the safety of Ontarians would require us to have a stockpile in the face of a pandemic? You never went and made that suggestion?" Callaghan asked the minister. Elliott replied it wasn't necessary to do so because "there was an expectation that it would be replenished." "And that is what we were doing, (we are) in the process of doing. But I was not aware that it had been slowed up by the central procurement. I anticipated that it was happening, but I did not know that it had been held up by that." COVID-19 has devastated Ontario's long-term care system, causing the deaths of 3,743 residents and 11 staff members so far. The commission is set to present a report on April 30 that will include recommendations aimed at preventing similar outcomes in the future. Callaghan pressed the minister on whether the provincial government should bear responsibility if the commission finds Ontario's lack of PPE early in the pandemic led to deaths in the long-term care system. He noted the commission has heard many long-term care homes did not have the required stockpile of PPE when the health crisis began. "The loss of life here is tragic. And is something that I think everyone in government feels some level of responsibility for," Elliott replied. "But certainly I knew that there were inspections that were going on in long-term care homes. I would have expected that checking to make sure that they had a supply of PPE would have been something that the inspectors would have checked upon." Asked whether maintaining an appropriate stockpile of PPE should be legislatively mandated for the province and long-term care homes, Elliott said she didn't believe it necessary, noting homes are already required to do so. Deputy health minister Helen Angus, who testified alongside Elliott, said it would be helpful to outline the requirements for homes "in more detail going forward," before looking at the mechanism to "compel and enforce it." Elliott also defended the government's decision last summer to give COVID-19 tests to anyone who wanted one, which the commission has heard went against the recommendations of several scientists advising the government, particularly in light of the strained lab capacity and the need to monitor cases in long-term care. "Looking back, it would have been because of the increase in community transmission and the need to locate where that was coming from and to understand better what was happening in communities," she told the commission. Callaghan noted scientists have testified they advised the province that would not be an effective strategy. "In fact, you are going to delay the responses from the tests because you are going to have so many of them that are unnecessary," he said. He also asked why Ontario had not run any pandemic simulations before COVID-19 that likely would have flagged its lack of lab capacity in the face of a surge in testing. Angus acknowledged the delays in processing tests "at times obviously were unacceptable" but stressed the issue stemmed from the absence of an integrated lab system and that the province quickly moved to fix the problem and ramp up its daily testing capacity. The commission's hearings aren't open to the public but transcripts are posted online, typically days later. The minister and deputy minister testified Wednesday and the transcript was released Friday evening. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
The “Trump-made-me-do-it” defence is already looking like a longshot. Facing damning evidence in the deadly Capitol siege last month — including social media posts flaunting their actions — rioters are arguing in court they were following then-President Donald Trump's instructions on Jan. 6. But the legal strategy has already been shot down by at least one judge and experts believe the argument is not likely to get anyone off the hook for the insurrection where five people died, including a police officer. “This purported defence, if recognized, would undermine the rule of law because then, just like a king or a dictator, the president could dictate what’s illegal and what isn’t in this country," U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said recently in ordering pretrial detention of William Chrestman, a suspected member of the Kansas City-area chapter of the Proud Boys. “And that is not how we operate here.” Chrestman’s attorneys argued in court papers that Trump gave the mob “explicit permission and encouragement” to do what they did, providing those who obeyed him with “a viable defence against criminal liability.” “It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement. Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did,” Chrestman’s lawyers wrote. Trump was acquitted of inciting the insurrection during his second impeachment trial, where Democrats made some of the same arguments defence attorneys are making in criminal court. Some Republican lawmakers have said the better place for the accusations against Trump is in court, too. Meanwhile, prosecutors have brought charges against more than 250 people so far in the attack, including conspiracy, assault, civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding. Authorities have suggested that rare sedition charges could be coming against some. Hundreds of Trump supporters were photographed and videotaped storming the Capitol and scores posted selfies inside the building on social media, so they can’t exactly argue in court they weren’t there. Blaming Trump may be the best defence they have. “What’s the better argument when you’re on videotape prancing around the Capitol with a coat rack in your hand?” said Sam Shamansky, who’s representing Dustin Thompson, an Ohio man accused of stealing a coat rack during the riot. Shamansky said his client would never have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 if Trump hadn’t “summoned him there.” Trump, he added, engaged in a “devious yet effective plot to brainwash” supporters into believing the election was stolen, putting them in the position where they “felt the the need to defend their country at the request of the commander in chief.” “I think it fits perfectly,” he said of the defence. “The more nuanced question is: Who is going to buy it? What kind of jury panel do you need to understand that?” While experts say blaming Trump may not get their clients off the hook, it may help at sentencing when they ask the judge for leniency. “It could likely be considered a mitigating factor that this person genuinely believed they were simply following the instructions of the leader of the United States,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan who's now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. It could also bolster any potential cases against the former president, experts say. “That defence is dead on arrival,” said Bradley Simon, a New York City white-collar criminal defence attorney and former federal prosecutor. “But I do think that these statements by defendants saying that they were led on by Trump causes a problem for him if the Justice Department or the attorney general in D.C. were to start looking at charges against him for incitement of the insurrection.” While the legal bar is high for prosecuting Trump in the Capitol siege, the former president is already facing a lawsuit from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson that accuses him of conspiring with extremist groups to prevent Congress from certifying the election results. And more lawsuits could come. Trump spread baseless claims about the election for weeks and addressed thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House before the Capitol riot, telling them that they had gathered in Washington "to save our democracy." Later, Trump said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” A lawyer for Jacob Chansley, the shirtless man who wore face paint and a hat with horns inside the Capitol, attached a highlighted transcript of the Trump's speech before the riot to a court filing seeking Chansley's release from custody. The defence lawyer, Albert Watkins, said the federal government is sending a “disturbingly chilling message” that Americans will be prosecuted “if they do that which the President asks them to do.” Defence lawyers have employed other strategies without better success. In one case, the judge called a defence attorney’s portrayal of the riots as mere trespassing or civil disobedience both “unpersuasive and detached from reality.” In another, a judge rejected a man’s claim that he was “duped” into joining the anti-government Oath Keepers group and participating in the attack on the Capitol. Other defendants linked to militant groups also have tried to shift blame to Trump in seeking their pretrial release from jail. An attorney for Jessica Watkins said the Oath Keepers member believed local militias would be called into action if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to stay in office. Watkins disavowed the Oath Keepers during a court hearing on Friday, saying she has been “appalled” by fellow members of the far-right militia. “However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government, but to support what she believed to be the lawful government,” her lawyer wrote. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Dominic Pezzola, another suspected Proud Boy, said he “acted out of the delusional belief that he was a ‘patriot’ protecting his country." Defence attorney Jonathan Zucker described Pezzola as “one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President's deception.” “Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence," he wrote. “Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege." Michael Kunzelman And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
(Associated Press - image credit) Hundreds of parents in Vernon, B.C., are not happy after the local school district said it plans to increase annual bus fees from $25 to $200 for the next academic year. At a meeting on Feb. 17, School District 22 gave approval in principal to a motion authorizing the increase for students attending schools in its catchment area. It now requires final approval at the school board's March 10 meeting to pass. The school district's catchment includes Vernon and neighbouring municipalities in the North Okanagan, such as Coldstream, Lavington, Cherryville and Lumby. Students studying programs of choice — such as Montessori and French immersion — would have to pay $300 for the entire school year. Large increase sparks petition The jump in school transportation costs surprised Cherryville resident Krystal Arcand, who organized an online petition against the hike, which she argues would be financially difficult for many families who mostly live in rural areas. Arcand has a daughter going to secondary school in Lumby — about 30 kilometres west of her hometown — and another child attending kindergarten in September. She would have to pay $400 for 2021/2022 if the increase is approved. "We have no access to public transportation [in Cherryville], so we really have no other choices besides the school bus," Arcand said Wednesday on Daybreak South. "It leaves us with being forced into a corner to have to pay these fees." For larger families, the proposal would charge the third child half of the standard fee, and each additional child $25. But Arcand says she didn't pay any school bus fee for her daughter for six years, until 2018 when the Vernon school district imposed a $25 fee to offset some cost of the transportation service. No consultation from school district, parents say Arcand says many parents have not been consulted on the proposed fare increase and may pull their children from school in protest. "Our local school here is already under capacity and over the last couple of years has threatened to possibly be shut down because of low attendance," she said. "If we do have a bunch of parents pull[ing] their kids out of the school, we also risk losing our high school." Other school districts across the province have been charging busing service rates higher than what Vernon proposes. Central Okanagan, for instance, levies $300 annually for the first and second child, and $150 for the third and fourth child. Langley in the Lower Mainland levies $400 per rider and a maximum of $600 per family. School District 22 board chair Gen Acton says parents have been consulted over the past two years about the fee increase, which she says has been proposed because the district can't afford to keep rates lower. Acton says parents will get the help they need. "The board is looking to offer financial aid for those families who are not in a position to be able to meet that demand," she said. But Arcand isn't impressed. "The subsidy is really just a Band-Aid," she said. "Regardless of them offering subsidies, there has to be an account why it [the school bus fee] would go up so drastically." Tap the link below to hear Krystal Arcand's interview on Daybreak South: Tap the link below to hear Gen Acton's interview on Daybreak South:
(Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel - image credit) A group of Edmonton medical staff are calling on the province to delay plans to move forward with further relaxation of COVID-19 measures. The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMA) released a letter Friday saying that instead of moving to Step 2 of its reopening plan, the Alberta government should close bars and restaurants to indoor service or, at least, institute capacity limits. Dr. James Talbot, co-chair of EZMA's pandemic committee, worries that the province is getting ahead of itself. "You're virtually guaranteeing that you are going to miss the signal," Talbot said. "They should be waiting longer if they are going to use hospitalizations [as a lagging indicator] and in fact they should be using active cases." Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer, said the province would not make a decision to further restrictions until Monday at the earliest. After a steady decline since December, Alberta's daily new cases and test positivity rate have plateaued and showed signs of trending upward since the province entered Step 1 on Feb. 8, which included reopening bars and restaurants for in-person service. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Friday that the last week's worth of data still needs to be reviewed, but he wasn't anticipating a need to delay Step 2. He said the data will be reviewed by government and public health officials on Monday before an official decision is made. Talbot worries that opening banquet halls and conference centres — both a target for eased restrictions under the province's next step — could lead to so-called super-spreader events. Further easing of indoor fitness guidelines is a concern for Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury, a critical care doctor at the University of Albeta Hospital. "It scares me when places where you get a lot of people together, where it's hard to control everybody's behaviour [start to reopen]," Chowdhury said. "That's always a risk." Co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, Dr. James Talbot, would like the province to hold off on Step 2 of the reopening plan. He advises that mask wearing and physical distancing measures should be strictly adhered to at gyms and any indoor space. Otherwise, Dr. Chowdhury is cautiously optimistic to move forward with Step 2. "We're not out of the woods by any means, I hope nobody thinks that … as long as [the province] is paying attention to the numbers, I think we're going to be OK." Chowdhury said he was feeling burned out around the holidays but the pressures have eased slightly on frontline staff. He said they have been able to return to normal staffing levels on most units. "I think it will be a huge hit to morale if we see cases come up again," he said. "I don't think anyone really wants to go through, or is prepared to go through, what we may have gone through at Christmas time. We're hoping now we can just tread water until this thing at least dissipates." As of Friday's update from Alberta Health, there were 269 people in hospital, including 55 in ICU. The province said it would consider each step of eased restrictions based on hospitalization benchmarks, with the mark for Step 2 set at less than 450 hospitalizations.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 67,201 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,774,599 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,682.409 per 100,000. There were 398,071 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,441,670 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.68 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,827 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 20,285 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.739 per 1,000. There were 7,020 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 33,820 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,485 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 12,176 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.758 per 1,000. There were 1,670 new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.75 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,987 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 32,019 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.81 per 1,000. There were 14,700 new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.66 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were 11,760 new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 13,464 new vaccinations administered for a total of 400,540 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 46.81 per 1,000. There were 28,500 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 537,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.47 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 21,805 new vaccinations administered for a total of 643,765 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.826 per 1,000. There were 220,030 new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.27 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 71,469 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 51.902 per 1,000. There were 6,100 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 108,460 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 4,015 new vaccinations administered for a total of 69,451 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.899 per 1,000. There were 15,210 new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 93.09 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 11,728 new vaccinations administered for a total of 207,300 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.092 per 1,000. There were 69,090 new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.39 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,490 new vaccinations administered for a total of 252,373 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.18 per 1,000. There were 15,491 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 323,340 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 15,174 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 363.615 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 80.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 19 new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,276 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 187.884 per 1,000. There were 8,500 new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
(CCO/Pixabay - image credit) The New Brunswick Medical Society is getting behind Health Canada in its efforts to reduce the amount of nicotine e-cigarette manufacturers are allowed to include in their products. In an interview, Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the society, said the province has seen an alarming increase in the number of youth who've used the products. Doctors are worried that the amounts of nicotine in e-cigarettes is a contributing factor to their growing popularity among young people. "The statistics on how many kids have tried e-cigarettes have come from the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey, which ... showed that there's sort of been a tripling of use in Grade 10 to 12 in the last four years." In the survey, 41 per cent of New Brunswick students in grades 7 to12 admitted to having tried vaping at least once in 2018 or 2019. Meanwhile, 27 per cent reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. Last December, Health Canada announced it was pursuing regulations that would reduce the amount of allowed nicotine concentration in vaping products to 20 mg/ml. The current limit is 66 mg/ml, according to the department. In a news release Dec. 18, Health Canada said it was opening a 75-day public consultation on its proposed changes, which will end March 4. Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society. "The changes proposed today build on existing measures already taken by the Government of Canada to address the rise in youth vaping, including extensive public education campaigns and banning the advertising of vaping products in public spaces if the ads can be seen or heard by youth," the department said in the release. "Health Canada is also considering to further restrict flavours in vaping products, and require the vaping industry to provide information about their vaping products, including sales, ingredients, and research and development activities." Health Canada says the regulation would align the country with the European Union, as well as the provinces of British Columbia and Nova Scotia, which have imposed a 20 mg/ml limit on the concentration of vaping products that can be sold. Steeves said he thinks lowering the limit would result in fewer New Brunswick youth becoming addicted to nicotine. "It's the chemicals that are in them, the first nicotine, which is a stimulant," he said. "And so it does some good things in the short term — good things where you're going to have a little more energy, be a little more alert. Your memory and mood might be a bit better. However, it also increases your heart rate, increases your blood pressure and then you become habituated to it." From there, youth might transition to smoking cigarettes to feed their nicotine dependance, he said. He's also worried about the lesser-known effects of vaping, with a string of illnesses and deaths connected to certain e-cigarette products in recent years. "It's also been reported that smoking or vaping increase your risk of catching COVID and having a more serious outcome with COVID, so, you know, it's not innocuous." Steeves said he's encouraging New Brunswickers who also want to see the limit reduced to sign an online petition as part of the Protect Canadian Kids Campaign. The campaign is supported by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.
(James Morrison-Collalto/CBC - image credit) The Toronto police homicide squad is investigating the death of a woman in her 60s in an Etobicoke park Friday morning. Police say they responded to the area of Bloor Street West and King's Mill Park at 10:47 a.m. after a woman in crisis contacted them for assistance. When they arrived, they located the woman on a park trail suffering what police describe as "significant injuries" and without vital signs, Duty Insp. Andy Singh told reporters Friday evening. She was taken to hospital shortly after where she was pronounced dead. Police have not released any details on the nature of her injuries or how she died. "We are still investigating what the possible motive of this could have been, whether there was a perpetrator with any relationship to the victim," Singh said. "We do not know those answers yet but we are imploring anybody that was in the park that might have any information or might have seen anything suspicious to bring it to the attention of Toronto Police Homicide Squad or Crimestoppers." Vehicle found at scene under investigation When asked about a vehicle seen getting towed away by police at the scene, Singh said it is related to the investigation but told reporters he could not give any details. "I'm certain that once we have a better understanding of the timelines and we've had an opportunity to look into what the motive could have possibly have been here, that will be forthcoming," he said. The forensic team will continue canvassing the area through the night and into the morning, Singh said. Police have not yet released a description of a suspect or suspects, but Singh said officers still have "a lot" of evidence to examine. Police are asking anyone with information to contact investigators at 416-808-7400 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 416-222-TIPS (8477).
LOS ANGELES — The organization hosting the Golden Globes says it is developing a plan to recruit Black members after falling under sharp criticism for lacking diverse members. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association said in statement Friday that an “action plan” is under development to admit Black members. The group currently has 87 members who are journalists, but none are Black. Former HFPA president Meher Tatna told Variety in an interview that the organization hasn’t had a Black member in nearly two decades. The Mumbai-born board chair said she couldn’t recall when there had been a Black member, but she says the organization will keep trying. Some including Time's Up and presenter Sterling K. Brown are among those who have criticized the HFPA's lack of inclusion and diversity. The criticism comes just days before the Globes air live on Sunday. An HFPA spokesperson said it welcomes the opportunity to meet with groups such as Time’s Up and prospective Black members who are interested in joining the organization. “We are fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV and the artists inspiring and educating them,” the HFPA statement read. “We understand that we need to bring in Black members, as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible.” Time’s Up took aim at the HFPA in a tweet saying “a cosmetic fix isn’t enough.” The activist organization also included the hashtag #TimesUpGlobes. Brown, an award presenter, posted the Time’s Up photo on social media with his own criticism. “For any governing body of a current Hollywood award show to have such a lack of voting representation illustrates a level of irresponsibility that should not be ignored,” he said. Brown said the HFPA must do better. He said the organization has a responsibility to show its “constituency is fully reflective of the world in which we live.” “And having a multitude of Black presenters does not absolve you of your lack of diversity,” he continued. “This is your moment to do the right thing. It is my hope that you will.” The HFPA said it welcomes journalists from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds based in Southern California that cover entertainment for foreign media. The organization says membership is majority female and more than 35% per cent of its members are from non-European countries across the world. The Associated Press
HOUSTON — President Joe Biden heard firsthand from Texans clobbered by this month's brutal winter weather on Friday and pledged to stick with them “for the long haul” as he made his first trip to a major disaster area since he took office. Biden was briefed by emergency officials and thanked workers for doing “God's work.” He promised the federal government will be there for Texans as they try to recover, not just from the historic storm but also the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “When a crisis hits our states, like the one that hit Texas, it’s not a Republican or Democrat that’s hurting," Biden said. “It's our fellow Americans that are hurting and it's our job to help everyone in need." With tens of thousands of Houston area residents without safe water, local officials told Biden that many are still struggling. While he was briefed, first lady Jill Biden joined an assembly line of volunteers packing boxes of quick oats, juice, and other food at the Houston Food Bank, where he arrived later. The president's first stop was the Harris County Emergency Operations Center for a briefing from acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton and state and local emergency management officials. Texas was hit particularly hard by the Valentine's weekend storm that battered multiple states. Unusually frigid conditions led to widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water. At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm and, although the weather has returned to more normal temperatures, more than 1 million residents are still under orders to boil water before drinking it. “The president has made very clear to us that in crises like this, it is our duty to organize prompt and competent federal support to American citizens, and we have to ensure that bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way,” said Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, who accompanied Biden to Houston. Biden was joined for much of his visit by Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn, both Republicans, four Democratic Houston-area members of Congress and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. The president also stopped by a mass coronavirus vaccination centre at NRG Stadium that is run by the federal government. Biden on Thursday commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office, halfway toward his goal of 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 U.S. deaths blamed on the disease. Democrat Biden suggested that he and Republicans Abbott and Cornyn could find common cause in getting Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. “We disagree on plenty of things,” Biden said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are plenty of things we can work on together. And one of them is represented right here today, the effort to speed up vaccinations." Texas' other U.S. senator, Ted Cruz, an ally of former President Donald Trump and one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who had objected to Congress certifying Biden’s victory, was in Florida Friday addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference. Cruz, who has been criticized for taking his family to Cancun, Mexico, while millions of Texans shivered in unheated homes, later said the trip was a mistake, but he made light of the controversy on Friday. “Orlando is awesome,” he said to laughs and hoots. “It’s not as nice as Cancun. But’s nice.” At the peak of the storm, more than 1.4 million residents were without power and 3.5 million were under boil-water notices in Houston's Harris County, the nation's third largest county. Post-storm debate in Texas has centred on the state maintaining its own electrical grid and its lack of better storm preparation, including weatherization of key infrastructure. Some state officials initially blamed the blackouts on renewable energy even though Texas relies heavily on oil and gas. In Washington, Biden's climate adviser said the deadly winter storm was a “wake-up call” for the United States to build energy systems that can withstand extreme weather linked to climate change. “We need systems of energy that are reliable and resilient,” Gina McCarthy said in an interview with The Associated Press. The White House said Biden's purpose in visiting was to support, not scold. Biden was bent on asking Texans "what do you need, how can I help you more," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “And what can we get more for you from the federal government.” Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas and asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to aid the recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent emergency generators, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and blankets. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said in an interview that he didn't know what more the federal government could do to help because the failures were at the state level. But Henry, a Republican who is the highest county official in the suburban Houston county, said that if Biden “thinks it's important to visit, then come on down.” Biden wanted to make the trip last week, but said at the time that he held back because he didn’t want his presence and entourage to detract from the recovery effort. Houston also was the destination for Trump's first presidential visit to a disaster area in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding that August. —- Associated Press writers Juan Lozano in Houston, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, and Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed reporting. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Major League Soccer says Ron Burkle has backed out of plans for an expansion team in Sacramento, California, that was scheduled to start play in 2023. The league said in a statement Friday night that Burkle's decision was “based on issues with the project related to COVID-19.” MLS announced the Sacramento Republic as its 29th team on Oct. 21, 2019, and said then the team would start play in 2022. MLS said July 17 that Sacramento would not start play until the 2023 season because of the pandemic. At the time, the league delayed Charlotte, North Carolina, until 2022 and St. Louis until 2023. MLS expanded to 26 teams last year with the addition of Miami and Nashville, Tennessee. Austin, Texas joins this season, which is scheduled to start April 17. Sacramento's announced ownership group included Burkle, founder of The Yucaipa Cos. and an owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, as lead investor. He was joined by entertainment executive Matt Alvarez and Kevin Nagle, an investor in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings who had spearheaded the bid for MLS expansion since 2014. Burkle's group had planned a $300 million soccer-specific stadium on a 14-acre site downtown and signed a deal with UC Davis Health to be its MLS jersey sponsor. But the group had run into cost issues with the proposed stadium site and had yet to break ground on the proposed 21,000-seat stadium. There also was growing concern the team would not be able to start until 2024. The current Sacramento Republic, founded in December 2012, plays in the second-tier United Soccer League Championship. “After working for many years to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, the league continues to believe it can be a great MLS market,” MLS said in a statement. “In the coming days, the league will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for MLS in Sacramento.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he remains optimistic about finalizing plans for the league's 30th team. MLS's 2020 season started Feb. 29 but was interrupted after March 8 by the pandemic. The season resumed July 8 and each team played 23 regular-season games, down from 34 originally scheduled. As a fallout from pandemic restrictions, attendance dropped from nearly 9 million to about 750,000. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation has continued on a downward trend in the number of daily coronavirus cases. Tribal health officials on Friday reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. The latest numbers bring the total to 29,710 cases since the pandemic began. The death toll is 1,165. A curfew remains in effect for residents on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to prevent the spread of the virus. Health facilities on the reservation and in border towns are conducting drive-thru vaccine events or administering doses by appointment. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: Vaccination passports may open society, but at cost of inequity. Canada regulators have approved AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. Japan is partly ending pandemic emergency, keeps it for Tokyo. Third US vaccine option expected in Johnson & Johnson shot; raises the question: Which shots are best? ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported another new 405 cases of the coronavirus as it began vaccinating tens of thousands of workers at frontline hospitals in the second day of its mass immunization program. The daily increase reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the national caseload to 89,321, including 1,595 deaths. Most of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which was hit hardest by a devastating winter surge that erased months of hard-won epidemiological gain and sparked public criticism about the country’s vaccine rollout that has been slower than many nations in the West. The government had insisted it could maintain a wait-and-see approach as its outbreak still wasn’t as dire as in the United States or Europe. The KCDC said 18,489 residents and workers at long-term care facilities received their first injections of two dose vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University during the first day of public vaccinations on Friday. ___ RENO, Nev. — The average number of new daily cases reported in Nevada over the past two weeks has fallen to its lowest level since mid-September and dropped by nearly 90% since a peak of more than 2,700 a day in mid-December. The 314 new daily cases reported on average over the previous 14 days is the lowest since an average of 312 were reported on Sept. 16, state health officials said Friday. That’s down from a peak of 2,716 reported on Dec. 11. The daily average dropped below 2,000 in mid-January and has steadily declined ever since. The state’s positivity rate also has dropped to 8.3%, the lowest since 8.2% on Oct. 19. The rate is based on a 14-day rolling average with a seven-day lag. It peaked at 21.6% on Jan. 13. ___ DENVER -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says anyone 60 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus beginning March 5 followed by those 50 and older toward the end of the month. The governor said Friday the state has already administered nearly 883,000 first doses of the vaccine and more than 423,000 second doses. An increase in vaccine supply is expected in the coming weeks as pharmaceutical companies ramp up production. More than 424,000 people in the state have tested positive and nearly 6,000 have died from the virus since it started its rapid spread last spring, and Polis warned Friday to stay vigilant. ___ BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday that Connecticut still has “a long way to go” to improve COVID-19 vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic residents, as new data show whites are getting inoculated at higher rates. Lamont appeared with Black clergy members at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport to try to convince people the vaccines are safe and effective. Several church leaders received vaccinations Friday. “We have a long way to go,” the Democratic governor said. “We’re doing better than we did two weeks ago, but not good enough.” New data released by the state Thursday shows 39% of white state residents ages 65 and older have received the first of two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, compared with 21% of Black residents and 27% of Hispanic citizens 65 and older. ___ SACRAMENTO, Calif: Gov. Gavin Newsom expects California to start administering the new Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine next week. At a Fresno news conference Friday, Newsom said the Biden administration plans to send California more than 1.1 million of the single-dose shots in the next three weeks. The vaccine, still in the final federal approval process, has fewer handling restrictions than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now being used. Those vaccines require two doses to be fully effective and must be stored at extremely low temperatures. Addition of the J&J vaccine would come as California is seeing dramatic drops in virus cases and hospitalizations after record highs in early January. ___ ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- In an unusual example of the effectiveness of social distancing, residents of a Southeast Alaska fishing community have so far escaped the coronavirus pandemic without any infections. Alaska Public Media reports that the town of Pelican is one of the Alaska communities that has avoided the illness by remaining isolated. Pelican can only be reached by bush plane or boat. The community has no recorded cases of COVID-19 and has vaccinated more than half of its adults. Interviews and social media posts indicate there are at least 10 virus-free communities statewide. ___ UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable the unhindered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination of millions of people in conflict areas. The British-drafted resolution, cosponsored by 112 countries, reiterated the council’s demand last July 1 for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts on the Security Council agenda from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia. It expressed concern that an appeal for cease-fires in all conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which was first made by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, “was not fully heeded.” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the current council president, announced the result of the email vote because the council has been meeting virtually, saying the resolution “will help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict areas or displaced by conflict.” ___ NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans’ mayor says coronavirus pandemic restrictions are being relaxed, starting Friday. Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office says the past 30 days have shown a sustained decrease in case counts, transmission rate, and positivity rate. The statement says groups of up to 75 may gather indoors and 150 outdoors. Restaurants, bars and other businesses can seat up to 15 people at a table. Indoor stadiums may admit up to 15% of the maximum number of fans usually allowed, with outdoor stadiums admitting up to 25%. New Orleans’ changes bring city guidelines closer to the state’s, the city says. New Orleans has averaged around 50 new cases a day with less than 2% of tests indicating infection. Case counts in January averaged more than 170 a day. There were 679 people hospitalized statewide on Thursday, compared to more than 2,000 in January. ___ PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown says all Oregonians who are 16 and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations no later than July 1. Health officials say people who are 45 to 64 with underlying health conditions will be eligible starting March 29. Brown says the next round of vaccine distribution will occur in multiple waves. Currently people who are eligible for vaccine are healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities, educators, seniors 70 and older and adults in custody. On Monday, people who are 65 or older will be eligible for the vaccine. The Vaccine Advisory Committee has stated one of their goals is to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to minority communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Last week health officials reported significant disparities. White people represent 75% of Oregonians. While they only comprise about 48% of coronavirus cases, they account for 74% of vaccinations. ___ MADRID — Spain’s health authorities say people under 55 who have had a coronavirus infection will only receive one of the two doses of a vaccine six months after their recovery. Spain has fully vaccinated nursing home residents, their caretakers and frontline health workers, a total of 1.2 million of its 47 million residents. Additionally, 2.4 million have received at least one shot. Vaccination efforts are currently focused on those over 80 and police. The new update to the country’s vaccination guidelines released Friday also state the next group to receive the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots will be people older than 60. AstraZeneca will be administered to those ages 45 to 55. With 8,341 new coronavirus infections and 329 deaths for the coronavirus confirmed Friday, Spain’s pandemic tally rose to nearly 3.2 million cases and more than 69,000 deaths. ___ GENEVA — The U.N. health agency chief is calling on member states of the World Trade Organization to authorize the lifting of intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines for wider use. World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “We can’t beat COVID without vaccine equity. The sharing problem can be addressed effectively if production is increased -- and to increase production, there are trade barriers or other barriers: That has to be addressed.” South Africa and India in October presented a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on vaccines. Rich countries with big pharmaceutical industries including Britain, Switzerland and the United States have resisted or raised questions about the proposal, which would need consensus under WTO rules. ___ DETROIT — A Whole Foods Market store in Detroit is receiving rapid COVID-19 testing for all its 196 employees after 23 tested positive for the coronavirus. Chief Detroit public health officer Denise Fair says the outbreak hit the store in the city’s Midtown. She says has made a commitment that no workers or close contacts of any employee who has tested positive will be allowed back to work until they have produced a negative test result. Whole Foods Market says it is “diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities.” Mayor Mike Duggan announced this month that food service workers, including grocery store workers who live or work in Detroit, are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. ___ COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s largest hospice provider is partnering with state health officials to pilot an effort to vaccinate eligible residents who rarely, if ever, leave their homes. Agape Care and the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced they’ll launch the pilot program in Hampton and Jasper counties, largely rural areas at the southern tip of the state. After scheduling and receiving a Moderna shot, the nurse will return 28 days later to administer the second shot. If a live-in caregiver is also eligible, he or she can get vaccinated, too. ___ WASHINGTON — The Biden administration and major U.S. business organizations are launching a joint educational campaign to reinforce basic COVID-19 do’s and don’ts with their customers and employees. White House coronavirus senior adviser Andy Slavitt says it’s part of an effort to get the whole country working together to contain the virus and encourage Americans to get vaccinated. The strategy has three parts. First, requiring masking and social distancing on business premises. That’s already the case in nearly all supermarkets, drug stores, offices and other types of commercial establishments. But masking is not always adhered to in some smaller workplaces. Second, removing roadblocks to get employees vaccinated. Businesses could use flexible scheduling and paid time off to encourage workers to get their shots. Finally, using business platforms like websites and some products to echo public health advice about getting vaccinated and wearing masks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and leading associations of minority-owned businesses are participating in the effort. ___ LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas is lifting most of its coronavirus safety restrictions, except for the state’s mask mandate. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the decision as he extended the public health emergency he declared last year because of the pandemic. Hutchinson is extending the order until the end of March. The rules being lifted include capacity limits for restaurant, bars, gyms and large venues. Hutchinson has faced pushback from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature over the virus safety rules. Hutchinson says the mask mandate will be lifted at the end of March if the state’s positivity rate is below 10%, with at least 7,500 tests on an average daily basis. If the state has fewer tests, the mandate would end if hospitalizations are below 750 patients. On Thursday, Arkansas had a test positivity rate of about 10% and reported 522 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19. ___ WASHINGTON — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm that recent gains against the coronavirus may be stalling. Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the CDC is looking at data that COVID-19 cases have been increasing the past three days, but more time is needed to see if that is a blip or the start of a trend. Walensky spoke at the White House coronavirus briefing Friday, noting virus mutations spreading in the U.S. are among the CDC’s biggest concerns. Along with a more transmissible strain first detected in Britain, scientists here are tracking variants in New York and California, which also appear to spread more easily. “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” says Walensky, stressing now is not the time to relax protective measures like wearing masks and avoiding gatherings. Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since the January peak that followed the winter holidays. Deaths have also declined. But Walensky says those gains could be in jeopardy because the background level of cases is still too high. ___ PARIS — French authorities have ordered a local weekend lockdown starting on Friday evening in the French Riviera city of Nice and the surrounding coastal area to try to curb the spread of the virus. Nice reported this week a rate of almost 800 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people, nearly four times the national average. The measure comes in addition to a national 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The northern port of Dunkirk is under similar restrictions. In both places, numbers of infections have spiked and hospitals are overwhelmed, with some patients being transferred to other French regions. Nice mayor Christian Estrosi announced the ban on the beaches and the famous Promenade des Anglais esplanade to ensure the restrictions will be fully respected. The weekend lockdown also includes nearby coastal towns of Cannes and Antibes. The Associated Press
The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce joined many in its network in urging the provincial government to address key economic points of pain on Friday. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with its network of local chambers across the province, released its pre-budget submission to the provincial government. The submission released ahead of Ontario's 2021 budget focuses on three themes: Recovery, growth and modernization. A major part of the submission calls on the government to offer relief to small businesses and municipalities that lasts beyond a short-term timeline. "We want to hear recovery; we don't want band-aids anymore," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. "We want to continue to make sure that small businesses and small-medium sized businesses are very well taken care of," added Kirkland. "We want to see everybody recover and we need the support of our government officials in order to do that." Targeted funding towards the hardest-hit sectors is established as a key request early in the submission to the government. "The number one affected industry by COVID-19 is tourism," said Kirkland. She added that is one reason why the pandemic has hit the areas of Gananoque and the Thousand Islands hard, as they rely on tourism through boaters and summer travellers for a portion of revenue. The submission acts as a messaging piece for chambers and districts across the province, bringing in a large variety of recommendations and requests. Population areas as large as Toronto to smaller towns like Gananoque are represented. "With Ontario's economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact," said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians," added Rossi. Recommendations under the growth section that would directly support the area include accelerating broadband expansion and supporting farmers and producers with online sales. "We need to not only support tourism but also the agriculture sector as well," said Kirkland. Under the recovery section of the submission, the OCC also argues that the government must minimize the economic impacts of business closures. One of the methods the chambers are asking for beyond physical distancing is through testing. Prioritizing rapid testing and contact tracing would facilitate more targeted decisions regarding business restrictions. Kirkland also said that better distribution of the vaccine would greatly help businesses. "We need a solid plan moving forward to get out to a post-COVID environment," said Kirkland. Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s office confirmed that the provincial budget will be presented no later than March 31, but no exact date has been announced. With regards to the OCC submission, ministry spokesman Scott Blodgett said: "The Ministry of Finance does not speculate as to what may or may not be in the forthcoming budget." Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
The British Columbia government announced today its controversial Site C dam project will move forward, despite the new price tag of $16 billion — nearly double what was initially projected. The West Moberly First Nations says it will file a lawsuit to stop the project.
ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. — With short, sure strokes of a flathead axe, firefighter Cole Gomoll methodically chopped along the edge of the SUV’s broken windshield as golf icon Tiger Woods — tangled up in his seatbelt and covered in a sheet to avoid shards of glass — waited in shock inside the mangled wreck. When Gomoll had cut a long, continuous line to the end of the glass, he and another Los Angeles County firefighter peeled back the windshield. The 6-lb (2.7-kilogram), 36-inch-long (91-centimetre-long) axe went down, and the backboard was swapped in. Within minutes, the ambulance had raced away, bound for the trauma centre with its famous patient in the back. It would be hours before the news broke around the world but for Gomoll and the other nine members of Fire Station 106 in Rolling Hills Estates, California, Tuesday’s call — initially reported as a traffic collision with a person trapped — lasted just 12 minutes. “He’s just another patient," Gomoll told The Associated Press on Friday at Fire Station 106. The 106’s firefighters, from Gomoll up to Battalion Chief Dean Douty, stressed that anyone in Woods’ dire situation would have received the same care from them. “I didn’t know who was inside the car,” Capt. Joe Peña said, until a sheriff’s deputy told him. And anyone else would get the same privacy, too — the firefighters declined to recount the athlete’s conversations and condition at the scene to preserve patient confidentiality. “His identity really didn’t matter in what we do,” Capt. Jeane Barrett said. Even so, those minutes marked a milestone in Gomoll’s career: It was the first time the 23-year-old Marine Corps veteran had performed an extrication like that in the field. Gomoll joined the fire station, located about a mile (1.6 kilometres) away from the crash site, in August as a probationary firefighter. Just three weeks ago, he’d practiced similar moves with one of his superiors, Barrett. “We’ve trained for stuff like this,” Gomoll said. Woods was transferred from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on Thursday to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for “continuing orthopedic care and recovery,” hospital officials said. He had shattered the tibia and fibula bones of his lower right leg in multiple locations. Those injuries were stabilized with a rod in the tibia during a long surgery. Additional injuries to the bones in the foot and ankle required screws and pins. Woods had been driving a 2021 Genesis SUV on a downhill stretch of road known for wrecks when he struck a raised median in a coastal Los Angeles suburb, crossed into oncoming lanes and flipped several times. The crash was the latest setback for Woods, who has won 15 major championships and a record-tying 82 victories on the PGA Tour. He is among the world’s most recognizable sports figures, and at 45, even with a reduced schedule from nine previous surgeries, remains golf’s biggest draw. He was in Los Angeles last weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Monday and Tuesday had been set aside for him to give golf tips to celebrities on Discovery-owned GOLFTV. The Los Angeles County sheriff has called the crash “purely an accident” and says drugs and alcohol did not appear to be a factor. Everyone says Woods is lucky to be alive — and “if nothing else, it’s a good PSA for wearing a seatbelt,” Barrett added. The first responders did, however, correct previous reports that said they’d used the Jaws of Life and a pry bar called a halligan tool to free the celebrity. Barrett, a 25-year fire service veteran, and her fellow firefighters know the dangers of the eponymous rolling hills in the area and have cut many drivers out of their twisted cars. They initially had three plans for Woods’ SUV: First, try the axe on the windshield. If that didn’t work, see if going through the sunroof was a possibility. A third option would be to cut the entire roof off. The firefighters and paramedics spoke to Woods — who introduced himself as “Tiger" — throughout, reassuring him through a hole in the windshield that he’d soon be free. “You can tell he was in pain,” firefighter Sally Ortega said, but he was still responding to their questions and clearly anxious to get out. “Luckily, our first plan was the one that worked,” Barrett said. As the ambulance pulled away, Barrett surveyed the SUV to see what lessons her crew might be able to apply to save a future driver. “No car is ever crumpled in the same way,” she said. The firefighters later debriefed together around their station’s kitchen table, then ate salads for lunch in a nearby park — savoring the last of the quiet as the news finally made its way around the world. Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press
The search for the next leader of the BC Liberal party has officially begun. A leadership conference to pick the party’s next leader will be held Feb. 3 to 5, 2022, with the leader chosen on Feb. 5, the BC Liberal Party announced today. “Today is really an opportunity for us to begin that focus on the search for a new leader that will revitalize our party and connect with British Columbians,” said Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond on Feb. 26. The previous party leader, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, stepped down in November after the BC Liberals lost about a third of their seats and the New Democrats picked up a majority government. The BC Greens won two ridings. Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond replaced Wilkinson when she was elected interim Liberal leader by her caucus colleagues on Nov. 23. “We are excited to begin the race for the (permanent) leadership of our party, a process that will help to shape the future of BC politics” said Interim Liberal Party President Don Silversides in a press release. Given the pandemic context, the party decided an 11-month long timeframe would allow the broadest range of candidates as much opportunity as possible to interact with voters, Silversides said. “It gives the party a chance to talk about the things that matter to British Columbia,” said Bond. “We're going to have the opportunity to hear from what I hope will be a broad, diverse range of candidates as we look to renew the party.” Political hopefuls will have until Nov. 31 to register as candidates. All BC Liberal Party members will be eligible to vote in the leadership election, and anyone who isn’t a member who wants to participate has until Dec. 29 to join the party. Bond will stay on as interim leader until a new leader is selected next February. Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is telling California's Santa Clara County that it can't enforce a ban on indoor religious worship services put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. The high court issued an order Friday evening in a case brought by a handful of churches. The justices, in early February, told the state of California that it can't bar indoor church services because of the pandemic. The justices said at the time that the state could cap indoor services at 25% of a building’s capacity and continue to bar singing and chanting. But Santa Clara had argued that its temporary ban on indoor gatherings of any kind including worship services should be allowed to stand. The county, which includes San Jose, said that it was treating houses of worship no differently from other indoor spaces where it prohibits gatherings and caps attendance. The county said people could go into houses of worship to pray or go to confession, among other things, but couldn't gather with groups of others. The county said the same was true of retail establishments, where shoppers can go but not gather for an event such as a book reading. The justices' unsigned order Friday said that their action was “clearly dictated” by their order from earlier this month. The court's three liberal justices dissented. Santa Clara had told the court in a letter Thursday that coronavirus cases in the county have recently continued to decline and that it was already close to lifting its ban on indoor gatherings. If the data continued the positive trend, the letter said, the county expected to allow all indoor gatherings, subject to restrictions, as soon as next Wednesday. The Associated Press