Snow showed up to the Golden Horseshoe on Tuesday causing a mess on the roads.
Snow showed up to the Golden Horseshoe on Tuesday causing a mess on the roads.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool’s woeful home form is developing into a full-blown crisis after Chelsea’s 1-0 victory on Thursday inflicted a fifth straight league loss at Anfield on the Premier League champions — the worst run in the club’s 128-year history. With Liverpool's title defence already over, this was billed as a battle for a Champions League place and Mason Mount’s 42nd-minute goal lifted Chelsea back into the top four. Chelsea’s previous win at Anfield, in 2014, effectively ended the title hopes of Brendan Rodgers’ side. This one was a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a top-four finish under Jurgen Klopp. Klopp’s side is four points adrift of Chelsea and with Everton and West Ham also ahead. Liverpool has now gone more than 10 hours without a goal from open play at Anfield. The hosts failed to register an effort on target until the 85th minute and Georginio Wijnaldum’s weak header was never going to beat Edouard Mendy. They have taken one point from the last 21 on offer at home since Christmas and scored just two goals, one of which was a penalty. None of Liverpool's established front three — Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino — impressed but the sight of Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer, being substituted just past the hour mark was baffling. The Egypt international certainly thought so as he sat shaking his head, having been replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Chelsea, by contrast, looked full of threat with Timo Werner — a player Liverpool was interested in but decided it could not afford last summer — a constant problem. Despite one goal in his previous 17 league outings, he caused problems with his movement, drifting out to the left then popping into the middle to give Fabinho a real headache on his return to the side. The Brazil midfielder, replacing Nat Phillips after he became the latest centre back to pick up an injury, was partnering Ozan Kabak in Liverpool’s 15th different central-defensive starting partnership in 27 league matches. Faced with a statistic like that, it is perhaps understandable why there was a lack of cohesion at the back and Werner should really have profited. He fired one early shot over and then failed to lift his effort over Alisson Becker, back in goal after the death of his father in Brazil last week. Even when Werner did beat Alisson, VAR ruled the Germany international’s arm had been offside 20 yards earlier in the build-up. Liverpool’s one chance fell to Mane but Salah’s first-time ball over the top got caught under his feet and Mane missed his shot with only Mendy to beat. Chelsea was still controlling the game and caught Liverpool on the counterattack when N’Golo Kante quickly sent a loose ball out to the left wing, from where Mount cut inside to beat Alisson having been given far too much time to pick his spot. All five of Mount’s league goals have come away from home. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel spent the first five minutes of the second half screaming at his players to press harder and play higher up the pitch but Liverpool’s players were equally vocal when Firmino’s cross hit the raised arm of Kante from close range. No penalty was awarded. Andy Robertson cleared off the line from Hakim Ziyech after Alisson parried Ben Chilwell’s shot as Chelsea continued to look more dangerous. Klopp’s attempt to change the direction of the game saw him send on Diogo Jota for his first appearance in three months, along with Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jota’s first touch was a half-chance from a deep cross but he was not sharp enough to take it. Werner, meanwhile, was doing everything but score as Alisson’s leg saved another shot as he bore down on goal. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
People returning to the Northwest Territories will now be able to isolate in Norman Wells and Fort Simpson, says the territorial government. Premier Caroline Cochrane and Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory's chief public health officer, made the announcement during a news conference on Thursday. The changes come into effect at 5 p.m. Previously, anyone arriving in the N.W.T. had to self-isolate for 14 days in Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik or Yellowknife, with few exceptions. The self-isolation rules differ for essential workers. "Allowing the residents of Fort Simpson and … Norman Wells to safely isolate in their home communities will address some of the challenges that come with self-isolation," Cochrane said, adding that this includes having better access to family and isolating in a more familiar setting. "We've been in this for over a year and people are past COVID fatigue, they're COVID exhausted. So being able to open it up will help improve it with mental health issues we are seeing across the Northwest Territories." Missed the update? Watch it here: Kandola says the territory had been reviewing exemption requests over the months since the travel restrictions were in place, and many came from those two communities. They also got correspondence from leaders there. Kandola says the territory was, in part, waiting for wastewater surveillance to be added to Norman Wells and for the second dose clinics to roll out, which are set to be complete by end of day Thursday, before changing isolation rules. She added both communities have adequate medical resources to support potential COVID-19 patients, including the stabilization of any severe cases, pending transport to another centre. Cochrane says there are local enforcement officers in each community to ensure people comply with self-isolation rules. Restrictions could be further eased later in Spring There were three active COVID-19 cases and 66 recovered as of Thursday. These numbers include cases in residents and non-residents. Kandola says the territory is still in phase 2 of its Emerging Wisely plan, but that it could move to phase 3 in late spring. She says that depends on vaccination uptake and if it's safe to do so. So far, 44 per cent of the territory's adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. The territory's goal is to get at least 75 per cent of the adult population vaccinated. "We won't get to phase 3 all at once," she said, "and maybe it's not happening as quickly as some would like, but we are getting there."
It was promoted as a way help residents “reconnect” with their food and, in some ways, get back to nature. But a motion which would have looked into the feasibility of Aurora adopting a backyard hen program pilot project, one which would have allowed property owners to raise chickens and collect their own eggs, was scrambled on arrival last week. On a vote of 4 – 3, lawmakers defeated a motion from Councillor Rachel Gilliland which would have tasked staff to report back to Council by the end of next month on the feasibility of such an initiative and the implications any programs might have on the community. “It has been proven to work in other municipalities such as Toronto, Newmarket and Georgina,” said Councillor Gilliland, kicking off the debate. “Let’s find out why this worked. I was skeptical too at first, so I decided to do a little digging and came across this quote from Toronto City Staff [on their pilot] which said, ‘None of the predicted blights have materialized. The predicted chorus of neighbours [with] complaints, not a peep. There aren’t any complaints about noise or unsanitary conditions in any of these locations with registered hens. We have made a couple of educational visits about coop sizes, but everything seems to be going smoothly.” Making her pitch to colleagues, Councillor Gilliland said that hens are great for keeping pests such as mosquitos, ticks and fleas under control, help homeowners keep down unwanted vegetation and, of course, are organic fertilizers. “This is what led me to believe that raising chickens [for eggs] is something people can do in a healthy and safe way,” she said. “These urban backyard hens will produce sustainable, organic, non-GMO foods, offer an educational and therapeutic value for both kids and adults. It is not about raising roosters or chickens for meat.” Prior to the discussion itself, the motion received a boost from residents at large who submitted written delegations to Council supporting the initiative, including from Marc Mantha, a former resident of Newmarket, who said he saw the benefits of backyard hens firsthand. “It is wonderful how we’re reconnecting with food and healthy lifestyles,” he said. “People are gardening in record numbers and backyard hens enrich a progressive community. Pilot projects are the best path to due diligence and being able to observe and report firsthand a very manageable sampling. A pilot project also provides everyone the opportunity to learn and better understand backyard hens. It was a wonderful experience.” Aurora resident Miriam Klein Leiher expressed similar sentiments, adding that within online community discussion forums the interest level is high. “Many of us have done our research and feel Aurora would greatly benefit from hen coops in private backyards,” she said. “Many of our neighbouring towns and cities have successfully launched pilot projects in their backyards with great success. Myself and my family are not keen on factory farms. Urban hens are a more ecological answer to how we get our food to the table. Hens in the community bring citizens and families together as well. This year has been challenging and this will help my family start a wonderful life-changing project. We all want to do it. Plus, they make great little companions.” The Councillor’s motion received support from Councillors John Gallo and Wendy Gaertner who said it was worth exploring some of the positives. “I think it is a great idea,” said Councillor Gallo. “I am actually quite excited about it. The benefits to us are far and wide, especially for children and how much they can learn. There are many, many good reasons to do this.” Added Councillor Gaertner: “It doesn’t sound like [a feasibility] report would be onerous or a huge amount of time for staff to put together. I would like it to be on a public report what the findings are and then vote on it as a Council.” Others, however, disagreed and nixed the feasibility report before it was able to get off the ground. Councillor Harold Kim, for instance, said he did not question the merits of backyard hens, dubbing it a “noble cause” but he said he believed “the vast population of our Town are not ready and do not want chickens at this time.” “People are just not ready to live next to a house where their backyard has chickens running around,” he said. “Perhaps within a few years of public education and marketing and communication we will get people’s buy-in.” In Toronto, Newmarket and other communities that have put a similar program in place, the feasibility studies are already out there, he argued, and there is enough information to make a decision. “I don’t want to waste more time on studies. They are available. We either do this or we don’t,” he concluded. In stating his opposition, Councillor Michael Thompson said there are already pockets of the community, primarily in more rural areas, that are currently zoned for backyard hens, but he too said the feedback he had received since a hen program was first floated at Council this winter by resident Darryl Moore has been largely negative. “The conversations I have had with residents, I have simply said to them, ‘How would you feel if your neighbour put up a coop?’ The vast majority of the people I have spoken to don’t want it next to them,” he said. “Many of our [residents] don’t want to see it in their neighbourhood. I am cognizant of that. I am also concerned with the health risk. I have seen a number of different reports and studies with regards to health risks. The most relevant one I found for myself was put out by Public Health Ontario [which] talks about health risks associated with backyard chickens… we are living in the midst of a pandemic and even though everyone takes as much precaution as they can, there is still a risk associated with it. Based on all that I have read and looked at, I don’t see a report changing my mind.” Also opposed, but for a very different reason, was Councillor Sandra Humfryes who said that specific lot sizes would be required for backyard hens and, with that in mind, such a program would not be “inclusive” for the whole community. “They all said it is a great idea, but not beside my house,” she said, instead stating that emphasizing garden boxes and other means to grow food would be a better fit for Aurora. Similarly, in stating his opposition, Mayor Tom Mrakas cited the complaints the Town generally receives from abutting properties when community gardens are proposed. “I agree that a lot of people think it is a great idea, but not beside them. I think we will run into those issues,” she said. “Also, with the issues as far as how big of a yard you need, it wouldn’t be inclusive to everybody in our Town. The program wouldn’t be available to everyone. I think as Councillor Thompson mentioned, as we do have areas that do allow for hens…in a chicken coop, that we continue to look at those areas. Maybe we have staff report back to us on any findings from the areas that are allowed currently in our Town and if there is anything in those areas that can show us how things are happening, if there are chicken coops right now being utilized in those areas, and you can see the information that comes from that… I don’t think that there is anything that would come back in a report that would change my mind, so I won’t be in favour of asking staff to move forward in working on this and bringing us back a report.” Although it was clear by the end of the discussion the matter wouldn’t move forward, Councillor Gilliland said it was important for a report to look at “what is good for Aurora.” “The point is allowing people to [have] that option,” she said. “I don’t know who this vast majority is because I haven’t seen the vast majority [of communications cited by the rest of Council]. Part of the process in each municipality is for public consultation and I don’t take that lightly. If the public says, ‘That’s not what I want,’ I would like to listen to what the public has to say.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
One of Canada's top public health officials sought to reassure Canadians today that a recommendation from a federal vaccine advisory committee to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses is a sound one. Yesterday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months due to limited supplies. Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the advice is based on real-world data that shows doing so would lead to more people being protected from COVID-19 in a shorter time period. "This recommendation is based on clinical trial reports and emerging real-world evidence from around the world. Data shows that several weeks after being administered, first doses of vaccines provide highly effective protection against symptomatic disease, hospitalization and death," Njoo told a technical briefing today. Confusion over conflicting advice Njoo's comments appeared to be addressing the confusion created by the fact that NACI's recommendation conflicts with those issued by Health Canada when it granted regulatory approvals for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Regulatory documents provided by Health Canada upon approval of each vaccine state that the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech should be taken three weeks after the first, the second Moderna shot should come four weeks after the first, and the second AstraZeneca dose should be delivered between four and 12 weeks after the first. All of those recommendations are in line with the product monograph provided by the manufacturers. Adding to the confusion, NACI recommended on Monday against giving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people 65 and older, although Health Canada has authorized it for use in adults of all ages. But Njoo said the discrepancies can be explained by the fact that Health Canada is a regulator and NACI is an advisory body made up of medical experts. "You have likely noticed that NACI's recommendations are sometimes different, possibly broader or narrower than the conditions of vaccine use that Health Canada has authorized. As the regulator, Health Canada authorizes each vaccine for use in Canada according to factors based on clinical trial evidence, whereas NACI bases its guidance on the available and evolving evidence in a real-world context, including the availability of other vaccines," Njoo said. "What we expect is that NACI recommendations will complement — not mirror — those of Health Canada." WATCH: Njoo comments on NACI recommendation to delay second COVID-19 vaccine doses The issue burst into the open on Monday when B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Some medical experts questioned that decision. Canada's chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, said doing so without proper clinical trials amounts to a "population level experiment." Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., told the Washington Post that the science doesn't support delaying a second dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. He said there isn't enough evidence to determine how much protection is provided by one dose of those vaccines, and how long it lasts. Despite those warnings, several provinces followed Henry's lead and even more have indicated they intend to stretch the dosage interval. While it appeared to some at the time that Henry was moving faster than the science, Njoo said that NACI's experts briefed provincial medical officers of health over the weekend on the results of their analysis before releasing their recommendations publicly. NACI concluded that stretching the dosing interval to four months would allow up to 80 per cent of Canadians over the age of 16 to receive a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June, without compromising vaccine effectiveness. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. As for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Njoo said it is safe and that evidence shows it provides protection against very serious disease and death in people of all ages. He said Health Canada has a rigorous scientific review process and only approves vaccines that meet high standards for safety, efficacy and quality. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said expert advice will continue to change as more data becomes available from ongoing mass vaccination campaigns, and she urged provinces and territories to consider recommendations and evidence from both bodies when making decisions about their vaccine strategies. "The messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message and it never changed, but that's not what science does," said Sharma. Decision on Johnson and Johnson imminent At today's briefing, health officials also indicated that a regulatory decision on whether to approve Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine is expected soon. "The review of the Johnson & Johnson submission is going very well, it's progressing, and we're expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days. I would say in the next seven days or so," said Sharma. The company has said its vaccine is 66 per cent effective at preventing moderate to severe illness in a global clinical trial, and much more effective — 85 per cent — against the most serious symptoms. Canada has agreed to purchase up to 38 million doses if it is approved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for use in that country last Saturday. The approval of a fourth vaccine would give a significant boost to Canada's vaccine rollout. Johnson and Johnson's vaccine is widely seen as one of the easiest to administer because it requires only one dose and can be stored for long periods of time at regular refrigerator temperatures. Njoo said additional vaccines, coupled with the NACI recommendation on dosage intervals, could allow Canada to meet the goal of inoculating all adults who want a vaccine "several weeks" before the current target date of the end of September. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading Canada's COVID-19 vaccine logistics, said that while more vaccines would be good news, the current target remains the end of September.
The temporary pandemic shelter Tipinawâw at the Edmonton Convention Centre on Jasper Avenue will remain open until the end of April, city council agreed unanimously at a meeting Thursday. The extended operations will cost $2.2 million, an amount available in a COVID-19-specific fund set aside in the city's stabilization reserve. This is in addition to the $8 million the city invested in the shelter last fall. The 24/7 shelter accommodates 300 people a night, with meals, laundry, shower facilities, as well as counselling and housing services. Three agencies have been contracted to run the shelter since October: Boyle Street Community Services, the Bissell Centre and the Mustard Seed Society. The Bent Arrow Society helps with cultural programming and counselling. Mayor Don Iveson said there's a clear need to continue the operations through the end of the spring. "I don't regret at all establishing this facility," Iveson said. Indigenous elders gave the facility the name Tipinawâw, a Cree wording meaning shelter from outside elements. From October 2020 to mid-February, nearly 4,200 different people accessed daytime services at the facility, and about 2,300 people used the overnight shelter, says a city report. At the beginning of the meeting, Coun. Scott McKeen asked about security at the shelter — saying he's received emails from residents concerned about what's happening in the area. Rob Smyth, deputy manager of citizen services, said there were some "significant challenges" early on and the city has been working with police and private security to increase presence around the facility. Temporary encampments have cropped up around the shelter, Smyth noted. "It's not perfect, but we certainly have tried to increase our activity to make it as safe and secure as we possibly can," Smyth said. A second temporary 24/7 shelter at Commonwealth Stadium is being run by Hope Mission, while a third near 99th Street in the Ritchie neighbourhood is operated by the Mustard Seed. @natashariebe
Scientists have spotted a planet orbiting a star relatively near our solar system that may offer a prime opportunity to study the atmosphere of a rocky Earth-like alien world - the type of research that could aid the hunt for extraterrestrial life. The researchers said on Thursday the planet, called Gliese 486 b and classified as a 'super-Earth,' is not itself a promising candidate as a refuge for life. But its proximity to Earth and its physical traits make it well suited for a study of its atmosphere with the next generation of space-borne and ground-based telescopes, starting with the James Webb Space Telescope that NASA has slated for an October launch.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Jean Andrade, an 88-year-old who lives alone, has been waiting for her COVID-19 vaccine since she became eligible under state guidelines nearly a month ago. She assumed her caseworker would contact her about getting one, especially after she spent nearly two days stuck in an electric recliner during a recent power outage. It was only after she saw a TV news report about competition for the limited supply of shots in Portland, Oregon, that she realized no one was scheduling her dose. A grocery delivery service for homebound older people eventually provided a flyer with vaccine information, and Andrade asked a helper who comes by for four hours a week to try to snag her an appointment. “I thought it would be a priority when you’re 88 years old and that someone would inform me," said Andrade, who has lived in the same house for 40 years and has no family members able to assist her. “You ask anybody else who's 88, 89, and don’t have anybody to help them, ask them what to do. Well, I’ve still got my brain, thank God. But I am very angry.” Older adults have top priority in COVID-19 immunization drives the world over right now, and hundreds of thousands of them are spending hours online, enlisting their children’s help and travelling hours to far-flung pharmacies in a desperate bid to secure a COVID-19 vaccine. But an untold number like Andrade are getting left behind, unseen, because they are too overwhelmed, too frail or too poor to fend for themselves. The urgency of reaching this vulnerable population before the nation's focus turns elsewhere is growing as more Americans in other age and priority groups become eligible for vaccines. With the clock ticking and many states extending shots to people as young as 55, nonprofits, churches and advocacy groups are scrambling to find isolated elders and get them inoculated before they have to compete with an even bigger pool — and are potentially forgotten about as vaccination campaigns move on. An extreme imbalance between vaccine supply and demand in almost every part of the United States makes securing a shot a gamble. In Oregon, Andrade is vying with as many as 750,000 residents age 65 and older, and demand is so high that appointments for the weekly allotment of doses in Portland are snapped up in less than an hour. On Monday, the city's inundated vaccine information call line shut down by 9 a.m., and online booking sites have crashed. Amid such frenzy, the vaccine rollout here and elsewhere has strongly favoured healthier seniors with resources “who are able to jump in their car at a moment’s notice and drive two hours” while more vulnerable older adults are overlooked, said James Stowe, the director of aging and adult services for an association of city and county governments in the bistate Kansas City area. "Why weren’t they the thrust of our efforts, the very core of what we wanted to do? Why didn’t it include this group from the very outset?” he said of the most vulnerable seniors. Some of the older adults who have not received vaccines yet are so disconnected they don't even know they are eligible. Others realize they qualify, but without internet service and often email accounts, they don't know how to make an appointment and can't get to one anyway — so they haven't tried. Still others have debilitating health issues that make leaving home an insurmountable task, or they are so terrified of exposure to COVID-19 that they'd rather go unvaccinated than risk venturing out in public to get a shot. In Kansas City, Missouri, 75-year-old Pat Brown knows she needs the vaccine because her asthma and diabetes put her at higher risk of serious COVID-19 complications. But Brown hasn’t attempted to schedule an appointment and didn’t even know if they were being offered in her area yet; she says she is too overwhelmed. “I don’t have no car, and it’s hard for me to get around places. I just don’t like to go to clinics and have to wait because you have to wait so long,” Brown said, adding that she is in constant pain because of spinal arthritis. “I couldn’t do it. My back would give out...and I don’t have the money to take a cab.” The pandemic has also closed senior centres, libraries and churches — all places where older Americans might remain visible in their communities and get information about the vaccine. And some public health departments at first relied on mass emails and text messages to alert residents they were eligible, thereby missing huge chunks of the senior population. “Do you think everyone has internet access? Do you really think everyone has email?” Denise LaBuda, spokeswoman for the Council on Aging of Central Oregon, said. “We just don’t know where they all are. They have to raise their hand — and how do they raise their hand?” To counter access disparities, the Biden administration said Wednesday that it will partner with health insurance companies to help vulnerable older people get vaccinated for COVID-19. The goal is to get 2 million of the most at-risk seniors vaccinated soon, White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt said. Slavitt says insurers will use their networks to contact Medicare recipients with information about COVID-19 vaccines, answer questions, find and schedule appointments for first and second doses and co-ordinate transportation. The focus will be on reaching people in medically underserved areas. Non-profits, churches and advocates for older people have already spent weeks figuring out how to reach disadvantaged Americans over age 65 through a patchwork and grassroots effort that varies widely by location. Some are partnering with charities like Meals on Wheels to distribute vaccine information or grocery-delivery programs like the one which alerted Andrade. Others are mining library card rosters, senior centre membership lists and voter registration databases to find disconnected older people. Reaching out through organizations and faith groups that marginalized older Americans already trust is key, said Margaret Scharle, who developed a vaccine outreach toolkit for her Roman Catholic parish in Oregon. The “low-tech” approach, which other charities started using, relies on door-knocking, paper brochures and scripted phone calls to communicate with residents over 65. “Once you’ve been blocked so many times in trying to make an appointment, you might give up. So we are working as hard as we can to penetrate the most marginalized communities, to activate networks that are already existing,” said Scharle, who after the initial contact offers assistance with scheduling appointments and transportation. In Georgetown, South Carolina, a rural community where many of the 10,000 residents are the descendants of slaves, the local NAACP chapter is using its rolls from a November get-out-the-vote drive to get the oldest citizens out for the vaccine. Chapter president Marvin Neal said they are trying to reach 2,700 people to let them know they are eligible for a shot and to offer help booking appointments. Many of those individuals don’t have internet service or transportation, or suffer from medical issues like dementia, he said. “Some are not even aware that the vaccine is even in their community, that’s the challenge,” Neal said. “It’s like they’re just throwing up their hands in the air and hoping somebody steps in. Because all the ones I have talked to want the vaccine. I haven’t had one yet that didn’t say, ‘Sign me up.’” Outreach workers are also identifying holes in the system that prevent the most vulnerable seniors from accessing shots. For example, a dial-a-ride service in a rural part of Oregon doesn't take passengers beyond their town limits, meaning they can't get to their county's mass vaccination site. In the same region, only the largest city has a public bus system. Such obstacles underscore what outreach workers say is a huge demand for mobile vaccine clinics. Some local governments and non-profit organizations are partnering with paramedics and volunteer groups that specialize in disaster response to inoculate the hardest-to-reach seniors. In South Carolina, pharmacist Raymond Paschal purchased a van and a $3,000 refrigerator to start a mobile clinic for underserved areas, but his independent pharmacy in Georgetown can't get ahold of any vaccine. “There’s a lot of people falling through the cracks,” Paschal said. “These older people who have still not received their vaccine, they’re going to have all this younger generation they have to compete with. So we’ve got to get to these older people first.” ____ Hollingsworth reported from Kansas City, Missouri. Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press reporter Sara Cline in Portland, Oregon contributed to this report. Gillian Flaccus, Heather Hollingsworth And Russ Bynum, The Associated Press
Hinton’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is encouraging Hintonites to get outside in the spring air and visit a neighbour as part of the new Saturday Driveway initiative. For those who want to participate, all they have to do is set up some lawn chairs and maybe a propane campfire in their front yard and wait for a neighbour to come by for a visit. People can freely decide if they’d like to go walking around their neighbourhood on a Saturday afternoon or evening with a curiosity if they’ll encounter a host. “The number one goal is always going to be social connection. We recognize that we’re having less in-person conversations than we probably did prior to the pandemic. We just appreciate how important it is to talk to other people,” said Lisa Brett, FCSS community connections coordinator. Secondly, the initiative is about building neighbourhoods, Brett added. FCSS hopes this neighbourhood project will help strengthen trusting relationships between neighbours. “A lot of us don’t know our neighbours. So this is an opportunity to introduce ourselves and if we do know our neighbours then this is an opportunity to build on that,” Brett said. The Saturday Driveway initiative kicks off this Saturday, March 6, and FCSS hopes to promote it for the next three months. Brett hopes the initiative will help individuals get used to the idea of hanging out in their front yard on Saturday afternoons and evenings, being neighbourly, and respecting COVID-19 restrictions. Hinton’s FCSS reached out to St. Albert who had a similar project early in the pandemic, and they shared their positive experience and resources. Brett noted the initiative can play an important role in combating isolation that has become more prevalent the past year. “I recognize you can be isolated and not feel lonely. In other scenarios people feel lonely where they’re feeling more empty and separated and that emotion can be quite powerful,” Brett said. Positive interactions among neighbours can also help individuals feel safer in their neighbourhood and realize they can rely on a neighbour in an emergency, she added. She hopes the idea will help the community stave off loneliness, foster connection, and boost happiness in a time where everybody is pulling back due to government mandated COVID-19 restrictions. People can now gather with a group up to 10 while social distancing and wearing masks. “It’s just really about sparking an idea in people rather than telling them what to do. This might only attract certain people or certain personalities but the outcomes are unknown. It’s a hopeful project, it’s about kindness and being welcoming to all people,” Brett said. The Town offers posters to promote the initiative and also one that individuals could hang on their door or mailbox to let others know when they will be hosting a Saturday Driveway event. Hintonites can participate on their own and self-manage their driveway event. “There’s a lot of freedom and liberty involved as long as they recognize that we’re still under COVID-19 [restrictions],” Brett said. RCMP and Fire Department are aware of the project and COVID-19 restrictions were also considered when putting the concept together. A portable fire pit is permissible but if someone chooses to have a real fire, they must read the fire bylaw link on hinton.ca/fcss and adhere to its fire safety precautions. Posters to participate are available at the FCSS office to pick up or for print from the Town of Hinton website. The principle way to know if someone is hosting a Saturday Driveway is that a participant is visibly set up in their driveway or front yard welcoming neighbours to stroll by and have a chat. Being masked and remaining six feet apart must be part of the interactions. Currently, outdoor gatherings allow up to 10 people. Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice
HALIFAX — Premier Iain Rankin says Nova Scotia should have enough COVID-19 vaccine to give all residents at least one shot by the end of June. Rankin told reporters today following his first cabinet meeting as premier that his estimate is based on new federal government guidelines about increasing the interval between first and second doses of vaccine. He says he will likely have more details about the province's plan at Friday's COVID-19 briefing. The province is to get 13,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine next week, which will complement Nova Scotia's vaccine supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health officials are also announcing that restrictions on restaurant operating hours and sporting events will be lifted in Halifax and its surrounding regions on Friday morning. Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today, all in the Halifax area. Two involve contacts of previously reported cases and the third is under investigation. The province has 29 active reported cases of the disease. Residents of long-term care homes in the Halifax area are still limited to receiving visits from two designated caregivers. Officials say the restrictions for long-term care residents will remain in place in the region until March 27. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Vancouver's parks board is taking action to control the increasing numbers of messy and aggressive Canada geese. A statement from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation says it is developing a management plan to reduce the number of geese in city parks, beaches and on the seawall. The board is particularly concerned about humans feeding the birds, saying it brings flocks of geese to high-traffic areas such as Stanley Park and the beaches of English Bay and Sunset Beach. A key part of the management plan asks residents to identify Canada goose nests on private property so they can be removed or the eggs can be addled, and left in the nest so adults continue to brood, rather than lay again. The board estimates Vancouver's population of more than 3,500 Canada geese grows every year because the habitat is ideal and the birds have no natural predators. Several Okanagan cities are asking permission to cull growing flocks of Canada geese that foul area beaches and parks, but Vancouver's board says egg addling, a measure supported by the SPCA, is its only control measure. In addition to calling for public help in identifying nests, which can be on roofs, balconies or in tall, topped trees, the park board is urging people not to feed Canada geese. “Supplemental feeding by humans can also contribute to geese being able to lay more than one clutch of eight eggs per season; meaning that if one clutch does not hatch, they can replace it," the statement says. "In nature, without food from humans, this wouldn’t happen." Canada geese have inefficient digestive systems and the parks board says the birds produce more excrement for their size than most other species. The park board says it hopes to step up egg addling, saying wildlife specialists believe the practice must be tripled in order to cut Vancouver's goose populations. A web page has been created on the City of Vancouver website to report the location of nests so they can be removed or the eggs can be addled. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are setting aside some of the billions of dollars planned in short-term transit spending to help municipalities further green their bus fleets. The hope is that the $2.75 billion in traditional grant money will dovetail with the $1.5 billion an infrastructure-financing agency is supposed to invest toward the same cause. Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna says the grant money is supposed to help cover the upfront cost of purchasing electric buses to replace the diesel-powered ones rumbling through Canadian streets. She says federal funding has helped cities buy 300 buses and the government hopes the funding will help them add 5,000 zero-emission buses over the next five years. But she acknowledged there are added costs that need to be addressed, including having charging stations on transit routes and in existing depots. The Liberals are hoping cities then turn to the Canada Infrastructure Bank to finance the cost of the remaining work. The bank's chief executive, Ehren Cory, says the energy savings expected from not having to buy diesel could, for instance, be used to pay off a low-interest loan from his agency. "It's quite a from-the-ground-up reinvestment and the savings will pay for a lot of that, but not for all of it," he said, via video link. "That's why the combination of a grant from the government, a subsidy, combined with a loan against savings together will allow us to get the most done, allow us to make wholesale change quickly and do so at minimal impact to taxpayers." Garth Frizzell, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, welcomed the funding as a way to speed up work in cities to replace diesel buses. "We are already putting more electric vehicles on our streets, and this major funding to electrify transit systems across the country will reduce GHG emissions, boost local economies, and help meet Canada’s climate goals," he said in a statement. McKenna made the same connections multiple times during an event Thursday in Ottawa, where she stood near the city's mayor, Jim Watson, with Cory and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne joining by videoconference. Joanna Kyriazis, senior policy adviser at Clean Energy Canada, noted that the investments could help the country's six electric-bus manufacturers scale up to compete internationally. “As Canada develops its battery supply chain — from raw metal and mineral resources to our North-America-leading battery recycling companies — we must build the market for electric vehicles and their batteries at home," she said in a statement. The Liberals are promising billions in permanent transit funding as part of a post-pandemic recovery, including $3 billion annually in a transit fund starting in five years. Cities have seen transit ridership plummet through the pandemic as chunks of the labour force work remotely. Demand for single-family homes well outside urban cores suggests some workers are expecting remote work to become a more regular fixture of their post-pandemic work lives. McKenna said her thinking about public transit hasn't been changed by that shift, saying her only thought is that Canada needs more and better systems. It's up to cities and transit agencies to set routes and priorities, she said. "The reality is many of our essential workers have no other option than to take public transit. And I think we've recognized how important it is for people to be able to get around in a safe way," McKenna said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — A compensation agreement has been reached between Glen Assoun and the Nova Scotia and federal governments for his wrongful conviction and the almost 17 years he spent in prison. Nova Scotia Justice Minister Randy Delorey said today the recently signed deal is confidential, and Assoun's lawyers Sean MacDonald and Phil Campbell said the amount of the settlement and its details are not being released. Assoun's lawyers, however, praised the two levels of government for the settlement, and Campbell said federal Justice Minister David Lametti had done all that can be expected. Campbell says he hopes the deal serves as an example for similar cases in the future. Assoun lived under strict parole conditions for nearly five years after he was released from prison, before a Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling in March 2019 reversed his 1999 conviction for the murder of Brenda Way in Halifax. The 1995 killing has never been solved. Assoun suffered mental illness in prison, and he said he was diagnosed with a heart condition that required the insertion of stents — small mesh tubes that are placed in a narrowed coronary artery. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
BOSTON — Distance running, traditionally one of the world's most genteel sports, has been roiled by an ugly mid-pandemic squabble over who should get a shot at a coveted Boston Marathon medal. Rival camps in the running world began snapping at each other's heels this week. It began after the Boston Athletic Association, which still hopes to hold a truncated in-person edition of the planet's most prestigious footrace in October, said it will award medals to up to 70,000 athletes if they go the distance wherever they are. Practically within minutes of the BAA's announcement greatly expanding its virtual version of the race, a boisterous social media maelstrom ensued. On one side: Runners who've spent years training to qualify to run the real thing, including some who complain that mailing medals to people who run the 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometres) in Dallas or Denver will cheapen the iconic Boston experience. “A dagger through the heart to someone who has worked hard to finally earn the qualifying standard,” one runner, Mark Howard of Salisbury, North Carolina, groused on Twitter. On the other: Pretty much everyone else, including the plodding masses and runners who raise millions for charities, who counter that anything that helps the 125-year-old marathon survive the COVID-19 crisis is worthwhile. “A virtual Boston race that invites everyone is a reason to celebrate,” said Maria Arana, a marathoner and coach in Phoenix. “It in no way takes away from my personal Boston Marathon experience or anyone else’s.” The bickering seems to have caught many off-guard, if only because road racing has long had a reputation as a kind and egalitarian sport. It's one of the few disciplines where ordinary amateurs compete in real time on the same course as elite professionals, and where trash-talking is rare. As four-time Boston champion Bill Rodgers famously said: “Running is a sport where everyone gets along.” A notable exception to that gentility was the 1967 race, when race director Jock Semple ran after Kathrine Switzer — the first woman to run with an official bib number — and tried unsuccessfully to pull her off the course. It also comes as the Boston Marathon and other big-city races are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic and looking for creative ways to keep runners engaged online. The BAA put on a virtual version of the marathon last year, after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to first postpone its usual April running to September, and then cancel in-person racing altogether. But that was limited to athletes who had already qualified to race or had registered as charity runners. This time, the first 70,000 people aged 18 or older who sign up and pay a fee will be able to earn a finisher's medal simply by covering the classic distance wherever they happen to be. They don't even need to run — they can walk. “For the first time in our history, most everyone will have the opportunity to earn a Unicorn finisher’s medal,” BAA president and CEO Tom Grilk said in a statement. Grilk said the in-person race, if it comes off as scheduled on Oct. 11, will have a reduced field to help keep athletes and spectators safe. Typically the Boston field is capped at around 30,000; the BAA hasn't said how much smaller it will be this autumn. Josh Sitzer, a San Francisco runner who's qualified for the Boston Marathon three times, initially was among those who trashed the idea of giving out 70,000 medals as “a blatant money grab.” “Respect yourself and the game. Don’t do Boston unless you earn it,” he tweeted. Then he had a change of heart, tweeting: “I was wrong. It's not the same as the actual Boston Marathon, and it doesn't devalue” the experience of those who meet strict qualifying standards for a chance to line up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. It's been a bad look, acknowledges Erin Strout, who covers the sport for WomensRunning.com. “If there ever was a time to put our elitism and cynicism aside, it’s now,” she wrote in an opinion piece. “Let’s welcome each other in, cheer each other on, and seize the opportunity to bring back running bigger, better, and more inclusive than it was before.” ___ This story has been corrected to delete a reference to a $70 entry fee for the virtual marathon; organizers say they haven't yet decided on entry fees. ___ Follow AP New England editor Bill Kole on Twitter at http://twitter.com/billkole. William J. Kole, The Associated Press
Town of Cardston Council is currently drafting a tax-exemption bylaw to “encourage redevelopment and new development of non-residential properties within the Town” (Draft Bylaw 1695). Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Shaw sheds light on Cardston’s decision in a recent interview with The Temple City Star. “Prior to 2019 the legislation was written to only allow deferral or cancelation of taxes,” he states “and only if it was equitable”. On release of Bill 7 in 2019, Kaycee Madu, who was the Minister of Municipal Affairs, stated that the new bill would “allow municipalities… to offer a wide range of property tax incentives for non-residential properties for the purposes of attracting and retaining economic development.” Shaw says that at first, there was a general feeling around the council table to be cautious and observe how the bill would be applied across the province, rather than being the first community to dive in. Lucky for them, other municipalities in the province were willing to go first, and Cardston has been able to model their draft bylaw after the Town of Edson’s. Other tax incentive bylaws initiated by municipalities in the region last year include Cardston County and the Town of Fort Macleod. Though each of the bylaws were created for a similar purpose, they look different in both the requirements of the applicants and the incentive offered by the municipality. Cardston’s draft bylaw requires that a business’s investment (addition, expansion or renovation) increase the property value by at least 25%. This differs from Fort Macleod’s bylaw which requires a minimum $50, 000 investment into the property, and also from Cardston County’s bylaw which uses a variable incentive that decreases the taxation percentage as the investment by the business into the property increases. Cardston’s draft also reflects Edson’s choice to not require an application fee, which differs from Cardston County which requires a $500 fee, and Fort Macleod which requires a $100 fee. The incentive offered by each municipality is unique. Cardston’s draft bylaw offers a reduction of taxes over the first five years. This starts with a 100% reduction in taxes for the first year, which declines by 20% with each consecutive year. Edson’s bylaw reduces taxes by 100% for the first two years, and decreases the reduction by 25% each year for three more years. Fort Macleod’s bylaw offers a 100% reduction for the first year, with the reduction decreasing by 25% for the following two years. Cardston County, however, offer the same incentive each year for four years based on the investment Any bylaw draft presented to council requires three readings before coming into effect. This means the council looks at the draft, makes any amendments they see fit, and votes with a majority in favour of the bylaw a total of three times. The first reading of the Non-residential Property Tax Incentive Bylaw in Cardston was moved by Councillor Bengry on November 10th, and passed unanimously. During this meeting council asked administration to get feedback on the draft bylaw from both the Economic Development committee and the Chamber of Commerce. The second reading was moved by Councillor Selk on February 23rd and, again, was passed unanimously. Conversation at the more recent meeting involved recommendations that had been received in discussions with a legal representative. Questions the council is still considering before passing the bylaw include whether or not the tax reduction would begin upon approval of the application, on commencement of construction, or completion of construction. Most other municipalities seem to be requiring that improvements be completed before the tax exemption begins, whereas Cardston’s lawyer advised that a business may be more motivated to initiate development if the tax exemption comes into effect when the application is approved. Shaw says that the town hopes this tax reprise will allow business owners doing new builds “to be able to focus on the financing of a new space… during those initial construction years. Also, existing businesses will be enabled to “turn over low assessment properties sitting idle into newer more modern structures, and allow them to get cash flowing before they have to face the full tax burden”. Pandemic timing could be ideal for this bylaw introduction as many businesses are focusing on renovations while their doors have to remain closed anyways. If businesses start construction now, they will have tax relief over the next five years as the economy starts to boom again and the vaccine allows for more community interaction and local spending. Council will likely debate further on the draft later in March and the bylaw could be in effect by April. So, if your business could use a facelift this spring, keep an eye out for the opportunity to get a break from your taxes and focus on the bricks and mortar. Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
A group of Indigenous youth called on supporters to block a Vancouver intersection leading to the port in protest of an elder who was sentenced to 90 days in jail for anti-pipeline actions in 2019. For most of the day March 3, the police held off traffic around the intersection of Hastings St. and Clark Drive in east Vancouver where police say 43,000 vehicles pass through daily. But in the evening they moved in to disband the blockade, arresting four adults for mischief and intimidation by blocking a roadway, both criminal offences, according to a police spokesperson. Those arrested were released that night under orders to appear in court. The blockade, organized by a group called the Braided Warriors, was peaceful. There were elders, youth, and many non-Indigenous supporters gathered in the intersection. People were sitting on blankets reading, chatting in small groups, all wearing masks. A sacred fire was lit in the centre of the intersection, and people sat around it in picnic chairs. The mood was peaceful and somber, punctuated occasionally with songs and chants. RELATED: Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester RELATED: A dozen faith-based protestors blockade Burnaby Trans Mountain site in prayer The Braided Warriors shared on social media that they were there in solidarity with elder Stacy Gallagher who had been sentenced the night before to 90 days in prison. A police spokesman says the group marched from the courthouse to the East Vancouver intersection late Tuesday following the sentencing. The Braided Warriors shared an update mid-Wednesday that Gallagher was released on bail, but the blockade continued until VPD moved in. After police broke up the blockade, the protest moved to the nearby jail as they awaited the release of the four who were arrested. RELATED: Arrests at anti-pipeline protest call Vancouver police actions into question In February the Braided Warriors coordinated a protest in the lobbies of two insurance companies who are backing the Trans Mountain Pipeline Extension. That protest went on for three days before being disbanded by police on Feb. 19, where four people were arrested. Arrests at that time are under investigation for allegations of aggression and violence. The Braided Warriors said they would file complaints with the UN Human Rights Tribunal with regards to the treatment from police. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Efforts to ban applying Kentucky's death penalty to some people with severe mental illnesses ran into resistance Thursday, but the bill mustered just enough votes to be sent to the full state Senate. The measure was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-4 vote, leaving it potentially one step away from being sent to the governor. But that final hurdle could be a formidable one in the Senate after the bill won 75-16 House passage this week. Republicans control both chambers. Afterward, the committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, said the bill’s prospects in the Senate appeared to be “dimmer.” Westerfield, who supports the bill, put its chances of passing the Senate at “50-50,” adding: “I’m not as confident as I once was.” The measure would block use of the death penalty for people who, at the time of the offence, have a documented history of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or delusional disorder. “This is not, despite all the rhetoric we’ve been hearing, going to do away with the death penalty," said Republican Rep. Chad McCoy, the bill's lead sponsor. "It is a very, very narrow bill.” The bill reflects a long-running goal of mental health advocates in Kentucky. The measure drew opposition from prosecutors Thursday. Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron objected to the bill's reference to a person's documented history of disorders. He said it's too “loose a term” that would cause more legal disputes in cases that already can drag on for years. The bill's critics worry that a decades-old diagnosis could prevent that person from being held accountable for a heinous crime later in life. Disorders listed in the bill are seen frequently in criminal cases, and defence attorneys could try to have the proposal applied to existing death row cases if the measure became law, Cohron said. “The odds of this not being challenged and litigated retroactively is zero,” he said. McCoy insisted the bill applies only apply to future cases where the death penalty might be considered. “I don’t think we could be more clear on the retroactivity,” McCoy told the committee. Offenders with a history of such disorders would still face severe punishment if the bill became law, he said. “This is not a decision of whether somebody’s not going to be tried or not going to be punished,” McCoy said. “They’re still going to get life in prison without parole.” ___ The legislation is House Bill 148. Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley is asking Premier Jason Kenney to launch a public inquiry into a deadly outbreak of COVID-19 at a Red Deer slaughterhouse, delay the meat-packing plant's reopening and compensate its employees during the closure. The Olymel plant, which had been closed since Feb. 15, confirmed Wednesday that it planned to reopen for slaughter operations on Thursday and resume cutting room operations on Friday. The news of the reopening came on the same day that a third worker's death had been linked to the outbreak. According to the union representing workers at the plant, that makes a total of four deaths — including a woman in her 60s previously linked to the outbreak — but the government has yet to confirm that total. The outbreak has been linked to 511 COVID-19 cases, including 91 that are still active. Speaking from Calgary's McDougall Centre on Thursday morning, Notley asked the provincial government to keep the plant closed until safety measures requested by the union are met and employees feel safe going back to work. Opposition, union want inquiry "With 500 infections and three deaths, [safety measures were] not adequate before," Notley said. "I can only imagine the grief and the stress that they are experiencing as a result." The union said it supports the NDP's call for a public inquiry, while Olymel said earlier this month that it has improved health and safety measures. The Alberta government also confirmed to CBC News on Wednesday that Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) had toured the facility on Monday, and again with Alberta Health Services and the union on Tuesday. In an email, a spokesperson with Alberta's labour and immigration ministry said OHS had inspected the facility 14 times since Nov. 17, adding that AHS had also visited the facility several times. The spokesperson argued the Opposition's calls for a public inquiry were politically motivated. "It is disappointing — but not entirely surprising — that the Notley NDP continues to play politics with a global pandemic that has tragically taken the lives of over 22,000 Canadians and over 2.5 million worldwide," the spokesperson said. Deaths linked to outbreak The Olymel outbreak was first declared on Nov. 17, 2020, and the first death linked to the plant's outbreak happened on Jan. 28. Darwin Doloque, a 35-year-old permanent resident who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines was found dead in his home. Darwin Doloque, 35, died of COVID-19 on Jan. 28 after contracting the virus in an outbreak linked to his work at the Olymel slaughterhouse in Red Deer, Alta. (GoFundMe) His death was followed on Feb. 24 by that of Henry De Leon, a 50-year-old who immigrated from the Dominican Republic and had worked at the plant for 15 years. He left behind a wife, two adult children and three grandchildren. The third worker's identity has not yet been made public, nor has the identity of the woman in her 60s who died. It has not been disclosed how she was linked to the outbreak. Notley said Thursday the NDP is aware of three Olymel workers who are currently in intensive care. In an interview with CBC News on Thursday after the news conference, Thomas Hesse, the president of UFCW Local 401 — the union representing the workers — said he is hearing reports about people linked to the plant who are "gravely ill." "We are very, very, very worried that we are going to see more loss of human life in the coming days," he said. Accountability, compensation Notley said that outbreaks have occurred in meatpacking plants across the country since the pandemic started, but shutdowns occurred sooner in other provinces. She called for an immediate public inquiry to understand the Olymel plant's handling of the outbreak. "We need to hold those responsible accountable," Notley said. "I fear that instead we are doing nothing, or very little." For his part, Hesse said his feelings about the reopening mirror those of the the plant's employees who are scared, confused and grieving. "Moves to reopen the plant have to be seen through that perspective; there's a lot of insensitivity here," he said. Some of the union's recommended changes had been adopted by the plant, Hesse said. But according to Hesse, neither public health nor Olymel officials have spoken to any employees at the plant about the plant's safety conditions, or how they feel about their workplace. Thomas Hesse, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers 401(Submitted by UFCW 401) "Our legal system is based on talking to witnesses, and they haven't talked to any of the actual witnesses to the functioning of this workplace, or the risks that are built into [it]," Hesse said. He would have liked to have seen employees interviewed about the plant's safety, and corrections made in accordance with their feedback, before having those employees report back on their implementation. In the absence of this, Hesse said he agrees with the request for a public inquiry. "Alberta Health Services, government agencies that are involved here — they're spending Alberta taxpayer's money. I mean, taxpayers fund those agencies, those agencies have a responsibility … and by all indicators, they're doing little or nothing to save lives and protect these workers." The NDP's request to delay the plant's reopening came with an acknowledgement from Notley that the slowdown or shutdown of meat plants jeopardize livelihood of employees. She asked the provincial government to compensate workers for lost wages. "It is not something that needs to be provided by workers literally being compelled to put their lives at risk," Notley said. "That is an immoral choice." Company says it has worked with AHS According to Alberta Pork, 40,000 to 50,000 pigs go through the Red Deer facility each week. Last month, it was reported that the temporary closure of the Olymel pork processing plant due to COVID-19 left hog farmers scrambling to find somewhere to take their animals. On Wednesday, Olymel defended plans to reopen Thursday, saying it had used the temporary closure to update and reinforce health and safety measures at the plant. "Reopening can occur because Olymel management and the regulators are satisfied that employees can return to the plant safely," said spokesperson Richard Vigneault. "Alberta Health Services authorities have however specified that the coronavirus is still spreading and that everyone is at risk of contracting it, whether in the community or otherwise. Accordingly, they recommend the utmost vigilance." A sign outside the Olymel pork plant in Red Deer, Alta., thanks the company's essential employees. It will reopen on Thursday, after being closed since Feb. 15 due to a COVID-19 outbreak.(CBC News) The company said teams from Alberta Health Services, Occupational Health and Safety, and Environmental Public Health visited the facility on March 1 and 3. AHS made several recommendations at that time. The company said it had added staff to monitor and enforce health and safety measures, and "further adjusted and enhanced" social distancing protocols, particularly when it came to adding physical space. Health and safety meetings between management and union representatives are scheduled on a daily basis, the company said. Safety recommendations made The Alberta government confirmed to CBC News that it will continue to oversee health measures at the plant. "OHS continues to monitor Olymel to ensure safety protocols and measures continue to be used to limit the spread of COVID-19," Joseph Dow said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. According to Dow, AHS made safety recommendations to be implemented before the plant's reopening. The measures recommended by AHS included: Implement capacity limits in lockers rooms and washrooms. Remove reusable dishes in break rooms. Enhance cleaning/disinfecting schedules of washrooms, break rooms and locker rooms. Add more hand-sanitizing stations throughout. Increase education plan for staff, including staff training sessions, posters and other visuals.
SAO PAULO — Three Brazilian states have halted their professional soccer local leagues due to a spike in hospitalizations and deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The state government of Ceará, in northeastern Brazil, on Thursday ordered the local league to stop playing, but is still allowing its clubs to take part in the Brazilian Cup. The soccer bodies in Paraná and Santa Catarina, both in the country's south, also suspended their leagues. Almost 260,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, whose death toll is second only to the United States. Many Brazilian governors expect the next two weeks to be the deadliest in the South American nation since the pandemic hit one year ago. A handful of coaches and players have started a public debate on whether soccer should be stopped all together. Lisca, the coach of recently promoted America, was the most vocal proponent for a suspension of play. “I am appealing to the Brazilian FA to give the Brazilian Cup a break so we can postpone these matches for a little time,” Lisca said after his team's 1-0 win over Athletic in the local state championship on Wednesday. “I am losing friends. I know that soccer is entertainment, and it is important for people at home. But our lives are more important, we are not super heroes.” Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi disagreed in a news conference Wednesday night, saying tests and constant medical follow-ups make the sport very safe to play. “Also, we are doing people a favour because when we play it is another reason for fans to stay home,” Portaluppi said. Portaluppi is a friend of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has long downplayed the risks of the virus. On Tuesday, Sao Paulo-based Corinthians said eight players had tested positive one day before its local league derby against rivals Palmeiras, which requested the game to be postponed. The match went ahead anyway and ended in a 2-2 draw. Brazil halted all professional soccer in March 2020, with training sessions resuming in some states in May. The main national championship, which traditionally begins in May, started in August and finished in February with Flamengo defending its title. Brazil's soccer confederation has not commented on the renewed requests for games to be suspended. Bolsonaro is against any form of lockdown and is pushing for fans to return to games. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press