With Texas under a disaster declaration, a winter storm blanketed much of the state in snow and wind chill warnings were issued, possibly for the first time ever in some parts.
With Texas under a disaster declaration, a winter storm blanketed much of the state in snow and wind chill warnings were issued, possibly for the first time ever in some parts.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
(Doug Husby/CBC - image credit) A B.C.'s babysitter's conviction in the 2011 death of a toddler may have been the result of a miscarriage of justice, according to a special prosecutor appointed by the province. Tammy Bouvette's Charter rights may have been breached by the non-disclosure of documents rejecting a medical examiner's conclusion that the injuries to 19-month-old Iyanna Teeple were intentional, Vancouver defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford has found. "There is a strong case to be made that Ms. Bouvette did not receive disclosure of significant, relevant materials," a news release from the B.C. Prosecution Service states. "Her conviction may, accordingly, represent a miscarriage of justice." Sandford has recommended that the case undergo an appeal to determine what happened. Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder in the toddler's death, but pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in order to avoid an automatic life sentence and was sentenced to a year in prison with credit for time served in 2013. The charges stem from May 2011, when Bouvette was caring for Iyanna in a Cranbrook home. She found the little girl unresponsive in a bathtub and called 911. Iyanna was airlifted to Calgary for treatment, but she could not be saved. Iyanna was found face down in a bathtub on May 26, 2011, while being babysat by Bouvette, who was 28 at the time. Last year, a retired B.C. Mountie told CBC's The Fifth Estate that investigators originally considered the death a tragic accident. Bouvette told police that she had left the child to attend to a spill in another room. But medical examiner Dr. Evan Matshes told prosecutors there was "no benign" explanation for some of the injuries on the toddler's body and identified bruising that was "typical of child abuse," according to court documents obtained by CBC. 'Unreasonable' conclusions about injuries An investigation by The Fifth Estate found that three forensic pathologists were later asked to review the autopsy in response to concerns about some of Matshes's other findings. The panel of medical experts stated in their report that the comments Matshes made to the prosecutor about "intentional injuries" on the body and prior abuse were "unreasonable." Bouvette's lawyer, Jesse Gelber, has said he never received a copy of that review. By law, prosecutors must provide defence counsel with all relevant documents in a criminal case. In an interview last year, Bouvette told CBC that the conviction has had a profound effect on her life, and she cannot forgive anyone responsible for withholding potentially exonerating material. "I am not a baby-killer.… People just look at me differently like I was some type of monster and I'm not," she said. "I'm a loving person and a loving mom." Sandford was appointed to review the case in January 2020 in response to CBC's inquiries about the apparent lack of disclosure in the case. She has now recommended that Bouvette's legal team be provided with all of the evidence uncovered during her investigation. The prosecution service says that if Bouvette applies to the B.C. Court of Appeal for an extension to file an appeal and the right to file fresh evidence, the Crown will not oppose those applications.
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La santé publique de l’Ontario rapporte, dans son plus récent bilan publié jeudi matin, plus de 1100 infections à la COVID-19 répertoriées la veille. Mercredi, 1138 Ontariens ont reçu un diagnostic positif à la COVID-19, portant le total à 297 311 cas depuis le début de la crise sanitaire. Parmi les cas, 449 ont été répertoriés comme variants du Royaume-Uni, 11 de l’Afrique du Sud et deux du Brésil, jusqu’à présent. La province déplore 23 nouveaux décès causés par le virus survenus au cours de la journée de mercredi. En tout, la COVID-19 a emporté 6916 Ontariens. Foyers de soins de longue durée Parmi ceux-ci, 3742 étaient des résidents de foyers de soins de longue durée (FSLD), et 11 travaillaient dans ces établissements. Mercredi, trois résidents de FSLD ont perdu la vie en raison du virus. La même journée, 687 personnes atteintes du coronavirus étaient hospitalisées, dont 283 aux soins intensifs. Parmi ces derniers, 182 patients étaient sous respirateur. Mercredi, 19 112 Ontariens ont roulé leur manche pour recevoir une dose du vaccin contre la COVID-19. On compte 255 449 pour qui la vaccination est terminée, ce qui signifie que ces individus ont reçu leurs deux doses jugées nécessaires pour être immunisés contre le virus. En tout, 621 112 doses du vaccin ont été administrées en Ontario. Cela représente environ 2,47% de la population ayant reçu au moins une dose. Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. Grand Chief Garrison Settee wants to see more First Nations health experts on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). On Wednesday, Settee wrote a letter to Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, to request Dr. Barry Lavallee, CEO of Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc. (KIM), be invited to take part in the NACI. He explained during a press conference that a First Nation representative from Northern Manitoba would provide great value to the important work of NACI to strengthen fairness and substantive equity in setting guidelines. “I always felt decisions being made on behalf of First Nations are always done by people that don’t know the geographical locations of these First Nations, they don’t know the demographic, their situations and they make these decisions,” said Settee on Thursday. “It is better to have First Nations people on the committee so then these decisions would be done in a way that is supportive of First Nation’s culture and community values as well as to make sure it is done in a way that is satisfactory to the people.” In the letter, Settee wrote having a First Nations representative on the committee will also help to advance the federal government’s reconciliation strategies, address the gaps in developing Indigenous health legislation, and work towards addressing anti-Indigenous racism in health care. Settee concluded the letter saying that he wanted to partner with Tam to ensure Manitoba First Nations people are prioritized and protected during the pandemic. “Throughout our history with government entities, many if not all decisions were made with the exclusion of Indigenous expertise in that conversation. At times, those decisions have been detrimental,” he said. “I think we have reached a point in time where we have enough expertise in our Indigenous communities that can offer guidance and advice that could allow First Nations to have access to the proper medical care.” The Grand Chief has written a letter to Manitoba’s Premier as well to express the need for collaboration on strategies with the MKO to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Strategies to address the COVID-19 outbreaks in Northern Manitoba could include plans for vaccine distribution, including improved communication to First Nations about when they can expect to receive their vaccines. “While our provincial partners have made assurances to be transparent to First Nations, offering better communication of current and anticipated vaccine supplies for both First Nations and Manitoba, MKO will continue to work closely with the provincial government and hold them accountable regarding the vaccine rollout,” said Settee. Recently, public health officials have announced that appointments can now be made to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations for First Nation people aged 75 years or older. Planning is underway for the second phase of the expanding First Nation vaccine rollout, with First Nations being engaged to review options for surge capacity. “Access to the COVID-19 vaccines remains top of mind as we near the one-year anniversary of living with the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Michael Routledge, medical advisor to MKO and KIM. “We encourage everyone to become informed about the vaccine and to strongly consider accepting your vaccine once you become eligible. Although there is evidence that case numbers in Northern Manitoba are starting to improve, it is important for everyone to follow public health recommendations to prevent new outbreaks.” — Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as the province's pandemic indicators continue to improve. A set of proposed changes released Thursday includes doubling capacity limits in stores and restaurants, as well as for personal services, to 50 per cent. Seating at restaurant tables would still be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services could operate at 25 per cent capacity instead of the current 10 per cent. Indoor arcades and outdoor amusement parks could reopen with capacity limits. The few facilities that would have to remain closed include theatres, concert halls and casinos. The cap on outdoor gatherings would rise to 10 people from five. And instead of households being permitted to only designate two people as visitors, the province could allow two-household bubbles so entire families could get together. "Manitoba's case numbers, test positivity rate (and) health-care-system admission rates continue to trend in the right direction, which allows us to consider reopening more services cautiously and safely," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer. The proposed changes could take effect as early as March 5 and are subject to public feedback before any final decisions are made, he said. Changes could also be phased in. Health officials reported 70 new COVID-19 cases and one death Thursday. Three cases from unspecified dates were removed due to data correction for a net increase of 67. The province's case count has dropped sharply since a severe spike in the fall when Manitoba led all the provinces in the per-capita rate of new infections. The strain on intensive care units has eased and the test positivity rate has dropped from 13 per cent to 4.3. The proposed changes could also mean big shifts for sports enthusiasts and players of video lottery terminals. VLTs would be allowed to operate again as long as they were two metres apart or separated by physical barriers. Indoor gyms and fitness facilities could offer group classes again, although with a 25 per cent capacity limit. Roussin said there is a risk in such indoor settings. "There is risk involved with all these things and we're weighing the benefit ... to having businesses open, the benefit for people (of) physical activity," he said. "It's very cautious and 25 per cent capacity, I think, gives us that ability to have people spaced out quite a bit." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — As Quebec began booking appointments Thursday for its expanded COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the province's health minister said he's in favour of vaccine passports for those who have been fully inoculated. Christian Dube was asked at a news conference whether such passports could be used to allow access to entertainment venues or restaurants. He said yes, drawing a parallel to the time of the H1N1 flu when people were required to provide proof of vaccination before boarding flights. "We're in digital world, I do not see why we could not have a QR code, like on a boarding pass when we fly," Dube said. “For me, a digital vaccine passport is normal, and we have teams that are looking into it." He said he has heard from businesses that would like to be able to check for proof of vaccination before letting people in. The notion of vaccine passports has been debated around the world as vaccinations have increased, but it has also raised ethical issues about possible discrimination. Quebec solidaire member of the legislature Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois criticized Dube's response and urged the government to tread carefully. “The potentially discriminatory effects of a 'vaccination passport' are considerable," Nadeau-Dubois wrote on Twitter. "It's not just about taking a plane or dining out, serious questions arise about access to housing, the right to work, to name just these two examples.” Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, said he would not want such a passport to be seen as a free pass. “One of the dangers is that we say we’re vaccinated and we end up in a free-for-all,” Arruda said. "We know it'll protect you, it'll decrease your risk of complications, but it won't necessarily stop transmission to someone else." So far, only about four per cent of Quebecers have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Dube said Moderna has confirmed a shipment for March and the province expects to receive 700,000 doses in total, so it will be able to begin providing second doses as of March 15, falling within the 90-day limit the government set out in January. Inoculation is set to ramp up next week with vaccinations for anyone 85 and up in the Montreal area beginning Monday and elsewhere on March 8. In the Montreal suburb of Laval, some people in the designated age group were already getting shots Thursday. Dube tweeted at the end of the day that close to 100,000 people had signed up for appointments on the first day, and he said there were just minor issues with the online platform and phone booking system. Also Thursday, Quebec announced it will require elementary school students in regions hardest hit by COVID-19 to wear masks when they return from next week's March break, as the cases of the more transmissible COVID-19 variants continue to rise. Across the province, the number of suspected cases of coronavirus variants jumped to 772, an increase of 170. The number of cases confirmed through sequencing increased to 34, including 30 of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom. Arruda said that during the fall, outbreaks were seen mostly in high schools. But since Christmas more cases are being detected in primary schools. The Health Department said students in Grades 1 to 6 will wear pediatric procedural masks at all times inside classrooms and on school transport in Quebec's red pandemic-alert zones, which include Montreal and Quebec City. The new health orders comes into effect March 8, when students return from break. The province will be providing masks to the students, as it has done since Jan. 18 in high schools, where masks are mandatory. In elementary schools, only students in Grades 5 and 6 were previously required to wear masks in class. Health officials said certain students with special needs will be exempt from the new health order, and it won't apply when children are outside playing. On Wednesday, Montreal's public health director said 40 per cent of cases linked to variants in Montreal involve children, with another 20 per cent involving people in their mid-30s to mid-40s, believed to be parents of young children. As of Wednesday, there were 2,403 active cases in schools and 907 closed classrooms across the province due to COVID-19. Twelve schools were listed as closed or partially closed. Meanwhile, Quebec reported 858 new COVID-19 cases and 16 more deaths attributed to the virus. Hospitalizations declined by 22 to 633 and there were eight fewer patients listed in intensive care, for a total of 122. Quebec has reported 285,330 confirmed cases and 10,361 deaths attributed to the virus, with 266,879 people listed as recovered. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
(NIAID/NIH via AP - image credit) Northern Alberta continues to see an increase in COVID-19 infections, with more than 1,000 active cases across the health zone. The province reported 399 new cases on Thursday, a slight decline from the day before, while hospitalization numbers dropped below 300 for the first time in many weeks. Alberta Health also reported another 32 new cases of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom. The province has now confirmed 348 cases of variant B117, and continues to have seven cases of B1351, first identified in South Africa. There were 4,484 active cases in the province, with 280 people were treated in hospitals for the illness, including 56 in ICU beds, according to the latest update released by Alberta Health. Another eight deaths were reported to Alberta Health over the last 24 hours, including four that dated back to January. The three most recent deaths, which happened during the past week, involved a man and a woman in their 40s and a woman in her 30s. The regional breakdown of active cases on Thursday was: Calgary zone: 1,510, a decline of 54 from the day before. North zone: 1,016, an increase of 74 from the day before. Edmonton zone: 897, a decline of 28 from the day before. Central zone: 737, a decline of 22 from the day before. South zone: 319, a decline of 34 from the day before. Unknown: five, an increase of three from the day before.
TORONTO — Proposed changes to Ontario's election laws introduced Thursday by the Progressive Conservatives were slammed by the Opposition as an attempt to silence critics amid mounting failures in the province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government said the election law reforms were aimed at limiting third-party advertising and boosting voter participation. Attorney General Doug Downey, who introduced the bill, said one of the proposed changes would extend the $637,200 spending limit placed on third-party advertisers from six months before an election to a year. “Ontario is the only place where we count third party in the millions (of dollars) instead of in the thousands,” he said in an interview. “And we've heard from Elections Ontario that they have concerns with that dynamic.” Third parties, such as the conservative group Ontario Proud and union-led Working Families Coalition, have played a significant role in recent provincial elections, launching extensive advertising campaigns in bids to sway the vote. The province said more than $5 million was spent by third-party advertisers before and during the 2018 election. The next provincial vote is set to take place in the spring of 2022. The bill also proposes to limit what the government calls “collusion” between those third parties and political parties. “We just want transparency and fairness,” Downey said. “When we talk with third parties spending their ($637,200), we want to make sure that there's rules around them sharing information, common vendors, common contributors, use of funds from foreign sources.” The amount individuals can donate to a party, candidate or constituency association would also double from $1,650 to $3,300 a year. New Democrat legislator Taras Natyshak slammed the proposed limits on third-party advertisers. “At a time when long-term care advocates, organizations of health leaders, and the families of nursing home residents are speaking up about the horrors in long-term care, it looks like Ford is trying to silence his critics,” he said in a statement. Natyshak said doubling the individual contribution limit will drag the government back to the days of "cash-for-access" fundraising. Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said while he supports some measures in the bill, like continuing the per-vote subsidy, increasing donation limits is a problem. "My biggest concern is that they're slowly opening the door back up to pay-to-play politics," he said. "How many regular Ontarians can afford to contribute that much to a candidate, constituency association and a party?" University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman said the rule changes on individual donations will benefit both the Progressive Conservative government and the Liberal party, but stressed they won’t be the sole factor in deciding the 2022 election. “When the current government came to power, defeating the Liberals wasn't because of money,” he said. “It was because people essentially wanted a change.” Wiseman said the new limits placed on third-party advertisers might be a way the government thinks it’s giving itself a leg up, but the groups will find ways to maximize their message. “This is changing things at the margins,” he said. “Most groups will just try to spend the money as close as they can to election day.” The bill also proposes to extend the number of advance polling days from five to 10. "Ultimately, we want to make it easier and safer for people to vote," Downey said. The legislation will, for the first time, clarify the use of social media accounts by provincial legislators. It will also give Elections Ontario more enforcement powers, and the ability to fine individuals or groups it deems to have violated election rules. Currently, the province's chief electoral officer must report infractions to the Ministry of the Attorney General, which then decides whether to prosecute. Downey said the change would align Ontario with federal practices. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version, based on information provided by the government, said the spending limit placed on third parties six months before an election was $600,000.
REGINA — Saskatchewan's top doctor says the presence of more contagious variants makes testing even more important to stem the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Saqib Shahab says the province needs to keep its daily cases low and people must follow public-health advice to try to prevent more infectious variants from taking over. "We need to use testing more, even more now, because of the variants of concern," he said during a briefing Thursday. The province says thousands of rapid-testing kits from Ottawa will be deployed into long-term care homes, schools, detox facilities, shelters, as well as to first responders. The province is also looking to hire a third-party provider to help any groups that may be unable to use the kits themselves. Shahab says some people have delayed getting tested and gone to work with symptoms, which has led to outbreaks. Testing will help the province's caseload decrease because tests can help break chains of transmission, he said. Cory Neudorf, a public health and epidemiology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said provinces are at a critical point in the pandemic. He said vaccine rollouts for the most vulnerable are in their early days and the risk is that variants could drive up spread before many older residents are immunized. Two weeks ago, the Saskatchewan Health Authority gave an update to physicians that included a discussion on community spread with some point-in-time modelling. A senior medical which warned that confirmed cases in the province could double to 50,000 by mid-April, if certain indicators didn't change, such as the reproductive figure for how many people one person with COVID-19 infects. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Thursday that calculation was based on an earlier case count. It said as of Feb. 20, the reproductive figure has been below one. That means case growth is less than it was when the town hall estimate was given. “It’s a slightly less possibility than it was a few weeks ago, but it’s still possible that we would be seeing a resurgence by mid-April. Whether or not it gets to 50,000 cases, I don’t know," Neudorf said. Neudorf does point out that caseloads have begun to stabilize and drop in the past few weeks in parts of the province, including around Saskatoon and in the south. The province on Thursday reported 211 new infections after only 56 on Wednesday — the lowest count in months. The total number of confirmed cases since the pandemic took hold last March sits at slightly over 28,000. Shahab said it's a positive sign that pressure on the health system has dropped. There were 165 people in hospital and 18 in intensive care Thursday. But Saskatchewan, with a population of 1.1 million, still reports having the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. It also has two cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom with no known links to travel. Shahab has said this is the third week in some time in which seven-day averages of new daily cases are below 200. He also said the province's test positivity rate is about seven per cent, down from 10. Still, health officials say more testing is needed because it's higher than five per cent. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — A special prosecutor says there may have been a miscarriage of justice when a babysitter was convicted of criminal negligence causing death in the drowning of a toddler in Cranbrook, B.C. Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge in the death of 19-month-old Iyanna Teeple, who was found unconscious and not breathing in a bathtub while under her care. The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. The service says in a statement Thursday that Sandford has completed her review and provided a written report, in which she says there is a strong case to be made that Bouvette did not receive disclosure of significant and relevant materials. The statement says Sandford concluded that as a result of that non-disclosure, Bouvette's charter rights may have been breached and her conviction may represent a miscarriage of justice. It says Sandford found a review by the B.C. Court of Appeal is desirable in order to determine whether a miscarriage of justice occurred, and she directed the prosecution service to provide Bouvette with copies of all materials collected in her investigation. The prosecution service says the Crown will not oppose Bouvette if she applies to the Appeal Court for a time extension to file an appeal of her conviction, nor if she applies to file fresh evidence based on any materials not previously disclosed to her. It says Sandford will continue as special prosecutor on the matter and has already taken steps to begin implementing her conclusions and recommendations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
There was one death related to COVID-19 reported by the province on Thursday. This death was in the 80 plus age group and was in the North West zone. The number of deaths in the province has risen to 380. There were 211 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province on Thursday. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported five new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 30 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 49 active cases and North Central 3 has 18 active cases. There are currently 174 people in hospital overall in the province. Of the 158 reported as receiving in patient care, there are 17 in North Central. Of the 16 people reported as being in intensive care, there is one in North Central. The current seven-day average 155, or 12.7 cases per 100,000 population. Of the 28,191 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 1,493 are considered active. The recovered number now sits at 26,318 after 142 more recoveries were reported. The total numbers of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 28,191 of those 7,288 cases are from the North area (2,943 North West, 3,213 North Central and 1,132 North East). There were 2,057 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered yesterday in Saskatchewan bringing the total number of vaccines administered in the province to 65,436. There were no doses administered in the North Central yesterday. Doses were administered in the adjacent North East zone, North West, Far North Central, Central East, South Central, South East, Regina and Saskatoon. On Feb. 23, an additional 16 doses were administered in the Far North West zone and an additional 18 doses were administered in the Central East zone. There were 3,104 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on Feb. 21. As of today there have been 568,314 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan. Under 20 active COVID-19 cases in youth in North Central On Thursday the province released the updated numbers on COVID-19 cases in youth. The total active cases in youth provincially in all locations are 300. Five have no known location and 295 have a location reported. The province releases the update on the numbers each Thursday. Currently in the North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, there are 17 active cases in youth. Last week there were 91 tests performed across the North Central zone. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has four active cases in youth. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 10 active cases and North Central 3 has three active cases. Cumulative tests performed since Sept. 7, 2020 in the North Central zone is 6,842. Provincially there is a 17.5 per cent test positivity rate in youth. There were 1,845 tests performed in total in the province in the last week. The cumulative number of tests performed since Sept. 7, 2020 is 76,105. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The fence outside of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School is decorated with colourful cardboard signs bearing messages of support for the school, which is closed amid an outbreak of COVID-19. The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board reported a new case of the virus at the west Mountain school on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases at the school to 10 — six students and four staff. “Obviously, it has been a difficult time,” chair Pat Daly said. “Our staff have been working with the principal and our health and safety staff and others to make sure that everything is being done to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff.” An outbreak was declared at St. Teresa of Avila on Feb. 17 after five positive cases were found. The school is closed as a result of the outbreak — a first in the Catholic board. In-person learning is expected to resume on Monday. COVID-19 testing was offered to all staff and students at St. Teresa of Avila on Saturday. The HWCDSB said 60 tests were conducted — 23 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests among those self-isolating and 37 rapid tests for other staff and students. The HWCDSB said all 37 rapid tests came back negative. As of Feb. 24, the board was still waiting on the PCR test results. The HWCDSB is “thoroughly” investigating the outbreak, Daly said in a Feb. 19 interview with The Spectator. Daly said on Thursday there is “nothing confirmed” to explain how transmission at the school occurred. The Catholic board has two additional outbreaks: St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in central Hamilton and St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School in east Hamilton — each with three outbreak-related cases. There is also an outbreak at the public board’s A.M. Cunningham Elementary School, where two students are infected. As of Wednesday, there had been a total of 78 cases — 37 in the Catholic board and 41 in the public board — since students returned to school on Feb. 8. “We definitely expect to see cases occurring in the schools, and there are going to be instances where there is transmission that happens within a school,” Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, said at a media briefing on Tuesday. “The key piece is to keep these absolutely to a minimum as we go forward.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
NEW YORK — Another mutated version of the coronavirus has popped up in New York City, and experts reacted to the the news with a mixture of caution and concern. The new variant first appeared in the New York area in late November, and has since cropped up in neighbouring states, according to researchers at the California Institute of Technology, one of two teams to share their work this week. But how problematic the variant may be isn’t known yet. Viruses are constantly mutating — or making typos in their genetic code — as they spread and make copies of themselves. “Most are not of particular concern,” said Francois Balloux, director of the University College London’s Genetics Institute. However, he added, “Noticing them early, flagging them, raising concern is useful." That's because some genetic tweaks can be worrisome, especially if they help the virus spread more easily, make it more deadly or curb the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists use genome sequencing and other research to figure out which are a potential problem. New York City health officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday sought to tamp down worries about the new variant, emphasizing that the new research is preliminary and little is known about the variant. “Some variants are just that, they’re variants.” said Dr. Jay Varma, senior health adviser to the mayor. WHAT DID THEY FIND IN NEW YORK? Two research groups — at Caltech and Columbia University in New York — released papers this week describing their findings about the new variant. Neither paper has been published or reviewed by other scientists. The Caltech researchers found that the new variant showed up in about a quarter of the 1,200 virus sequences they looked at this month. The variant has also shown up in New Jersey and Connecticut and has made “isolated appearances across the country,” said CalTech's Anthony West, a co-author of the paper. On Thursday, Columbia University researchers released their research that scrutinized about 1,100 virus samples from patients treated at the university's medical centre, dating back to November. During the second week of February, the new variant was identified in 12% of the samples, they reported. They also found patients infected with the mutated virus were more likely to be older and have been hospitalized. Both groups noted that the new variant has a mutation that could potentially weaken the effectiveness of vaccines — a mutation seen in other worrisome variants. “There is clearly something to keep an eye on,” Balloux said. HOW MANY OTHER VARIANTS ARE THERE? New variants have been showing up throughout the pandemic, but three are considered the most worrisome — they've been designated “variants of concern." They were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil but have spread to other countries. The one identified in the U.K. late last year has since been found in 45 U.S. states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain is concerning because it has so many mutations, nearly two dozen. Some are on the spiky protein that the virus uses to attach to and infect cells — and that current vaccines and antibody drugs target. One of the spike protein mutations is seen in the variants discovered early on in Brazil and South Africa, and, now, the new variant in New York. A variant that has been spreading in California is also getting attention. It's been found in 40% to 50% of samples examined by the Los Angeles Count Department of Public Health, according to Director Barbara Ferrer. But there isn't enough rigorous research to determine what, if any, effect its mutations might have. WHAT'S NEXT? After what many described as a slow start, the federal government in recent weeks has ramped up its genetic sequencing to look for and study virus variants to figure out which ones might be a problem. In the meantime, Ana S. Gonzalez Reiche, a virologist at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, urged caution. “Without evidence, we don’t need to alarm ourselves about every variant detected,” she said. Studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don’t work as well against a variant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions. In response, drug companies are already figuring out how to modify their vaccines. Experts say that in the meantime, public health measures like social distancing and masks will reduce opportunities for the coronavirus to continue mutating and run rampant. “Emerging of variants will occur," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC on Thursday. "The trick is when they do occur, to prevent them from spreading.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marion Renault, The Associated Press
The City of Terrace is reaching out to the Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson in the wake of councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller’s resignation and allegations of systemic racism. At a Feb. 25 committee of the whole meeting, councillors unanimously agreed to direct staff to review its current policies and pursue an independent review by the ombudsperson’s office, which investigates complaints about public agencies in B.C. Should the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson decline the invitation, city staff have the flexibility to look into other bodies to conduct an independent review. “We unfortunately live in a society where systemic racism exists, accusations of systemic racism need to be taken very seriously, I think that having a conversation about systemic racism and the ways we can all improve and work towards diversity is important and timely,” said councillor Sean Bujtas during the meeting. McCallum-Miller, the youngest and first Indigenous councillor in Terrace’s history, resigned on Feb. 22. She said in a Facebook post that she questioned whether truth and reconciliation was a priority for council. “It is my personal belief that systemic and internalized racism as well as sexism had played a role in the inability of my colleagues to respect and understand my personal and diverse perspectives,” McCallum-Miller said in the post which was addressed to the City of Terrace. In the post, McCallum-Miller said she attempted to have council partake in cultural awareness training twice, and felt unheard and spoken over. Carol Leclerc, Terrace mayor, said during the committee of the whole meeting that council voted unanimously to partake in cultural education training from the Kitimaat Valley Education Society, which operates the Kitimat Valley Institute (KVI) on March 9, 2020 but that the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the session. “Right after that, COVID came, we did not know how long COVID was going to be, we wanted to do this face-to-face so we thought we would just hold off on our cultural awareness training and it wasn’t able to take place,” she said. In January 2021, councillor James Cordeiro proposed the training again and staff arranged for council to take Diversity and Inclusion virtually through KVI on March 18. Diversity and Inclusion is a six hour workshop with an instructor using the Microsoft Teams platform. “It wasn’t long after that councillor McCallum-Miller decided that she would like to put out to the rest of council that it be a Tsimshian cultural training session and there was some discussion that happened over email about the notice of motion that was going to come to our Monday meeting on February 22,” Leclerc said. “Unfortunately councillor McCallum-Miller brought in her letter of resignation on February 22 and the notice of motion for the Tsimshian portion did not reach the council table at that time.” Terrace council is committed to participating in cultural education training on March 18 with the Kitimaat Valley Education Society if the time slot is still available. Leclerc said she has reached out to Kitselas First Nation Chief Councillor Judy Gerow and Kitsumkalum First Nation Chief Councillor Don Roberts about McCallum-Miller’s resignation. City staff are working with Saša Loggin, project director at the Skeena Diversity Society, part of the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network, to bring a presentation to council at an upcoming meeting. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responded to an auditor general report from earlier in the day that stated AG Karen Hogan was "very concerned and disheartened" that the Liberal government was unable to meet its commitment to ending all boil water advisories for Indigenous communities. Miller accepted the AG's recommendations and went over the water advisories that have been lifted, as well as the finances secured to work ahead to end all the advisories.
Dysart et al council expressed concerns with a Places for People proposal to turn Lakeview Motel into a new affordable housing development. City of Kawartha Lakes (CKL) housing program supervisor, Michelle Corley, presented to council Feb. 23 about the proposal to rehabilitate the motel into 15 affordable housing units, including 12 bachelor suites. As part of the CKL-Haliburton affordable housing program, Corley sought approximately $45,268 from Dysart in waived building fees and exemptions. But council delayed approval for staff to review the plan further. Mayor Andrea Roberts said they only have about $10,000 that could be used for affordable housing in the 2021 budget under economic development. “Very large contribution. We don’t have any reserves for that,” Roberts said. The proposal is part of an overarching Affordable Housing Target Program, spurring development with government incentives. Corley said the project is also contingent on a $150,000 interest-free forgivable loan from the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative. The project is separate from an affordable build Places for People is also proposing on Wallings Road municipal land, which Dysart council provided in-principal support for. Coun. John Smith said the Wallings Road project is more aligned with the municipal vision. He said he takes issue with converting the motel, given the need for summer tourism accommodations. “I struggle with, on a conceptual level, how this really advances the wellbeing of our community,” Smith said. Roberts said they cannot get into that philosophy and council’s responsibility is to examine what Dysart’s contribution should be. The Lakeview Motel went on the market in November, with its owners planning to retire. Coun. Larry Clarke said he was concerned about whether the development would provide for locals versus being taken up by people from outside the community through the housing program, which has a waiting list with both County and CKL residents. “To have it targeted for people looking for affordable housing, that are not going to be part of our economy here, to me is a concern,” Clarke said. Corley said people on the waiting list often choose communities they are familiar with, but it is not a guarantee. She further said council should keep in mind they plan to have a quarterly intake, with more projects to come. The County aims to create 750 new affordable units within the next 10 years. “We are really trying to work hard toward meeting and achieving these targets,” she said. “There’s the hope we can eventually have a plan within budgets or other planning and development policies that when it comes to affordable housing, there’s kind of a clear standard on what incentives could be offered.” Roberts said she wants to get clarification from staff around the equivalent residential unit (ERU) calculation. The development is requesting an exemption for adding seven additional ERUs, amounting to $32,900. Council voted to receive the report. Roberts asked staff to bring it back to the next committee of the whole meeting March 9. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A former Canadian soldier who killed three family members and himself in 2017 received sporadic mental health treatment immediately after he left the military in 2015, a fatality inquiry heard Thursday. The provincial inquiry in Nova Scotia learned the Canadian Armed Forces had arranged for therapy to continue for Lionel Desmond after he was medically discharged. But the lack of structure outside the military created new challenges for the mentally ill veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Psychologist Mathieu Murgatroyd, who worked at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, was tasked with providing the former corporal with treatment from June 2015 to October 2016. The psychologist said there were problems from the start because Desmond, then 32, often cancelled appointments or didn't show up. Plans for therapy were derailed by the fact that Desmond spent much of his time travelling between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where he was trying to re-establish a relationship with his wife, Shanna, and his young daughter, Aaliyah. "In terms of commitment and engagement, it was interfering with the therapy process," Murgatroyd testified. "We were concerned with this inconsistency." Murgatroyd said it was clear Desmond needed help. In 2011, while posted to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. That was four years after he served as a rifleman during a particularly violent tour of duty in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, mental health professionals contracted by the military told the inquiry that Desmond initially responded well to treatment, but that he suffered a relapse in May 2013 when military colleagues subjected him to racist comments about his African Nova Scotian heritage. Murgatroyd testified that Desmond appeared guarded and distant when they first met in June 2015 at the federally funded clinic, which receives referrals from the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and the RCMP. "Based on his presentation, the risk was more elevated in terms of spiralling down," Murgatroyd said. As well, he said Desmond made it clear his relationship with his wife, Shanna, was in turmoil. "There were moments when they seemed to be doing better, but for the most part, strained," he said, adding that Desmond had increased his alcohol consumption to deal with stress. Murgatroyd recalled that during their first treatment session, Desmond complained about nightmares, night sweats, daily intrusive thoughts, disturbed sleep, chronic pain and "homicidal thoughts without intent." "He hardly gets out of his house because of his paranoia," Murgatroyd noted after an early therapy session in 2015. Desmond said he had suffered a number of head injuries while serving in the military, and that he worried about a possible brain injury. The inquiry has heard the former corporal did not disclose this concern while he was in the military. Though Desmond was under Murgatroyd's care for 16 months, the psychologist said his therapeutic plan never got off the ground. "We were just putting out fires rather than working on any real intervention," he said. He said it appeared Desmond's source of psychological distress eventually shifted from his combat-related PTSD symptoms to an angry "fixation" with his wife's handling of their finances and concerns that she may be cheating on him. Murgatroyd said Desmond told him about gruesome nightmares he had that suggested his wife had been sleeping with another man, whose head was later found on the floor. The psychologist agreed when asked if Desmond's dreams were having an impact on his perception of reality. Murgatroyd said that helped explain why Desmond would later revoke his consent to allow the clinic to share information with his wife. Eventually, staff at the clinic decided therapy for Desmond wasn't an option until he was properly stabilized. They recommended he should take part in an intensive treatment program at Ste. Anne's hospital in Montreal, which has an in-patient operational stress injury clinic. By April 2016, Desmond had agreed to go to Ste. Anne's, having recognized that his relationship with his wife was deteriorating amid talk of divorce, Murgatroyd said. The following month, Desmond reached "an all-time low," Murgatroyd said, adding that his patient was distressed about the state of his finances and the idea his wife was manipulative and could not be trusted. "With things spiralling down, he was looking for help." Desmond arrived at St. Anne's on May 30, 2016, but he left less than three months into a six-month program, even though he had reported he was enjoying his stay there, Murgatroyd said. The inquiry has heard that Desmond returned home to Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., in August 2016. Evidence presented to the inquiry has shown Desmond received no therapeutic treatment for the next four months, even though Murgatroyd and Veterans Affairs Canada were making arrangements for treatment in Nova Scotia. Staff at Ste. Anne's had recommended Desmond receive an in-depth neuro-psychological assessment and more treatment, but that never happened. On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a semi-automatic rifle. Later that day, he fatally shot his 31-year-old wife, their 10-year-daughter and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before killing himself in the family's home. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax The Canadian Press
(CBC - image credit) A second worker from the Olymel meatpacking plant in Red Deer has died after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. Henry De Leon, 50, worked at the plant for 15 years. His family told CBC News he died from COVID-19 on Wednesday night, after three weeks on a ventilator in an Edmonton hospital. A father of two adult children and grandfather of three, De Leon tested positive on Jan. 28, his family said and the company confirmed. He was hospitalized first in Red Deer, then transferred to Edmonton, where he died. His death has not yet been linked to the known outbreak at the plant, which ceased operations earlier this month in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The city of Red Deer hit a new record for COVID-19 cases this week, with 574 active cases as of Wednesday. Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak at the plant on Nov. 17. A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the department has only been notified of one death linked to that outbreak, the Jan. 28 death of Darwin Doloque, 35. "If a second death is reported to Alberta Health, we will publicly report it," spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement. He was always happy De Leon's daughter described him as "the happiest and most caring guy," and said he was "the best dad we could ever ask for." Like Doloque and many other employees at Olymel, De Leon immigrated to Canada. He came from the Dominican Republic, and his friend and former neighbour, Patricia Marcado, said he dreamed of returning there in retirement. Marcado said his friend was full of joy and love for his family. "He was a very happy guy," she said. "He cooked, he cleaned. He did everything for his wife. He was the best husband ever, the best dad ever." Patricia Salazar worked with Le Deon for 15 years and spent lunch breaks with him at the same table with other friends — some Canadian, some from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. De Leon's wife, who also works at Olymel, would often join them. "We always sit together at the same table with his wife and other friends," Salazar said. "He was very, very happy all the time." She recalled De Leon showing off photos of his grandchildren, and said De Leon and his wife were "all the time together, wherever they go, in the plant or outside."
LOS ANGELES — Rebel Wilson is going to the dogs. And it’s not the first time. The Australian actress comes from a family with a long history of handling and grooming dogs and will return to her roots as host of ABC’s “Pooch Perfect,” an eight-episode series featuring 10 dog groomers and their assistants competing in challenges. She said Thursday that her great-grandmother began a beagle club in Australia and that her mother judges dog shows internationally. As a child, Wilson travelled in her family’s yellow van to shows and sold grooming products despite being allergic to dogs. “My mom was devastated when I chose not to continue the family legacy,” Wilson said in a virtual call with the Television Critics Association. “When I told her I wasn’t going to continue in the family business and try to be an international movie star, she cried. I had to tell her in a public place so she wouldn’t do anything too crazy.” In the show, Lisa Vanderpump, dog groomer Jorge Bendersky and veterinarian Callie Harris will vote on creations from dog groomers and one team will be sent back to the doghouse — or eliminated — each week. The remaining teams square off in a grooming transformation. The top three teams will compete for $100,000. The show debuts March 30 and is based on an Australian version. “Pooch Perfect” is Wilson’s first project after undergoing her own transformation. She lost 60 pounds during her self-proclaimed year of health last year. “I’ve been showing it off on Instagram a bit too shamelessly,” she said. “I get two looks per episode, and I like to work with my stylist and show off the new physique because still single. So this is my prime-time opportunity to just really put it out there.” Wilson worked without a studio audience because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the seats are filled with stuffed animals. “I do try to bring the comedy in the show,” she said. “I also do what's called ‘dogography' in the show, which is a new term I invented. We dress the PAs (production assistants) up in dog costumes, and I work out little dances. I tried to lighten it up.” Beth Harris, The Associated Press