Saying Nova Scotia has a problem with 18- to 35-year-olds who are spreading COVID-19 through social interactions, Premier Stephen McNeil unveiled targeted measures that come into effect on Monday to help stop transmission of the virus.
Saying Nova Scotia has a problem with 18- to 35-year-olds who are spreading COVID-19 through social interactions, Premier Stephen McNeil unveiled targeted measures that come into effect on Monday to help stop transmission of the virus.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
LONDON — Britain became the first country in the world to authorize a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and could be dispensing shots within days — a historic step toward eventually ending the outbreak that has killed more than 1.4 million people around the globe.In giving the go-ahead for emergency use of the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, Britain vaulted past the United States by at least a week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not scheduled to consider the vaccine until Dec. 10.“This is a day to remember, frankly, in a year to forget," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.The announcement sets the stage for the biggest vaccination campaign in British history and came just ahead of what experts are warning will be a long, dark winter, with the coronavirus surging to epic levels in recent weeks in the U.S. and Europe.Officials cautioned that several tough months still lie ahead even in Britain, given the monumental task of inoculating large swaths of the population. Because of the limited initial supply, the first shots will be reserved for those most in danger, namely nursing home patients, the elderly and health care workers.Britain's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency recommended the vaccine after clinical trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers showed it was 95% effective and turned up no serious side effects. The vaccine is still considered experimental while final testing is done.“This is an unprecedented piece of science,” given that the vaccine was authorized less than a year after the virus was discovered, said David Harper, senior consulting fellow in global health at the Chatham House think-tank .Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that the “searchlights of science” had picked out the “invisible enemy,” which has been blamed for close to 60,000 deaths in Britain. He said that in developing the vaccine, scientists had performed “biological jujitsu” by turning the virus on itself.Other countries aren’t far behind: Regulators not only in the U.S. but in the European Union and Canada also are vetting the Pfizer vaccine along with a shot made by Moderna. British and Canadian regulators are also considering a vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.Amid growing concern in the U.S. that Americans will greet vaccines with skepticism, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Britain’s decision “should give Americans additional confidence in the quality of such a vaccine.” The virus has killed more than 270,000 in the U.S.Hancock said Britain will begin receiving the first shipment of 800,000 doses from Belgium within days, and people will start getting the shots as soon as it arrives. Two doses three weeks apart are required. The country expects to receive millions of doses by the end of this year, Hancock said, though the exact number will depend on how fast it can be manufactured and checked for quality.BioNTech, which owns the vaccine, said it has so far signed deals to supply 570 million doses worldwide in 2021, with options to deliver 600 million more. It hopes to supply at least 1.3 billion in 2021.That is only a fraction of what will be needed as public health officials try to vaccinate much of the world’s population. Experts have said several vaccines will be required to quickly end the pandemic that has infected more than 64 million people globally.In Britain, the first shots will go to nursing home patients and those who care for them, followed by everyone over 80 and health care workers. From there, the program will be expanded as the supply increases, with the vaccine offered roughly on the basis of age groups, starting with the oldest people.Amid the burst of optimism, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla warned governments against any immediate move to relax restrictions and reopen their economies.“The time that we will have to go back to normality is not far away," he said. "But it is definitely not now.”Despite the speed with which they approved the vaccine, and the intense political pressure surrounding the worldwide race to solve the crisis, British regulators insisted “no corners have been cut” during the review process.The MHRA made its recommendation following a so-called rolling review that allowed it to assess information about the vaccine as it came in, starting back in October.“The safety of the public will always come first,” said Dr. June Raine, the agency's chief executive. “And I emphasize again that this recommendation has only been given by the MHRA following the most rigorous scientific assessment of every piece of data.”Getting that message to the public will be critical if any vaccination program is to be successful. Some people are worried about getting any vaccine, never mind a new one.“But I think once they understand and see everyone else having it without hesitation, I think you’ll find that people will go and have it,” Jacqueline Roubians, a 76-year-old retired nurse, said at Brixton Market in London. “People are dying of COVID, so you make that decision: Do you want to die or do you want the vaccine?”In addition to the huge logistical challenges of distributing the vaccines, the Pfizer-BioNTech one must be stored and shipped at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit).Pfizer said that it has developed shipping containers that use dry ice and that GPS-enabled sensors will allow the company to track each shipment and ensure it stays cold.Every country has different rules for determining when an experimental vaccine is safe and effective enough to use. China and Russia have offered different vaccines to their citizens before they had gone through large-scale, late-stage testing.Hours after Britain's announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin, not to be outdone, ordered the start of a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination campaign by late next week, with doctors and teachers to be first in line to receive the Sputnik V shot, whose name was inspired by the 1957 satellite that was one of Moscow's proudest technical achievements.The Russian vaccine won regulatory approval in August but has yet to complete advanced studies of its effectiveness and safety. Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said more than 100,000 people in Russia have been given the shots.Still to be determined is whether the Pfizer-BioNTech shots prevent people from spreading the virus when they have no symptoms. Another question is how long protection lasts.The vaccine also has been tested in only a small number of children, none younger than 12, and there’s no information on its effects in pregnant women.___Neergaard reported from Alexandria, Virginia. Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin and Lawless, Pan Pylas and Jo Kearney in London contributed__Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.___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.Lauran Neergaard And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
SIOUX LOOK — Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police have released the name of a woman who died in a house fire last month as they continue to determine the cause of the fire. Clara Ash, 37, of Sioux Lookout has been identified as the individual who died in a house fire on Nov. 19. In a news release issued Wednesday, Dec. 2, police say the cause of death was smoke inhalation. Police responded at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 19 along with fire and emergency crews to an apartment on First Avenue in the municipality of Sioux Lookout. Two individuals were extracted from the building and neighbouring units were safely evacuated, according to a news release. A third deceased individual was located by firefighters. OPP continue to investigate the cause of the fire under the direction of the criminal investigations branch, the chief coroner, and the Ontario Fire Marshal. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact OPP or their local police service.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Tay council wrangled with budget-item options in an attempt to bring down the proposed tax levy as much as possible, eventually settling on a 2% increase. The number is expected to go down to at least 1.4% or 1.2% once the blended tax rate from the county is shared with the municipality, said treasurer Joanne Sanders, who presented a detailed budget to council at its recent special meeting. She told councillors about items that had been taken off the list to help bring the tax rate down to 2%, including major expenses like repairs to bridges. "Granny White bridge, Rumney Road culvert and the Rosemount Road north bridge have all been removed from the capital budget," she said. "We did some more research there and no safety issues came up. The most recent bridge report still had those repairs in the one- to five-year category." These projects will be re-assessed during the 2020 bridge report, added Sanders. And with growth, comes surplus And it is this surplus, said Sanders, which is helping keep the tax rate down. "We are projecting a healthy surplus for the close of 2020," she said. "The greatest contributors are salaries and the supplementary assessments, which created additional income. There is a surplus of $349,500 left in the 2020 projected surplus. We do have funds to work with." Most of that money, Sanders said, has come from growth in the area. "Rather than $93,000 being covered by growth, we're looking at $128,000," she said. "That reduces our reliance on the reserve from $66,500 to $31,500." And with the additional bylaw summer student and administrative summer student positions also taken out of the budget, the reliance on surplus fell further to $19,600. Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle warned about relying too much on growth. "Moving forward, we need to remember the future may not be so kind to us," he said. "We're running out of inventory. Do we require that growth to balance our budget? What impact does that have year-in and year-out?" Sanders said money from supplementary assessments as a result of growth in the area doesn't show up immediately on a budget, but trickles in over a few years. But with great growth comes higher liability, and that means higher insurance costs, she said. According to the budget Sanders shared, insurance costs are estimated to increase by 20% or $84,000 for next year, adding she doesn't see a light at the end of that tunnel. "They're not saying the landscape is going to change," said Sanders. "Last year, we looked at increasing our deductible to decrease our rate, but I don't see a huge light at the end of the tunnel." Capitals projects Coun. Jeff Bumstead wasn't sure if that move would end up saving the township any money in the long run. "If we're pushing these replacements to the end of that one- to five-year suggested range, are we looking at further cost or replacement?" he asked. Rick Bingham, interim operational service general manager, agreed with the councillor's assumption. "You need to do some rehabilitation before it gets to the point you have to do a reconstruction," said Bingham. "I think there are quite a few of them that will need to be reconstructed because they haven't had any rehabilitation done over the years. "I understand the former director had engaged the consultants to do a feasibility review and they will be providing a report over the next couple weeks on how money is best spent on bridges so we can stay ahead of the game," he added. Seeing the trend of removing projects from the capital budget, Coun. Barry Norris came up with another 'money-saving' suggestion. "The dry hydrants for the rural areas; I don't support it," he said talking about the emergency preparedness list. "The fact that we have tankers and mutual aid, I still can't support that at this point in time. Council may want to weight in to defer that expenditure." Fire Chief Brian Thomas made the case for fire safety. "The dry hydrants are a water source for the fire department to use while they're fighting fires out in the rural areas," he said. "We have $10,000 down for the next three years to find locations and get agreements with property owners so that we can enter their property to access the water sources. We do have mutual-aid agreements, but we still need the water source for all those tankers. The closer the water source is the more readily available; then the firefighters will have the amounts of water they will need." Then Norris focused on the planned sidewalk for Seventh Avenue and wondered about $127,000 expenditure. "I find it tough to increase that. The next thing we're going to have to do is clear it through the winter," said Norris, who instead suggested staff should consider putting in a base and a screen top over the pathway. "If it's substantially used, I have no problems putting a top coat on," he said. "To allow $30,000 to do that, let's see how it pans out. We can deviate that to another part of the capital." That suggestion did not sit well with Coun. Sandy Talbot, who said she wasn't sure why Norris had a problem with a project she considered a 'no brainer.' "This has been on the books for two years," she said, noting the safety of children who catch a bus there is a paramount concern. "I'm not sure if you're aware there's an incline on that road on Seventh Avenue, which is like a speedway and people are going down the road at unbelievable speeds. We need this. People walk this road on a daily basis. We need to ensure the safety of our residents." And she had support from councillors Paul Raymond and Mary Warnock. "I agree with Coun. Talbot," said the latter. "They've waited long enough. Sidewalks are important in our community to make them walkable. As we're going to see in official plans that come out, making our communities age-friendly, sidewalks are going to be a priority. I don't think there's any reason to delay this any further." With that, Norris' bid to remove those two items from the list was defeated. Expenses and overtime Talbot had her own concerns over some of the items contained within the budget. "Under expenditures, there's a cost for a rental car for $7,000. What did we need that car for?" she said. Sanders said that was thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. "It was for bylaw due to physical distancing requirements," she added. "It's on the COVID-related expenses list." Talbot then said she was concerned about the amount of overtime recorded. "It's $55,000," she said. "Can you give me an explanation of that? It's a lot of money. It's almost another position." Sanders said that wasn't just in one department, but spread across various township sections. "In a lot of cases, overtime was worked due to COVID-19, additional research and setting stuff up," she said. "There was also additional time that we felt was worked because we didn't necessarily fill positions as quickly as we would have because filling positions wasn't feasible during the height of COVID-19. So you have staff doing double-duty and that's why you see a fair bit of overtime." Talbot said she would like to see overtime kept in check moving forward. "Our aim should be reducing the overtime hours," she said. "I understand (the need) with our snowplow drivers or a public works emergency. But we need to be adherent to the lowest overtime we can allow. We're responsible for the monies of this township. In turn, we need to adhere to some kind of reduction in the overtime as possible." Grants and funding requests This section will be discussed in further detail at an upcoming December meeting, still council directed staff around two moves. "We can take the YMCA out," said Mayor Ted Walker. "They're not going to take us up on the loan offer." He took a bit of a hard line around the funding request made by the Severn Sound Environmental Association. "They had a huge increase last year and this year, the increase looks rather substantial as well," he said, talking about their request of $76,070 from 2019, that increased to $108,462 for this year and has gone up further to $122,042 for next year. "I'm wondering if we've heard anything back from them about this huge increase. "I think we should wait for their response and if we don't get any, we should budget what we did last year," added Walker.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
TORONTO — A hospital in midtown Toronto is offering a "virtual emergency room" so patients can see a doctor without risking exposure to COVID-19.Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre says the service is available for anyone over the age of 16 with a valid Ontario health card.The hospital says patients will connect with the doctor via secure video on the same day, on a first-come, first-served basis.Virtual 15-minute appointments are available Monday to Friday, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the online booking system opening at noon every weekday.Sunnybrook says that the service is intended for non-life threatening injuries or sickness.Examples of symptoms or conditions that the hospital says the online system is designed for include bites and stings, rashes, frostbite or sprains and minor injuries.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
Bruce Power has wasted no time getting its “Be a Light” campaign up and running. The campaign, announced on Nov. 19, pledged $1 million to redouble efforts to fight COVID-19. It is putting a focus on five pillars, public awareness, providing protection, a buy local initiative and supporting physical and mental health and lending a helping hand. On Nov. 24, the campaign committed $250,000 to support the maintenance and enhancement of the Kincardine Trails, assisting with the completion of the Signature Trail project, and the Saugeen Rail Trail, which will assist in the environmentally-friendly paving of two section of the trail in Port Elgin and Southampton. . It will also support a feasibility student into the development of a trail at Saugeen First Nation. Be a Light acknowledges that staying active an spending time outdoors has an important role in helping people manage the pandemic. An additional $50,000 will support mental health initiatives at the Grey Bruce branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Westover Treatment Centre recovery support and the Grey Bruce “We CARE” project supporting mental health in youth. One day later, the campaign announced it would provide $150,000 in protective equipment to communities and organizations in Bruce, Grey and Huron counties. That donation will include 175,000 three-ply disposable masks and 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to primary health care facilities, Indigenous communities, and other organizations in the region. Fifty self-standing automatic temperature monitors will be provided for long-term and health care facilities, and other high-traffic areas to provide hands-free, rapid temperature screening. The equipment provides an addition layer of protection for people in the community. “With rising COVID numbers across the region and province, we recognized how important protective equipment is to stopping the spread,” said Pat Dalzell, Bruce Power’s Head of Corporate Affairs. “By getting masks and hand sanitizers to the facilities and businesses that need them we can help keep the community safe from COVID-19. By providing automatic temperature monitors to local long-term and health care facilities, we’re also providing another protective barrier for our society’s most vulnerable population – our seniors and the ill – as well as our vitally important frontline workers.” On Nov. 26, the campaign announced multiple contributions to the lending a helping hand sector. A financial commitment of $350,000 will be distributed across Bruce, Grey and Huron to say thank-you to health and long term care workers, provide aid for breakfast programs for children, purchase grocery gift cards for families in need, fund the purchase of toys for Christmas and purchase new winter coats, which will be distributed by United Way of Bruce Grey and Huron-Perth Children’s Aid Society. Boxes of chocolates, purchased from a local retailer, will be sent to hospitals, assessment centres and health unit offices in a gesture of thanks while providing support for the buy local initiative. “COVID-19 has put a strain on many families, workers, and organizations across Grey and Bruce counties,” said Francesca Dobbyn, Executive Director, United Way of Bruce Grey. “The need in our community is even greater this year, and we thank Bruce Power for once again stepping up to assist families, seniors, frontline workers, and hungry schoolchildren this holiday season. Thousands of people will have happier and healthier holidays thanks to Bruce Power’s outreach efforts.” Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
For the last three years, members of the Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist church have hosted professional development day events geared towards children in junior kindergarten through Grade 4. Restrictions in place because of the pandemic presented committee members Laura Connell, Vanje Watson, Jessica Kelly, Hannah Coolidge and Pastor Gordon with the challenge of how to provide a fun and meaningful experience for children while maintaining everyone’s safety. “We thought, we do Zoom church services, so why not do a Zoom PD day?” said Connell, who has been at the helm of the project. The result of their planning and efforts came together on Nov. 27, when 98 children, who had all pre-registered for the party, enjoyed a free, entertaining and engaging morning of activities, crafts, story time and games, from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The committee arranged for each child who pre-registered for the party to pick up a gift and party bag - drive-through style to prevent close contact -filled with activities including a nativity story book, activities, crafts, games and an advent book. The activities were thoughtful and promoted kindness and charity. Connell tells of one activity that encouraged children to be aware of how good life is, and use a checklist of how many good things they enjoy, and donate a nickel or dime for each item checked. The money could then be used as a donation to a favourite charity. “We are so very blessed,” said Connell. “We have so much.” The bags even included a Christmas DVD, popcorn, hot chocolate and candy cane, to be enjoyed with family members after the party. Connell worked behind the scenes, purchasing items and coordinating registrations. When she reached out to the church congregation for support, she found everyone was on board and wanted to do their part. “(We have) a whole crew that volunteered and a bigger group that donated,” said Connell. “There were many, many people involved.” The party was set up Zoom-style, but the participating children were seen only by the camera man, John Reeve, to protect the privacy of the children. Reeve, who owns Reeve Technologies, volunteered his expertise and time to facilitate the meeting. At 10 a.m., the programming began, and for the next 90 minutes, under the lead of Watson, Connell and Kelly, children were invited to explore the items in their gift bags, make puppets, play bingo, take part in a scavenger hunt and win prizes. Watson, who brought her own two girls with her to take part while she was on stage, brought lots of energy and positivity to the presentation. She spoke to Zoom attendees as though they were all in the same room. “I love working with kids and I love sharing the real meaning of Christmas,” said Watson. “We felt this was a great opportunity to build hope in families and the community. It’s been hard times and Jesus is our hope.” While organizing the event meant a lot of work, Connell was happy to commit the time to share holiday joy with the community. “We are doing this for the community kids, because we want to share the true meaning of Christmas,” said Connell. “Jesus being born as our Saviour is the reason we celebrate Christmas.” Connell said that depending on the restrictions associated with the pandemic, they will likely continue to hold future professional development day camps. She and her colleagues are passionate about sharing their faith and supporting the community. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Families across the County of Grande Prairie can benefit from a diaper drive running now until Dec. 10, courtesy of county Regional Enforcement Services. During the campaign the county will collect disposable diapers and cash donations to assist residents in need during the Christmas season. The campaign marks the first diaper drive held by Regional Enforcement Services, but it will hopefully become an annual effort, said peace officer Lindsey Hennigar. “Being a mom of three, I know first-hand diapers are not cheap,” Hennigar said. “It touches every parent’s heart to think how worrisome it would for another parent to wonder, ‘Do I have enough diapers to change my child this day?’” Hennigar said she came up with the idea after considering how food banks have food drives and other organizations collect hygiene necessities and toys. She thought Regional Enforcement Services could fill a gap with a diaper drive, she said. “We’re a family-oriented department and we thought this would be a great way to help residents in need of diapers,” she said. “It’s our way of giving back to the community.” Disposable diapers, related products like wipes and diaper cream and cash donations can be made at numerous locations. These are the Beaverlodge, Wembley, Valhalla, Sexsmith, La Glace and Elmworth libraries, Clairmont’s Wellington Resource Centre, Hythe’s village office and Bezanson’s Knelsen Centre. Monetary donations can also be made online at www.countygp.ab.ca/diaperdrive. The diapers will then be distributed by the Sexsmith and Area Food Bank. While the Sexsmith Food Bank is distributing the donations, Hennigar said families in the west county can also benefit from the program. The drive began last Thursday and she said so far there’s been a lot of interest. During COVID people may not be able to easily access stores to purchase diapers to donate, but Hennigar said Regional Enforcement Services staff will buy some with the cash donations.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Don’t travel over the upcoming holidays. But if you must, consider getting coronavirus tests before and after, U.S. health officials urged Wednesday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the best way to stay safe and protect others is to stay home. The agency also announced new guidelines that shorten recommended quarantines after close contact with someone infected with coronavirus. The agency said the risk in a shorter quarantine is small, but that the change makes following the guidance less of a hardship. The no-travel advice echoes recommendations for Thanksgiving but many Americans ignored it. With COVID-19 continuing to surge, the CDC added the testing option. “Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing , deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” the CDC's Dr. Henry Walke said during a briefing. He said any travel-related surge in cases from travel would likely be apparent about a week to 10 days after Thanksgiving. The virus has infected more than 13.5 million Americans and killed at least 270,000 since January. “The safest thing to do is to postpone holiday travel and stay home," said Dr. Cindy Friedman, another CDC official. "Travel volume was high over Thanksgiving,'' and even if small numbers were infected, that could result in ’’hundreds of thousands of new infections.” ‘’Travel is a door-to-door experience that can spread virus during the journey and also into communities that travellers visit or live," she added. For those who decide to travel, COVID-19 tests should be considered one to three days before the trip and again three to five days afterward, the CDC said. The agency also recommended travellers reduce non-essential activities for a full week after they return or for 10 days if not tested afterward. And it emphasized the importance of continuing to follow precautions including masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing. The revised quarantine guidance says people who have been in contact with someone infected with the virus can resume normal activity after 10 days, or seven days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the pandemic began. The change is based on extensive modeling by CDC and others, said the agency's Dr. John Brooks.. ___ Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner. ___ 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. Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press
People in Halifax will be able to order an Uber starting Thursday afternoon, and at least one other ride-hailing company is eyeing a launch in the city before the end of the year.Uber said in a news release that its smartphone app, which connects people looking for transportation with a driver, will go live for the Halifax region at 1 p.m. Thursday.However, the company encouraged residents to stick to public health guidelines and only use it for essential travel like getting to a doctor's appointment or pharmacy.Uber did not share any more information when asked about details by CBC, including how many drivers are active in Halifax, or how many have applied.A map of Uber's coverage area on its website shows that the urban core will be included, as well as more suburban and rural areas like Timberlea, Fall River and Eastern Passage. The company said its service area will expand as the number of drivers increases. Uber also said it's providing 2,000 free rides to front-line workers and families in need, through Partners for Care's Helping Healthcare Heroes program and Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic.Council cleared the way this fallUber's app puts the company in direct competition with members of the taxi industry, something that has sparked outcry in places like Toronto. Still, some people in Halifax have complained that the taxi industry in the municipality doesn't meet people's needs and there are often long delays in getting cabs at peak times. In September, Halifax council gave ride-hailing services like Uber the green light to operate in the municipality. They have stated they hoped to launch in the city before the end of 2020.The Canadian ride-hailing company Uride has yet to launch in Halifax, but its founder said it will be live by the end of the year.Cody Ruberto said the company has had over 700 people apply to be drivers, but could not immediately say how many had been accepted.In an email, Ruberto said he believes both Uber and Uride can operate in the same city since this is the case in many other areas. Halifax "deserves" this type of service, Ruberto said, and residents want choice. "Uride is a homegrown Canadian rideshare business, and we really care about the people here. Our goal is to provide reliable, safe affordable transportation, and we want to give back to the community any way we can," he wrote.Ruberto also noted they "rarely have price increases," which differs from Uber's model of surge pricing during busy times that he believes can turn people away."We do whatever we can to keep pricing affordable, while working to ensure reliable coverage," Ruberto said.MORE TOP STORIES
MONTREAL — Refugee advocates are criticizing Canada's decision to resume deportations before the country irons out the details of a program to grant permanent residency to asylum-seekers who have been working in the health-care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.Frantz Andre, who advocates on behalf of asylum seekers, says the decision has heightened the feelings of insecurity among the essential workers dubbed "guardian angels" by Quebec Premier Francois Legault.The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed it resumed deportations as of Nov. 30, after halting most removals in March due to the pandemic. The agency clarified that it would not be deporting people who are likely to qualify for permanent residency under a federal program announced in August to grant a path to residency for people working in the health-care sector or in long-term care or assisted living facilities."The CBSA would like to clarify that the agency will not be removing those who may be eligible to qualify for permanent residency under the guardian angels public policy," the agency wrote in an email Tuesday.Advocates estimate that hundreds of asylum-seekers have been working in long-term care homes in Quebec, which bore the brunt of the first wave of COVID-19 this spring.Andre notes that the final details of the program have yet to be made public, leading many of the so-called guardian angels to fear they may yet be deported."So, we’re starting (deportations) three weeks before Christmas, when the program and the details of this special program for the asylum-seekers or orderlies cannot be announced," he said."I call this criminal. This is not right."Andre said the initial elation over the announcement of the program has faded, leaving many asylum-seekers feeling fearful and unsure if they'll qualify.He says some workers who could have been eligible have given up and decided to return home; others have contemplated suicide.Wilner Cayo, the president of a group that advocates for asylum-seekers and visible minorities, notes that even asylum-seekers working in long-term care — the exact group targeted by the program — are not sure they'll qualify because there are other criteria to meet, including having been issued a work permit and having a certain amount of experience and hours worked. He said the uncertainty is causing people "enormous anxiety.""When they take such a long time and the rules are not clear, we don’t know what to expect," he said in a phone interview.Quebec has a large degree of control over immigration criteria for the province, and it will select the applicants who qualify under the federal program and wish to reside in Quebec.In an email, a spokesperson for the Quebec Immigration Department said the program is expected to come into effect over the winter, and the details of how it will apply in Quebec will be announced "shortly."Cayo said the program also does not address the situation of other essential workers, including security guards and cleaning staff in care homes, truck drivers and those working in food production."These people sacrificed for Quebec, sacrificed for Canada," he said. "When many people were staying home, these people went out to work."Their contribution has shown they are not a burden to Canada, but a gift, he added.Andre believes the deportation order should be suspended until it becomes clear who exactly is eligible for the guardian angels program. But in his opinion, all the asylum-seekers who have been in the country since the pandemic began deserve to stay."I think they all have contributed economically, to saving lives, and Canada is better thanks to these people," he said.In its email, the CBSA defended its decision to deport, noting that the "timely removal of failed claimants plays a critical role in supporting the integrity of Canada’s asylum system."Removals to some regions remain suspended, including the Gaza Strip, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq.The agency also said the volume of deportations is expected to be reduced for some time, and that claimants will continue to have access to all the appeals and recourses available under the law.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 7, 2020 A 22-year-old Barrie man is charged after a woman was struck and killed last month by a vehicle on Bayfield Street North in Springwater Township. Huronia West OPP charged Kraig Roberston on Oct. 6 with failing to stop at an accident causing death. Police identified the alleged vehicle and the driver a few days after the collision. Police say a woman who was standing on the side of the highway with her dog waving at passing vehicles was struck and killed at about 10:48 p.m. Sept. 15. Police have not released the woman’s name or her age. Initially, Ontario’s police watchdog began an investigation because an OPP officer was on the scene quickly and was forced to swerve around the woman’s body. The Special Investigations Unit dropped the investigation a day later. An off-duty Barrie police officer was driving behind the unmarked OPP cruiser and also pulled over. The officers performed CPR on the woman, but were unsuccessful. The accused appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie for a bail hearing Oct. 6.Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Dentists travelling within the Northwest Territories to provide services are now back in operation in some communities as the territorial government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, gave dental teams the green light to travel."Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness. I am pleased with the collaborative work across Government to resume these services," said Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services in a news release issued on Wednesday.All non-urgent services were suspended in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.Then, in mid-June, the Northwest Territories government relaxed guidelines to allow dentists to resume services "pending appropriate steps" — but some dentists said strict rules still prevented them from travelling into smaller communities to provide services.The following communities can start services, as their facilities "have met facility infrastructure dental care standards" and were given approval by the Chief Public Health Officer: * Fort Providence, N.W.T. * Sambaa K'e, N.W.T. * Fort Simpson, N.W.T. * Norman Wells, N.W.T. * Fort Resolution, N.W.T. * Aklavik, N.W.T.As well, visiting private dentists will now also be able to resume in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River, the release says.The rest of the communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to be back in operation "when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet COIVID-19 safety protocols," the release says.The government says the "necessary assessments" and required work is expected to continue throughout the coming year and that more updates will be given as more facilities in other communities are confirmed.The territory faced criticism after suspending services with many people saying it deepened the disparity in health care between larger centres and communities.The territory has been working with Indigenous Services Canada to resume the service.For now, Indigenous Services Canada will cover travel for people in communities to receive dental care until further notice, the release says.
IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut's two-week lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 was lifted in almost all communities Wednesday as the territory had more recovered than active cases for the first time. Schools, businesses and workplaces were allowed to reopen, except in Arviat, which had 65 active cases. The coastal community on the western edge of Hudson Bay is to remain shut down for at least two more weeks.Nunavut had 80 active infections Wednesday and 113 recovered cases for a total of 193. There were 11 new cases — all in Arviat. The territory had not had any cases at all until early November.Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, said his team hadn't yet determined if community transmission in Arviat is ongoing."I know this is a difficult time as these strict measures continue, but please understand it is not meant to punish Arviat. This is the best way to break community transmission and the fastest way to eventually loosening these restrictions," Patterson said. The Canadian Red Cross has been on the ground in Arviat to help people self-isolate and to contact trace. Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, in the same region as Arviat, still have active COVID-19 cases, but no evidence of community transmission.Masks remain mandatory in all public spaces in the three communities, although students in Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet do not have to wear them in classrooms as long as they are physical distancing, Patterson said.He credited Nunavut's shrinking case count with residents observing public-health orders and the work of contact tracers to "break chains of transmission."Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the federal government will provide rapid-testing machines to Nunavut's isolation hotels in Winnipeg. The territory's public-health orders require anyone who leaves the territory must isolate for 14 days in a southern hotel before flying home. Patterson said Winnipeg is currently the jurisdiction that poses the biggest risk to Nunavummiut who travel there. Using the Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid-testing device, which provides results in 15 minutes, Nunavummiut staying in the hubs will be tested several times throughout their stay. "The testing will be initially offered to everybody, whether they have symptoms or not ... as a way to augment the current isolation practice and reduce the chance of COVID getting through the isolation hubs," Patterson said. Nunavut's first cases of COVID-19 were individuals who completed 14 days of isolation in Winnipeg hotels. Patterson said it's still unknown how exactly they contracted the novel coronavirus while in isolation and an investigation into how it happened continues.The Northwest Territories, which has a similar isolation rule, announced Tuesday that residents who leave the territory for non-essential travel will have to pay for their two-week isolation stays. Lorne Kusugak, Nunavut's health minister, said Nunavut has considered a similar move, but isn't making residents pay for isolation stays at this time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.___This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News FellowshipEmma Tranter, The Canadian Press
Shares of the U.S. data analytics firm, known for its work with the Central Intelligence Agency and other government agencies, tumbled as much as 17.6% to $21.15 in heavy volumes. Investors have exchanged $3.9 billion worth of the shares per day on average in the past five days, making Palantir Wall Street's 11th most traded company over the period, according to Refinitiv data. Short bets reached a record 8.2% of Palantir's float on Wednesday, according to data analytics firm S3 Partners.
With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, many in the community are anxiously awaiting the start of the 2020 ski season. “Skiing, like other activities, such as snowshoeing and hiking, can be a safe way for individuals and families to exercise during the winter months,” said Dr. Ian Arra, the medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU). “Cross-country and alpine skiing are enjoyed at many locations across Grey and Bruce.” One of the largest draws for winter adventure in the area is, of course, Blue Mountain Resort. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the resort will look a little different this year. “This season, we will be prioritizing pass holder access to the mountain and limiting day-lift tickets. Guests cannot arrive at the resort and purchase a day-lift ticket – all tickets must be purchased online and the number of available day-lift tickets has been significantly reduced,” said Tara Lovell, manager of public relations for Blue Mountain Resort. She adds that the number of available day-lift tickets will be based on available terrain, skier-visit data and available indoor space at the resort’s three base lodges. “The most important thing for visitors to know is that this year more than any other, the need to plan ahead. Research current public health guidelines, go online to plan and pre-book their experiences before arriving at the resort,” Lovell added. According to Arra, the GBHU has actively been working with area ski clubs and resorts to assist in modifying operations in order to reduce the likelihood of close contact between people. “The biggest risk is likely to be through close contact with other individuals, especially if people are not wearing facial coverings. Any activity where there are crowds of people, especially closer than two metres, is a concern,” Arra said. In relation to the ski hill, GBHU has released the following ski-specific guidelines: For individuals, the health unit recommends: “When guests arrive at Blue, we encourage skiers and riders to come to the hill prepared to ski,” Lovell said. “Masks are required. In accordance with our local public health guidelines, masks or face coverings will be required without exception in the lift line and on the lifts.” But what about crossing county or health unit lines for a day on the slopes? For instance, the Town of Collingwood sits in the County of Simcoe under the umbrella of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), which is currently in the Public Health Classification Level of stage three or zone orange. Yet, on the edge of Collingwood’s town limits sits the Blue Mountain Resort, which resides in Grey County and the GBHU, which is currently in stage two or the yellow zone. “The GBHU would advise people to keep up to date with current government requirements and guidelines. Currently, the province of Ontario is advising people in high-risk areas to not travel to areas of lower risk,” said Arra. Current provincial advice states travel from high-risk areas is to be restricted and should be for "essential purposes only." Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU, recently voiced his concerns around allowing visitors into the area from other high-risk regions. “The province’s official advice is that residents from grey and red areas not travel. ... Recreational skiing, while a pleasure … is not essential,” he said, adding that he would go as far as “recommending” businesses adopt a policy to only serve customers from orange zones or lower. Gardner also recently issued a letter to all the municipalities in the region, which strongly recommended they prohibit access to their recreational facilities by anyone residing in a red or grey zone. He also recommends residents in Simcoe-Muskoka not travel to regions that are under yellow or green restrictions except for essential purposes such as work, school, or medical appointments. For now, according to Lovell, Blue Mountain Resort does not have any travel restrictions in place for those travelling from high-risk areas. “At this time, we have not put formal travel restrictions in place. We do strongly encourage all visitors to review and abide by their own local public health guidelines and any guests planning to visit Blue Mountain must review and be prepared to adhere to our Personal Responsibility Code,” Lovell said. For the ski resorts operating in Simcoe-Muskoka, the SMDHU released a letter to area resorts at the end of October outlining the public health requirements for the coming season. According to the SMDHU, ski and snow resorts are permitted to open in stage three but are subject to various operating requirements, such as: “Daily screening applies to members of the public, staff and volunteers who only attend outdoor settings at ski and snow resort facilities even if they do not go inside a resort building,” noted Gardner in the letter to area ski resorts. In addition, earlier today Garnder released an updated letter of instruction for businesses and organizations located in the County of Simcoe, District of Muskoka, City of Barrie, and the City of Orillia. The new letter provides further detail around the expectations of screening of employees; physical distancing and ramifications for close contacts of an employee diagnosed with COVID-19. For the ski industry, the largest takeaways in the directive will be the requirement to: * Appoint a compliance officer responsible for the implementation of a COVID-19 safety plan * Utilize physical barriers (such as plexiglass) where reasonably possible, in particular in environments where physical distancing cannot take place. Note that a face shield is not considered an adequate face covering - a face mask must also be worn * Ensure accurate and updated contact information for all employees * Minimize instances of more than one individual per vehicle for driving associated with work. The additional requirements will come into effect on Dec.5. Kelly Sinclair, part-owner and operator of Highlands Nordic, a cross-country ski facility located in the Niagara Escarpment just outside of Duntroon in the SMDHU district, says operations at her resort have also been adapted for COVID-19 safety protocols. “As a cross-country ski resort we operate a little differently than a downhill resort. The obvious part is that we don't have a chairlift, which is the biggest restriction for downhill skiing,” Sinclair said. In regards to limiting traffic from other high-risk areas in the province, Sinclair says the resort does not have a policy in place currently but will follow the guidelines provided by Simcoe-Muskoka and Clearview Township. “We have needed to hire some additional staff to accommodate the demand for cross-country skiing and to ensure our facility stays clean and welcoming. We are a hardworking team who are ready to adapt and take on any tasks,” she said. Sinclair notes that anyone looking to visit Highlands Nordic should come with knowledge of the current public health recommendations and as ski-ready as possible. “We are encouraging skiers to come ready to ski, limit their time inside as much as possible and embrace winter!” she said. As the ski season and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, both the SMDHU and GBHU encourage the public to stay informed of the current public health recommendations and possible changes to the Public Health Classification Levels. “Follow public health advice, be respectful of club or resort instructions, wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and be kind,” added Arra. — With files from Erika EngelJennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Community centres across the South Peace have partially closed due to three-week COVID restrictions that came into effect for enhanced-status areas last Friday. The Beaverlodge Community Centre and multi-purpose room are both closed, said Tina Letendre, Beaverlodge acting chief administrative officer. The Christmas Festival hasn’t been booked at the centre this year and that means lost revenue of approximately $1,800, she said. “We’re unable to do the Christmas Festival this year with the COVID restric- tions,” said Alysha Martin, Beaverlodge Daycare Society executive director. She said last year the festival was held at St. Mary School, which is also closed for private rentals. Letendre said most other lost rental revenue at the community centre will be “very minimal,” or about $143 in November. Planned private rentals were cancelled and postponed, with Letendre saying birthday parties, fitness classes and meetings were the most common rentals. Both the Sexsmith Community Centre and civic centre have been affected by the restrictions. Dennis Stredulinsky, an Elks member who manages bookings for the civic centre, said the centre is largely shut down. Shannon Municipal Library remains open at reduced capacity, but the Sexsmith Tumbling Club has postponed group classes in favour of Zoom classes and one-to-one appointments, he said. The civic centre had booked one church service in December, but that has been postponed until next year, he said. The Elks won’t be meeting at the civic centre again until possibly January, and that might be by phone, Stredu- linsky said. Council had also been meeting at the civic centre in recent months but moved to the community centre two weeks ago. The Sexsmith Community Centre is also mostly closed, said Beth Endresen. Council meetings will still take place there but two private parties and a yoga session had to be cancelled, she said. There won’t be much lost revenue for December, as typically the space is donated to the Sexsmith Christmas hamper campaign, Endresen said. The centre is commonly used for yoga and fitness classes, playschool and family rentals, as well as annual general meetings, she said. Endresen said the “primary user” is the Lighthouse Seventh Day Adventist Church, which holds services Saturdays. Under COVID restrictions the services will continue with one-third attendance, she said. The Hythe Community Centre is “basically closed to public access,” but Montana’s Hair Salon, the food bank and South Peace Rural Community Learning are open by appointment, said facilities manager Candy Robertson. Appointments aren’t necessary for the thrift store but the north access should be used, Robertson said. The Demmitt Community Centre is also closed, said Teresa von Tiesenhausen, a Demmitt Cultural Society volunteer board member. Von Tiesenhausen said the society had to cancel yoga classes, which have been running with a cap of 15, as well as the annual community Christmas party. Typically at this time of year the hall would see activity like dances, documentary nights, workshops and the Borderline Culture Series concerts, she said. The Saskatoon Lake Community Hall is closed as well, said Teri Ondrick, hall manager. Girl Guides, 4-H and other community group meetings and Christmas parties had to be cancelled, along with many rentals over the upcoming weeks, she said.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News