Tag Archives: avoid

U.S. taxi services see business boost helping Canadians avoid hotel quarantine

Airport transport service, Buffalo Limousine, lost about 70 per cent of its business during COVID-19 pandemic. But the company said its luck changed recently, thanks to Canadian snowbirds returning from U.S. sunbelt states who want to avoid Canada’s hotel quarantine requirement. 

“This is a huge, huge shot in the arm for us, this Canadian snowbird travel,” said Carla Boccio, owner of Buffalo Limousine. “It’s a godsend.”

Since February 22, air passengers entering Canada have been required to quarantine for up to three days in a designated hotel and pay for the cost — up to $ 2,000. However, travellers entering by land are exempt from the rule. 

To avoid the hotel quarantine, some snowbirds are flying to U.S. cities close to the Canadian border — such as Buffalo, N.Y. — and then hiring a ground transport service — such as Buffalo Limousine — to drive them across the Canadian border.

“When Canada imposed that hotel [quarantine], then it was just like our phones were exploding,” said Boccio. “What I hear from the majority of these people, it’s not even so much the cost, it’s like you’re in jail … with this hotel quarantine.”


A new post on Buffalo Limousine’s website informs Canadian travellers that it will drive them from Buffalo, N.Y., across the Canadian border. (Buffalo Limousine)

CBC News interviewed three airport transport services based in Buffalo and one in Burlington, Vt., which is about 70 kilometres from the Quebec border. The companies said they’ll drive Canadians to or across the Canadian border for around $ 100 US and, for an added fee, the Buffalo companies will drive passengers directly to their homes in Ontario. 

Each company said it has seen a boost in business after Canada introduced the hotel quarantine requirement.

Since late February, Buffalo Limousine has, on average, transported 50 customers a day across the Canadian border, increasing its lagging business by around 50 per cent, Boccio said. 

“I’m more thankful than I could even put into words.”

Buffalo Limousine charges about $ 120 US to drive a couple from the Buffalo airport across the border to neighbouring Fort Erie, Ont., or Niagara Falls, said Boccio. A trip to downtown Toronto costs around $ 300 US.

Crossing by land has different rules

The federal government surprised snowbirds abroad when it changed the travel rules on Feb. 22, requiring air passengers entering Canada to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine in a hotel to await the test results.

Ottawa introduced the hotel quarantine requirement to discourage international travel and help stop the spread of COVID-19 infections, which are surging due to more contagious variants

But travellers entering Canada by land face no hotel quarantine requirement. Instead, they must quarantine at home for 14 days and take multiple COVID-19 tests, including one in the U.S. within 72 hours of arrival at the Canadian border. 

According to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) data, land entries into Canada jumped by 15 per cent during the first three weeks of March, compared to the same period in February (when the hotel quarantine rules were not yet in effect). Those entries include both leisure travellers and essential workers who aren’t truck drivers.

WATCH | Quarantine hotels problems include access to food, travellers say

Some Canadians who’ve had to stay at a mandatory quarantine hotel say they’ve been met with long delays, crowded waiting areas and issues accessing basic needs like food. 2:07

To avoid the hotel quarantine requirement, snowbird Jaroslaw Stanczuk said when he returns home from Florida later this month, he will fly to Buffalo, and take a taxi across the border to his home in Fort Erie, Ont. 

Stanczuk, who got the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida, said he’s taking the necessary safety precautions during the pandemic and feels the hotel quarantine is a needless step. 

“You want me to get a COVID-19 test? I’m happy with that. You want me to get one when I arrive? I’m happy with that. But why punish me with three days of quarantine in a hotel?” 


Canadian snowbird Jaroslaw Stanczuk said he plans to fly to Buffalo when he returns to Canada from Florida and then take a taxi across the Canadian border. (submitted by Jaroslaw Stanczuk)

Other snowbirds are also travelling by cab. Since the hotel quarantine rule took effect, Buffalo Airport Taxi said it has driven, on average, 20 to 30 customers a day across the Canadian border, increasing its business by at least 50 per cent.

“They want to go home. They don’t want to go to quarantine prison,” said Buffalo Airport Taxi manager, Saleman Alwhishah. “It boosted our business tremendously.”

Why can U.S. drivers cross the border?

John Arnet, general manager of 716 Limousine in Buffalo, said he’s been inundated with requests for transport across the Canadian land border and questions about the rules for entering Canada during the Canada-U.S. land border closure to non-essential traffic.

“Most of the questions are … ‘Can you take us across the border?'” said Arnet. “Yes, we can take you across the border. We’re an essential service.”

CBSA said that foreign transport workers such as taxi and bus drivers can enter Canada during the border closure, if they establish they’re employed as a driver and are performing a service related to their job. 

CBC News asked the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for comment about Canadians travelling home by land to avoid the hotel quarantine requirement. The agency did not provide a direct response. Instead, it listed the types of fines and other penalties Canadians can face if they violate quarantine rules. 

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SpaceX, NASA Sign Agreement to Avoid Space Collisions

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SpaceX is one of several companies that want to launch megaconstallations of communication satellites into Earth orbit, and that has NASA and other space agencies a little spooked. With that many new objects up there, the chances of a collision skyrocket. SpaceX now has more than 1,000 Starlink nodes around Earth, and NASA has announced an agreement that will ensure those satellites (and future ones) don’t get in the way of any of its missions. 

The accord, which has just been released by NASA (PDF), is what’s known as a “nonreimbursable agreement.” That means no money changes hands, but both parties are getting something they want. The document explains that SpaceX is in a unique position right now, and that gives NASA authority under the Space Act to negotiate an agreement that ensures it can fulfill its mission. 

SpaceX is the largest satellite operator in the world, and its access to cheap Falcon 9 launches essentially guarantees its network will grow quicker than the ones planned by Amazon and others. In addition, all of its satellites are maneuverable. So, SpaceX will commit to reorienting its constellation to avoid any possible “conjunctions” with NASA assets. It will also tell NASA about upcoming “cut-outs” when Starlink satellites are unable to maneuver to avoid a collision. This is mostly the time between the deployment of satellites and when they reach their assigned orbit. SpaceX will also make some changes to its launches to ensure Starlink satellites never get too close to the International Space Station. 

On the other side, NASA says it will provide detailed data about where all its spacecraft will be, allowing SpaceX to steer clear. It will also contribute expertise to making Starlink satellites less reflective, something that has irked astronomers and astrophotographers ever since SpaceX started launching the constellation. Although, SpaceX is expected to share data with NASA on the effectiveness of its ongoing satellite dimming work. 

This is more than a theoretical risk — in 2019, the ESA called for more stringent rules about how megaconstallations share the skies after it had to redirect its Aeolus satellite to avoid colliding with a Starlink node. There was no effective way to tell SpaceX what was happening, and the danger will only become more serious as the industry scales up to thousands of satellites.

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What a 3rd wave of COVID-19 could look like in Canada — and how we can avoid it

COVID-19 levels are declining from the devastating peaks of the second wave across much of Canada, but experts say the threat of more contagious coronavirus variants threatens to jeopardize our ability to prevent a third wave.

Canada has close to 850 confirmed cases of the variants first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, with at least six provinces now reporting community transmission — meaning there’s probably a lot more spreading beneath the surface than we know.

But as variant cases increase, overall COVID-19 numbers have dropped steadily in Canada, with just over 31,000 active cases across the country, about 2,900 new cases per week and 54 cases daily.

“Overall, we’re still doing well,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said during a news conference on Tuesday. “But things could change rapidly.”

So, is Canada destined for a third wave? Or will we be able to adequately respond to the threat of variants spreading across the country to avoid one altogether?

Parts of the country that have seen notable declines in cases have recently moved to reopen non-essential businesses and lift lockdowns in the face of fast-spreading variants, despite public health officials cautioning against doing so

WATCH | Federal modelling warns COVID-19 cases will rise with variants:

Variants are spreading and the virus is changing. But Ottawa’s new modelling reinforces a familiar message. Case rates may be down now, but ease up on restrictions too soon, and disaster could be close behind. 1:50

Is a 3rd wave in Canada inevitable?

Much like the first and second waves of the pandemic in Canada, the situation varies greatly across the country for a number of different reasons — ranging from geographic and demographic to political.

But even provinces and territories that have had fewer COVID-19 cases are still at high risk of devastating outbreaks, overwhelmed health-care systems and severe outcomes for vulnerable populations if variants spread rapidly.

Tam said Newfoundland and Labrador is a cautionary tale for the rest of Canada, where an outbreak of the variant first identified in the U.K., also known as B117, led to a spike in new cases in the community during a time when public health measures were “less stringent.”

“Provincial health authorities knew something was different when cases escalated over a matter of days, even before laboratory evidence confirmed the presence of the B117 variant,” she said.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and scientist with Toronto General Hospital, said variants have made it hard for anyone to predict the likelihood of a bad third wave of the pandemic in Canada with any degree of confidence.

“When you factor in variants of concern and you factor in not enough immunity in the population to protect ourselves, it’s clear that a third wave is certainly a possibility,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitability.”


Storm clouds are pictured above a shipping vessel moored in English Bay in Vancouver on Jan. 25. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and scientist with Toronto General Hospital, says a third wave of the pandemic is possible but not inevitable. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Bogoch said the likelihood of a third wave depends on how Canadians respond to the loosening of restrictions and the increase in opportunities to mingle together and get into situations where the virus can more easily be transmitted.

“It also completely depends on how the provincial governments and the public health authorities choose to reopen their provinces and their ability to rapidly react to a rise in cases,” said Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

“It doesn’t mean you have to stay locked down until everyone is vaccinated. It just means that as places reopen, they have to be extremely careful, proceed very slowly and be able to rapidly pivot if there’s any indication that there are cases plateauing or rising.”

What is the likelihood of a 3rd wave in Canada? 

Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says that based on what we know right now, a third wave is “mathematically inevitable” in Canada because of three key factors.

The first is we know what third waves typically look like from previous pandemics, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu, which saw a brutal third wave during the winter and spring of 1919 — around the same point of the pandemic we’re in now.

Deonandan said societal behaviour is another factor that could lead to a more severe third wave if variants drive outbreaks as restrictions left and Canadians don’t strictly adhere to public health guidelines.

And the third factor is variants, which Deonandan said could be the driving “mechanism” for a devastating third wave in Canada given the extent to which they’ve already spread in recent weeks.

But he said the likelihood of a bad third wave could change with two major caveats.

“The first is: It is avoidable with sufficient public health response and precautionary action, but our history shows us that most governments are unwilling to do the hard public health response, and most populations are unwilling to tolerate that level of action,” he said.

“The second caveat is of course vaccination.”


A nurse prepares doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto on Dec. 22. Experts say we may not be able to vaccinate enough of the population fast enough in Canada to adequately slow the spread of variants in time before they take over. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The good news is that vaccines have not only been shown to be effective in the real world in reducing severe outcomes from COVID-19 but also in potentially curbing virus transmission.

But the catch is we may not be able to vaccinate enough of the population fast enough in Canada to adequately slow the spread of variants in time before they take over.

“It’s a race against time. We want to get the vaccines out there now, before variants get in,” said Dr. Anna Banerji, a physician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“I really believe that we can get on top of this if we get people vaccinated and then make modifications to the vaccines as we need to.”

WATCH | How vaccines can keep up with coronavirus variants:

New coronavirus variants won’t necessarily mean new vaccines or vaccine boosters are needed. And if adjustments are needed, they would take less time to develop than the original vaccines. 2:01

Banerji said even if Canada has a third wave, it likely won’t be as bad as previous waves because she feels Canadians have learned tough lessons in the pandemic — such as in December, when people gathered over the holidays and cases skyrocketed.

“People see that our individual actions have an impact on the outcome, and so I think while people may feel disempowered, they’re realizing that their behaviour really does count,” she said.

“Once we get the vaccines out, things will change and we’ll start opening things up. So I’m still optimistic for the future, even if there’s a lot of fear out there.” 

How bad could a 3rd wave be in Canada? 

Deonandan said that while Canada may not be able to completely “vaccinate our way out of a third wave,” it could look completely different than waves we’ve seen in the past.

“What might happen is that our third wave is very high in cases but not as high in deaths, because we have done a pretty good job in vaccinating our long-term care centres if nothing else, and that’s where a large proportion of our deaths come from,” he said.

“But hospitalizations might be a different matter.”

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said once those at highest risk are vaccinated, including seniors living in the community and in long-term care, hospitalizations will likely decrease.

“But people are going to worry if we open up, we’re just going to get tons of cases,” he said. “Yes — but they’re not going to be severe.”

Chakrabarti said if Canada sees a smaller third wave, or “wavelet,” the health-care system might be able to “absorb” the impact of COVID-19 better than previous waves and avoid becoming completely overwhelmed.


A nurse tends to a patient suspected of having COVID-19 in the ICU of a Toronto hospital in May. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says if Canada sees a smaller third wave, or ‘wavelet,’ the health-care system might be able to ‘absorb’ the impact of COVID-19 better than previous waves. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

South Africa recently saw a notable decline in COVID-19 cases despite the variant first identified there driving a spike in transmission, which could bode well for other countries hoping to control that variant from spreading.

But experts caution that a decline in cases could be short lived, as evidenced by countries hit hard by B117, such as Portugal, Spain, Ireland and the U.K., that later saw an even greater spike in cases driven by the variant.

If Canada is hit by a third wave, Bogoch said it’s likely that community-dwelling seniors and racialized communities will be disproportionately harmed.

“We know how to prevent this from happening. We have the tools that work, we know how to do this, we can prevent a third wave,” he said.

“There’s no reason to have a third wave. There’s no reason to have another lockdown. This is not related to the virus, and we have enough information about how this virus is transmitted. This is truly based on policy.”

Deonandan said while he agrees that a third wave could be prevented, he’s all but convinced Canada is destined to face one because of a lack of political will from parts of the country that are already pushing to reopen.

“It’s highly likely. I think we could do heroic things to avoid it, but we won’t,” he said.

“But what is uncertain is what the hospitalization and death toll of a third wave will be — it might not be as severe.”

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Why it might be best to avoid painkillers as a precaution before your COVID-19 vaccine

Billions of people worldwide will receive vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and some will temporarily feel a sore arm, fever or muscle aches. But reaching for some common painkillers could blunt the effect of the vaccine, experts say.

Mahyar Etminan, an associate professor of of ophthalmology, pharmacology and medicine at the University of British Columbia, looked at data on taking medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before or close to the time of vaccination.

“Given that a lot of people would probably resort to using these drugs once they’re vaccinated, if they still have aches and pains, I thought to put the data into perspective,” said Etminan, who has a background in pharmacy, pharmacology and epidemiology. 

The jury is out on what happens to a person’s immune system after a COVID-19 vaccine if the person has taken those medications. But based on research on other vaccines like for the flu, there may be a blunting effect on immune response from the pills.

“If you tell people not to take them and they don’t like the side-effects they’re experiencing, that may lead to non-compliance with the second dose,” Etminan said. “I think it is an important sort of question to look at scientifically and also to tell patients.”

Why might fever-reducing meds interfere with our immune response after vaccination?

It has to do with what’s happening when our temperature rises to fight off an infection.


Dr. Dakotah Lane, a member of the Lummi Nation, right, raises his arms in a traditional motion of thanks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination from registered nurse Alyssa Lane on Dec. 17, 2020, on the Lummi Reservation, near Bellingham, Wash. Arm pain after vaccinations may be uncomfortable but is generally mild, doctors say. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Dr. Sharon Evans, a professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y., works on training the immune system to attack cancer. She became interested in fever because it is such a common response across animals that walk or fly, even cold-blooded ones.

Before the pandemic, Evans and her colleagues wrote a review on how fever generally helps to reduce the severity and length of illness.

Evans called fever “incredible” for its ability to boost all the components needed for a protective immune response.

Fever “literally mobilizes the cells, it moves them in the body into the right place at the right time,” Evans said.

There’s also good evidence that inflammation, even without fever, can boost immune responses, she said.

Fever pills generally not recommended before vaccines

In a preprint to be published in the journal CHEST, Etimanan and his colleagues noted that a randomized trial looking at infants given acetaminophen immediately following vaccination showed lowered antibody levels compared with other infants who had not been given acetaminophen.

Another study in adults did not find their antibody levels fell after being vaccinated and taking acetaminophen. Immune responses can differ between children and adults.


Mahyar Etminan wants people to know about recommendations on avoiding painkillers around the time of COVID-19 vaccination. (Submitted by Mahyar Etminan)

Evans said the ability to mount a strong immune response also tends to go down as we age.

“What’s the difference between different age groups, different types of anti-inflammatory or antipyretics?” Evans said. “They’re all likely to be important and we just don’t know the answer.”

In the absence of those answers, authorities such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization say the use of antipyretics or fever-reducing medications is not recommended before or at the time of vaccination. They are approved in the days after vaccination.

For COVID-19 vaccines, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) gives similar advice.

“NACI recommends that prophylactic oral analgesics or antipyretics (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen) should not be routinely used before or at the time of vaccination, but their use is not a contraindication to vaccination,” according to the Government of Canada’s website. “Oral analgesics or antipyretics may be considered for the management of adverse events (e.g., pain or fever, respectively), if they occur after vaccination.”

The side-effects of vaccination such as a sore arm at the site of injection or wider effects like headache, fatigue, fever, muscle and joint soreness, while uncomfortable, are generally mild.

Bright side of mild vaccine side-effects

“All those side-effects are like a bell ringer telling you that your body is ramping up immune response,” Evans said. “It’s what you want. It’s sometimes disappointing if you didn’t get that response.”

If you do spike a fever after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, Evans said the best advice is to stay home and ride it out.

If the temperature reaches 39.4 C or 103 F, redness or tenderness in the arm increases after a day or if side-effects don’t go away after a few days, the CDC says call your doctor.

WATCH | How Canada’s other vaccine candidates for COVID-19 stack up:

Canada has other vaccines in line for approval — how they compare to the ones already being rolled out and how COVID-19 variants are a complicating factor. 2:03

Likewise, if you’re regularly taking anti-inflammatory or pain and fever-relieving medications for a chronic condition, Evans suggests contacting your doctor about what to do about taking the medications around the time of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The CDC suggests holding a cool, wet washcloth over the area of the shot and exercising that arm. For fever, drink lots of fluids and dress lightly.

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Epic’s New MetaHuman Creator Generates Digital Characters that Avoid the Uncanny Valley

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Every gamer has been there—you’re playing a title that has incredible sweeping vistas, razor-sharp controls, and clever writing. And then you get a close look at a character model, whose unrealistic, robot-like face breaks the immersion granted by the environment. Making authentic-looking human models without veering too far into the uncanny valley is not easy, but Epic might have cracked the code. The company’s new MetaHuman Creator promises to deliver photorealistic digital characters in a snap, and you can check out a demo right now. 

Epic is perhaps best-known for Fortnite, the most popular game on the planet despite its removal from the iPhone. This title uses cel-shaded visuals that aren’t supposed to look realistic, but Epic’s Unreal Engine is adaptable. It also powers realistically styled games like Gears of War and The Outer Worlds. 

Faces in Unreal Engine aren’t bad, but they’re very obviously synthetic. That likely won’t be the case in the future because every face generated in MetaHuman comes with everything you need to load them up in the Unreal Engine with full animation controls. Epic claims the process of creating a digital model of a character often takes weeks or months, but MetaHuman can do the same in an hour or two. 

You might think you’ve used a lot of character creators in games, and this will be no big deal. You’d be wrong, though. The level of detail in MetaHuman is on a completely different level. Epic says its cloud-based library processes every change the user makes, rendering the results with unprecedented levels of detail and realism. The output works out of the box with Unreal Engine, but you also get full Maya 3D source data, and it’s all compatible with Unreal Engine 4 as well as the upcoming UE5 release. 

If you want to try the demo, you’ll need an Epic account and the Epic Games launcher. The Unreal Engine 4 is a 12GB download, and MetaHumans is another 4.7GB. The MetaHuman engine runs smoothly even on a modest system because all the heavy lifting happens in the Epic cloud via “Unreal Pixel Streaming” tech. You don’t need any programming knowledge to start fiddling around. Both of the faces in the demo are fully editable and rigged up to work with the Unreal Engine, but working with MetaHuman is more complex than your average character builder. 

Epic hasn’t specified when the project will move beyond the “sneak peek” phase, but you might start seeing much more realistic characters in the Unreal engine before you know it. MetaHuman also seems like it might allow for the creation of deepfake-like content — even at this early stage, it can be hard to tell the synthetic MetaHuman faces from the real thing. What a time to be alive.

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Epic’s New MetaHuman Creator Generates Digital Characters that Avoid the Uncanny Valley

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

Every gamer has been there—you’re playing a title that has incredible sweeping vistas, razor-sharp controls, and clever writing. And then you get a close look at a character model, whose unrealistic, robot-like face breaks the immersion granted by the environment. Making authentic-looking human models without veering too far into the uncanny valley is not easy, but Epic might have cracked the code. The company’s new MetaHuman Creator promises to deliver photorealistic digital characters in a snap, and you can check out a demo right now. 

Epic is perhaps best-known for Fortnite, the most popular game on the planet despite its removal from the iPhone. This title uses cel-shaded visuals that aren’t supposed to look realistic, but Epic’s Unreal Engine is adaptable. It also powers realistically styled games like Gears of War and The Outer Worlds. 

Faces in Unreal Engine aren’t bad, but they’re very obviously synthetic. That likely won’t be the case in the future because every face generated in MetaHuman comes with everything you need to load them up in the Unreal Engine with full animation controls. Epic claims the process of creating a digital model of a character often takes weeks or months, but MetaHuman can do the same in an hour or two. 

You might think you’ve used a lot of character creators in games, and this will be no big deal. You’d be wrong, though. The level of detail in MetaHuman is on a completely different level. Epic says its cloud-based library processes every change the user makes, rendering the results with unprecedented levels of detail and realism. The output works out of the box with Unreal Engine, but you also get full Maya 3D source data, and it’s all compatible with Unreal Engine 4 as well as the upcoming UE5 release. 

If you want to try the demo, you’ll need an Epic account and the Epic Games launcher. The Unreal Engine 4 is a 12GB download, and MetaHumans is another 4.7GB. The MetaHuman engine runs smoothly even on a modest system because all the heavy lifting happens in the Epic cloud via “Unreal Pixel Streaming” tech. You don’t need any programming knowledge to start fiddling around. Both of the faces in the demo are fully editable and rigged up to work with the Unreal Engine, but working with MetaHuman is more complex than your average character builder. 

Epic hasn’t specified when the project will move beyond the “sneak peek” phase, but you might start seeing much more realistic characters in the Unreal engine before you know it. MetaHuman also seems like it might allow for the creation of deepfake-like content — even at this early stage, it can be hard to tell the synthetic MetaHuman faces from the real thing. What a time to be alive.

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How Vancouver 2030 plan could avoid the pitfalls of Calgary’s dashed Olympic dream

The group pushing for Vancouver to bid for the 2030 Winter Games say their plan to use private sector money to refurbish existing sports venues gives them an edge over Calgary’s 2026 Olympic dream that was quashed by a public plebiscite.

Bringing an Olympics to Vancouver would also boost British Columbia’s economy which has been battered  by the COVID-19 pandemic, said John Furlong, who was head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), and is part of the group looking at the 2030 Games.

“At some point, governments are going to have to have recovery projects,” said Furlong. “The feeling is that we can really help the community and government . . . coming out of COVID.”

In early November Vancouver city council voted to postpone a decision on whether it wants to explore making a bid for the 2030 Olympics. City staff are expected to present a report to council in early 2021.

WATCH | Furlong tells CBC that Vancouver has tools for 2030 bid:

John Furlong claims that Vancouver has a solid head start on a potential bid for the 2030 Winter Olympic Games. 0:40

Furlong didn’t give a cost estimate for upgrading the facilities used for the 2010 Games but said it could be done without government funding.

“We have been working on the idea of submitting a fully sustainable bid, lowering the cost of the bidding process and then staging and extending the facility and sport legacy for decades into the future,” he said. “The current thinking is we will not need government investment in sport facilities and that any minor upgrading that is needed will be covered by games operations which is projected to be private sector funded.

“The goal is to be the first Winter Olympic and Paralympic bid in history to not require new sport infrastructure funded by senior governments.”

VANOC spent $ 580 million building new venues or upgrading existing facilities for the 2010 Olympics.

Michael Naraine, an assistant professor with Brock University’s department of sport management who studies major games and the Olympic movement, questions if the private sector would become involved in an Olympics without some government insurances.

“We’ve looked at Olympic Games, year after year, and there are always cost overruns,” Naraine said.

“Given the COVID environment . . . I think a lot of private enterprise are going to be skeptical when it comes to getting involved with major projects that they know have a high degree of certainty of having cost overruns.”

Governments also usually pay the tab for costs like security and policing, “line items in particular [that] tend to be under reported when it comes to the final reports that are produced by local organizing committees,” Naraine said.

Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, was planning on bidding for the 2026 Games. The idea was rejected in 2018 by 56.4 per cent of city residents who voted in a plebiscite.

Calgary had ‘significant price tag’

Furlong sees differences between what happened in Calgary and the proposal for Vancouver.

“What they were voting on in Calgary, there was a significant price tag,” he said.

The Calgary Olympic bid had an estimated price tag of $ 5.1 billion, with the province agreeing to contribute $ 700 million and Ottawa covering another $ 1.423 billion through Sport Canada.

The city was asked to contribute $ 390 million, including $ 20 million for a $ 200-million insurance policy against cost overruns.

The Vancouver 2010 Games also faced a plebiscite in February of 2003.  About 64 per cent of Vancouver residents casting ballots voted in favour of hosting the Games.

“The view at the time was there was considerable risk and there was financial risk to the city,” said Furlong. “This time though, the idea is to try to find a way for the Olympics to be a sustainable project where we’ve removed or eliminated the vast majority of that risk.”

WATCH | Furlong says IOC ‘enamoured’ with idea of Vancouver 2030:

John Furlong, one of leaders of 2010 Vancouver Olympics, wants the city to submit a bid for the 2030 Winter Games. 0:44

VANOC’s final fiscal report said the Games broke even, with total revenues and expenses just shy of $ 1.9 billion. The federal government contributed $ 74.4 million, the B.C. government $ 113.4 million and other governments $ 176 million. The International Olympic Committee kicked in $ 659 million in sponsorships and contributions to help cover the tab.

Ticket sales raised $ 269 million, while licensing and merchandising accounted for another $ 54 million.

Critics argue major infrastructure projects like the Sea to Sky Highway, the Vancouver Convention Centre and a rapid transit line to the airport were not included in the final tally.

The final price tag for the convention centre was $ 883 million, about $ 388 million over budget. The SkyTrain’s Canada Line cost $ 2.1 billion.

Kris Sims, BC director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said any 2030 bid involving public money would likely face calls for a plebiscite.

“If the corporations can cover this, and it doesn’t cost taxpayers money, fine, I’ll be there with my pom poms,” she said. “But if it’s costing taxpayers, I’m like no, we don’t have the money.”

Naraine questioned the public appetite for hosting a Games considering how many people are struggling financially due to COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, I think Vancouver 2030 is going to get shot down because it’s just not the right time, given we’re coming out of the pandemic,” he said.

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As COVID-19 cases climb in long-term care homes, experts hope to avoid locking down residents

As the number of people infected with COVID-19 continues to climb, the virus has crept back into long-term care and retirement homes across the country. 

After spreading like wildfire through hundreds of facilities in the spring, killing thousands of seniors, health officials were able to bring it under control during the summer, said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health in Toronto.

But after Labour Day, as COVID-19 cases sharply rose among the general public, so too did the number of outbreaks in long-term care. 

“It really reminds us that the outbreaks that we see in our nursing homes and our retirement homes across the country are really the product of community transmission,” Sinha told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of the CBC podcast The Dose.

LISTEN | What have we learned about COVID-19 to keep my elderly loved one safe in long-term care this time around?

The Dose23:15What have we learned about COVID-19 to keep my elderly loved one safe in long-term care this time around?

“What really worries me now going into the second wave is that as we’re seeing the community transmission ramp up, we’re seeing more and more homes get into outbreak,” Sinha said.

“It’s only going to be a matter of time before that translates into more deaths … deaths that unfortunately, I think, many of us feel are just utterly preventable.” 

Based on data provided by provincial health ministries, CBC News estimates that as of Tuesday evening, there were active COVID-19 outbreaks in more than 120 long-term care homes in Canada’s hardest-hit provinces alone: Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.  

On top of the LTC count, there are close to 100 outbreaks in retirement homes in those provinces, primarily in Ontario and Quebec.  

“Outbreaks” are defined differently in various provinces. In Ontario, only one case — either a resident or a staff member — triggers outbreak protocols. Other provinces count two or more cases as an outbreak. 


‘I think we’re going to do a better job this round … about making sure we’re not shutting families out’ from their loved ones in long-term care, says Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health in Toronto. (Taylor Simmons/CBC)

Given how deadly COVID-19 has been among elderly Canadians, any resurgence of cases in long-term care facilities is concerning, experts say — but not surprising. 

“It’s very similar to the schools, in the sense that what we see in long-term care homes is going to reflect what we’re seeing in the community,” said Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“So as we see community transmission increase, we expect to start seeing increases in long-term care homes and retirement homes because they’re not sealed off from the rest of our community.”

Staff who work in long-term care and retirement homes live in the community, Sinha said, so in places where there is a lot of coronavirus circulating — such as hot spots like Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal — it’s much more likely they “are inadvertently getting COVID and then inadvertently bringing it into [care] homes.”

Although it’s “early days,” Sinha sees some hope in the fact that the majority of outbreaks this fall appear to be much smaller than they were during COVID-19’s first assault on long-term care homes last spring.

“Perhaps we have better systems in place that we can identify it early, isolate quickly and not let small outbreaks become massive outbreaks,” Sinha said. 

That’s the big question, Tuite said, that will determine whether COVID-19 will be less catastrophic this time around. 

“What do those outbreaks look like?” she said. “Are we able to nip them in the bud and, you know, basically find infected staff before they transmit to residents?”


Infectious disease epidemiologist Ashleigh Tuite hopes long-term care homes now have the tools they need to nip COVID-19 outbreaks in the bud before they spread from staff to residents. (Nick Iwanyshyn/University of Toronto)

Whether that happens will reveal if the changes governments and long-term care homes have pledged since the spring are enough to combat this round of COVID-19, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s University Health Network. 

“What is disappointing is how much of it we’re seeing this early in the fall, knowing there’s a long fall and winter ahead,” Bogoch said. 

“It’s not like we don’t know what we’re doing now,” he said. “We have a very good idea of how this virus spreads, who’s vulnerable, and we saw the tremendous vulnerabilities of our long-term facilities during the first wave.”

Some vital policy changes were promised as a result, he said, including fixing the problem of underpaid care workers moving between homes, ensuring access to personal protective equipment and integrating infection prevention and control measures in long-term care homes. 

“This has theoretically been done, but has it actually been implemented to an extent that will protect the long-term care facilities throughout the course of the fall and the winter? The answer remains to be seen.”

Long-term care lockdowns ‘last resort’

In addition to protecting seniors from COVID-19 infection, Sinha emphasized the importance of protecting them from re-living the lockdown of long-term care and retirement homes that happened in the spring. 

The thought of going through that fear, loneliness and isolation again is traumatizing, he said. 

“I can’t imagine the emotions that people are feeling right now,” Sinha said. “[But] I think we’re going to do a better job this round … about making sure we’re not shutting families out completely.”


Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network, says we know much more about how COVID-19 spreads and how to stop it than we did when the virus ravaged long-term care homes last spring. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Even as COVID-19 cases rise, some provinces, including Ontario, have recognized that and aren’t locking long-term care homes down completely, allowing residents to have at least one designated “family caregiver.”

That caregiver not only provides much-needed emotional support, but also helps understaffed homes with tasks such as feeding and bathing their elderly family member, Sinha said. 

In addition, it’s important for people to consider their loved one’s wishes when weighing the risks and benefits of seeing them in long-term care, he said. Many of his patients tell him the value of family visits overrides their worries about getting COVID-19. 

The way to visit as safely as possible, he said, is to make sure that you’re following public health guidelines in all other aspects of your life, including avoiding crowds, physically distancing, wearing a mask and handwashing. 

“If you know that you’re doing the right things yourself personally to protect yourself against COVID and then you’re following all the protocols and precautions [at the long-term care home],” then it’s likely pretty safe, Sinha said. 

Tuite agrees that access to family visits should be maintained during this next phase of COVID-19.

“I think lockdowns should be a measure of last resort,” she said.

“At this point we know enough about the virus, we have enough tools that we can control it,” Tuite said. 

“The fact that there’s COVID circulating doesn’t mean that we need to lock these homes down. It means that we need to have really strong infection prevention and control measures in place. It means that people who are going into the homes need to be screened.”

And, Tuite  said, it means flattening the COVID-19 curve once again. 

“The best way to protect people living in long-term care homes is to keep community transmission low,”  she said. 

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Nvidia Pushes RTX 3070 Launch Back 2 Weeks to Avoid Bot Debacle

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Nvidia’s RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 sales were the worst examples yet of how badly online bots are damaging product launches, and the company wants to prevent a similar event from happening when it launches the RTX 3070. To that end, Nvidia will delay the RTX 3070 debut by two weeks, from October 15 to October 29, in order to build inventory and ensure an adequate supply of cards.

Nvidia-Announcement

This is going to be an interesting stress test of the bot armies, OEM manufacturing, and retailer attempts to identify real orders versus scalpers. I’m not terribly optimistic about the outcome. As I wrote earlier this week, Nvidia has every reason to crack down on bots and scalpers, but other companies in the distribution chain don’t necessarily see things that way.

According to Rob Fahey at GamesIndustry.biz, Amazon apparently took no action to prevent people from buying pre-order stocks before immediately re-listing those exact same products for sale at a substantial markup compared with previous listings. Companies like eBay have no reason to attempt to block preorder scams and scalping, given that they literally make their money from online auctions and will earn more from an inflated sales price than a normal one.

Fahey writes:

Up front, we have to acknowledge that the first come, first served paradigm is a disaster; it’s meaningless in the age of the Internet, when even a tech company with the prowess of Amazon can’t build store pages that keep up with the speed of traffic at a popular launch. The result is confusing, contradictory and frustrating for consumers who add the product to their cart only to see it disappear a screen later, or go out of stock while they’re choosing a delivery address, or flicker in and out of availability as they refresh browser pages. Using this kind of hare-brained system only gives the advantage to the scalpers, who can afford to set up bots and web crawlers to secure stock for themselves.

Fahey suggests the use of lotteries as one method to create a more fair distribution system. I’ve suggested either validated pre-orders or a return to retail distribution as a means of fighting scalping, though the latter obviously depends on the degree to which your state is open for business and how comfortable you feel shopping in it.

Image credit: Twitter

After the RTX 3080 debut/debacle, screenshots surfaced of individuals successfully ordering 18 to 42 GPUs for themselves. We don’t know if Nvidia or any other reseller successfully caught these orders and terminated them. If they did, then waiting an extra two weeks to build inventory might be sufficient to keep the market fed for longer than 2-5 minutes, which is how long Ampere stocks lasted in some online stores. If, on the other hand, the bot detection methods were less successful than previously believed, no reasonable amount of additional stock is going to solve the problem.

If the customer who bought 42 GPUs was an outlier, Nvidia is fine. If he represents the median bot purchase — or is even within one standard deviation of it — then we’re talking about bots sucking down 1-2 dozen cards apiece. If 1,000 to 2,000 bots can account for 12,000 to 48,000 video cards, it’s going to be much harder to overwhelm the collective credit limits and resources of the botters. Some scammers might take whatever profits they earned from the first wave of RTX 3080 and 3090 order abuse, then pour those profits into buying more RTX 3070s in the hopes of pulling the same trick again.

I’m glad to see Nvidia taking the situation seriously and I hope retailers and manufacturers do the same in order to make certain hardware gets into the hands of customers attempting to buy it as opposed to flipping it for profit, but the bots have definitely won Round 1 of our metaphorical match-up. Here’s hoping better detection methods and more inventory can hand a win to the good guys in Round 2. Nvidia has claimed the $ 500 RTX 3070 will outperform the $ 1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, and that’s going to have a lot of people eyeing the RTX 3070 as a potential upgrade.

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Donald Trump can’t delay the election or stop it, but he can avoid it

An unsung benefit of the Donald Trump presidency is how it demands a deeper understanding of American civics and law.

His behaviour has added intrigue to previously ho-hum questions about the U.S. Constitution.

Can a sitting president be indicted?

Can he commit crimes and then pardon himself?

And the latest, prompted by a presidential tweet Thursday: Can the president delay the November election?

Trump tweeted that voting by mail — something many think might be wise during a pandemic — would lead to “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”

“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” he finished.

Then he pinned the tweet so that it remained at the top of his account and wouldn’t get lost in the fire hose stream of his other tweets, a clear sign he wants to get people worked up about it.


Later in the day, during a briefing with reporters, he repeated his unsubstantiated claim that the vote in November “will be the most rigged election in history,” and that mail-in voting is an invitation to fraud.

“Everyone knows it. Smart people know it. Stupid people may not know it,” he said.

In truth, mail-in voting is available in many states, has been the standard way of voting in Oregon for more than 20 years, and all without the massive fraud Trump alleges.


Mike Babinski opens applications for voter ballots at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland on July 14. More states are embracing mail-in balloting as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in the U.S. (Tony Dejak/The Associated Press)

The election is not going to be delayed. The question of whether it even could be delayed is settled. It was put to constitutional scholars months ago when COVID-19 deaths started rising and support for the president started falling.

The answer was a heavily qualified, technical “yes but no, not really.” The president can’t reschedule the election. Congress could but only under extraordinary circumstances and for a very brief delay.

The U.S. didn’t cancel elections during the Civil War, the pandemic of 1918, or the two world wars. So, as extraordinary and tragic as this moment seems, it has equally serious precedents.

And, besides, Democrats are calling the shots in the House, and the states administer elections. At least one Republican governor was quick to push back against the president.

“Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd. End of story,” tweeted New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.


Trump knows all this, so what is he up to?

If his tweet isn’t really serious about an election delay, then the important part is his claim that the election will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent in U.S. history. That’s a tell — it suggests he thinks he’s going to lose.

He did the same thing before the 2016 election when polls were suggesting Hillary Clinton would be the next president.

WATCH | Sound familiar? Trump also suggested the 2016 election would be rigged: 

Donald Trump will determine if election was rigged after voting ends 1:41

The evidence shows that when there is a threat to election integrity and it might benefit Trump, he keeps quiet about it. So does his family.

As Robert Mueller’s special counsel report laid out, Trump, his son Donald Jr., his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner all knew the Russian government was offering to help Trump during the 2016 election. The proof is in their own private emails that are now public. The Trumps didn’t report the threat to the FBI, or tweet about it, they sat on it or lied about it.

More recently, Trump was impeached in 2019 for misusing the power of his office to try to pressure the president of Ukraine into making damaging statements about Trump’s presumed election opponent, former vice-president Joe Biden. He was acquitted by the Republican majority in the Senate.

So Trump is clearly not offended by election shenanigans in principle.

A much different take

The conventional wisdom among many Washington pundits is that Trump is conjuring election fraud in order to seed the ground now for discrediting the result in November. He can then claim the presidency was stolen from him. To what end is uncertain: To challenge the result if it’s close, or to save face if it isn’t?

One famous pundit, the colourful Louisiana Democrat James Carville, has a startlingly different take.

“There’s a significant chance that Trump doesn’t run,” Carville said on MSNBC earlier this month, citing what he saw as an impossible path to Trump’s re-election. “I think there is a better chance Donald Trump does not run for re-election than he is re-elected.”

Sometime FOX Business commentator Charles Gasparino tweeted in late June that his Republican sources were “for the first time raising the possibility that @realDonaldTrump could drop out of the race.”

The explanation offered is not simply that Trump hates losing, it’s that he has a deep fear of humiliation. Casparino said some Republicans noted Trump’s fragile “psyche.”

Humiliation and diminishment seem to have scarred Trump at an early age.

In her new book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, the president’s niece, Mary Trump, recounts a scene from Donald’s youth. He’d been teasing his older brother Fred, when suddenly Fred turned and dumped a bowl of mashed potatoes on the head of seven-year-old Donald and everyone laughed at him.


This composite photo shows the cover art for Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, left, and a portrait of author Mary L. Trump. The book, written by the niece of President Donald Trump, is a bestseller. (Simon & Schuster, left, and Peter Serling/Simon & Schuster via AP)

Many decades later, at a big family dinner in the White House, Mary describes an aunt recalling the mashed potatoes story in front of the president:

“We’ve come a long way since that night when Freddy dumped a bowl of mashed potatoes on Donald’s head for being such a brat,” [said aunt Maryanne]. Everybody familiar with the legendary mashed potato story laughed — everyone except Donald, who listened with his arms tightly crossed and a scowl on his face, as he did whenever Maryanne mentioned it. It upset him as if he were that seven-year-old boy.”

Mary Trump considered the mashed potato story so revealing that she included it in the prologue of her book and then expanded on it in a later chapter as though it were an emblem of the president’s life — like the sled in the movie Citizen Kane.

The idea that Trump would be so driven to avoid humiliation that he’d conjure the inevitability of election fraud as an excuse to quit the presidency and avoid defeat sounds too far-fetched to take seriously. But not long ago, the whole idea of his presidency sounded that way.

And if that is what he’s preparing to do, this is exactly how it would look.

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