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Minneapolis struggles to change policing as officer’s trial set to begin

A police officer’s trial in the death of George Floyd is about to pull a spotlight back to the place that launched conversations around the world about policing and racial equity: Minneapolis.

Opening arguments Monday in the murder and manslaughter trial of officer Derek Chauvin will return this city to the news and prompt scrutiny over whether policing has actually changed since last year.

Justice-reform advocate Billie Jean Van Knight was blunt in her assessment of how far Minneapolis has gotten in terms of changing policing in her city.

“Nowhere,” says the activist with the Racial Justice Network. “Unfortunately, we have not changed. We’ve actually stepped back a little bit.” 

A headline-grabbing vow last year from city officials to disband the Minneapolis police department has quietly dissolved. Talk of defunding the police has been replaced by the funding to hire new officers, amid a flood of personnel departures, with a surge in violent crime unfolding in the backdrop.

At the federal level, reform efforts have lost steam. Yet, despite all this, several activists say they remain hopeful, including Van Knight, as numerous reform initiatives persist in cities across the country — including in Minneapolis where there’s talk of a referendum this fall on reorganizing the role of police.

Knight likened the current situation in Minneapolis to the cleaning of a messy room: Sometimes, she says, the mess gets worse before it gets better.


Members of the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, seen here marching with relatives of those killed by the police carrying cardboard coffins at a protest last fall, say they provide security and act as a liaison between police and a skeptical community. (Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s certainly been a messy year.

How crime surge led to ‘re-fund’ the police

In the tumultuous aftermath of Floyd’s death, a majority of the local city council supported defunding and dismantling the police force. 

That’s not what happened. Instead what happened was a city budget cut of $ 8 million, followed by a $ 6.4 million boost in funding to recruit more police officers. 

The rush to recruit was prompted by an exodus of officers — nearly one-quarter of the force is gone, after veterans retired or took leave.

In the meantime, homicides were up more than one-third in major U.S. cities last year, according to analysis from the Council on Criminal Justice, a non-partisan criminal justice think-tank, and criminologists have attributed that to twin factors: the pandemic and a breakdown in communication between communities and police.


When asked where police-reform efforts have gotten since last year, activist Billie Jean Van Knight says: “Nowhere.” Yet, like several others interviewed here, she’s optimistic change is coming. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

That mistrust was underscored in Minneapolis just a few days ago. A crowd gathered around police during a carjacking arrest, and an officer was recorded punching a teenager at the scene, which prompted the department to launch an investigation.

Minneapolis has still taken some steps in changing. 

Chokeholds were banned. An African-American officer who once sued the department for racial discrimination became the new police chief. A police union boss who was vocally antagonistic toward past reforms retired early.

And even if municipal leaders now dodge talk about defunding, they’re still talking about wide-ranging structural change.

Reforms still happening

An example of one such effort is a possible referendum in this November’s municipal election where residents might be asked to reorder the city charter.

The police would be stripped of its departmental status and be placed under a new public safety department; police would be recognized as just one component of public safety, alongside mobile units of mental-health professionals.

Philippe Cunningham, a 33-year-old city councillor, says reimagining public safety was always going to be hard work and that city officials never expected it would be simple.


A Minneapolis Police officer seen at a crime scene last year. A flood of officers left the force last year, amid heavy scrutiny and civil unrest. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

“If we had the easy answers, it would have already been done now,” Cunningham said. “What we fundamentally need is a new system of public safety that doesn’t 100 per cent rely on an armed police officer to show up to every need people have.”

But one longtime former councillor and public-safety official says he was flabbergasted that elected officials initially embraced talk last year of defunding the police.

Don Samuels called it irresponsible and naive.

Despite being a well-known figure in the Black community, and living in a Black neighbourhood, Samuels said he didn’t hear anything in the way of consultation — and when he first heard about it on TV, he couldn’t believe his ears.

‘We looked at each other aghast’

“My wife and I sat on our sofa and watched CNN and saw them announce the defunding of the police,” said Samuels, who now runs an organization that provides small loans to low-income people. 

“We looked at each other with our mouths open, aghast.”


Former city councillor Don Samuels says the pledge to defund the police was hastily made and made his neighbourhood more dangerous. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

Samuels said public officials should have considered how their words might be interpreted by criminals and the effect that might have in communities.

Just a few days ago, he said, he heard six separate bursts of gunfire over the course of about nine hours; 20 rounds popping one time, 10 pops another, with bullet holes left in houses and cars around his place.

A few months ago, someone was shot about eight houses up from his home in North Minneapolis, and another person was shot just around the corner.  

“We knew that as a result of this the [criminals] around here would become so emboldened,” Samuels said.

“They [already] feel like this is their territory, wearing a red bandana or a blue bandana, to suggest one gang or another. And it’s like, ‘We own this street.’

“So now you’re telling them, ‘Actually, now, we’re going to remove the only restraint on your behaviour’ — which is the police.”


An IT worker by day, Charles, who would not give his last name, carries licensed weapons for what he says is an effort to ensure community safety on behalf of the group Minnesota Freedom Fighters. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

Samuels chalks it down, in part, to youthful naivete from idealistic young members of council; he agrees, however, that police reform is desperately needed. 

He said what’s also needed is broader societal change, including to an education system he calls riddled with racism. 

Nationwide, schools in richer areas tend to receive more funding through property taxes. Those schools, and those areas, tend to be whiter. In Minneapolis, both the city and the schools are highly segregated by race.

Few expect imminent solutions from the national level.

Change happening locally

Reform efforts in Washington appear stalled in the way so many other issues have faltered there: with partisan gridlock. 

Democrats stalled a Republican police-reform bill they called insufficient last year, and Republicans aren’t backing Democrats’ proposals, such as officer immunity from lawsuits, which leaves little hope of major reform getting the 60 per cent required for a vote in the Senate.

WATCH | Changes to policing in Minneapolis have been slow:

In the 10 months since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the city struggles to change policing and some have little hope Derek Chauvin’s murder trial will change much. 2:30

One advocate for dramatic change said he isn’t looking to Washington. But he’s visiting multiple cities a month, and excited about many ideas he’s heard from local officials.

“That’s where my focus is — [the local level],” says Alex Vitale, a professor at Brooklyn College and author of The End Of Policing

A number of jurisdictions are studying new models of public safety, and potentially shifting responsibilities from police — that’s the sweeping approach Vitale favours. 

Others are studying narrower reforms to policing, like better training — which Vitale calls insufficient, based on past studies, and a “PR stunt.”


Chauvin, in a courtroom sketch, is seen being introduced to potential jurors during jury selection earlier this month. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

Already, Austin, Texas, has reallocated some funds from the police budget to support housing for homeless people. 

Denver now has non-police officers dealing with mental-health crises. Los Angeles is shifting funding to social services and jail-diversion programs. Oakland is dissolving a policing unit that works in schools.

“There have been some small but significant changes to the scope of policing,” Vitale said in an interview. 

As for Minneapolis, he says: “I think it’s going to have some radical changes. It just takes time.” 

First, there’s the Chauvin trial. 

The case is fraying nerves locally about the verdict, how people will react, and how it might affect reform.

Armed group ready to defend neighbourhoods

One armed group of mostly Black volunteers with legal firearms permits is on alert, ready to patrol areas struck by vandals last year.

A man who works in information technology and volunteers with the group — the Minnesota Freedom Fighters — says he’s ready with his Glock 34 handgun and a Glock 19 with an extra magazine.

Charles, who declined to have his last name published, said people don’t trust the police and his group acts as a go-between, responding to calls, communicating with law enforcement, and patrolling at risk-areas to deter property destruction.

A number of businesses remain boarded up from last year, even if they’re operating inside. 


Toussaint Morrison, an actor and community activist in Minneapolis, says anxiety and tension are building in advance of the trial. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

As he walked with CBC News down West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis, Charles expressed his fear: “They might go after this corridor again.” 

One community activist, Toussaint Morrison, said the upcoming case feels like a trial about racial attitudes and American society as a whole, and not just about one officer.

“There’s just an anxiety and a tension that’s been brewing,” Morrison said.

So this community is acutely aware that the world is watching it again. And that others will draw inferences from what happens, not just inside the courtroom.

“We know that we are the centre of attention right now,” Van Knight said.

“And if we don’t get these things done, how are we going to expect other people to to get these things done?”

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CBC | World News

WHO says most African countries to begin vaccination drives by end of March

Most African countries will kick-start their COVID-19 vaccination programs by the end of March as efforts to procure doses for the continent’s 1.3 billion people gather pace, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The world’s poorest continent faces logistical and financial obstacles to securing all the vaccines it needs, but the WHO-led COVAX facility has begun to bear fruit.

“This week Africa has been at the forefront of COVAX facility deliveries, finally, with almost 10 million vaccine doses being delivered to 11 countries as of this morning,” WHO Africa’s Matshidiso Moeti told a virtual news conference.

“We expect that around half of African countries will receive COVAX deliveries in the coming week and that most countries will have vaccination programs underway by the end of March.”

COVAX, also led by the GAVI vaccines alliance and other partners, plans to send about 1.3 billion doses to 92 lower- and middle-income nations, covering up to 20 per cent of their populations.

As of Thursday, Africa had reported at least 3,955,000 infections and 104,000 deaths.

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CBC | World News

Who’s next? Provincial, territorial vaccination plans begin to take shape

Vaccine deliveries are starting to ramp up again and Canadians everywhere are asking themselves the same questions: When will it be my turn? And how will I know?

Each province has a phased plan for vaccine deployment which indicates when the various priority groups can expect to receive the shots.

All provincial and territorial governments maintain they’re ready to speed up the vaccination effort as the supply increases, but some of their timetables remain vague. Here’s what we know so far about who’s getting the shots and when.

British Columbia

B.C. is still in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout, which covers residents and staff of long-term care facilities, health care workers who may provide care for COVID-19 patients and remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

The subsequent phase runs over February to March and includes seniors 80 and over, Indigenous seniors 65 and over, hospital staff and medical specialists, vulnerable populations living and working in congregated settings and staff providing in-home support to seniors.

B.C. says the province’s general population will start getting the vaccines in April, with older residents getting their shots first.


Andy Yoon, 77, of Abbotsford B.C., became the first long-term care resident in the Fraser Health region to receive the COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 24, 2020. (Submitted by Fraser Health)

Immunization clinics overseen by local health authorities are being organized in 172 communities in school gymnasiums, arenas, convention centres and community halls.

B.C. said it would start reaching out by the end of February to seniors 80 years and older, Indigenous seniors aged 65 and older and Indigenous Elders to tell them how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

Pre-registration for vaccinations opens in March. People can pre-register, online or by phone, two to four weeks before they are eligible. Eligibility is based on the current phase of the vaccination program and the recipient’s age.

Those contacted for vaccination appointments are pre-screened for eligibility before choosing a location, date and time to receive the shot.

After an individual gets their first vaccine dose, they’ll be told by email, text or phone when they can book an appointment for their second dose.

For more information about B.C.’s vaccination plan, go here.

Alberta

Alberta is in the first phase of its vaccine rollout. This phase — which is expected to run until the end of the month — covers health care workers who could be in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and residents of long-term care facilities.

As of Feb. 24, seniors 75 and over and seniors 65 and over living in First Nations and Métis communities will be eligible for vaccination. The Alberta government estimates there are about 230,000 seniors in these two groups.

Given the anticipated vaccine delivery schedule, Alberta Health Services says it expects it will be vaccinating people in this phase over most of March.


Masked Kehewin Cree Nation elders pray at a ceremony marking the arrival of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the northern Alberta community on Feb. 8, 2021. Kehewin council member Greyeagle Cardinal looks on from behind plexiglass. (Jodi Cardinal)

Phase 2 is expected to begin in April. Vaccinations in this phase will be offered to anyone aged 50 to 74 years, anyone with underlying health conditions, First Nations and Métis people aged 35 and older, residents and staff in congregate living settings and eligible caregivers.

The Alberta government says that, as supply increases, it will accelerate vaccinations on the model of its annual flu campaign by using Alberta Health Services staff, community pharmacies and family physicians. The province was able to administer 1.3 million flu shots in six weeks last fall — an average of over 30,000 shots per day.

For more information about Alberta’s vaccination plan, go here.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s Phase 1 is still underway, focusing on health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care homes, residents 70 years and older and residents in remote and northern regions over the age of 50.

The timing is still not known, but Phase 2 will cover the general population starting with people aged 60-69, extremely vulnerable individuals and staff and residents of group homes and emergency shelters.

The province expects that when Phase 2 begins, there will be 226 vaccine clinics in 181 communities across the province operated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Those clinics will include mass vaccination sites, drive-through locations and mobile vaccination clinics. More sites will be added through pharmacies and doctors’ offices.


Debbie Frier, registered nurse, left, injects Leah Sawatsky, an emergency room nurse, right, with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Regina General Hospital in Regina on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

People will be asked to register for vaccination through an online platform or by phone. 

For more information about Saskatchewan’s vaccination plan, go here.

Manitoba

Manitoba’s immunization teams are now vaccinating residents at 1,400 congregate living sites, including hospitals, supportive housing facilities and assisted living sites. On February 19, immunization began in Brandon and Winnipeg.

The next eligible group includes health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of shared living facilities and essential workers.

Manitoba has set up a Vaccine Queue Calculator to allow Manitobans to estimate when they’ll receive their vaccines.

On March 5, the province expects to open two new “supersites” for large-scale vaccinations in Selkirk and the Morden-Winkler area, bringing the number of such sites to six. (Three are in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson, with a fourth facility at the airport outside Thompson.)


Michael David Blacksmith, a traditional ceremony and sun dance leader from Pimicikamak Cree Nation, is vaccinated at a pop-up site in Winnipeg. (Submitted by Government of Manitoba)

The province says it plans to expand to 13 supersites throughout Manitoba in April. It has hired 1,212 people to help with the vaccination effort.

More than 400 medical clinics and pharmacies have applied to be a part of the immunization campaign once a suitable vaccine is approved for use in these settings.

Manitobans with questions about the vaccination plan and their position in the queue can go to this website or call a toll-free number: 1-844-626-8222.

Ontario

Ontario’s vaccination rollout is in Phase 1, which covers staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, and highest-priority health care workers.

As the vaccine supply increases, Phase 1 is expected to move on to adults 80 years of age and older, staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings, high priority health care workers, all Indigenous adults and adult recipients of chronic home care.

Phase 2 is set to begin in March. This phase will add more vaccination sites, including municipally run locations, hospital sites, mobile vaccination locations, pharmacies, clinics, community-run health centres and aboriginal health centres.


Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN vaccine clinic in Toronto on January 7, 2021. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Phase 3 covers the general population and is expected to begin by late summer.

The Ontario government is developing an online portal for mass vaccination pre-registration and appointment booking. For those without access to the internet, the province will establish a customer service desk to register and book appointments. Neighbourhood mobile clinics are being planned by local public health units. 

For more information about Ontario’s vaccination plan, go here.

Quebec

Quebec continues to inoculate priority groups such as health care workers on the front lines, those who live in long-term care or seniors’ homes (known as CHSLDs) and those living in remote areas.

Once more vaccines arrive, Quebec plans to expand inoculations to include seniors 70 and up and those with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The province has started to prepare by securing mass vaccination sites, such as the Olympic Stadium.


A box of Pfizer/BioNTEch COVID-19 vaccine is taken from a UPS truck past news photographers to the Maimonides long-term care home in Montreal on December 14, 2020. (Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services/Reuters)

It has already set up mass vaccination sites in major urban centres in anticipation of an increase in the vaccine supply.  One of them — the Palais des congrès de Montréal in the heart of downtown — expects to vaccinate up to 2,000 people per day.

Quebec’s health department says it’s planning a public information campaign to inform residents about the vaccination process.

For more information about Quebec’s vaccination plan, go here.

New Brunswick

Phase 1 is underway, covering long-term care residents and staff, front line health care staff, First Nations adults and individuals 85 and over.

Phase 2 starts in April and will include residents in other communal settings, health care workers providing direct patient care (such as pharmacists and dentists), firefighters, police officers, home support workers for seniors, people 70 and over, people with complex medical conditions, volunteers at long-term care homes, people 40 and over with three or more chronic conditions and truckers or workers who cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly.

The N.B. government’s website says that details about who can register for vaccination and when will be announced in the coming weeks. Clinic locations are also being finalized.


New Brunswick’s first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrives on a cargo flight from Montreal. (Shane Magee/CBC)

The province is asking residents to wait for those details instead of tying up resources by calling the provincial tele-care number or their local health practitioners.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I.’s vaccination effort is in its first phase, which will continue throughout March. Public health nurses had been delivering the vaccines; trained pharmacists were approved recently to administer the doses as well.

Those getting vaccinations in this phase are residents and staff of long-term care homes, health care workers in direct contact with patients who face an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors 80 and older, adults 18 and older living in Indigenous communities, residents and staff of shared living facilities (such as group homes, shelters and correctional facilities) and truck drivers and other workers who routinely travel out of the province.

Starting February 22, vaccine clinics in P.E.I. will start giving doses to seniors aged 80 and older.

The province says other population groups will be told when they can be vaccinated as the rollout continues. The province expects to have four clinics in operation starting in March — in O’Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown and Montague.


Long-term care resident Art Johnston, 98, was the first person other than a health care worker to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on P.E.I. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Vaccinations in P.E.I. are by appointment only. When their turns come up, Islanders can book their appointments by calling 1-844-975-3303 or by filling out a form available through this government website.

For more information about Prince Edward Island’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s vaccination effort is in Phase 1. That covers those who work directly with patients in hospitals or care homes, people who live and work in long-term care homes and people who live and work in adult residential care centres and regional rehabilitation centres.

The next phase will include: anyone who works in a hospital (and might come into contact with patients); doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists; people who live in correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign worker housing; people who are required to regularly travel for work (such as truck drivers); people responsible for food security (such as workers in large food processing plants); those aged 75 to 79 and those 80 and older.

N.S. Public Health is holding prototype clinics before deploying vaccines across the province.

The first prototype clinic — for seniors 80 years and older — will be at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax starting the week of Feb. 22. The province is planning to set up clinics in pharmacies as well.


Audrey Wiseman, 85, was one of the first long-term care residents in Nova Scotia to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Those at the head of the queue will receive letters from the province explaining how to schedule a vaccination appointment.

For more information about Nova Scotia’s vaccination plan, go here.

Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland & Labrador is in Phase 1 of its immunization plan. Doses in this first phase are earmarked for congregate living settings for seniors, health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, people 85 and older and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.

The next group to get shots will include health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of all other congregate living settings and essential workers. These categories are still being defined by the province and its health department says details of future phases are still being finalized.

For more information about Newfoundland & Labrador’s vaccination plan, go here.


Newfoundland and Labrador received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 15, 2020. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Yukon

Priority groups in Yukon have received their first doses and, in some cases, their second doses as well.

As of Feb. 19, high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents and staff had received their second doses.

Those living in remote rural communities and people aged 65 and older are to start getting their second doses beginning the week of Feb. 22.

Over the past few weeks, every community outside Whitehorse has been visited by one of two mobile vaccine clinic teams (named ‘Balto’ and ‘Togo’) delivering first doses to all residents 18 and over.

In Whitehorse, a mass clinic will open on March 1 that will deliver up to 800 immunizations a day — both first and second doses.


Agnes Mills, 85, was the first person in Yukon to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Mark Kelly Photography/Government of Yukon)

All Whitehorse residents 18 years of age and older can now book appointments for their first shots.

Those living in Whitehorse must book appointments online or by calling 1-877-374-0425. In rural Yukon, where internet connectivity may be an issue, appointments are recommended but walk-ins are welcome.

For more information about Yukon’s vaccination plan, go here.

Northwest Territories

All NWT long-term care residents have received first and second doses. The NWT COVID-19 vaccine strategy says the general population can expect access to the vaccine in March.

The strategy says enough doses to immunize 75 per cent of eligible residents 18 years of age and older should be delivered by the end of March.

“This generous initial allocation from the federal government recognizes the territories’ limited health care system capacities and the vulnerabilities of remote Indigenous communities,” says the document.

The vaccine schedule and booking tool are now online and will be updated as more doses are delivered.


Chris Balla, the Beaufort Delta regional operations manager for Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, is responsible for making sure vaccines and vaccinations teams make it to their final destinations. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Those living in larger centres are expected to call or book online for their vaccinations. In smaller communities, meanwhile, dates and locations for vaccination clinics will be advertised and residents will be asked to show up.

Multiple small mobile vaccine units are travelling to 33 communities to help local health care staff administer doses.

For more information on NWT’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nunavut

Nunavut says it expects to have 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18 vaccinated by the end of March.

Nunavut is only using the Moderna vaccine right now and has been staging vaccine clinics in two or three communities at a time.

Beginning next week, seven communities will be getting their first doses of the vaccine.

In Iqaluit, vaccinations are by appointment only and are being directed toward elders 60 or older, those living in community shelters, front line health workers, Medivac flight crews, residents and staff of group homes and Iqaluit’s Akaausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Centre, and residents and staff of correctional facilities.


A Canadian North Flight lands on the tarmac in Iqaluit, Dec. 30, carrying Nunavut’s first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

The next phase in Iqaluit is expected to begin in March.

Nunavut relays COVID-19 information through public service announcements via TV, social media, community radio and the government’s website. The website shows the locations of clinics, their times of operation and contact information.

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Made-in-Canada coronavirus vaccine to begin human clinical trials Tuesday

A made-in-Canada vaccine to protect against COVID-19 is to begin human clinical trials Tuesday in Toronto, says the biotechnology company that developed the vaccine.

Toronto-based Providence Therapeutics said three doses of its vaccine, called PTX-COVID19-B, will be given to 60 adult volunteers at a clinical trial site in Toronto in the first phase of the trial on Tuesday. 

Fifteen of those volunteers will receive a placebo, and 45 will get the vaccine.

Brad Sorenson, the company’s CEO, said it’s the first time a vaccine designed and manufactured in Canada has begun clinical trials. The company has purchased a site in Calgary to mass produce the vaccine. 

The vaccine is an mRNA vaccine — which triggers an immune response in the body — and is similar to the Moderna coronavirus shot being given to people across Canada.

Quebec-based pharmaceutical Medicago began clinical trials last July of its coronavirus vaccine that is based on another technology. Unlike Providence, a large portion of Medicago’s vaccine doses will be manufactured outside the country, in North Carolina.


Canada lacks the capacity to manufacture the millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines needed to immunize people outside of a clinical setting. (Tim Smith/The Canadian Press)

Medicago’s vaccine is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials — the last stage before it can apply for approval from Health Canada and other regulators to market the product. 

Sorenson said Providence designed and built its vaccine last March.

“We reached out to the Canadian government in April and said, ‘Hey, you’ve heard of Moderna. We’re doing the exact same thing,'” Sorenson said in an interview.

“We went from concept into the clinic in under a year without the same level of support as our peers had.”

Purchased Calgary site

The federal government provided financial sponsorship and support for the early phase clinical trial through the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program. 

Currently, Canada lacks the capacity to manufacture the millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines needed to immunize people outside of a clinical setting. It’s why the federal government struck deals with Pfizer and Moderna — both manufactured abroad — to obtain the vaccines being rolled out across Canada.

While the company was developing the vaccine in pre-clinical studies, Sorenson said it also started to build the infrastructure to manufacture the vaccine in Canada as well.

The company purchased a 20,000-square-foot facility in Calgary that includes 12,000 square feet of lab space to mass produce the vaccine. The facility will be up and running in two months, Sorensen said. 

In the next phase of clinical trials, another 60 volunteers over the age of 65 will receive the vaccine or a placebo.

Initial focus was cancer research

Providence aims to expand and start Phase 3 clinical trials in May.

If the vaccine proves safe and effective in clinical trials and Health Canada approves it, the goal is to have it ready for the global market by January 2022.

Sorenson founded Providence Therapeutics in 2013 to focus on cancer vaccines.

Several scientists contributed to the pre-clinical research on Providence’s vaccine, including those at the lab of Dr. Mario Ostrowski at the University of Toronto, Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Rob Kozak at Sunnybrook Research Institute, as well as Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist.

In August, Ostrowski, whose laboratory performed the animal trials, said results were on par with tests of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech at that stage.

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Ontario tops 2,000 new COVID-19 cases, vaccination programs begin in Atlantic Canada

The latest:

Ontario reported more than 2,100 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as vaccination efforts got underway in Manitoba and several Atlantic provinces.

Health officials in Ontario reported 2,139 new cases of COVID-19 and 43 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 4,035. Hospitalizations climbed to 932, with 256 people in intensive care units.

With case numbers and hospitalizations on the rise, officials have instructed hospitals in the province to get ready for a surge in COVID-19 patients. Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson said in a memo to hospitals that the province has entered “a more critical phase of the pandemic where we are seeing widespread community transmission.”

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 1,897 new cases of COVID-19 and 43 additional deaths on Wednesday.

Hospitalizations in the province also increased, rising to 975, with 128 in intensive care units, according to a provincial tracking site.

Premier François Legault announced new restrictions on Tuesday, saying offices will be closed as of Thursday, with non-essential businesses closing for a period after Dec. 25.

The updates in Ontario and Quebec come as more provinces begin to roll out their vaccination efforts.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia offered their first doses on Tuesday. Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island gave their first doses on Wednesday after receiving initial supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech product, the first — and so far only — COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in Canada.


Speaking ahead of the first vaccinations in the province, Premier Brian Pallister asked Manitobans to be patient and not let their guard down as the province readies a large, complex vaccination effort.

“This is a monumental challenge, a historic challenge,” he said Tuesday.

Danielle Sheaves, a registered nurse, was the first person to get the vaccine in Nova Scotia.

“It’s a little overwhelming this morning, but feels good, and I was honoured to be asked to be the first person to get the vaccine this morning,” said Sheaves, who works at the COVID-19 unit at the Halifax Infirmary.


Halifax nurse Danielle Sheaves receives the first COVID-19 vaccination given in Nova Scotia. (Robert Short/CBC)

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said Tuesday that if all goes well, his province will have more people vaccinated Wednesday than have tested positive for COVID-19 on the island, which has seen just 89 positive cases since the pandemic began.

As provinces dealt with the Pfizer-BioNTech rollout, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said that Canada has an agreement in place to get up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December, ahead of schedule. The Moderna vaccine has not yet been approved by Health Canada, but Trudeau said deliveries could begin within 48 hours of getting the green light.

“Doses of this vaccine will be directed to the North, as well as to remote and Indigenous communities,” Trudeau said Tuesday. 


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Infection control specialist warns of pressure on Ontario hospitals:

Ontario needs to really curb the spread of the coronavirus, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam. ‘We can’t keep getting more COVID patients’ in hospital, he said. 0:51

As of 12:50 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 479,262, with 76,216 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,744.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while Nova Scotia reported four new cases.

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have arrived in New Brunswick, but that province’s vaccination effort is not set to begin until the weekend.

In British Columbia, the Interior Health Authority said Tuesday that a cluster of cases has been linked to the Big White resort near Kelowna.

B.C. reported 522 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 additional deaths on Tuesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 668. Hospitalizations stood at 361, health officials said, with 93 in intensive care.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced new supports for some neighbourhoods in Calgary and Edmonton that have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. 

Health officials in Alberta reported 1,341 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 11 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 744. Hospitalizations stood at 742, with 137 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, according to a provincial tally.

Saskatchewan has administered its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to health-care workers in Regina. Nurses at the Regina General Hospital gave the province’s first shots to a critical care doctor and an emergency room nurse yesterday.

Health officials in Saskatchewan reported 194 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and seven additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 98.

The COVID-19 death toll in Manitoba passed the 500 mark on Tuesday as the province announced 272 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths. The province gave out its first vaccinations early Wednesday, beginning with select health-care workers.

Across the North, Nunavut reported two new cases of COVID-19 and there was one new case reported in the Northwest Territories. There were no reports of new cases in Yukon.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 12:50 p.m. ET

As of early Wednesday afternoon, more than 73.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 41.8 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a case-tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.6 million.

In Europe, Germany hit a new record level of coronavirus deaths as it entered a harder lockdown Wednesday, closing shops and schools to try to bring down stubbornly high new cases.

Nearly 140,000 people in the United Kingdom have received their first COVID-19 shots in the first week of rollout for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the minister in charge of the program said on Wednesday.

The vaccine was approved for emergency use two weeks ago, with rollout beginning on Dec. 8, making Britain the first country to deploy the shot outside of clinical trials.

“A really good start to the vaccination program. It’s been seven days and we have done: England: 108,000, Wales: 7,897, Northern Ireland: 4,000, Scotland: 18,000. U.K. total 137,897,” Nadhim Zahawi said in a tweet.

Britain’s easing of restrictions for family gatherings over Christmas looks like it’s still on despite a sharp spike in new coronavirus infections that’s raised fears of another wave of cases and deaths in the new year.

WATCH | New COVID-19 restrictions across Europe as U.K. allows small Christmas gatherings:

New COVID-19 restrictions have been introduced across Europe to combat the rise in cases, but the U.K. has also loosened rules around Christmas gatherings, leaving many people confused and health officials warning about the consequences. 1:58

Britain’s communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said U.K. leaders will have further discussions Wednesday about the planned relaxation. However, he gave no indication that a change would be announced, beyond urging people to think harder about their holiday plans.

“It could be counterproductive to produce overly restrictive rules rather than providing very clear and sober guidance and ask people to think carefully and come to their informed judgment,” he told BBC radio.

Medical staff in Poland, meanwhile, could start being vaccinated this month, the prime minister’s top aide, Michal Dworczyk, said.

In the Americas, daily U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 3,000 for the third time in a week as the country expanded its vaccination program and the U.S. Congress appeared to make progress toward approving financial relief for the pandemic-stricken country, according to a Reuters report. The daily tally from the U.S Centers for Disease Control was slightly lower, at 2,960.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared set for regulatory authorization this week after U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff endorsed it as safe and effective.

California is distributing 5,000 body bags mostly to the hard-hit areas in Los Angeles and San Diego and has 60 refrigerated trailers standing by as makeshift morgues in anticipation of a surge of coronavirus deaths.

The precautions come from hospitalizations that now are double the summertime peak and threaten to soon overwhelm the hospital system.


Director of inpatient pharmacy David Cheng, centre, places trays of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine into a freezer at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in Los Angeles on Monday. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that the number of average daily deaths has quadrupled from a month ago.

In Kansas, a mayor announced Tuesday that she is resigning, effective immediately, because of threats she has received after she publicly supported a mask mandate.

Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw said she was concerned about her safety after being met with aggression, including threats via phone and email, after she was quoted in a USA Today article on Friday supporting the mandate, The Dodge City Globe reported.

Costa Rican authorities and Panama authorized the use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia received its first shipment of vaccines on Wednesday and will begin distributing the shots in the next three days, the health minister said.

Oman’s Health Ministry has issued a licence to import the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Lebanon is expected to sign a deal this week for supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and is set to receive the first batch eight weeks after that.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea reported a record daily rise in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and the prime minister issued an urgent call for more hospital beds.

Indonesia will provide free vaccines to its citizens when it starts its inoculation program, President Joko Widodo said, adding that he would get the first shot to reassure people of its safety.


Workers spray disinfectant in a catering shop as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 in Karachi on Monday. (Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images)

The number of daily COVID-19 deaths in Pakistan crossed 100 for the first time in months with the virus spreading quickly in the financial capital of Karachi.

Tokyo has reported 678 new cases of the coronavirus, a high for the Japanese capital, as Japan now struggles with another surge in the virus.

South Africa remained the hardest-hit country in Africa, with more than 873,000 cases and 23,600 deaths.

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CBC | Health News

Canadians urged to dramatically limit contacts as COVID-19 cases rise, holidays begin

Public health officials are urging Canadians to dramatically limit their contacts with other people as the country continues on a “rapid growth trajectory” for COVID-19 cases and the holiday season begins.

This week’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine has led to a groundswell of public optimism — but public health officials are warning the pandemic is a long way from over. Releasing new modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) today, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that if Canadians maintain their current contact levels, more than 12,000 new cases will be recorded daily by January.

If people increase their level of contacts, however, that number could surge to more than 30,000 cases daily by January, according to the modelling sheets.

PHAC modelling suggests combined efforts are “urgently needed” to bend the curve as outbreaks continue in long-term care facilities and First Nation communities, putting a strain on hospitals and regional health care systems.

Tam told a media briefing in Ottawa that only one per cent of Canadians have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which means most Canadians remain vulnerable to infection.

3 weeks, 100K new cases

About 100,000 new cases have been reported across the country in just the last three weeks, with growth being driven primarily by the six provinces west of the Atlantic region. In recent weeks, each of these provinces has recorded its highest daily case count, and several also have seen their highest daily number of deaths to date.

“We have yet to see the kind of sustained decline in daily case counts that would indicate we are bringing the pandemic under control,” Tam said.

WATCH / Dr. Tam on impact of COVID-19 on health system

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tam, updates reporters with the rising number of COVID 19 cases in regions across the country and reveals modeling projections. 0:50

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Canada is entering a tricky season, when people traditionally take a break from work to spend time with family. Despite the positive news on the vaccine front, she urged Canadians to be vigilant in practising public health guidelines because a “very clear danger” remains.

“We’re going to have to be very, very cautious over the next several weeks to protect those people who are counting on us to work together,” she said.

Hajdu urges collaboration

Asked if the government should impose more restrictive measures to stem the disastrous rise in cases, Hajdu said the best approach is for the federal government to collaborate with the provinces.

“Yes, it is a tragedy, I completely agree with you, that cases are rising,” she said. “They are rising globally. There are very few countries that are not seeing growth right now. But I will tell you this — I believe it’s that effort of partnership, that we-will-do-whatever-it-takes attitude, that will get our country through this.”

Short-term projections suggest there could be up to 577,000 cases and 14,920 deaths by Dec. 25.

As of Friday morning, Canadian public health officials were reporting a total of 443,922 cases and 13,154 deaths.

Today’s projections are particularly grim for First Nations, where the number of active cases has doubled in the last month. The current number of active cases is more than 20 times higher than the peak number during the first wave of the pandemic for First Nations on reserve.

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U.K. to begin rollout of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine within days

Britain is preparing to become the first country to roll out the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week, initially making the shot available at hospitals before distributing stocks to doctors’ clinics, the government said on Sunday.

The first doses are set to be administered on Tuesday, with the National Health Service (NHS) giving top priority to vaccinating the over-80s, frontline health-care workers and care home staff and residents.

Britain gave emergency use approval for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech last week — jumping ahead in the global race to begin the most crucial mass inoculation program in history.

In total, Britain has ordered 40 million doses. As each person requires two doses, that is enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the country of 67 million.

About 800,000 doses are expected to be available within the first week.

WATCH | Britain approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use:

The U.K. is the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine. The government insists it hasn’t cut corners with Pfizer’s vaccine. But being first comes with its own challenges. 2:00

Initial doses that have arrived from Belgium are being stored in secure locations across the country, where they will be quality checked, the health ministry said.

The rollout coincides with a crucial and perilous moment in negotiations between Britain and the European Union on a post-Brexit trade agreement.

A status quo transition period will end on Dec. 31 and a no-deal scenario would lead to major disruptions in the movement of goods between Britain and EU countries such as Belgium.

The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that, under U.K. government contingency plans, tens of millions of vaccine doses could be flown to Britain by military aircraft to avoid delays at ports caused by Brexit.

The head of the medicines regulatory agency that approved the vaccine, June Raine, was asked whether she was concerned that a no-deal risked disrupting the rollout.

“We’ve practised, we are ready, we are fully prepared for any possible outcome,” Raine said in an interview on BBC television.

Administered in 50 hospitals

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has onerous storage requirements. It needs to be kept at -70 C and only lasts five days in a regular fridge.

For that reason, the health ministry said the vaccine would first be administered in 50 hospitals. It said it would take a few hours to defrost each vaccine and prepare it for use.

NHS England has written to general practitioners, telling them to get ready to start giving vaccinations through local doctors’ services from Dec. 14.

Rather than run clinics in individual surgeries, groups of local doctors will operate more than 1,000 vaccination centres across the country, the government said.

Boxes of the vaccine contain five packs of 975 doses, but special regulatory approval is needed to split them up. A senior medical official has said that while he was hopeful it would be possible to split the packs and deliver straight to care homes, it was not guaranteed.

Queen to get vaccine

Britain is among the first nations to roll out vaccinations outside the context of a clinic trial, raising hopes that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally and hammered the world economy.

With high levels of vaccine skepticism worrying public health experts, the Times and Mail on Sunday newspapers reported that Queen Elizabeth, 94, and her husband Prince Philip, 99, would “let it be known” when they had received the jab.

The Queen is highly admired in British society, and her public backing for the vaccine would be a powerful message to counter anti-vaccination misinformation circulating online.

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Plans begin to take shape for COVID-19 vaccine rollouts starting in January

The latest:

  • Quebec reports 1,345 new COVID-19 cases and 28 more deaths, day after province cancels plans to allow holiday gatherings.
  • Ontario announces members of vaccine task force led by retired general Rick Hillier.
  • First COVID-19 vaccine doses expected to be given in January, federal officials say.
  • Alberta announces record high number of daily cases and positive-test rate.
  • U.S. sets single-day records for new infections, deaths; new stay-at-home orders coming to California.
  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca

As Canada approaches 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, federal officials are making preparations for the first vaccine doses to be administered in January.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq who is leading vaccination logistics at a new national operations centre in the Public Health Agency of Canada, laid out the rollout plan at a press conference Thursday.

The initial supply of the doses will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get shots in the first three months of 2021. Millions more doses are expected to arrive as the supply chain stabilizes.

WATCH | How Canada is preparing for vaccine distribution:

Federal officials provided a clearer picture of how the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed across Canada, saying the first doses are expected to be administered In January. 2:12

One of the principal challenges facing the immunization effort is the distribution of vaccines that must be kept at very low temperatures. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which are expected to be the first approved for use in the country, need to be kept at approximately -80 C and -20 C, respectively, to remain stable.

Eventually, there will be 205 “points of issue” locations across the country where health-care professionals can administer the vaccine, Fortin said.

It will be up to the provinces and territories to specify where and when individual Canadians will be inoculated.


(CBC News)

In British Columbia, the province’s top doctor said the first shots should be available in B.C. early in the new year, with the first priority likely being to immunize the most vulnerable populations, including residents of long-term care homes, as well as health-care workers.

“We’re going to make sure we are absolutely ready by then,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “We are planning to be able to put vaccine into arms in the first week of January.”

If everything goes according to plan, everyone in the province who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will be immunized by next September, Henry said. She said a more detailed plan for vaccine rollout will be available early next week.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford echoed Henry’s assertion that the province will be ready when the first supply of vaccines is approved and available in early 2021, but said he still has many questions — specifically which vaccines will be coming to Ontario, how many, and when they will land.

On Friday, Ontario announced the nine members of its vaccine distribution task force, which is headed by retired chief of national defence staff Rick Hillier. Key tasks include delivery, logistics and administration, clinical guidance as well as public education and outreach.

Provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams was asked Thursday if the province would make vaccination mandatory.

“We can’t force someone to take a vaccine. That’s clear,” Williams said. But what the province can do, he noted, is make proof of a vaccine mandatory to access certain settings, such as long-term care facilities.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Andrew Furey told reporters he had spoken with federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc about distribution.

Furey said N.L.’s challenges differ from those seen in other jurisdictions, and the province has accepted military advice and expertise on distribution.

WATCH | An inside look at the scramble to mass-produce a COVID-19 vaccine:

A major vaccine manufacturer in India scrambling to mass produce the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine so it can get into the arms of billions opened its doors to CBC News. 3:01

At a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, the head of the World Health Organization said recent progress on vaccines is positive but the agency is concerned this has led to a growing perception that the pandemic is over.

“The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the COVID-19 virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive-care units and health workers,” said Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Tedros said the pandemic still has a long way to run and that decisions made by citizens and governments would determine its course in the short run and when it will ultimately end.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 11:45 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 399,412, with 70,741 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,460.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Officials there have expressed hope that the Moncton and Frederiction regions could soon return to the yellow phase of recovery from the more restrictive orange phase.

“We are seeing some progress, people are following public health advice and measures,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health. However, the Saint John region, which is currently also in the orange phase, is a bit further behind, Russell said.

WATCH | N.B. officials on how residents can have a yellow Christmas:

Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell explain what New Brunswickers can do to get a yellow Christmas. 3:30

Nova Scotia reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. Two of the cases had been confirmed in Sipekne’katik First Nation the previous evening by Chief Mike Sack and marked the first time the virus has been detected on a First Nation in Atlantic Canada.

Prince Edward Island announced one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday, as Premier Dennis King said P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on Thursday. It was the first day the province had gone without a new case in more than two weeks.

Quebec reported 1,345 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 more deaths on Friday. The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 rose to 761 (up 24 from the day before), while the number in intensive care is at 97 (down two).

Starting Friday, inspectors and police will be more visible in malls and shops to make sure businesses are complying with public health measures including a maximum capacity of customers and signs about distancing rules. 

The province has cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the December holidays in light of a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

WATCH | Quebec premier says no gatherings allowed over holiday season:

Saying there is not enough time before Christmas to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec, Premier François Legault backtracked on a previous commitment. He now says gatherings in the province’s red zones will not be allowed over the holiday season. 2:10

Ontario reported 1,780 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 new deaths on Friday, as the seven-day average of new daily cases dropped slightly to 1,759.

The province reached a key threshold when it comes to the number of patients in intensive care earlier than modelling had predicted, with 203 COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care on Thursday, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario.

“It is concerning that we are ahead of schedule,” said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto.

In Manitoba, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 climbed to a record 357, with 52 of those people in intensive care, matching a previous single-day record for patients in critical care.

“We know that [this] is putting too much strain on our capacity in the health-care system. The numbers are too high,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer.

The province also reported 368 new COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths on Thursday.

In Saskatchewan, an updated surge plan projected as many as 560 new cases of COVID-19 a day in the province — a doubling of current levels — by Dec. 15.

The province reported 259 new cases and one additional death on Thursday.

Alberta again broke records on Thursday with 1,854 new cases and a positive-test rate of 9.5 per cent. The province also reported 14 new deaths.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said she is particularly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 into rural areas. Among the 15 geographic areas with the highest active case rates in the province, one-third of them are outside Calgary and Edmonton.

British Columbia reported 694 new COVID-19 cases and 12 new deaths on Thursday.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said adult sports and fitness activities have become a major source of infection in recent weeks, accounting for something between 10 and 15 per cent of new cases.

All indoor and outdoor adult team sports are now prohibited in the province, and children’s programs have returned to earlier, more restrictive guidelines.


People wear protective face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at a hair salon in Vancouver on Thursday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

In the North, Nunavut reported eight new cases on Friday, all in the hamlet of Arviat, which remains under restrictions.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said the number of active cases of COVID-19 in the territory continues to fall, but it will be some time before community outbreaks are officially over. Nunavut lifted a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday.

Yukon confirmed one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday, while the Northwest Territories did not report any new cases.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 12 p.m. ET

As of Friday afternoon, there were more than 65.4 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 42.1 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.

In the Americas, U.S. president-elect Joe Biden said on Thursday he would publicly take a vaccine to demonstrate its safety to the public and pledged to retain the nation’s top adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, when he takes office next month.

“People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work,” Biden told CNN in an interview that aired on Thursday.

Three former presidents — Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — have also indicated they’d publicly take a coronavirus vaccine, once one becomes available, to encourage all Americans to get inoculated.


A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past a sign advising that COVID-19 vaccines are not available yet at a Walgreen’s pharmacy store in San Francisco on Wednesday. (Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press)

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, met with Biden’s advisers on the pandemic earlier in the day.

The United States set single-day records for new infections and deaths on Thursday as California’s governor said he would impose some of the nation’s strictest stay-at-home orders in the coming days, when intensive care units are expected to reach capacity.

In Europe, Norway’s Health Minister Bent Hoeie said some 1.2 million people, chiefly those in high-risk groups and health workers, will get the vaccine when it becomes available. The remainder of Norway’s population of 5.4 million are expected to get the vaccine in the spring.

In Spain, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government hopes to vaccinate between 15 and 20 million people by next May or June, with more to follow. It hopes to begin vaccinating next month and receive more than 140 million vaccine doses in all.

Croatia has ordered 5.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines and will start giving shots to people as soon as the vaccines are authorized for use in the European Union, health officials said.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic has launched a coronavirus testing program for the country’s teachers as students gradually return to school. The program that started Friday and continues to Dec. 18 is designed to test up to 170,000 teachers. The free program is voluntary and uses rapid antigen tests.

The Czech government also plans to make COVID-19 tests available to all citizens, possibly starting Dec 18. In November, the country started testing residents of all nursing and retirement homes.


A woman chooses a Christmas gift in a shop in Prague on Thursday. Shops, restaurants, museums and galleries across the country were allowed to reopen again following several weeks of decreasing new COVID-19 daily cases. (Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has recorded 629 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily tally in about nine months.

After successfully suppressing two previous outbreaks this year, South Korea has been grappling with a fresh spike in infections since it relaxed stringent physical distancing rules in October. Last week, it toughened distancing restrictions in the greater Seoul area and other places.

In Africa, South Africa on Thursday tightened some COVID-19 rules in the Eastern Cape province where infections are rising the most, curbing movement and gatherings, but decided against reinstating a nationwide lockdown.

South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections on the African continent, with more than 760,000 confirmed cases and more than 20,000 deaths.


Volunteer Thabisle Khlatshwayo receives her second shot at a COVID-19 vaccine trial facility at Soweto’s Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital outside Johannesburg on Monday. More than 2,000 South African volunteers are part of AstraZeneca’s experimental coronavirus vaccine trial. (Jerome Delay/The Associated Press)

In the Middle East, the island kingdom of Bahrain said Friday it has become the second nation in the world — after the U.K. — to grant an emergency-use authorization for the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Bahrain, which had already granted an emergency-use authorization for a Chinese vaccine made by Sinopharm, did not immediately say how may vaccines it has purchased.

A partial lockdown will begin this weekend in the Gaza Strip after infections spiked in the densely populated territory.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would get vaccinated against the coronavirus to set an example for his country’s citizens and that the government plans to buy multiple vaccines.

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Biden’s presidential transition can formally begin, U.S. agency says

The U.S. federal agency that must sign off on the presidential transition told president-elect Joe Biden on Monday that he can formally begin the transition process.

“I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,” General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy wrote in a letter to Biden.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has yet to concede the election, took to Twitter to say that he is “recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

However, in a series of tweets, Trump also said “our case strongly continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”

Biden transition preparations continue 

Biden has been preparing for the presidency even as Trump attempts to subvert the election results in key states. He has frequent virtual meetings from his home in Wilmington, Del., and a music venue downtown.

Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition has taken its toll on planning, including the cabinet selection process.

“We’re not in a position to get background checks on cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s This Week.

In advance of this announcement, Biden has been building out his administration.

According to a person familiar with the transition plans, he has chosen former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to serve as treasury secretary, a pivotal role in which she would help shape and direct his economic policies at a perilous time.

Biden also plans to nominate Antony Blinken as his secretary of state, longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence and Alejandro Mayorkas as the secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.

Those four nominees will all need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the incoming administration’s effort to combat climate change. Kerry does not require Senate confirmation — nor does Jake Sullivan, another Obama administration veteran tapped by Biden to serve as national security adviser.

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