Tag Archives: Canadians

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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CBC | Health News

‘If you’re sick, stay home’ is a non-starter for many Canadians

The debate around paid sick leave has grown louder and more urgent in the past several weeks as COVID-19 cases have continued to soar in many parts of the country along with concern that people are going to work sick because they can’t afford to lose their pay. 

Health officials in Alberta are investigating two workplace outbreaks of the more virulent P1 variant, first detected in Brazil.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix told CBC’s As It Happens this week that “it’s indoor social and indoor workplace circumstances where we’ve seen the largest level of transmission” of COVID-19.

And in Ontario, it’s a similar story.

“The bulk of cases now that seem to be driving this pandemic are happening in workplaces where essential workers are unable to fully physically distance from one another,” said Dr. Camille Lemieux, medical lead for the University Health Network’s COVID-19 assessment centre.

Many worker advocates say what is needed is better paid sick leave. 

At the end of February, the labour federations from all 10 provinces and three territories joined together to call for “seamless access to universal, permanent and adequate employer-paid sick days for all workers.”

That has not happened.

Here’s a brief look at where paid sick leave stands right now in Canada. 

How many Canadians have paid sick leave?

Most don’t, according to a report released last August by the Decent Work and Health Network, a network of health providers based in Ontario who advocate for better employment conditions.

Fifty-eight per cent of workers in Canada reported having no access to paid sick days, the report found, citing a University of B.C. analysis of 2016 Statistics Canada data. It’s even higher for those who earn less than $ 25,000 — more than 70 per cent had no paid sick leave.

And a study released last fall by Corporate Knights found only 28 per cent of the large Canadian companies surveyed offered adequate sick leave, which was defined as at least 10 paid days per year.


Members of the Decent Work and Health Network rally in Toronto in 2019. The group says more than half of all Canadian workers have no paid sick leave, with the numbers even higher among those who earn under $ 25,000. (CBC)

Do any provinces offer paid sick leave?

Two provinces mandate sick leave. 

In Quebec, a worker is entitled to two days per year, after six months of employment, to be paid by the employer. In Prince Edward Island, a worker is entitled to one employer-paid day per year, after five years of employment. 

Despite ongoing demands that the other provinces do something to help workers who are sick, the pleas have fallen on mostly deaf ears. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has argued for months, and as recently as this week, that there is no need for provinces to bring in paid sick leave because the federal program brought in specifically to deal with COVID-19 is adequate.

Ford’s government has refused to pass a bill put forward by the opposition NDP, and supported by the Ontario Federation of Labour, that would guarantee paid sick days for every worker, delivered by their employer.

He accuses those calling for his government to ensure paid sick days of “playing politics.”

WATCH | Ford says people should help others apply for the federal sick leave:  

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his critics ‘are playing politics’ as he explains why his government isn’t instituting paid sick leave. Instead, he’s encouraging Ontarians to use a federal program. 1:07

What does the federal program cover? 

The $ 1.1 billion Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB), which was unveiled last fall, offers workers $ 500 ($ 450 after taxes) for a one-week period. If the illness lasts longer, the worker must reapply. 

The CRSB will pay a maximum of two weeks total, for the period between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2021. A worker must be off sick for at least 50 per cent of their normal work week to qualify, and must have earned $ 5000 in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months prior to applying.

Some advocates say it falls short of what is needed. 

“What we’re trying to address here is a worker who wakes up in the morning and they have symptoms,” said Laird Cronk, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, one of the 13 federations that made the joint request for employer-paid sick leave.

The application process and eligibility criteria make it difficult for a worker to just decide to stay home, he said.

“We don’t want them to say, I’m so worried about this untenable decision, so worried about paying rent or groceries and food or medications or for the kids, that they convince themselves that it’s probably seasonal allergies and they hope for the best because they can’t afford to lose the money.”


Workers prepare beef to be packaged at the Cargill facility near High River, Alta. The plant was the site of largest COVID-19 outbreak in North America. (Name withheld)

His federation, for example, is urging the B.C. government to change the Employment Standards Act to let that worker stay home and continue to receive his or her wage for up to 10 days, which could then be reimbursed by the province.

“Employers who can show that they’ve been, in the short term, affected by COVID-19 economically, would receive relief from the government on a sliding scale … up to 75 or 80 per cent reimbursed.”

The head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business told CBC News in January that the CRSB is sufficient and that it is right that the government pay for sick leave — not employers. 

“To impose the costs on small firms at this stage would be really challenging, of course, because most small firms are desperately hanging to say stay on,” said Kelly. “Any additional cost would be absolutely devastating.”

How much is COVID-19 care costing the government?

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), between January and November 2020, stays in hospital for COVID-19 related illness costs about $ 23,000 per stay — four times higher than the average stay. The average length of COVID-19 stay was about two weeks, according to CIHI. 

In that time period, the estimated total cost of COVID-19 related hospitalizations in Canada was more than $ 317 million. 


A nurse tends to a patient suspected of having COVID-19 in the intensive care unit at North York General Hospital, in Toronto, on May 26, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

There were more than 13,900 hospital stays for patients with a diagnosis of COVID-19 in Canada between last January and November, along with more than 85,400 emergency department visits for COVID-19.

The CIHI data does not include numbers from Quebec. 

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CBC | Health News

Why Canadians have reason to be more optimistic about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Comparing apples to oranges isn’t necessarily useful if you’re trying to learn more about apples. And that is exactly what some experts say is happening in recent discussions of Canada’s vaccine rollout performance on the world stage.

This country’s vaccination record can seem disappointing when compared to the quick progress in some other countries, but that may not be a fair comparison, some experts say. The fact is certain key metrics suggest Canada’s rollout performance is actually on the rise compared to those of many other countries.

“It really does matter who you compare Canada to,” said Trevor Tombe, an associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary and a research fellow at its school of public policy. 

How we evaluate Canada’s performance, he said, is by comparing ourselves to other major countries and by “using realistic metrics based on Canada’s current rollout strategy.”

At the beginning of March, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that the interval time between first and second doses for the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccines be extended to a maximum of four months.

The group doubled down on that recommendation this week, saying the extension will allow more people to receive a first dose more quickly. And the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health publicly announced its support of the interval recommendation the same day.

Tombe said that extension is the reason why Canadians should be sure they are really comparing apples to apples, so to speak, when we look at our numbers internationally.

Comparing Canada to the world based on the metric of how many people have received at least one dose of vaccine paints the most accurate comparative picture right now, he said, given the country has focused its efforts on administering first doses.

By those markers — measuring the Canadian vaccine rollout to other major economies and looking at the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose — this country is doing better than average.

Canada is third in the G7, behind only the United States and United Kingdom. Canada also ranks third when compared to members of the G20 (with data not available for Saudi Arabia and China). And those same metrics put us in the top 10 out of 37 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

Scott Halperin, the director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax, agrees that comparing Canada’s “fully vaccinated” rate with the rest of the world is not the best measure of the country’s immunization progress right now. 

“When you have a policy of first dose completion, that’s the metric you want to use — because it’s a conscious policy,” he said. 

“When you make a conscious decision not to give the second dose for another three or four months, then your two-dose completion rate is going to stall for that three or four months.”

Halperin and other experts have pointed out the dearth of vaccine supply in February and early March was caused mostly by a lack of capacity in Canada to manufacture vaccines on a mass scale, a situation created by decades of policy-making decisions. 

“You can only do as well in rolling out the vaccine in terms of how many vaccine doses you have,” he said. “And the leaders in rolling out the vaccines, except for a small number of exceptions, are countries who already had manufacturing capacity and invested very heavily in those vaccines.”

But in the here and now, he said, working with what Canada has to work with, the rollout is ramping up at a pace that matches supply.

The rationale behind the strategy

Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, the head of NACI, says she responds to criticisms of Canada’s vaccination record with a similar recounting of facts. She says the lack of vaccine supply is a factor that influenced her group’s decision to recommend extending the time gap between first and second doses, which is part of what led to Canada’s seemingly poor performance on the world stage when comparing “fully vaccinated” numbers.  

“What we’ve decided to do in Canada is to give one dose to as many people as possible,” she said. “I know that that decision, that was taken by Canada and the provinces, has led to a lot of anger and anxiety in some people.

“It’s very complicated for some people to understand that better protection for all is eventually going to be better protection for them as well.”

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CBC | Health News

Lawrence says hungry Canadians feel confident ahead of upcoming U.K. friendlies

Head coach Bev Priestman’s message to the Canadian women’s national soccer team after the SheBelieves Cup in February was simple: “Show up ready in April.”

Canada will have two European friendlies over the next five days to see whether they’ve done their homework.

Canada plays world No. 31 Wales in Cardiff on Friday and No. 6 England in Stoke-on-Trent on April 13 as part of its ongoing preparations for the Tokyo Olympics less than four months from now.

The matches give Canada a look at two different styles — a buckle-down defensive Welsh side and the Lionesses, a solid back-to-front squad that plays direct and is a threat on the counter attack.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler previews Canada’s upcoming U.K. friendlies:

Head coach Bev Priestman has a chance to determine her strongest 18-player roster as Canada come up against Wales and 6th-ranked England in back to back friendlies this month. 9:02

So, are the Canadians ready? For national team standout Ashley Lawrence, the first few days of camp have looked promising.

“It’s a very healthy, competitive environment,” Lawrence told reporters Thursday from Cardiff. “From day one, I’ve been pushed and hopefully I’m pushing others around me. We’ve been looking really good on the field and our goal is to show that in the game [against Wales] and against England.”

It’s the first time in over a year the 25-year-old from Brampton, Ont., has been with her national teammates. She wasn’t released by her professional club, France’s Paris Saint-Germain, for the SheBelieves Cup due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic.


Though she and PSG teammate Jordyn Huitema, Lyon’s Kadeisha Buchanan and injured players like Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson weren’t at that February camp, Lawrence said she was completely invested, watching all the games and training sessions and even virtually attending team meetings.

But nothing beats being together in person.

“It’s been nice to catch up and see players I haven’t seen in a long time, even some new faces, and also get acquainted with the new staff,” said Canada’s 2019 player of the year.

Priestman eager to gauge progress

Priestman’s first matches in charge at the SheBelieves Cup saw Canada win one game — 1-0 in stoppage time over Argentina — and lose two, a hard-fought 1-0 contest to No. 1 United States and 2-0 to fellow No. 8 Brazil.

While the February tournament wasn’t a true evaluation of her squad, as it was hurt by player injuries and availability issues, Priestman still had concerns over two things — the team’s match fitness and lack of goal scoring.

“I felt that while we were fresh, we could compete,” she said on a recent media call. “I think that U.S. game, granted we lost, but I felt we competed even with a weakened roster. But with the reality of COVID and a lot of players not touching a ball for a long time, I felt that by the third game, physically we struggled.

“The tight turnaround between these [April] games is going to let me see the progress made from a lot of players who’ve gone back to the NWSL, NCAA, particularly North America, they were out of season.”

Those players have since been prepping for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup, which begins this weekend, while the NCAA players have been gearing up for their spring seasons.

Hungry to score goals

Canada’s goal-scoring issue is a more complicated one to solve, but Priestman and her staff are confident it will come if players put the work in.

The staff did an analysis after the tournament and surmised they definitely created chances and were in much better positions against those teams historically, but “ultimately it is about putting the ball in the back of the net,” Priestman said.

“I’ve challenged the group away from camp. You don’t develop in those areas on camp, you have to turn up ready,” she said, adding that many players went back to their clubs and were doing extras after training to gain that confidence.

Manchester City’s Janine Beckie is an example, scoring recently in Champions League against Barcelona and in league versus Tottenham.

“We have to be ruthless in both boxes,” Priestman added. “Stopping goals but also scoring them, and I think you stick with that process [by] getting in those positions. It’ll only help because we had the chances.”

Lawrence agrees.

“I think we have shown a lot of growth in a short period of time and we are on the right track,” she said. “We have a lot of players on the field that are hungry to score some goals. We know the quality and the talent that we have. It’s about putting the ball in the back of the net.

“I’m really confident that we’re going to be doing that in these two games.”

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CBC | Soccer News

Trudeau urges Canadians to check up on loved ones, celebrate safely for Easter

The latest:

Canada’s chief public health officer is urging people to keep their guard up as COVID-19 disrupts Easter celebrations for a second year.

Canadians need to be careful since the more contagious variants of concern “could be anywhere,” Dr. Theresa Tam wrote on Twitter.

“Let’s all be careful [and] cautious and keep up our guard,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged in a video message that COVID-19 has forced Canadians to celebrate Easter differently for a second straight year, and that many people are having to forego in-person church services and family dinners.

He urged Canadians to stay optimistic, suggesting that the battle with COVID-19 was drawing to a close.

“My friends, soon this crisis will end,” he said.

In the meantime, he asked people to check up on loved ones who are isolated and to find different ways to celebrate the holiday.

Several other politicians also sent out Easter messages paying tribute to front-line workers and encouraging Canadians to respect pandemic-related safety measures over the holiday.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 1,003,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 58,402 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,062.

In British Columbia, three people police are describing as “key organizers” have been ticketed $ 2,300 each after a rally against COVID-19 restrictions in Nelson.

According to a press release from the Nelson Police Department, about 150 people participated in a “freedom rally” at the local city hall on Saturday afternoon. Between 75 and 80 people also took part in a march on Baker and Vernon streets.

Alberta reported an estimated 950 new COVID-19 cases, based on preliminary data.

In Saskatchewan, inmates at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre are worried about a repeat of a November 2020 outbreak after three positive cases were reported at the facility.

Meanwhile, the province recorded 221 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths. As of Sunday there were 194 people in hospital, including a record 44 in intensive care.


In Ontario, the provincial government says it has chosen Dr. Homer Tien, the CEO and president of Ornge Air Ambulance, to lead its COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.

Tien, also a trauma surgeon, will be its “operational lead” as the province prepares to move into Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, according to Stephen Warner, spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

Tien’s official title is chair of the task force and he replaces retired Gen. Rick Hillier in that role. Hillier stepped down when his contract expired on March 31 after declining a request to stay on.

WATCH | Modelling paints bleak picture of what lies ahead in Ontario’s 3rd wave:

The province’s Science Advisory Table has released its latest modelling on the spread of COVID-19, with a harrowing image of what lies ahead for the pandemic’s third wave in Ontario. Projections show that intensive care admissions will be high enough to threaten the health-care system’s ability to care for all patients, and that the spread of variants of concern is dangerously outpacing Ontario’s vaccination campaign. Jessica Ng has more details. 1:57

Quebec, which confirmed 1,154 new cases and nine more deaths on Sunday, says it is adding several cities in the Chaudiere-Appalaches region south of Quebec City to the list of municipalities on lockdown due to rising cases of COVID-19.

The government says in a news release that the curfew will be moved from 9:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the regional municipalities of Beauce-Sartigan, Bellechasse, Les Etchemins, Nouvelle-Beauce and Robert-Cliche.

Schools will close for in-person learning, while non-essential businesses and restaurant dining rooms will also be shuttered from tomorrow evening until at least April 12.

The provincial government imposed the same restrictions on three other cities last week, including Quebec City and Gatineau.


People wear face masks as they walk in a park in Montreal on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick registered 11 new cases as the Edmundston Regional Hospital is preparing for the imminent transfer of patients after an influx of COVID-19 cases in intensive care. Officials say the spike in the hard-hit region is being driven by the  B117 variant.

Nova Scotia identified seven new cases, raising the province’s active caseload to 34.


What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 130.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.84 million.

In the Americas, Brazil’s Sao Paulo sped up efforts to empty old graves and  make room for a soaring number of COVID-19 deaths as the city hall registered record daily burials this week.

WATCH | Brazil’s cemeteries struggle to keep up with record COVID-19 casualties:

Brazil’s cemeteries struggle to keep up with record COVID-19 casualties, extend services to all hours and attempt to accommodate new caskets. 1:23

In Asia, Bangladesh authorities are imposing a one-week nationwide lockdown on Monday. Forhad Hossain, the country’s junior minister for public administration, says organizations providing emergency services will be available during the lockdown and industries will remain open.

In Europe, some 9,000 people are getting vaccinated at a huge stadium in Lyon during Easter weekend, and thousands more around France are spending the holiday lining up for injections elsewhere as the government tries to speed up vaccinations amid a new virus surge.

In Africa, authorities say Libya has received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines after 101,250 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine landed in the capital, Tripoli. The North African nation has seen a swell in confirmed COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

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CBC | Health News

Canucks’, Habs’ COVID-19 setbacks should serve as wake-up call to all Canadians

Recent COVID-19 outbreaks on two Canadian NHL teams are concerning but should not come as a surprise, says a medical expert.

On Saturday the NHL announced seven additional members of the Vancouver Canucks were added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list, bringing the total number to 14. The Canucks already had four of their games postponed. Vancouver also has an unnamed coach under COVID protocols.

In late March, two members of the Montreal Canadiens were placed on the COVID protocol list and the team had four games postponed.

“You have to look at the cities they’re in,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician for St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ont. “Vancouver has a higher burden [of cases] than many other places in Canada. They just locked down the province because things are getting out of control.

“Montreal is not as bad as some of the other places, but still getting higher rates.”

Last week the B.C. government announced a three-week “circuit breaker” lockdown, resulting in sweeping restrictions on indoor dining in restaurants, group fitness and worship services.

Vancouver forward Adam Gaudette and defenceman Travis Hamonic tested positive for COVID-19 early last week. Since then defencemen Alex Edler, Tyler Myers and Quinn Hughes; forwards Zack MacEwen, Bo Horvat, Tyler Motte, Travis Body, Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon Sutter and Antoine Roussel; plus goaltenders Braden Holtby and Thatcher Demko have been added to the list.

A player under COVID-19 protocols has not necessarily tested positive for the virus.

WATCH | Rob Pizzo recaps week 11 in the NHL’s all-Canadian division:

In our weekly segment, Rob Pizzo catches you up on the week that was in the all-Canadian division in the NHL. 3:54

Chagla said rising COVID cases in the general community increases the odds for a case sneaking through the NHL’s protective protocols. With some of the new variants, a player could be spreading the virus even before beginning to show symptoms.

“You really do have to get serious testing to really identify people right away,” said Chagla. “Even when you do identify them, it’s 24 or 48 hours later.”

The close proximity of a hockey environment allows for quick spreading.

“They’re in close contact, they’re sitting beside each other on the bench, they’re in contact in scrimmage, they’re training together,” said Chagla. “They’re so many different high risk encounters.”

At one point in February, of the 35 games the NHL had postponed due to COVID, none had involved Canadian teams.

U.S. seeing growth in herd immunity

Since March 20, of the 10 games postponed due to COVD, only two involved U.S.-based teams.

As of Friday, of the 13 players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, only four played on American teams.

Chagla attributes the drop in numbers to more people in the U.S. receiving vaccines and a growth in herd immunity.

“They are definitely seeing a rise in cases, but it’s not been as abrupt as Canada,” he said. “There’s still some vulnerabilities but that infection pressure is a whole lot less.”

David Legg, a professor of sports management at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said the COVID cases affecting NHL teams should serve as a wakeup call to all Canadians.

“Maybe it’s hubris on our part, because we were mocking the Americans for so long,” he said. “Now it’s our teams that are getting tested positive.

“We still perhaps need to be careful and the light is maybe not as close as we had thought to the end of the tunnels as we’re hoping for.”

The NHL has not said if more Canuck games will be postponed. Currently, Vancouver’s next game is scheduled for April 8 with no practices before April 6. Heading into Saturday night the Canucks sat six points out of the final playoff spot in the NHL’s North Division with 19 games remaining.

Make-up games extend regular season

Postponing games will mean revamping the NHL’s already shortened 56-game schedule, said Legg.

“They don’t really have to stress about arena availability because it’s really just the primary tenants that are using the facilities at the moment,” he said. “It’s not like they’re going to have to bump out a bunch of concerts or other events.”

Both the NFL and NBA were forced to reschedule games due to COVID. Major League Baseball’s opening day match Thursday between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals was also postponed.

The NHL season was originally scheduled to end May 8. The NHL built in a week window to reschedule games if necessary and already games are planned up to May 11.

“Maybe they’ll just have to push it back further then they would have originally wanted,” said Legg. “Or they just could cut back games in hand of other teams.

“I don’ know if that hurts the NHL because I don’t think they have necessarily figured out the playoff system yet.”

Legg doubts the challenges the NHL faced this season will leave an asterisk beside who ever wins the Stanley Cup.

“In some respects, you could probably argue the opposite and that it was a more arduous and difficult task because they had to deal with all these extraneous factors.”

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CBC | Sports News

4 Canadians will play key roles in final fours this weekend

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Quick note before we get started: I’d like to mix in a few “mailbag” newsletters in the coming months. But first I’ll need more mail. So if you have a question about sports that you’ve always wanted to ask, or you want my #take on something, or whatever, send it to thebuzzer@cbc.ca and include your first name and where you’re from. I’ll pick a few of the better ones to answer in some upcoming newsletters.

Also, no newsletter on Good Friday or Easter Monday. Back Tuesday.

OK, here’s what to know for today:

Good things come in fours

Starting tonight, the Easter long weekend will feature four Canadian athletes playing a prominent role in a final four (or, for most of them, a Final Four). Here’s a bit about each:

Bianca Andreescu: She’s back, folks. After nearly a year and a half of injury-induced frustration, the Canadian tennis star has put together her most meaningful tournament run since she won the 2019 U.S. Open. Andreescu won a hard-fought match vs. Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo last night to reach the semifinals of the Miami Open. She also made the semis of the Phillip Island Trophy in Australia in February, but that was a low-stakes event with weak competition — players who’d either been eliminated quickly from the Australian Open or didn’t qualify. Miami is in the WTA 1000 tier — just a cut below the Grand Slams. Andreescu hasn’t made the semifinals at a tournament of this calibre or better since her historic Grand Slam title in New York in September 2019. That was also the last time she reached a final of any kind. Andreescu can end that drought tonight when she faces Maria Sakkari sometime after 8:30 p.m. ET. Sakkari is ranked 25th in the world (16 spots below Andreescu) but the powerful Greek just destroyed Naomi Osaka 6-0, 6-4 in the quarters, snapping the world No. 2’s 23-match win streak. The winner meets No. 1-ranked Ash Barty or No. 5 Elina Svitolina in the final on Saturday.

Aaliyah Edwards: The most impressive Canadian in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament helped UConn reach its 13th consecutive Final Four by averaging 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds over the first four rounds. Edwards, a freshman forward, won the Big East Conference’s Sixth Woman of the Year award after coming off the bench for most of the regular season, but she’s started the last three games. With freshman sensation Paige Bueckers leading the way, UConn is heavily favoured to beat Arizona on Friday night and will likely meet top-ranked Stanford in Sunday’s final. Canadian Shaina Pellington is part of Arizona’s rotation and is averaging 4.5 points in the tournament.

Laeticia Amihere: The sophomore forward hopes to literally block Stanford’s path to the title game in Friday’s other Final Four matchup. Amihere swatted away nine shots and added 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench in South Carolina’s blowout of Texas in the last round. She’s averaging 11 points and eight boards in the tournament. Stanford has its own Canadian player, Alyssa Jerome, but she didn’t get on the court in their last game and has yet to score in the tournament. For more on the Final Four, check out the latest newsletter from our friends at The GIST, who cover women’s sports with a unique voice year-round.

Andrew Nembhard: Gonzaga is two wins away from becoming the first undefeated NCAA men’s basketball champion in 45 years, and a Canadian starts for them. Nembhard isn’t an elite scorer (8.7 points per game in the tournament) but he’s capable of big games like his 17-point, eight-assist outburst vs. Creighton in the third round. And apparently he doesn’t get tired: Nembhard played 110 of a possible 120 minutes in the last three rounds. Gonzaga is an absolute juggernaut that has blown out its four opponents by an average of 24 points. But if it ever gets tested — either in Saturday night’s Final Four matchup vs. Cinderella UCLA or in Monday’s championship game — there’s a good chance Nembhard is one of the guys coach Mark Few will count on in crunch time.


UConn freshman Aaliyah Edwards has been the most impressive Canadian in the NCAA women’s tournament. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Quickly…

The police know what happened to Tiger Woods. But they’re not telling. Citing unspecified “privacy issues,” the sheriff of Los Angeles County said yesterday that he couldn’t reveal exactly what detectives determined caused the single-vehicle crash that seriously injured Woods last month. Sheriff Alex Villanueva has called the crash “purely an accident” and indicated there was no evidence of impairment. In yesterday’s update, he said his team has “reached out” to Woods and his camp about waiving the privacy concerns so that the investigation findings can be released to the public. Read more here.

The men’s curling world championship starts tomorrow in Calgary. First-time Brier winner Brendan Bottcher and his rink will try to capture Canada’s first world title since Brad Gushue’s team did it in 2017. Their opponents include Sweden’s Nik Edin, who’s going for a three-peat after beating Brad Gushue and Kevin Koe in the last two finals, and reigning Olympic champion John Shuster of the United States. Read more about Bottcher here and get a quick snippet on each of the 14 teams here. Also, That Curling Show is back. Join hosts Devin Heroux and Colleen Jones tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Sports YouTube channel as they preview the worlds and chat with Bottcher, Edin and Shuster (that’s right, they’re all on tonight’s show).

And finally…

The Sabres won a game! Their tragicomic 18-game losing streak (an unofficial NHL record) ended last night with a cathartic 6-1 blowout of the same Flyers team that prolonged their misery by rallying from a 3-0 third-period deficit two nights before. But Buffalo is hardly out of the woods. They’re last overall by nine points, they’ve been shut out as many times (seven) as they’ve won, and their two best players (Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall) have scored four goals this season. Combined. Nashville’s Rocco Grimaldi, who you’ve possibly never heard of, matched that output by himself in one game last week.

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Trudeau urges Canadians to ‘stay strong’ as vaccine deliveries accelerate

Canadians should be able to receive their vaccinations against COVID-19 sooner now that deliveries of vaccine doses ordered by the federal government are speeding up.

Ottawa announced today that millions of additional vaccine doses are expected to arrive from three approved vaccine makers over the spring.

Pfizer-BioNTech agreed to move up delivery of five million vaccine doses to Canada from late summer to June following negotiations with the federal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a press conference in Ottawa today.

The accelerated timeline means the pharmaceutical giant now plans to ship 17.8 million doses between April and June — more than a million doses each week in April and May and another two million per week in June.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand also said the first doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine will arrive at the end of April. While the exact amounts and dates for the Johnson & Johnson product remain in flux, it’s the first indication of a delivery schedule since that vaccine was approved by Health Canada over three weeks ago.

Canada also will receive an additional 4.4 million additional doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine by the end of June, Anand said. Those doses will come from the manufacturer itself, the Serum Institute of India and the COVAX global vaccine initiative.

“As we’ve been saying for months, and as we’ve been planning with provinces and territories since last year, the end of March will be followed by an increase in vaccine supply,” Trudeau said.

“We now have handily exceeded our promised target of six million doses delivered before April. And this week, we begin our ramp-up phase.”

WATCH: Procurement minister says Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in Canada at end of April 

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines will begin to arrive in Canada at the end of April. 0:28

More than 3.2 million doses are expected to arrive this week alone, bringing the total number of doses delivered to Canada since vaccinations began in December to 9.5 million.

Almost half of the doses arriving this week come from a shipment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine that landed today from the United States — one day after provinces suspended its use in people under the age of 55. 

Without counting the Johnson & Johnson doses, Anand said Canada is on track to receive 44 million doses of vaccine by Canada Day.

That amount is more than enough to provide one dose to the 31 million Canadians over the age of 16.

But Trudeau also issued a warning that Canadians need to “stay strong a little longer” as case counts and hospitalizations rise across the country, driven by more transmissible variants of the coronavirus. He asked Canadians not to gather or have parties over the Easter/Passover weekend.

“We’re entering the final stretch of this crisis,” Trudeau said. “I know it’s not easy but, together, we will get through this.”

Provinces limit use of AstraZeneca-Oxford

The promise of more doses this spring comes as some warn that people may be hesitant to take the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine because of the confusion caused by changing advice about its safety.

The panel of scientific experts that advises the federal government on immunization policy recommended pausing the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine among people under the age of 55 yesterday. It’s a precautionary measure in response to possible links between the vaccine and rare but severe instances of blood clots in some immunized patients — notably younger women.

Dr. Shelley Deeks, the vice-chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), said the recommendation came after new data from Europe suggested the risk of severe blood clots could be up to one in 100,000 — much higher than the one in one million risk reported before.

Health Canada has ordered AstraZeneca to conduct a study of the risks and benefits of its COVID-19 vaccine across multiple age groups and by sex. NACI’s recommendation will remain in place while that study is completed.

The recommendation marked the third time NACI altered its guidance on the vaccine in the past month. It prompted provinces and territories to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford in the under-55 age group.

WATCH: AstraZeneca guidance change ‘precautionary,’ says federal government adviser

Pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under the age of 55 was a precautionary measure, says Dr. Shelley Deeks of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Deeks also said that the NACI continues to revise guidance based on evidence. 12:00

Today, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the changing recommendations are the result of evolving science.

“The advice on any medication or vaccine can evolve over time and I think Canadians should be reassured that we have systems in place to detect safety [issues] and then analyze them,” said Tam. 

Tam said some rare events following vaccination only become apparent after millions of vaccines are administered in the real world. She added that all decisions and guidance from public health officials have been shaped by the “data at hand” and that Canadians can be confident in the vaccines that have been approved.

“This is a rapidly moving pandemic and the vaccines are being put in place after very good clinical trials, but we will obviously continue to see data evolve,” said Tam.

“That’s only to make sure that we have the best, most safe and effective vaccines.”

No blood clots linked to the vaccine have been reported in Canada. About 309,000 doses have been given in Canada to date from the initial shipment of 500,000 two weeks ago. Many provinces initially reserved those doses for people in their 50s and early 60s.

WATCH: Trudeau discusses impact AstraZeneca restrictions could have on overall vaccine rollout

The CBC’s Tom Parry asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau what impact the new AstraZeneca restrictions will have on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada. 2:29

Trudeau urged Canadians to accept the first vaccine that becomes available to them.

“The bottom line for Canadians is the right vaccine for you to take is the very first vaccine that you are offered,” he said.

Supply of vaccines unreliable, Ontario’s Premier Ford says

Despite today’s announcement of doses to come, some provinces say they are experiencing a short-term supply crunch. 

In an email on Tuesday afternoon, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office said the province is still waiting for a shipment of 225,400 Moderna doses that has been delayed until Apr. 7.

The province also expects to receive 583,400 of the AstraZeneca-Oxford doses that arrived today. But the U.S. manufacturing facilities where they were produced still require Health Canada approval and the doses cannot be used until that approval is granted.

“Our ability to get needles into arms grows by the day, but the supply of vaccines isn’t keeping up with our ability to deliver them,” Ford said today. “We simply don’t have enough vaccines or a guarantee when we will get them.”

In an interview airing on CBC’s Power & Politics this evening, Anand pushed back.

“The claim that we don’t have a steady supply coming into the country is completely false,” said Anand.

“The reality is that supply of vaccine outpaces the administration that the provinces are undertaking, and so as these vaccine deliveries ramp up … we’re going to need the provinces and territories to really ramp up as well.”

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Why guidelines for what Canadians can and can’t do after getting COVID-19 vaccines are still unclear

Canada has delayed second doses of COVID-19 vaccines by up to four months — the longest interval recommended by a country so far — but has yet to provide any new guidance to Canadians on what they can or can’t do while waiting for the second shot.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) changed its guidelines earlier this month on the recommended time between doses of COVID-19 vaccines from three weeks to four months.

NACI said it based its revised guidelines on emerging real world evidence and the reality of Canada’s limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, although there is no research yet on the long-term effect the delay could have on immunity to the coronavirus disease.

The decision was also informed by findings from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control that determined that one dose of the vaccine was actually more effective than clinical trials had initially shown. 

NACI said if second doses were stretched to four months across the country, close to 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could get at least one shot by the end of June. 

But Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, has said the decision to delay second doses amounted to a “population level experiment.”

The United Kingdom has delayed second doses by up to three months, but no other country is known to have delayed them by up to four months. Spokespeople from Pfizer and Moderna said they recommend sticking with intervals of three and four weeks for their respective vaccines as studied during clinical trials. 

What can Canadians do after being vaccinated?

Many Canadians are wondering what they can do after getting vaccinated and if they can safely see their families, other vaccinated people or generally feel less at risk from COVID-19 after a year under strict public health measures. 

But the recommendations still haven’t been updated weeks after the change was made — meaning Canadians could be tempted to make up their own rules in the interim.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines on March 8 for fully vaccinated individuals, saying they can safely meet indoors without masks or physically distancing with others who had received both shots.

The CDC also said those who have had both shots can visit with unvaccinated people from a single other household who are at “low risk for severe COVID-19,” as well as skipping quarantine and testing if exposed to COVID-19 without showing symptoms. 

But unlike Canada, the U.S. hasn’t delayed second doses by up to four months and answers to those questions have been harder to come by for Canadians weeks after guidelines changed and close to 5 million doses administered.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said during a news conference Tuesday that the issue is being actively discussed with the provinces and territories and that while new guidance is coming, the country is in the “early days” of its vaccine coverage.

“For now, the key message is that everyone needs to keep up with their personal protective measures which are wearing a mask, handwashing, watching your distance and avoiding closed, crowded conditions,” she said. 

“I think as more and more people get vaccinated I would expect the advice to evolve as we go along, but it’s a little bit too early.” 

WATCH | ‘Too early’ to update guidelines for vaccinated Canadians: Tam

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says guidance for Canadians who have been vaccinated will likely evolve as more people get vaccinated, but it’s too early in our roll out to update recommendations yet. 1:35

Tam said the spread of coronavirus variants across Canada amid already high levels of community transmission should factor into “local decisions” on what public health measures need to be put in place or lifted for vaccinated individuals.

She provided no timeframe for when Canadians can expect to see new guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada on what they can and can’t do after being vaccinated. 

Guidelines for Canadians with only one dose even less clear 

And what about guidelines for Canadians who have only had one dose? 

“It’s maybe not clear to the general public, but it should be clear that you’re only fully vaccinated after two doses,” said Prof. Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University and virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology.

“I can completely sympathize that it’s been a long haul for everybody, but it’s really important that we continue with those public health measures until we have a low level of virus transmission within the community.” 

She says until Canada’s hardest-hit regions have significantly lowered their rates of community transmission, Canadians will have to continue practicing physical distancing, proper hand hygiene, avoiding crowds and wearing masks in public.

“You’re still at risk even though you’re fully vaccinated,” says Kelvin, who is also evaluating Canadian vaccines with the VIDO-InterVac lab in Saskatoon.

“Even with two doses, you can still be infected and transmit the virus — you just might not be as ill as somebody who wasn’t vaccinated.”


A team from Humber River Hospital administer first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to parishioners of St. Fidelis Parish church on March 17, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Until Canada has a large proportion of vaccinated people across the country who can help decrease overall COVID-19 levels, Kelvin says it makes sense for hard-hit regions to hold off on relaxing public health measures. 

Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, says communication from public health officials on what people can do after getting a COVID-19 vaccine has been lacking — especially for older Canadians. 

“I’ve had patients who have showed up at the vaccination clinic expecting to get their second shot and have been turned away, so they are devastated emotionally, I’ve had people who have found out immediately beforehand,” he said. 

“I think their questions are very reasonable, which [are]: ‘Do we have evidence to support this? Am I going to be at higher risk? How does this impact my behavior during the third wave now?'”

WATCH | The science behind delaying the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccines

Federal government scientists have put their support behind delayed second doses of COVID-19 vaccines — which several provinces were already doing — and ongoing research shows some of the benefits of the adapted strategy. 2:04

Stall, who is a member of NACI but does not speak on behalf of the committee, said it’s important for public health officials to be transparent about the emerging data on delaying second doses and that the guidelines will likely change.

“I think we need to do a much better job of messaging,” he said. “Because this population [of older seniors] has been living in terrible isolation for a year.” 

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases physician and an associate professor at the University of Alberta, says updated guidelines will likely come in the near future as new data emerges.

She said it was important to note that the recommendations allowed for a maximum interval of up to four months, though the actual interval between doses could be shorter and the guidelines revised if new data showed certain groups were at higher risk. 

“So the main thing is to kind of stay light on your feet and make changes that make sense to try to protect everyone the best we can,” she said. 

Saxinger said the second dose delay made sense given Canada’s limited vaccine supply, because it allowed for an expanded vaccination rollout and offered protection to a greater number of vulnerable Canadians.

“It really will actually save a great many lives,” she said. 

“But if there’s populations where deferring the second dose will actually make them less likely to be immune in the longer term, then obviously that’s a place that has to be readdressed.”

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Over half of Canadians say monarchy is obsolete after Harry and Meghan’s interview, poll suggests

A new poll suggests just over half of Canadians believe the British monarchy is a relic that Canada should abandon, following Prince Harry and Meghan’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents to an online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies say the British monarchy no longer has its place in 21st-century Canada, while one-third say they would rather preserve this part of our heritage.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the interview — and how Canadians are responding to its revelations — should be considered a blow for the monarchy and those who believe in the importance of the role it plays in Canada.

“I think this probably would not have been true a few weeks ago,” Bourque said.

The poll also found that 59 per cent of respondents sympathize more with Harry and Meghan, while 26 per cent say they held more sympathy for the Royal Family.

The online poll of 1,512 adult Canadians was carried out March 12 to 14. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based surveys are not considered random samples.

WATCH | Palace issues stark response to Meghan, Harry’s interview:

Buckingham Palace issued a stark response amid the chaos surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview, which included an outburst from well-known TV personality Piers Morgan. 2:03

Fifty-two per cent say the recent events involving the couple, which included the Duchess of Sussex divulging that she had been driven to thoughts of suicide and that a member of the Royal Family had asked how dark her son Archie’s skin might be, speak about a fundamental problem with the institution.

Negative view of monarchy higher in Quebec

Forty-three per cent of respondents say the recent events show the Royal Family holds racist views, which Bourque said is damaging to its reputation.

The negative view of the monarchy was higher in Quebec, where 71 per cent of respondents said it is out of date, which Bourque said is not surprising.

“Even if you exclude the Quebec numbers, you still get about half of Canadians who say basically do we really need the Royal Family in Canada,” he said.

WATCH | Trudeau says he won’t comment on ‘what’s going on over in the U.K.’:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he “won’t comment on what’s going on over in the U.K.” after being asked about allegations of racism made against the Royal Family in Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. 2:23

An earlier poll of 2,122 adult Canadians carried out from Feb. 5 to 7 had 46 per cent of respondents saying the monarchy is outdated and that Canada should get rid of it, so the numbers are slightly higher after the interview with Harry and Meghan.

In the more recent poll, Canadians appear divided on what could replace the monarchy.

Thirty-six per cent of respondents said they would prefer the prime minister be the head of state, with no other representative such as the governor general. Sixteen per cent said they would like Canada to be a republic with an elected president and 20 per cent said they would like to keep the existing arrangement.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook-Canadian Press News Fellowship, which is not involved in the editorial process.

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