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Alberta moves to halt indoor dining, limit retail capacity

With the province on track to have up to 1,000 COVID-19 patients in hospital by the end of April, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced a return to Step 1 restrictions Tuesday to try to slow the spread of highly contagious variants of coronavirus.

Facing a growing third wave of the pandemic that could be worse than the two that came before, the premier laid out some alarming projections of what could happen over the next few weeks.

“People who right now are contracting COVID today, about five per cent or more of them will show up in hospitals two weeks from now,” Kenney said.

“These are short-term projections and they show that we are on track to hit a weekly average of 2,000 daily cases by the end of this month, based only on transmission that has occurred to week. And we can expect to see up to 1,000 COVID patients in hospital at the end of this month.

“Even at the height of the second, of the wave, back in December, we topped out at just under 1,900 cases a day. Now we’re well on our way to exceeding that.”

Cases rise sharply

Kenney urged Albertans last week to follow the health measures already in place to stop the spread of the virus.

Yet cases continued to rise sharply over the past week, averaging almost 1,000 new cases each day over the long weekend. The surge in variants of concern has also accelerated.

Variant cases went from about 100 per day three weeks ago to 676 on Tuesday, Kenney said, and variants now make up more than 40 per cent of total active cases.

“In the race between variants and the virus, the variants are winning,” the premier said.

At his news conference, Kenney used a chart to illustrate the dangers posed by variants of concern.

The chart showed how one traveller who returned from B.C. spread the virus first through household encounters and social visits that eventually resulted in 35 illnesses, one death and two people admitted to ICU beds.

“Similar stories are playing out across the province,” he said. “These variants are a real enemy of public health and of lives, and tired though we may be, we cannot stop now. We must defeat these variants.”

Latest case numbers

On Tuesday there were 10,809 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, a 27 per cent increase in the last week.

The province reported 767 new variant cases and three more deaths, though two of those deaths happened in May and July 2020. 

There are currently 328 patients being treated in Alberta hospitals for the illness, including 76 in UCU beds.

The province has worked to expand the capacity of the health-care system to cope with the pandemic, Kenney said, so that hospitals could now accommodate up to 2,400 COVID patients but “at a terrible cost” that would mean cancelling all non-urgent surgeries and many other medical procedures.

“We believe we could accommodate a little over 600 in ICU units,” he said.

“But we believe that based on the current trajectory, if we don’t slow down this curve, that we are set to hit the maximum capacity of our system in mid-May, a great tragedy given that it’s right around mid-May that we’ll begin to achieve effective coverage of vaccines.

“So most importantly, these trends would challenge the health of thousands of Albertans and lead to many, many more preventable deaths, just at the end of this thing.”

‘Tough choices’

Kenney said his job is to make “tough choices” to protect lives and livelihoods.

“The only responsible choice to save lives and protect our health-care system is to take immediate action,” he said. “Alberta will be returning to effectively Step 1 of our four-step ‘path forward’ plan. These measures are designed to buy us time to get enough Albertans vaccinated so we can finally get through this thing.”

If unchecked, the premier said, the third wave would threaten the maximum capacity of the health-care system by May.

With the return to Step 1 restrictions, as of noon Friday, restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes can open for outdoor patio dining, takeout, curbside pickup and delivery only.

Patio seating must be limited to a maximum of six people per table, and those at the table must be from the same household or two close contacts for people living alone. Liquor service will end at 10 p.m. and patio dining must close by 11 p.m.

All other changes take place as of midnight Tuesday.

Retail stores must reduce from 25 per cent capacity to 15 per cent of fire code. 

Team sports and group fitness will not be allowed. Places of worship are required to remain at 15 per cent of capacity.

Adult performance activities are not permitted, including dancing, singing, acting and playing musical instruments. Libraries must also close.

‘Best summer’ in history

“Last Thursday, I said that if we just stick to our guns for a few more weeks we’ll head into what I truly believe will be the best summer in Alberta’s history,” Kenney said. “If we just get through the next few weeks, that remains true.

Some Albertans will disagree with the government’s decision to reimpose restrictions, Kenney said.

“And that includes undoubtedly some people in my own caucus and party. I fully expect to hear some of those opinions in the coming days, and I welcome that. I’ve always welcomed a wide-ranging debate on how best to rise to the challenge of this pandemic. I just ask that the debate be informed by facts.”

The pandemic and responses to it have been a polarizing issue, he said.

“On the one hand we have some people who want what are called hard lockdowns and have wanted those on a long-term basis, others who believe that the threat is massively exaggerated and we should have few or no restrictions. But Alberta’s approach has been to find a sensible, safe, middle ground, a common ground that could unite most Albertans.”

Kenney said his government could not ignore the science or the case numbers.

“As premier, I cannot in good conscience ignore the evidence and opt for a policy that could result in hundreds of preventable deaths, of huge impact to our hospitals being flooded, and other critical health procedures being put at risk.

“I cannot and will not do that. Nobody wants to keep restrictions any longer than is absolutely necessary.”

‘Path back to normalcy’

Kenney announced a new committee of government MLAs will work with Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Health officials to plan what he called “a path back to normalcy” as soon as safely possible.

“Vaccines, of course, remain our best hope,” he said. “In the coming weeks, we’ll be able to say that almost one-quarter of Albertans have achieved immunity, either by the vaccine or natural immunity through infection.

“By the end of May, that will be almost half of our population, and by the end of June, it will be almost two-thirds with some level of protection. By mid-September, we project, if Albertans take us up on the vaccines, as I hope they will, that almost three-quarters of Albertans will have a good degree of immunity.

“This is the end of the tunnel, it is our path to recovery, it is our path to freedom.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the challenge now is for Albertans to bend down the curve one more time.

“If we can stop this sharp increase we are seeing and break the chains of transmission, as well as continuing to get vaccinated when we are eligible, then we will save lives and get back to normal as quickly as possible,” she said.

“If we do not keep cases low now, then it will take longer for us to see the benefits of the vaccine, and we will be dealing with this pandemic into the summer months, which none of us want to see.

“This has been a challenging pandemic and we have one more hill to climb. I ask all Albertans to do their part and abide by the restrictions in place to avoid another surge of cases that will take months to get back under control.”

More people can queue for vaccines

More Albertans joined the queue for vaccinations Tuesday as provincial health officials grapple with surging cases of COVID-19 and highly contagious variants.

Albertans with eligible underlying health conditions who were born in or before 1973 became eligible to book appointments, either online through AHS or by calling Health Link, starting at 8 a.m.

Eligible people in the 2B group can also book appointments at participating pharmacies. A full list of participating pharmacies can be found on the Alberta Blue Cross website

As of Tuesday morning, Albertans born between 1957 and 1966 are eligible to book appointments for the AstraZeneca shot. 

Eligible Albertans in this phase can choose to wait to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when Phase 2D fully launches in May.

The online booking tool has been changed to allow up to four eligible family members to book at the same time at the same clinic, Alberta Health Services said in a statement Monday.

Bookings are being opened by birth year. The first eligible people in group 2B began booking appointments last week.

Additional years will be added as more doses arrive. If supplies hold up, the province aims to vaccinate every adult Albertan by the end of June. 

Albertans who became eligible on Tuesday include:

  • Those born in 1956 or before;
  • First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1971 or before, and;
  • Those born between 1957 and 1973 with high-risk underlying health conditions.
  • Phase 2D (AstraZeneca): Born 1957-1966

As of Monday, 707,482 vaccine doses had been administered, and 116,198 Albertans had been fully vaccinated with two doses. 

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CBC | Health News

China moves to tighten control over Hong Kong’s electoral system

China’s ceremonial legislature on Thursday endorsed the Communist Party’s latest move to tighten control over Hong Kong by reducing the role of its public in picking the region’s leaders.

The measure adds to a crackdown against protests in Hong Kong since 2019 calling for greater democracy. That has prompted complaints Beijing is eroding the autonomy promised when Hong Kong return to China in 1997 and hurting its status as a global financial centre.

The National People’s Congress voted 2,895-0, with one abstention, to endorse changes that would give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of Hong Kong’s lawmakers, reducing the number elected by the public. Delegates routinely endorse party plans by unanimous vote or overwhelming majorities.

President Xi Jinping and other party leaders sat on stage in front of delegates as they cast votes electronically. The NPC has no real powers but the party uses its brief annual meeting, the year’s highest-profile political event, to showcase major initiatives.

The changes in Hong Kong would give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of its lawmakers, reducing the number elected by the public. Details have yet to be announced, but Hong Kong news reports say the committee might pick one-third of lawmakers.


Supporters of 47 pro-democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion wave mobile phone lights outside a court in Hong Kong on March 5. Four of the 47 activists were released on bail that day. (Vincent Yu/The Associated Press)

The mainland government has rejected complaints it is eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy and says the changes are necessary to protect the region’s stability.

Also Thursday, the NPC endorsed the ruling party’s latest five-year development blueprint. It calls for stepping up efforts to transform China into a more self-reliant technology creator — a move that threatens to worsen strains with Washington and Europe over trade and market access.

Last year, the party used the NPC session to impose a national security law on Hong Kong in response to the protests that began in 2019. Under that law, 47 former legislators and other pro-democracy figures have been arrested on subversion charges that carry a possible maximum penalty of life in prison.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi defended the changes in Hong Kong as needed to protect its autonomy and defend its “transition from chaos to governance.”

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Alberta’s Laura Walker beats Jennifer Jones, moves within 2 wins of Scotties title

Alberta’s Laura Walker advanced to the semifinal of the Canadian women’s curling championship with a 9-8 win over Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones in Sunday’s tiebreaker game in Calgary.

Walker faces defending champion Kerri Einarson in an afternoon semifinal with the winner taking on Ontario’s Rachel Homan for the championship in the evening.

  • Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Jones missed an attempted double takeout in the 10th end, which left Walker an open draw to score three for the win in the tiebreaker.

Manitoba and Alberta were tied for third at 9-3 after the championship round, which required a tiebreaker game to solve.

WATCH | Walker wins tiebreaker against 6-time Scotties champ:

Laura Walker and her team from Alberta eliminated Jennifer Jones of Manitoba 9-8 Sunday in the tiebreaker match at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary. 0:52

Jones, a six-time champion at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, was chasing a record seventh title.

Einarson’s foursome out of Manitoba’s Gimli Curling Club beat Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges 7-4 on Saturday before suffering a 10-9 loss to Jones in the evening draw.

“We’re definitely just focusing on ourselves and what we need to do,” Einarson said. “We’re in control of our own destiny.”

$ 100,000 to Scotties champion

Einarson is attempting to win the first back-to-back Hearts titles since Homan in 2013-14.

Sunday’s victor earns $ 100,000 in prize money and a return trip to the 2022 Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as Team Canada.

The runner-up earns $ 60,000 and $ 40,000 goes to the third-place team.

The winner doesn’t have a world championship, however, in which to wear the Maple Leaf.

The March 19-28 tournament in Schaffhausen, Switzerland was cancelled by the World Curling Federation because of the pandemic.

The 2020 world championship in Prince George, B.C., was called off for the same reason, so Einarson wasn’t able to represent Canada there.

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Nintendo Switch Sales Blow Past 3DS, Animal Crossing Moves 31M Copies

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The Nintendo Switch has been a hot commodity all through 2020 and the console’s sales figures reflect it. According to a recent Nintendo press release, the company sold 24.1 million Switches in 2020, a 35 percent increase year-on-year. The surge in sales has given the Switch the kick it needed to pass the lifetime sales of its predecessor, the Nintendo 3DS. As of December 31, 79.87M Switches have been sold worldwide. Back when the 3DS debuted, it faced a very different market.

The 3DS launched in 2011, in the middle of mass-market smartphone adoption. Its initially high price and the uncertain future of its 3D effects put some users off the console. Nintendo saw which way the wind was blowing and slashed the 3DS’s price by nearly a third, from $ 250 to $ 170. Sales of the platform promptly surged, and while the 3DS never achieved the dizzying heights of the original Nintendo DS, its lifetime total of 75.92 million sales is enough to make it the 12th best-selling console of all time, beating out the NES, SNES, and the original Xbox One.

While Nintendo doesn’t mention it, the Switch broke its own record for most units shipped this year. Nintendo’s fiscal quarters don’t align with the calendar year, so it may be waiting until what we would consider Q2 before it gives a formal full-year total.

The Switch has already broken its 2019 shipment record by no less than 25 percent. If sales remained this strong for another year, the Switch’s total lifetime sales would be bumping up against the Wii, at 101.64 million consoles shipped over its lifetime. As it closes in on four years old, the Switch is outselling the PS4 at a comparable point in its life cycle.

Ten years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to find pundits arguing that the only way Nintendo would survive is if it went all-in on smartphones and started working on mobile ports. Dedicated handheld gaming systems were dead, or so the popular opinion went, to be inexorably replaced by touchscreens and phones.

If the 3DS proved that Nintendo had enough of a dedicated fan base to support a handheld console ecosystem, the Switch has shown that tens of millions of smartphone owners also enjoy gaming on a dedicated handheld platform. Animal Crossing has sold a massive 31.18M units in less than a year. The only game to sell more copies is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, with 33.41M in lifetime sales. Animal Crossing will beat it next quarter, based on how well each is selling. Nintendo moved a total of 176.1 million games in calendar 2020, an increase of 43 percent over last year.

Despite the impact of smartphones, dedicated handheld gaming is very much alive — at least if you’re a Nintendo fan. Don’t say such things near PlayStation Vita forums.

Now Read:

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

Federal government moves to seal off Canadian companies from human rights violations in China

The federal government announced a suite of new regulations today meant to ensure that Canadian companies are not complicit in human rights abuses or the use of forced labour in China’s Xinjiang province.

The measures include new requirements for firms that do business in the region and a pledge to ban the export of products from Canada to China if there is a chance they could be used by Chinese authorities for surveillance, repression, arbitrary detention or forced labour.

“Canada is deeply concerned regarding the mass arbitrary detention and mistreatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities by Chinese authorities,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a news release shortly before leaving the department to become the new minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“Nobody should face mistreatment on the basis of their religion or ethnicity,” Champagne added.

Today’s actions represent the strongest measures yet taken by Canada in the face of growing international criticism of the Chinese government over its policies in Xinjiang — but they stop short of imposing “Magnitsky sanctions” on Chinese officials — something called for by a parliamentary committee that found China’s actions meet the definition of genocide.

Forced labour, arbitrary detention

UN experts and activists say more than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been arbitrarily held in prison-like centres for political indoctrination. China claims the centres are intended to combat extremism and teach job skills, but former residents and rights groups say they target Islam and minority languages and cultures.

A coalition of civil society organizations has also accused China of forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities to pick cotton by hand. The vast western province produces 85 per cent of China’s cotton and 20 per cent of the global supply, which is sold to fashion brands worldwide.

The Center for Global Policy, a Washington-based think tank, found in a December 2020 report it was very likely a major share of cotton from Xinjiang is “tainted with forced labour.”


Workers walk by the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Canada already bans the importation of goods produced through forced labour as part of its obligations under the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), Global Affairs Canada said in a news release.

The new regulations also require that Canadian companies in the Xinjiang market sign a declaration acknowledging that they are aware of the human rights situation in the province and pledging to conduct due diligence on Chinese suppliers to ensure they are not knowingly sourcing products or services from companies that use forced labour.

Global Affairs Canada also issued a business advisory warning Canadian businesses of the legal and reputational risks they face by maintaining supply chains associated with forced labour.

The new measures were announced in concert with similar actions taken by the U.K., although that government promised to impose financial penalties on companies that do not comply — something that doesn’t appear to be part of Canada’s approach.

Last fall, the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights released a report stating that China’s persecution of this Muslim minority is a clear violation of human rights and is meant to “eradicate Uighur culture and religion.” The Chinese foreign ministry lashed out in response, accusing the committee of spreading lies and disinformation.

Canada exported $ 23 billion worth of merchandise to China and imported $ 75 billion in 2019.

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Bangladesh moves second group of Rohingya refugees to remote island

Bangladesh started moving a second group of Rohingya Muslim refugees to a low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday, despite opposition from rights groups worried about the new site’s vulnerability to floods.

The United Nations says it has not been involved in the relocation but urged the government to ensure no refugee is forced to move to Bhasan Char island, which only emerged from the sea 20 years ago.

“We are ready to receive the new arrivals,” Navy Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury said from the island of the 1,804 Rohingya being moved in seven ships.

A first group of more than 1,600 Rohingya, members of a minority group who have fled from Myanmar, were relocated from their rickety camps near the Myanmar border to Bhasan Char earlier in the month.

Storms regularly hit the Bangladesh coast. In 1991, nearly 143,000 people were killed when a cyclone whipped up a 4.5-metre tidal surge.

The government has built a 12-kilometre embankment to protect the island along with housing for 100,000 people. It dismisses the risks.

“The island is completely safe,” Foreign Minister Abdul Momen told Reuters.

The government also says the relocation is voluntary but some refugees from the first group have spoken about being coerced to go.


Rohingya refugees wait in a naval ship to be transported to an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal. (Mahmud Hossain Opu/The Associated Press)

The human rights group Amnesty International also expressed concern.

“(A) lack of transparency in the consultation process with refugees, and allegations from within the community about cash incentives being offered to Rohingya families to relocate to Bhashan Char as well as use of intimidation tactics are making the relocation process questionable,” the group said.

Momen rejected such doubts.

“The Rohingya people who have shifted there are very happy with the arrangement. Some evil groups are spreading negative propaganda,” he said.

Two Rohingya men on board one of the ships heading to the island from the port of Chittagong told Reuters they were moving to their new home voluntarily. One said he was joining relatives already there while the other was moving with his wife and six children.

“There is so much suffering and conflict in the camp,” said one of the men. “We are going there in the hope of a better life.”

Reuters is withholding their names given the controversy around the move among the community, with many keen to stay on the mainland.

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Widespread closures in Winnipeg as region moves to code red pandemic response starting Monday

Broad shutdowns will start in Winnipeg and surrounding areas on Monday as Manitoba moves its capital area to the red, or critical, level — the highest stage of its pandemic response scale — following days of record-shattering COVID-19 case announcements.

Movie theatres, concert halls, sports facilities and restaurant dining rooms in the region will be ordered to close starting Monday, as officials struggle to control a rising tide of cases.

Elective and non-urgent surgeries and diagnostic procedures in the region will be suspended to preserve capacity in a strained health-care system, said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin on Friday.

“You can just see these numbers in the last week, the strain on our health-care system … we were left with no choice,” said Roussin. “We have to deal with this virus and the transmission now.”

The rest of Manitoba will move up to the orange, or restricted, level starting Monday, Roussin said. The order will limit gathering sizes to five and reduce capacity in public-facing businesses.

The new measures will be in place for at least two weeks, Roussin said Friday.

They come as Manitoba announced a record-breaking 480 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, although that number includes cases identified over the past several days due to a backlog in reporting, Roussin said.

A total of 104 people are in hospital due to COVID-19, including 79 in Winnipeg, as of Friday. Nineteen patients are in intensive care, and Manitoba’s ICU capacity is at 96 per cent, said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health.

“The numbers today will strike fear in many Manitobans,” Siragusa said.

“I speak to our [health-care] staff, as much as I speak to the public, when I say that I know that you are scared.”

Closures in the Winnipeg region will also extend to museums, libraries and galleries. Restaurants may still offer take-out and delivery services. Fitness facilities will be reduced to 25 per cent capacity and masks are mandatory, even while exercising.

WATCH | ‘No choice’ but to tighten restrictions, chief public health officer says:

While widespread closures and capacity restrictions have significant impacts on people, Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says a concerning trend of rising COVID-19 cases and strain on the healthcare system in recent days forced the province to introduce the latest round of rules meant to slow the spread of the illness. 0:42

Visitation at hospitals in the area will be suspended, with case-by-case exceptions for patients receiving end-of-life care, in labour and pediatric patients.

No changes will be made to schools in the Winnipeg area, which are already at the restricted orange level, the province said. Retail stores in the region must limit capacity to 25 per cent or five people, whichever is higher.

“We are at a turning point right now,” Roussin said. “If we don’t make a dramatic change, we’re going to see our health-care system significantly strained.”

‘Today is a hard day’

Across Manitoba, outside of Winnipeg, the orange-level restrictions will reduce capacity at restaurants, bars, retail stores, museums, galleries and libraries to 50 per cent.

The province is encouraging Manitobans to limit the number of people from each household who go shopping.

A variety of establishments outside the city area — including movie theatres, concert halls, libraries and more — must collect and keep contact information for people who enter. Casinos in those regions must close.

The announcement comes hours after several Manitoba doctors signed and published a letter to the premier and health minister in the Winnipeg Free Press urging government to lock down.

Health officials have plans to expand health-care system capacity, including converting beds and creating new ones outside of hospitals for the least-sick, non-COVID-19 patients, in order to make room for COVID-19 cases, Siragusa said.

“Today is a hard day,” she said. “It’s really difficult to give the messages and I’m sure it’s difficult to hear them.”

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NBA moves toward late July restart with approval of 22-team format

The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league had not yet revealed the vote result publicly.

It is the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through — including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.

Another person, also speaking to AP on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.

If all 22 teams that are going to Disney play their allotted eight games before the post-season begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $ 600 million in salary.


ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World in Florida, where the NBA is expected to resume its season in isolation. (The Associated Press)

Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.

But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.

Teams are likely to be allowed to open training camps in late June before arriving at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.

WATCH | Sports weigh risk, reward ahead of potential returns:

CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin details the various return to play scenarios unfolding across the professional sports landscape. 2:52

Thursday’s move by the board of governors — one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times — was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.

The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a post-season berth.

Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs — Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston — have post-season spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.

That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.

WATCH | When and how could sports return?:

Sports around the world are formulating plans to get back to action, Rob Pizzo rounds up the latest news from each.  3:20

If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the post-season.

Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix — who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.

And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career — the longest in league history.

Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, has steadfastly insisted that he is retiring after this season. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.

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Chris Cuomo Shows Off Dance Moves With His Daughter in Hilarious TikTok Video

Chris Cuomo Shows Off Dance Moves With His Daughter in Hilarious TikTok Video | Entertainment Tonight

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‘Survivor: Winners at War’: Jeremy, Sarah and Kim All Make Major Moves After Jeff Probst’s ‘Historic’ Reveal

‘Survivor: Winners at War’: Jeremy, Sarah and Kim All Make Major Moves After Jeff Probst’s ‘Historic’ Reveal | Entertainment Tonight

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