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Ford promises more restrictions as Ontario reports record 4,249 new COVID-19 cases

Premier Doug Ford is promising further restrictions coming for Ontario, as the province reported a record 4,249 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

That number comes with the caveat — about 450 were attributable to a data upload delay from Toronto Public Health.

Even so, that would mean about 3,800 were newly confirmed infections, considerably more than the previous record of 3,519 reported Thursday. The cases that were delayed were “primarily” from Jan. 5 and 6, the province said.

Ford held a rare morning news conference Friday, where he again asked Ontarians to follow public health guidelines. The premier said new modelling coming early next week will paint a potentially dire scenario in the province.

“We’re in a desperate situation, and when you see the modelling, you’ll fall out of your chair,” Ford said.

“There will be further measures, because this is getting out of control.”

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, agreed with that assessment. “I think we do need to consider more serious measures, perhaps similar to what happened in the spring,” she said.

“Today’s numbers, to be frank, are scary.”

WATCH | Premier promises new measures to curb COVID-19’s spread:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says new models forecasting coronavirus cases will show the province is in ‘a desperate situation’ and he warns new measures are coming to try to curb the spread. 1:03

The new cases reported today include 1,382 in Toronto, 691 in Peel Region, 427 in York Region, 213 in Niagara Region and 184 in Windsor-Essex.

Combined, they push the seven-day average to 3,394, also a pandemic high for the province. 

They come as Ontario’s network of labs processed 71,481 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 6.2 per cent. 

Hospitalizations dip, patients in ICU climb

There are now 28,203 confirmed, active cases of the illness provincewide, the most at any point during the pandemic by a considerable margin.

“This is so, so serious,” Ford said. “This is the most serious situation we’ve ever been in ever, ever, since the start of this pandemic.”

While overall hospitalizations fell slightly to 1,446, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care and on ventilators both climbed to new highs — 369 and 250, respectively.

The following public health units also reported double- or triple-digit case count increases:

  • Hamilton: 176.
  • Durham Region: 170.
  • Ottawa:154.
  • Waterloo Region: 147.
  • Halton Region: 134.
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 85.
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 75.
  • Lambton: 56.
  • Middlesex-London: 53.
  • Eastern Ontario: 45.
  • Brant County: 41.
  • Southwestern: 40.
  • Huron-Perth: 31.
  • Grey Bruce County: 20.
  • Haldimand-Norfolk: 20.
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge: 13.
  • Sudbury: 13.
  • Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington: 12.
  • Renfrew County: 12.

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)

Numbers worsening despite lockdown

Meanwhile new data crunched by Ontario scientists with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences shows test positivity rates for some of the hardest-hit parts of the province are only worsening.

Residents of northeast Brampton with postal codes starting with L6P are testing positive for the virus at a higher rate than anywhere in the province. 

From Dec. 6 to Dec. 12, that neighbourhood had a positivity rate of 14.7 per cent, after north Etobicoke at 15.2 per cent and South Windsor at 15. 4 per cent. 

But that number only grew after the provincewide lockdown, with the rate jumping to 23.7 per cent for the period Dec. 27 to Jan. 2. Rounding out the top three for that period are North York and northeast Scarborough. 

Dr. Jeff Kwong, a senior scientist with the group that compiled the data, says one of the biggest contributing factors is that low-income workers in these areas have no choice but to go to work. 

But he also believes regional travel over the holidays has contributed to rising levels of virus across the province.

“And I mean, I think the timing of the lockdown may have been unfortunate,” he said. “They said, ‘OK, we’re going to go into lockdown, but we’re going to be doing it in five days from now.’ I think that maybe sent mixed messages to people.”

On Thursday, Williams pointed out the hardest-hit areas of the province, Toronto, Peel and York, which previously made up 70 per cent of Ontario’s total cases, now make up closer to 50 per cent. 

Kwong points out those infected around New Year’s may not begin showing symptoms until several days later.

“I’m fearful that next week’s numbers are going to be even worse,” he said.

Vaccination progress

Late Thursday, CBC News obtained a memo from the president and CEO of Ontario Health, Matthew Anderson, telling hospitals to prepare for transferring dozens and potentially hundreds of patients across and even out of regions.

Ontario’s hospitals are projected to have more than 500 patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units and more than 1,700 COVID-19 in other beds by Jan. 24, according to the memo. 

Ford took multiple questions today about the situation in the province’s long-term care homes, where deaths continue to mount despite the province’s repeated assertions that it has placed an “iron ring” around facilities.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s frustrating as well, with the long-term care homes,” Ford said.


A worker at St. George Care Community watches during a union-organized rally outside the Toronto long-term care home on Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The premier also talked about vaccines for a considerable portion of the news conference, saying the province vaccinated nearly 15,000 people Thursday. Ford said he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last night about the need to increase supply.

“All of Ontario will be out of Pfizer vaccines by the end of next week,” Ford said. Provincial officials have told CBC News that they expect another shipment of 80,000 doses next week, alongside 80,000 each of the two following weeks.

“We have a long, long way to go before enough vaccines arrive for everyone,” Ford said.

On Thursday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that elementary students in southern Ontario will not be returning to schools for in-class learning until at least Jan. 25 as test positivity rates for COVID-19 rise for adults and children alike. 

At the news conference this morning, Lecce said the province will be expanding asymptomatic testing and all schools across Ontario will have access to it. The minister also promised improvements with personal protective equipment and staffing.

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PS5 Outperforms Xbox Series X in Tests as Sony Promises More Consoles

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Two pieces of news on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X today. First, ongoing performance reviews of the two consoles continue to find that the PS5 outperforms the XSX in specific game modes, and sometimes in entire titles.

As we’ve previously covered, the Xbox Series X has problems with Devil May Cry 5’s high-performance mode. It also apparently runs Assassin Creed: Valhalla more slowly than its rival, and with heavier screen tearing. In Dirt 5, the Xbox Series X runs at lower resolutions and image quality, though Codemasters has pledged to fix this in an upcoming patch. Call of Duty 5 does buck the trend of Sony winning at 60 fps play but again falling behind in 120 fps.

It is unclear why this is happening. Multiple sources I have spoken to indicate that Sony’s GPU is based on RDNA with ray tracing attached, while Microsoft waited to implement “full” RDNA2. Microsoft has asserted this, and Phil Spencer has stated that XSX production ramped later than Sony because they were waiting “for some specific AMD technology in our chip.” There does appear to be a low-level feature difference between the two consoles, which isn’t unprecedented.

I want to stress that it is currently unclear if this feature distinction will make any difference whatsoever in shipping titles, ever. But whatever it is, it clearly isn’t helping Microsoft today. The rumor mill has suggested this may be due to immature API support for Microsoft compared with Sony. It could also be that some of Microsoft’s specific studio partners or engineers were affected by COVID-19 this year in ways their counterparts at Sony weren’t, resulting in Sony having a higher overall level of polish on the product right now. It’s hard to say.

Either way, the Xbox Series X is not yet living up to its full performance potential. Given the events of the year and the circumstances of the launch, I think this is understandable, but it’s also a bit disappointing. Yes, the Xbox Series X “wins on paper,” but we have no reason to believe it shouldn’t be winning in performance in real life. The architectural differences between these systems are minimal. In the PC industry, when comparing two GPUs built from the same architecture, the GPU with more cores, higher fillrates, and more memory bandwidth will win. Everything we know says the Xbox Series X outguns the PlayStation 5 in all three categories.

I don’t think we’re seeing the results of the PS5’s faster SSD in these figures. I’d expect that sort of difference to manifest itself most clearly in load times. I suppose it is possible that when playing at 120 fps, the system needs streaming texture performance to be absolutely top-notch, and the XSX has less bandwidth to play with. The XSX’s split memory, with 10GB of 560GB/s and 6GB of 336GB/s, could also be a factor. There is no evidence, as of this writing, that either of these hardware-level differences is to blame, but they constitute a meaningful difference between the two platforms.

For now, based on what’s known, I still think we’re seeing software-level differences and that the Xbox Series X currently isn’t performing where it ought to be. We’ll see if Microsoft can fix it any time soon.

Switching topics, Sony is pledging to ship more consoles as quickly as it can. The company calls the demand spike ‘unprecedented’ and says it will work with retailers to deliver more units.

A lot of companies are blaming their problems on demand right now, and it’s still hard to tell if that’s true or not. There are a lot of moving factors in play, including yield figures for whatever part you care about (Xbox, PS5, AMD, Nvidia). There’s the inevitable impact of COVID-19 on supply lines and deliveries. And there’s the fact that a huge chunk of the world’s shopping has shifted to emphasize online orders. Any one of these factors is enough to cause a shortage — back in 2016, Nvidia and AMD couldn’t keep GPUs on store shelves due to low yields, either, and this was before the cryptocurrency boom.

Neither Sony nor Microsoft have released updates on concrete sales numbers, but Sony has said that it had more PlayStation 5’s on-hand to launch with than the previous launch of the PlayStation 4.

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Quebec promises diversity training for health-care workers in wake of Joyce Echaquan’s death

A little less than a month after taking over as Quebec’s Indigenous affairs minister, Ian Lafrenière has announced a $ 15-million plan to teach health-care workers how to better provide services to members of Indigenous communities — with an emphasis on cultural safety.

That means providing care in accordance with Indigenous norms and traditions.

The announcement is a direct response to the death this fall of a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman at a hospital in Joliette, Que., a town about an hour north of Montreal.

In late September, Joyce Echaquan did a Facebook live of her treament in her hospital room shortly before her death. Viewers could hear her pleas and the staff’s response: degrading and racist insults.

The exact cause of her death is still not known.

Lafrenière was accompanied by Health Minister Christian Dubé as he told reporters the government wants to remove barriers for Indigenous communities in the health and social services network. 

“We would like to regain trust from different nations,” Lafrenière said.

Echaquan’s death sparked protests, a public inquiry and a public apology from Quebec Premier François Legault at the National Assembly.

WATCH | Lafrenière says Quebec’s efforts are not just about ‘image making’:

Ian Lafrenière, Quebec’s new minister of Indigenous affairs, says the province is “talking about facts” and not just concerned with “image making.” 0:49

Cultural safety was a key component in the Viens Commission’s 142 recommendations, which documented the discrimination Indigenous people face when receiving public services.

The cultural-safety training is expected to be rolled out gradually, starting with hospitals that take in more Indigenous patients — such as Joliette Hospital where Echaquan died  — before eventually being implemented across the province.

A team at l’Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue developed the training guide, and Indigenous community leaders will have a chance to weigh in on its contents.

“There are many subtleties that we need to have in the training and this is the reason we want to involve them,” Dubé said.

The province will also hire liaison agents and health-care “navigators” who will serve as go-betweens for hospitals and members of Indigenous communities, with the navigators expected to come from Indigenous communities.

“Today, this is not image making, this is facts,” said Lafrenière. “We’re not telling you it’s going to be done within a week. It’s going to be a long process.”


Joyce Echaquan’s mother is seen at a vigil after hear death at the Joliette, Que., hospital. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

‘This is one announcement, this is not the last one’

The $ 15-million investment is part of a $ 200-million envelope set aside by the CAQ government in its latest budget.

It’s also Lafrenière’s first major move since replacing Sylvie D’Amours as the Indigenous affairs minister.

“This is one announcement, this is not the last one,” he said. “Let’s hope for the future, work for the future.”

His appointment last month raised eyebrows and drew criticism, due to his history as a high-ranking Montreal police officer. Indigenous communities have said their relationship with Montreal police is a tense one.

Lafrenière promised swift action, and claimed his experience with the SPVM was an asset in his new role, not a liability.

Following Echaquan’s death, voices calling for the CAQ government to recognize systemic racism grew louder, but Legault and Lafrenière, have both denied it exists in the province.

WATCH | Legault apologizes following Joyce Echaquan’s death

François Legault said the Quebec government has a duty to treat everyone with dignity and respect. He said Quebec failed that duty by allowing Joyce Echaquan to die amid racist taunts. 1:05

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Promises, promises: After 4 years in the White House, which ones has Trump kept?

In the flood of half-truths, exaggerations and outright lies Donald Trump is selling in the final days before the election, his campaign makes one assertion that has some validity to it. 

“I didn’t back down from my promises. I kept every single one,” Trump said in a video played at the Republican National Convention in August

Well, no, he didn’t keep every one, but the U.S. president has kept enough of them to fundamentally change the country. And for his supporters, that might be enough to once again support their guy — even in the middle of a deadly pandemic that is getting worse. 

Case in point: Jeff Johns, a Trump supporter who spoke to CBC reporter Paul Hunter outside the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 22.

“He does what he said he’s going to do,” Johns said of Trump. “Almost everything he said he’s going to do, he’s done.”

In fact, Trump’s record on his pledges is a mixed bag, at best. Independent fact-checking organization Politifact looked at 100 of Trump’s campaign promises from 2016. It calculated that while 49 per cent of them have been broken, he’s delivered on 44 percent of them, either in full or in part — and five per cent are stalled. 

WATCH | How many of his 2016 campaign promises did Trump keep?

From boosting manufacturing in the United States to building a border wall, Donald Trump made a lot of promises during his first presidential campaign. CBC News’s Paul Hunter checks in on whether he delivered on them. 6:00

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, had a better record of promises kept, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from touting his accomplishments, and his supporters from believing him all the way to the ballot box. 

Remaking the judiciary

The rightward shift of the judiciary isn’t just a promise kept — it’s the home run of campaign promises, right out of the political park. 

Trump confirmed three Supreme Court justices in his four-year term. Presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each had only two opportunities to confirm justices in their eight-year presidencies. 

Trump’s success in this area is partially due to circumstances, including the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Sept. 18. 


Trump presides over the swearing-in of Amy Coney Barrett as a new Supreme Court justice on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 26. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

But it is also the result of calculation and planning by the Republican Party and, specifically, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If McConnell hadn’t held up the nomination of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016, Trump’s first opportunity to nominate a justice (Neil Gorsuch) wouldn’t have happened. And if McConnell had played by his own rules to wait until after the election to nominate a replacement for Ginsberg, Amy Coney Barrett wouldn’t be on the top court right now. 

This promise kept goes well beyond the Supreme Court. Before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Barrett was the 220th federal judge confirmed under the Trump presidency and McConnell-led Senate. 

“We do a lot of stuff here that is small ball, but this is something that may last 25 or 30 years,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn told the Washington Post last week when describing the impact of judicial appointments during the Trump administration.

WATCH | Confirmation hearings begin Oct. 13 for Amy Coney Barrett:

The deep-seated divisions between Republicans and Democrats were front and centre during the first day of Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Coney Barrett says she wouldn’t let her personal beliefs impact her judgements. 2:01

Tax cuts and the economy

At a rally in Bullhead, Ariz., on Oct. 28, Trump told the crowd, “A vote for me is a vote for massive, middle-class tax cuts, regulation cuts, fair trade.” 

His record has some evidence of that. In 2017, the Trump administration overhauled the U.S. tax code, dropping rates for individuals and corporations. But has the middle class really benefitted from those cuts? 

The White House says a family of four earning $ 73,000 US a year received a $ 2,000 tax break in 2018. But that’s small potatoes compared to what corporations are saving — an estimated $ 1.5 trillion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, which reports to the Senate and House finance and budget committees. 


Trump displays the $ 1.5-trillion tax overhaul package he signed in December 2017. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Democrats argue the tax cuts have benefitted the rich and exacerbated inequality — and The Center for Public Integrity reported more companies paid no tax at all in 2018, partially as a result of the tax law. This is also a case where fulfilling one promise meant the president couldn’t make good on another. The combination of losing tax revenue, spending more money on defence — another campaign promise — and the costs of the coronavirus have ballooned the U.S. national debt to more than $ 27 trillion

That’s around $ 8 trillion more than when Trump took office in 2017, when he was promising to eliminate it entirely.

When it comes to deregulation, much of the administration’s rollback of rules has focused on the environment. The New York Times counted 100 policies related to clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals that have been rolled back or reversed under Trump, including weakening rules for emissions from vehicles and power plants, as well as removing protections from wetlands. 

America First 

Donald Trump promised a new kind of foreign policy, one that put “America first.” Over the past four years, that has meant pulling back from multilateral international institutions, resulting in diminished American leadership in the world. 

The United States left the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran Nuclear Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and re-negotiated NAFTA with Canada and Mexico to form the new USMCA trade deal. While U.S. troops remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, their numbers are going down, reflecting Trump’s commitment to put an end to endless wars.

Immigration 

Trump’s promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” on the U.S. border with Mexico — and have Mexico pay for it — was a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign. 

In 2020, Trump has been telling crowds at his campaign rallies that the wall is almost finished, but that’s a very generous definition of “almost.” 


Trump speaks during a June 2020 tour of a section of the border wall in San Luis, Ariz. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

The original promise was for more than 1,600 kilometres of concrete barrier. In reality, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says about 500 kilometres have been built, mostly reinforcement of existing barriers and fencing. The Associated Press reports less than seven kilometres of wall have been built where no barrier existed before. 

Mexico did not pay for any of it. The cost of the project — estimated at upward of $ 11 billion — is being borne by the United States. In fact, the president diverted money from the Pentagon’s budget to cover it. 

WATCH | Trump promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico boder at a 2016 campaign rally in Phoenix, Ariz.:

Trump: ‘Mexico will pay for the wall.’ 0:38

But the president’s promised immigration crackdown is real. Under Trump, the U.S. is a much harder place to get into. As promised, the administration restricted travel from several Muslim-majority countries (although the law had to be adapted and expanded after court challenges). The non-partisan Migration Policy Institute found Trump used executive actions to pretty much end the asylum system at the southwest border and reduce refugee admissions

In 2021, the Trump administration plans to cap the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. at 15,000 a year, down from the current cap of 18,000, and far less than the more than 85,000 slots during the final year of the Obama administration

Broken promises 

There are some pledges from the 2016 campaign that simply haven’t been kept. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, remains in place despite Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the health-care law. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Obamacare in November, and the Trump administration supports scrapping it entirely. Despite Trump’s promise to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, he hasn’t explained how he would do that. 

Remember “Drain the swamp,” Trump’s call to clean up corruption in Washington? That hasn’t happened. His administration has presented no anti-corruption legislation and Trump himself did not divest from his businesses. In fact, many argue the swamp has gotten swampier, with Trump’s own family in key government positions and his properties profiting from government business. 


A demonstrator holds a sign at a September protest march in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Coal hasn’t come back despite his promises it would. Neither have manufacturing jobs in a meaningful way. In both cases, that may have more to do with broader market forces.

All of these promises, kept or not, may pale in comparison to the growing U.S. death toll from COVID-19. For those inclined to believe Trump when he says the pandemic has “rounded the corner” — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — or that he did the best he could, there are plenty of reasons to justify voting to keep him in office. 

The question before the electorate is whether they see more positive than negative in a record that, in four years, has changed the country dramatically.


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Trudeau promises federal help for COVID hot spots in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today promised more support for local public health units in emerging COVID-19 hot spots — some of which are struggling with testing backlogs and a contact tracing system that can’t keep up with the number of new cases being reported.

Trudeau told reporters that the government has signed agreements with Alberta, Ontario and Quebec to supply federal bureaucrats to help those provinces with their contact tracing — the process of connecting with people who may have been in close contact with a positive case of the novel coronavirus.

Contact tracers urge those who may have been exposed to self-isolate or get a test to avoid further spread — but their work can be undermined by delays in contacting those at-risk people.

Most of the federal employees tasked to provincial contract-tracing efforts are being pulled from Statistics Canada.

“Contact tracing is extremely effective in terms of tracking down cases, especially if it’s done in a very timely manner,” Trudeau said. “Once you start getting into backlogs, apparently, it becomes more difficult to have contact tracing be as effective.”

Trudeau said 500 public servants will be on hand to support Ontario’s tracing efforts, with 30 tracers specifically assigned to the city of Ottawa.

The nation’s capital has emerged as a hot spot in the province. The Ottawa public health unit warned last Friday that the system is at a breaking point; dozens of new cases are being reported each day, each with a list of possible contacts to track down.

“Our health care system is in crisis. Labs are working beyond capacity, causing dangerous backlogs, which affects our contact tracing & case management. Hospitals are nearing capacity, and we’re seeing more outbreaks in LTC homes. Our system can’t handle much more of this,” the Ottawa public health unit said in a tweet.

Toronto Public Health, which is also grappling with a sharp increase in cases in recent weeks, said it would dial back its contact tracing efforts and instead focus for now on cases tied to outbreaks in facilities such as hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, homeless shelters, schools and child care centres.

Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said adding a modest number of contact tracers will do little to reduce the backlog in her city.

She said the city already employs 700 case and contact managers and it still can’t keep up.

“To be frank, I expect we could have another 700 people added to the ranks and still not be able to contact trace with the same reach and results as when infection rates were lower. It’s an indicator of how serious the spread of infection is,” she said.

Instead, she said, the province should initiate a month-long shutdown of indoor dining in bars and restaurants — places she said account for a large number of cases.

An outbreak at a Toronto-area bar, the Yonge St. Warehouse, created 1,700 possible exposures after five staff members tested positive. A similar outbreak at Regulars Bar resulted in 600 exposures, she said.

Trudeau also announced some federal laboratories will be re-purposed to help provinces ramp up testing. He said the labs will run 1,000 tests a day in Ontario, with more capacity to be brought online in the coming days.

“We’re reaching out to more national laboratories to do their part as well. This is about all hands on deck at this point,” Trudeau said.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said she’s heard that many people working in public health are “feeling very tired.”

She said Canadians need to limit social contacts and stay home as much as possible. “The key is to have everybody working in the same direction so public health isn’t overwhelmed,” she said. “What you want is people not having to get tested.”

Trudeau was tested last month

Questioned by reporters in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump being hospitalized with COVID-19, Trudeau confirmed today that he was tested for the virus in early September after he reported a “throat tickle.”

He self-isolated for a few days before returning to work, based on his doctor’s instructions, he said. The prime minister’s test result had not been disclosed before today.

Asked if he thought provinces have spent wisely the $ 19 billion in federal funds set aside through the “safe restart” agreement, Trudeau said the issue isn’t the money alone — there’s a shortage of people available to do the tracing and lab work.

“It’s about all of us working together and keeping as many Canadians as possible safe from this virus as quickly as we can,” he said.

Ontario has dramatically expanded its testing capacity since the onset of the pandemic — in April, the province peaked at 13,000 tests a day and is running as high as 40,000 daily tests now — but the demand for testing has built up a sizeable backlog.

After weeks of hours-long lineups at some centres, Ontario ordered a two-day shutdown in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel Region — with testing to resume Tuesday through an appointment-only process.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday that maintaining staffing and procuring reagents — the ingredients for any chemical-based test — have both proven difficult in recent days.

“Right now, we have an issue with getting enough diagnostic lab technicians,” Ford said.

“There’s also a worldwide shortage of the testing mechanism. We’re working with Roche, we’re working with Abbott, we’re working with the federal government to see if we can get these rapid tests. It’s going to be an absolute game-changer,” he said.

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China defends handling of coronavirus as WHO leader promises independent review of its own actions

The head of the World Health Organization said on Monday an independent evaluation of the global coronavirus response would be launched as soon as possible, and China backed such a review.

Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made his promise during a virtual meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, at which Chinese President Xi Jinping defended his country’s own handling of the crisis.

U.S. President Donald Trump has fiercely questioned the WHO’s performance during the pandemic and led international criticism of China’s handling of the early stages of the crisis.

Tedros, who has always promised a post-pandemic review, said it would come “at the earliest appropriate moment” and provide recommendations for future preparedness.

“We all have lessons to learn from the pandemic. Every country and every organization must examine its response and learn from its experience. WHO is committed to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement,” Tedros said.

The review must encompass responsibility of “all actors in good faith,” he said.

According to Tedros, preliminary tests in some countries showed that at most, 20 per cent of populations had contracted the disease. Most places, he said, that figure is less than 10 per cent.

But, Tedros said, “the risk remains high and we have a long road to travel.”

Change in Chinese position

A resolution drafted by the European Union called for an independent evaluation of the WHO’s performance and appeared to have won consensus backing among the health body’s 194 member states.

China has previously opposed calls for a review of the origin and spread of the coronavirus, but Xi signalled Beijing would be amenable to an impartial evaluation of the global response once the pandemic is brought under control.

“This work needs a scientific and professional attitude, and needs to be led by the WHO. And the principles of objectivity and fairness need to be upheld,” he told the meeting via video.

Calling the pandemic the most serious global public health emergency since the end of the Second World War, Xi said: “All along we have acted with openness and transparency and responsibility.”

Wildlife origins 

A draft of the EU resolution made no mention of China.

WHO and most experts say the virus is believed to have emerged in a market selling wildlife in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this month there is “a significant amount of evidence” the virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan, a charge China rejects.

A draft text of the EU resolution urges Tedros to initiate an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the response to COVID-19 under the WHO “at the earliest appropriate moment.”

Diplomats said the United States, which suspended its funding of the WHO during the crisis, was unlikely to block a consensus backing the resolution.

But it could “dissociate” itself from sections referring to intellectual property rights for drugs and vaccines, and to continued provision of services for sexual and reproductive health during the pandemic, they said.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the WHO “irreplaceable.” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Africa affirms its “full support,” but assistance to the continent should include debt relief and help with diagnostics, drugs and medical supplies.

Barbados’ prime minister said Caribbean states need a restructuring of debt or a debt moratorium to “provide certainty to both borrower and lender” during the pandemic.

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Joe Giudice Reflects on Past Year and Promises His Daughters to be ‘the Best of Me in 2020’

Joe Giudice Reflects on Past Year and Promises His Daughters to be ‘the Best of Me in 2020’ | Entertainment Tonight

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Pocket Perfect: New Analogue FPGA Handheld Promises Flawless Retro Gaming

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If you pay attention to the retro gaming scene, chances are you’ve heard of Analogue. The company builds gorgeous, FPGA-powered retro gaming systems that exploit the unique capabilities of FPGA hardware to deliver virtually perfect emulation. We say “virtually,” because with any emulated system there’s the possibility that a game might not play properly, but using an FPGA allows Analogue to build perfect replicas of the early CPUs that these systems used. This, in turn, drastically reduces the chance of an error or bug.

Now, Analogue has announced a new product — one that might fill the gap left in the hearts of retro gaming lovers who have been wishing someone would release a handheld classic edition of an iconic gaming system. The $ 199 Analogue Pocket is an FPGA-handheld that supports games from the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance. Compatibility with other portable systems, including the Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear, and Neo Geo Pocket Color is also planned, via cartridge adapters.

Monster-Pocket

The Pocket will feature a 3.5-inch screen with a 1600×1440 LTPS LCD (615 PPI, so those of you with 20/8 vision can enjoy Retina-class displays just like everybody else). That should be plenty for emulating a Game Boy, considering the Game Boy Advance had a 240×160 screen. The diminutive display doesn’t mean less horsepower, however — the Analogue Pocket will feature the same Altera Cyclone V FPGA that Analogue uses for its living room retro consoles like the Super Nt and Mega Sg. There will also be a Cyclone 10 FPGA to allow developers to do their own core development if they wish.

The system will be available in two colors, black or white, and it has a microSD slot to allow for third-party extension. There’s also a nifty feature that nods to the Switch — an optional HDMI-equipped dock, for outputting games on a big-screen TV. Wired USB and Bluetooth controllers will both be supported (price not yet announced). The system also has stereo speakers and a 3.5mm output jack for undocked play or headphones. It has a lithium-ion battery (no word on battery life but it’s reportedly quite good) and an original-style link plug) if you want to play Tetris with a friend. The Pocket also comes with Nanoloop, a Game Boy chiptune electronic music program.

It’ll be interesting to see if this new handheld convinces Nintendo or any of the other manufacturers that it might be worth investing in a Game Boy Classic. Nintendo seems to be virtually the only company that might take this on in a serious way, most of the other manufacturers who dabbled in the handheld market were driven out of it by Nintendo’s unstoppable Game Boy juggernaut in the 1990s and early 2000s. Sony could potentially field a combined PSP / Vita classic system, but after the low-quality PlayStation Classic and the general failure of Vita, the Japanese firm may have little interest in either idea.

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Borderlands 3 Is a Rocky Mess, Gearbox Promises ‘Final’ DX12 Update

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Borderlands 3 launched last week, and the game is in wretched condition. Reviews of the title have been good on the merits, though pretty much everyone agrees that Borderlands 3 is, at best, a retread of previous titles. Whether that’s a good thing depends entirely on how much you enjoyed those previous games, but the consensus seems to be that the game doesn’t do a great job with expanding on core gameplay mechanics or reinventing the wheel.

Unfortunately, the merits of the execution have been swamped by technical issues. Borderlands 3 players have been unhappy enough with how the game plays to swamp various online forums, including Steam’s forums for Borderlands 2. Borderlands 3 is an Epic Games Store title, not a Steam game, but that hasn’t stopped players from opining on the game. But there are performance issues galore, on both consoles and PCs. Digital Foundry recommends playing the game in 30fps locked mode on the Xbox One X because frame rates are too erratic to justify unlocking them. Players have also reported heavy lag.

PC gamers often like to crow about how superior components lead to superior gaming experiences, but that’s not proving to be the case here. The situation with DX12 has proven to be so bad, some gamers are reverting back to DX11 in order to improve stability. Gamers who want to shift the title back into DX11 instead of DX12 may find that the game performs better that way.

In some cases, there are reports that Borderlands 3 won’t even boot in DX12 mode. If you’re having that problem, you can manually set the game to DX11 by heading for your Documents folder in Windows 10. From Documents, navigate through “My Games,” “Borderlands 3,” “Saved,” and “Config.” There’s a “GameUserSettings.ini” file in this directory. Open it using Notepad and locate the “PreferredGraphicsAPI” setting. It’s probably set to DX12. Change this to DX11, and the game should boot in that mode instead.

AMD has said that its latest driver is supposed to improve performance by up to 16 percent, and the company has introduced support for Radeon Image Sharpening on its Polaris GPUs with the new 19.9.2 driver release. But the performance issues we’re seeing crop up are dwarfing these improvements overall, and the problem seems to be the overall state of the game — Nvidia users aren’t being spared. AMD told Overclock3D that “2K and Gearbox are planning to release a final DX12 implementation in a future patch,” which raises serious questions about why the game was kicked out the door with a non-final implementation of its renderer. The answer, of course, is that it had to be on store shelves by such and such a date. When a game has this many issues at launch, it’s not as if the dev team didn’t know about them. It’s always the case that the dev team didn’t have time to finish fixing them before a must-ship deadline.

At this point, it might be wise to wait a few weeks before diving into Borderlands 3, even if you’re a longtime fan of the series. It definitely sounds like Gearbox has plenty of work to do to bring the title into some kind of playable condition, and even AMD’s just-launched drivers don’t seem to be fixing the problem for everybody. Again, the issues don’t seem to be hitting any specific GPU vendor or CPU configuration — the reports thus far suggest the game is buggy for everyone.

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Ottawa promises to save billions with tweaks to patent drug system

The federal government is making changes to the way it will evaluate new drug prices, a tweak it says will save Canadians billions over the next 10 years.

On Friday, the government released changes to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, first set up in 1987 as a shield against what the government calls “excessive prices,” set to come into force next July.

“The [board] relies on outdated regulatory tools and information that foreign medicine pricing authorities updated years ago. As a result, list prices for patented medicines in Canada are now among the highest in the world,” notes a release from Health Canada.

Under the new regulations, the board will no longer compare prices with the United States and Switzerland, which have some of the world’s highest drug prices, when figuring out what companies are allowed to charge. It will still compare drug prices to France, Germany and Italy, and has added Japan, Spain, Norway, Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands to the list. 

Under the new system, the board will now have to consider a drug’s “value to and financial impact on consumers in the health system” when determining if a price is excessive.

The amendments will also allow the board to see a medication’s true market price, including any rebates that have been added. 

“The amendments are expected to result in 10-year total savings to public, private and out-of-pocket payers of $ 8.8 billion present value as a result of lower patented medicine costs,” notes the release.

Applies to new drugs

The changes will apply to new drugs, not ones that already have a drug identification number (DIN).

The government said it didn’t expect delays in accessing medication.

“In fact, several countries with lower prices have faster access to new medicines than Canada,” according to the release.

The changes come as the Liberals consider a pharmacare plan.

In June, the advisory council appointed by the Liberal government recommended the establishment of a universal, single-payer public pharmacare system.

Their report calls for the creation of a new drug agency that would draft a national list of prescription medicines that would be covered by the taxpayer, beginning with an initial list of common and essential drugs, by Jan. 1, 2022.

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