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There are no cracks in Mikael Kingsbury’s game

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.

Death. Taxes. And Mikael Kingsbury.

The most inevitable force in winter Olympic sports struck again. A day after winning the third moguls world title of his incomparable career, Canadian freestyle skier Mikael Kingsbury completed the double today, capturing his third world title in dual moguls — a head-to-head version of the sport that is not in the Olympics.

Kingsbury’s latest victories, at the freestyle skiing world championships in Kazakhstan, burnish his status as one of the most dominant individual-sport athletes of all time. In addition to his six world titles, the 28-year-old from Deux-Montagnes, Que., owns an Olympic gold medal and a Lou Marsh Award (both from 2018). He has a record 65 World Cup wins (45 in moguls, 20 in dual moguls) and has captured nine consecutive World Cup moguls season titles.

That streak is about to end, but only because of two freak occurrences — a serious injury and a global pandemic. The latter caused a shortened World Cup season with only three moguls competitions (usually there are seven or eight) and Kingsbury missed the first two after fracturing his spine while practising for the opener in December. He made it back for the final stop two months later and won both the moguls and dual moguls event in Utah. After his two wins at the world championships, he can make it a 5-for-5 season if he competes in Sunday’s dual moguls event in Kazakhstan. At this point, victory is so commonplace for Kingsbury that it’s more newsworthy when he doesn’t win. He has essentially solved his sport.

Kingsbury is also using his voice. Last week, he sent an open letter to Quebec Premier François Legault calling for the provincial government to allow sports to return to schools as the pandemic shows signs of weakening. “I am worried that young people are lost,” Kingsbury wrote. “That they are abandoning sport in favour of screens.” He added in an interview with CBC Sports: “Having grown up skiing and playing baseball with my friends, sport is a motivator. A source of meaning.” Read more from the letter and the interview here.

The freestyle ski world championships continue Wednesday with the men’s and women’s aerials events. Watch them live from 4-5:30 a.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.

WATCH | Kingsbury soars to dual moguls title:

Mikaël Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que. followed up on his moguls world championship title on Monday with a dual moguls title on Tuesday. It’s the sixth world championship gold medal of his career. 3:50

Quickly…

Rhéal Cormier had one of the best seasons ever by a Canadian pitcher. Cormier, who died yesterday of cancer at the age of 53, had a very nice career as a reliever. He played 16 big-league seasons, including two for the Montreal Expos, and appeared in more games than any Canadian pitcher but Paul Quantrill. Cormier never made it to a World Series, but he pitched in the 1999 American League Championship Series for Boston. He also represented Canada in two Olympics, a Pan Am Games and a World Baseball Classic. He made an estimated $ 24 million US in salary and finished with a career ERA+ of 105, indicating he was about five per cent better than his average contemporary. But in 2003, Cormier was magical. In 65 appearances that year for Philadelphia, he posted a 1.70 ERA and allowed only 54 hits in 84 innings. His ERA+ was 235. Read more about Cormier’s life and career here.

Two teams are still undefeated at the Brier. Jason Gunnlaugson’s Manitoba rink improved to 4-0 and sits alone atop Pool A after beating the Northwest Territories today. Four-time champion Kevin Koe’s wild-card team tops Pool B at 5-0 and has the day off. Read more about today’s results here and watch That Curling Show with Devin Heroux and Colleen Jones live at 7:30 p.m. ET on YouTube or the CBC Olympics Twitter and Facebook pages.

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held without foreign fans, a Japanese news agency reported. Not a huge surprise considering the pandemic is still going on and Japan only started vaccinating people three weeks ago. Also, a recent survey in the country found three quarters of respondents did not want international visitors to attend the Games. An official announcement could come as soon as next week, according to the Kyodo news agency, and a decision on how many domestic spectators to allow into venues is expected in April. Read more here.

The Canadian Open golf tournament was cancelled for the second straight year. The PGA Tour is mostly back to normal now, but cross-border travel is not. That’s the main reason why organizers called off the June 9-13 tournament at St. George’s in Toronto. They said they’re working toward getting the Canadian Open back on the tour schedule next year, but no date or location was announced. Read more about the cancellation here.

Dak Prescott finally got his money. When it’s time for a new contract, any decent NFL starting quarterback can get his team to pony up pretty much whatever he wants, within reason. So it was strange that Prescott, who’s one of the better QBs in the league, had to haggle with Dallas owner Jerry Jones for two years to get the long-term deal he deserves (though the gruesome, season-ending leg injury Prescott suffered in October probably complicated things). But Jones finally caved yesterday, giving Prescott a four-year contract that includes $ 126 million US guaranteed and an NFL-record $ 66 million signing bonus. At $ 40 million per season, Dak’s deal pays him the second-highest average salary in the league, behind Patrick Mahomes ($ 45M) and just ahead of Houston’s (for now) Deshaun Watson ($ 39M). Read more about it here.

And finally…

The world’s oldest person is preparing to take part in the Tokyo Olympic torch relay. 118(!)-year-old Kane Tanaka, who’s currently living through her second global pandemic, would be the oldest Olympic torchbearer by a dozen years. She plans to cover most of her 100-metre leg in a wheelchair pushed by members of her family, but she wants to walk the final few steps and pass the torch to the next person. Tanaka has been alive for 49 of the 51 Olympics (Summer and Winter) held since the modern Games began in 1896. When Japan last hosted a Summer Olympics, in 1964, she was 61. Read more neat facts about Tanaka (she worked until she was 103!) in this CNN story.

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Why is there no flu amid so many COVID cases? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We’re answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca, and we’ll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. So far, we’ve received more than 65,000 emails from all corners of the country.

Why is there no flu but so many COVID cases? 

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s most recent weekly Flu Watch report “all indicators of influenza activity remain exceptionally low for this time of year.” In fact, there were no laboratory detections of influenza in the first three weeks of 2021. 

So why are flu numbers so low but COVID-19 cases surging in many parts of the country? 

There are a number of reasons.

“Influenza is way behind the eight ball here,” said Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of infectious disease in the department of medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., in a recent article

For one, SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is more prevalent because it got a head start, settling into communities before flu season got going.

Experts also credit the public health measures taken to slow COVID-19 — the hand washing, physical  distancing and mask-wearing — as well as the dramatic drop in international travel. 

Dr. James Dickinson, a professor of family medicine at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, who also runs the Alberta community influenza surveillance program, said that other countries are seeing the same trend.

“We’re not getting any [flu] coming in because we’re just not getting enough people arriving, bringing the flu with them,” he told the Calgary Eyeopener, adding that the places they’re coming from don’t have any flu either.  

In addition, many Canadians heeded the health warnings to get their flu shot. Although Canadian provinces ordered almost 25 per cent more flu shots than last year, many struggled to keep up with demand.

When it comes to testing, the PCR tests for COVID-19 detect the virus’s genetic material, so they won’t be tricked by a case of the flu, and vice-versa. Health Canada says a suspected case of the flu becomes a “lab-confirmed case” only after certified lab personnel tests a sample and confirms that the flu virus is present. You can find answers to more common testing questions here.

Why aren’t vaccine providers wearing gloves?

While you may see vaccine providers wear personal protective equipment — medical masks, gowns, face shields or goggles — you won’t always see them wear gloves.

That’s because gloves are not a part of routine infection control practices when delivering most forms of immunizations.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), gloves are “not recommended” unless the vaccine provider’s skin is broken, like with cuts or blisters, for example, or when administering certain kinds of vaccines, such as smallpox.


Gloves are not a part of routine infection control practices when delivering most forms of immunizations, health officials say. (Michael Bell/Canadian Press)

The advice is the same in the U.S. with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control advising that gloves aren’t necessary unless vaccine providers are “likely to come into contact with a patient’s body fluids.”

Instead, vaccine providers are required to perform hand hygiene measures before vaccinating each person, such as washing with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and whenever the hands are dirty. 

If gloves are worn, PHAC says they should be changed between each vaccine recipient.

The important point to note is that the virus that causes COVID-19 can’t be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont.

“Obviously health-care workers should wash their hands before doing a procedure of any kind,” Chakrabarti said in an email, but for COVID precautions “the highest-yield interventions are to physically distance, wear masks when indoors, and ensure good ventilation.”

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Russia says its COVID vaccine is 95% effective. So why is there still Western resistance to it?

When Russia announced this week that its much-hyped COVID-19 vaccine was up to 95 per cent effective, the news was met with a predictable cheer in Russia and uncertainty throughout much of Europe and North America.

“This is great news for Russia and great news for the world,” gushed Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is pouring countless millions of Russian tax dollars into developing the vaccine it labelled early on as Sputnik V.

Whether the V stands for “five” or simply the letter “V” has never been fully explained, but either way the association is obvious: the original Sputnik satellite won Russia the space race more than 60 years ago, and this new Sputnik will make Russia first in this new race to defeat the pandemic.

With its hyperbolic announcements and an ambitious — some would say unattainable — timetable, the Putin government has attempted to demonstrate the development of Sputnik V has made Russia a vaccine superpower.

WATCH | Russia claims its COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective:

Russia says preliminary results for its COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, show a 95 per cent efficacy rate after being tested on more than 18,000 volunteers. 1:54 

Already, among the reputed “firsts” Russia is claiming: the first COVID vaccine in the world to be registered; the first vaccine anywhere to be announced as part of a national vaccination campaign; and trial results that rank it first in terms of effectiveness.

Not to be outdone, when Pfizer and BioNTech became the first Western vaccine maker to announce promising results, with 90 per cent efficacy, days later Sputnik V’s makers said their vaccine was even better — by two percentage points.    

Some Western experts have felt opaqueness about the Russian approval process, combined with a rush to get it registered even before trials started, damaged the vaccine’s credibility from the outset.

Russia licensed it based on early trials involving only 76 people, whereas usually most approvals come after Phase 3 studies involving tens of thousands of subjects.     

Even after those early results were published in the reputable medical journal The Lancet, a group of 37 scientists from 12 countries wrote the publication questioning the data.

Russian officials and state media pundits have decried the skepticism as evidence of an inherent “Western bias” against anything Russian and have accused U.S. and U.K. media of staging a smear campaign to steal away potential international customers. 

Positive results

Fast forward to this week and news from Sputnik’s developer, the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, of very positive results from a much larger data sample.   

Russia’s vaccine has 91.4 per cent efficacy from an analysis of more than 18,000 people, said a release on the Sputnik V website. The vaccine’s efficacy rose to 95 per cent after 42 days.     

Plus, at roughly $ 20 US per person, Gamalyea says the Russian vaccine is one of the cheapest on the market, making it an attractive option for poorer countries with large populations.

Like the vaccine developed by Oxford University and its partner AstraZeneca, the Russian vaccine uses human adenovirus vectors, or common cold genes, to trigger an immune response in the body. An initial shot is followed by a booster three weeks later.


Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine arrives at Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Budapest, Hungary, on Nov. 19. (Matyas Borsos/Hungarian Foreign Ministry/Reuters)

The news about the results prompted a change in tone from many Western vaccine experts. 

“The data [is] compatible with the vaccine being reasonably effective,” said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“These results are consistent with what we see with other vaccines, because the really big message for global health scientists is that this disease [COVID-19] is able to be addressed by vaccines.”

Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading, concurs.

“I see no reason to doubt it [the results],” Jones told CBC News in an interview.    

“I agree that their initial results caused consternation, but I don’t think it’s because they weren’t valid. They were released a bit soon.

“I think it’s going to be a useful vaccine.”


A laboratory assistant holds a tube with Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine at the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition in Budapest on Nov. 19. (Matyas Borsos/Hungarian Foreign Ministry/Reuters)

Their positive assessments are based on the knowledge that the adenovirus delivery method behind the Gamaleya-made vaccine has proven successful over and over again.

What was unclear was whether the COVID-19 virus would be resistant, but Evans says the other drug companies’ positive results strongly suggest the Russian vaccine will likely perform well, too.

“We now have four vaccines that have some efficacy [on COVID-19], which is way beyond what we have ever had for an HIV or a malaria vaccine,” said Evans.

Question of trust

Ultimately, he says whether a country chooses to buy the Russian-made vaccine comes down to a question of whether they have confidence in the science behind it and trust the regulators who approved it.

The Russian vaccine gets treated more skeptically, said Evans, because the processes in the United States and Europe are far more open and transparent than they are in Russia.

“We do not know how carefully their trials are monitored and how carefully they are reported. We do not know that,” he said.  

“But the countries that are buying it are buying it on trust that the Russians have produced something.”

Enrico Bucci, an Italian biologist who was part of the original group of scientists questioning the early Russian results, is among those who continue to believe that the Russian developers have not been sufficiently transparent about their data.

For example, he says the claim of 91.4 per cent success is based on just 39 people in the 18,000-person sample contracting COVID-19.

“The sample is too low to claim any percentage of efficacy,” Bucci told CBC News.

Furthermore, he said, it’s not clear where these 39 people came from, how old they were and whether the results from trials in one country were mixed with those from another location.

The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine — which reported a roughly 70 per cent success rate — has been subjected to similar criticisms about how data from its trials was presented, and its developers have now agreed to run new studies.

So far, Hungary is the only member of the European Union to sign up for the Russian vaccine, although Russian media reports that 50 nations have either already signed deals for the vaccine or are in the process of negotiating them.   

On Friday, Russia announced a partnership with Indian pharmaceutical company Hetero to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021.


AstraZeneca’s vaccine combats the coronavirus in a similar way to the Russian vaccine. (REUTERS)

Canada has signed agreements with five vaccine manufacturers, but the list does not include Sputnik V.

Gamalyea’s initial estimates that Russia would be able to produce 200 million doses of Sputnik V by the end of next month turned out to be wildly optimistic. The health ministry now says it may be able produce two million doses, at best.

Russians uncertain

Since the summer,  Russia’s Health Ministry has been promising a national vaccination campaign was imminent, but it has been slow to roll out.   

President Vladimir Putin said one of his daughters was among the first to get the vaccine, although the Kremlin acknowledged this week that Putin himself has not. 

A spokesperson said it would be irresponsible for the head of state to take an “uncertified” vaccine, although the distinction the official was trying to make between a registered vaccine and a certified one was unclear.     


A woman holds a small bottle labelled with a ‘Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine’ sticker and a medical syringe in front of a Russia flag in this illustration taken Oct. 30. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

The mayor of Moscow has said authorities plan to set up 300 vaccination centres in the month of December and the plan is to get as many people in the capital inoculated as possible.

Independent public opinion surveys suggest many Russians remain uncertain about the vaccine and whether they will actually take it. In early November, the polling group Levada Centre reported 59 per cent of Russians may refuse to get vaccinated.

On Russian state TV, however, criticism or probing questions about any of the assumptions underlying the government’s claims about Sputnik V have largely been absent.     

As is standard on TV talk shows, the discussion is framed in geopolitical terms.

Their 60 Minutes program (no relation to the U.S. program of the same name) even cited a CBC News report by The National as purported proof of Western bias, with the host suggesting it was an example of “active propaganda” against Sputnik V.   

In fact, the report contained comments from Prof. Evans, the British expert, suggesting that the vaccine worked and was most likely effective. But his clips were cut from what was shown on Russian TV.

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There Are 1,004 Nearby Stars Where an Alien Astronomer Could Detect Life on Earth

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We are in the very early stages of exploring the universe, and our efforts have uncovered thousands of exoplanets. We don’t yet know if any of them support life, but maybe one day we’ll know. In the meantime, Earth is the only planet we know for certain does host life. Researchers from Cornell University and Lehigh University turned this question around. We know Earth has life, but does anyone else? The new study says that, yes, there are 1,004 nearby stars where an alien looking at Earth could potentially know we’re here. 

There are more than 4,000 known exoplanets currently, and most of them were identified with the Kepler Space Telescope. We can’t just point any old telescope at a star and say, “Yep, there’s a planet there.” Stars are so much brighter by comparison that we can’t make out individual worlds. The most common way to spot exoplanets, and the method Kepler used, is to watch for the planet to transit in front of the star. When you hear about a new exoplanet discovery, that’s usually how astronomers found it. 

Here’s the catch: we can only see transits if the plane of an alien solar system is aligned with ours. Otherwise, the planet doesn’t pass in front of the star from our perspective. Professors Lisa Kaltenegger and Joshua Pepper looked at this from the other side — which solar systems would be able to make a transit observation of Earth and detect life-associated molecules in our atmosphere? 

Using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) star catalog, the pair looked 300 light-years in all directions to find candidate solar systems, ruling out stellar remnants like white dwarfs that cannot (as far as we know) host alien life. There are a huge number of main-sequence stars in this region of space, but only a fraction of them would be able to see Earth passing in front of the sun from where they are. 

The final count, according to Pepper and Kaltenegger, is 1,004. Of those, 508 have angles that would give them at least 10 hours of observational data every time Earth transited the sun. However, 5 percent of the total are stars too young to have developed planets or life. The rest, though, could hypothetically have habitable planets, and two of them have known exoplanets.

In every one of those solar systems, beings like us with an understanding of planetary transits could be seeing Earth darken the sun every year. They might be able to estimate Earth’s size and distance from the sun, and that would indicate the possibility of liquid water on the surface. If they’re a little more advanced than us, they might already have the equivalent of the James Webb Space Telescope, which NASA hopes to launch in the next few years after numerous delays. An instrument such as that could detect the presence of water vapor, methane, phosphine, and other compounds that suggest life. Maybe an alien astronomer is, right at this moment, having a eureka moment as they realize someone is looking back at them from Earth. You should wave hello to be polite just in case.

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‘We can’t afford to put ourselves out there’: Some Nova Scotians not ready for closer contact

While Nova Scotia has begun easing restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic, 63-year-old Deborah Demeter says she and her husband still don’t feel safe getting together with others.

Demeter, a breast cancer survivor and Type 2 diabetic, is at higher risk, and worries about contracting the virus.

“We feel that we have to look after ourselves because we both are diabetics and are vulnerable,” said Demeter, who lives with her husband in New Waterford, N.S.

“Anything I can do that will restrict me from being around other people, I will do.”

Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada have begun easing restrictions, but those with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems may continue to be cautious.

On Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil announced that the province was loosening gathering restrictions, allowing people to get together in groups of 10 without physical distancing, and ending the need for household bubbles.

“We can’t afford to put ourselves out there,” Demeter said. “So no matter what the province says as far as numbers go, there will not be 10 people in my house.”


Deborah Demeter, 63, and husband Joseph Demeter, 69, are both immunocompromised. Even though gathering restrictions have been loosened in Nova Scotia, Deborah says they don’t feel safe just yet. (Deborah Demeter)

Michelle Donaldson, communications manager for the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, said people with lung issues will likely remain cautious when it comes to going out into public spaces.

“I would definitely say that the anxiety has been running high over the course of this pandemic,” she said.

“People with lung-health issues, they’re already conscious of their inability to breathe. Anything that could worsen that for them, they would definitely take extra precautions in order to try to protect the lung health that they have.”

Wearing masks

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says Canadians should wear a mask as an “added layer of protection” whenever physical distancing is not possible.

But Donaldson said that’s not always easy — or even possible — for people with breathing issues, especially if they require an oxygen mask.

I think the more important thing is the people that don’t have lung-health issues, to ensure that those people are following the recommendations and the protocols to wearing the masks so that we’re protecting people who are immunocompromised.”


Michelle Donaldson is a spokesperson for the Lung Association of Nova Scotia. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Kelly Cull, regional director of public issues for the Canadian Cancer Society in Halifax, said the need to protect more vulnerable communities hasn’t changed with the reopening of the province.

“It really goes back to that, ‘This is not necessarily all about you,’ sort of messaging,” Cull said.

She said they’ve experienced a huge increase in calls to their cancer information helpline and their online peer support chat since the pandemic started.

But Cull also said the loosening of restrictions is also a great relief, especially for those who are newly diagnosed.

“When you’re experiencing such a threatening and life-changing illness, that extra layer of social isolation has been so, so challenging for people,” she said.

Even though things are easing up, Demeter said she hopes people will keep wearing masks and staying two metres apart when out in public places like the grocery store.

“I know the masks aren’t foolproof, but it’s a barrier — and you need that barrier.”

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‘There will be more deaths’: Ontario cottage community shocked by COVID-19 outbreak in nursing home

Lloyd Thomas wishes he was well enough to take his wife out of the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., where COVID-19 has killed nine residents since late last week

Thomas has nothing but praise for the nursing home, located in a town of around 3,500 people in Ontario’s cottage country about 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto, but the virus that has infected its residents has him fearing for her safety.

“I was afraid my wife’s going to die,” he said in an interview with CBC News. 

Thomas said a doctor at the facility told him his wife, Annabelle, is fine. But Thomas, who lives in Bobcaygeon, is 86, and Annabelle is two years older and has Alzheimer’s disease, meaning there’s little he can do but hope that she emerges healthy from the outbreak.

The facility is home to 65 residents. Since a news release went out March 26 reporting that two residents at the home had died, seven more have succumbed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Michelle Snarr, the medical director of Pinecrest, said three other residents have tested positive for COVID-19. More than a third of the home’s staff — 24 people — also tested positive, and test results for ten other staff members are pending, according to the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

‘It’s grim’

“There will be more deaths. It’s grim. It’s heartbreaking,” said Snarr. 

“We get more heartbreaking news all the time. I’ve been in practice for 32 years. I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff happen, but I don’t remember anything with this level of sadness.”

It’s unclear how the outbreak began, whether it came from a visitor to the facility or a new resident. But the number of cases and deaths within the small nursing home has stunned many in the community. 

“It’s pretty sad for a little community like this,” said area resident Bob Hetherington.

It was neighbours who first told Thomas about the deaths at the nursing home.


A sign of support sits outside Pinecrest Nursing Home, which is located in a small community in Ontario’s cottage country, about 150 km northeast of Toronto. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“Absolutely, I was shocked,” he said.

Sarah Gardiner, a nurse at Pinecrest who has worked at the home for 12 years, had a similar reaction. 

“I’ve been doing this a long time, never run into a situation like this,” she said.

“To have so much death occurring so quickly in such a short space of time and just to watch the effect on the community, not only the community of Pinecrest Nursing Home but the community of Bobcaygeon. 

“People are frightened, and it’s just overwhelming.”

Home turned upside down

When Gardiner arrived Saturday afternoon for work, having just returned from Vancouver, everything at the nursing home had changed, she said.

Equipment was all over the place, and everyone was walking around in full protective gear.

“The nursing home felt like a war zone,” said Gardiner.

Bobcaygeon, a small town made somewhat famous by the Tragically Hip song of the same name, is located in the Kawartha Lakes region, an area dotted with cottages.

Gardiner said she never imagined an outbreak like this could occur in such a small, out of the way, tourist area.

“You would think, OK, maybe in the city in one of the bigger [seniors] homes. But how it happened here, I don’t know,” she said.

“I really care about those people, and we’re losing them, and they can’t even see their family in many cases because we are in lockdown.”

Window visits

In some instances, family members are only able to communicate through the window of the nursing home, with a wave. 

“Unfortunately, by the point that happens, many of these residents are so ill that they’re not aware of what is happening around them and that their family is there,” Gardiner said.

“It’s a very lonely situation for the residents, and that makes it very heartbreaking.”


Ian Handscomb, right, his wife, Carol, left, and his father, Bill. Bill is a resident at Pinecrest Nursing Home, and his wife and son have been unable to visit him in person since the outbreak so have been waving to him through a window. (Submitted by Ian Handscomb )

Ian Handscomb and his mother have been doing regular “window visits” with his father, Bill, who suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease.

“What we do is sit outside his window and [talk] through writing on signs. We’re able to kind of keep in contact through that way,” he told CBC’s As It Happens.

But the past week, he says, has been an emotional rollercoaster. 

“We think maybe we’ve got to a good spot where they’re starting to make some progress, then we hear it’s ramping up again,” he said.

“And it’s very emotional for the families, and the whole community in Bobcaygeon are touched by this horrible, horrible situation.”

Handscomb lives in Toronto but has relocated to Bobcaygeon to be with his mother.

“We never thought in little Bobcaygeon, away from a big metropolis, that it would be one of the [disease] epicentres of Ontario.”

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Vanessa Bryant: ‘There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now’

Vanessa Bryant, wife of the late Kobe Bryant, offered her first public comments since Sunday’s helicopter crash that took the lives of the basketball star, daughter Gianna and seven others.

Vanessa thanked the millions of fans who offered their support in wake of the tragedy in an Instagram post.

“Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka and Capri.

“We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately.

“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”

The tragic death of Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in the helicopter crash Sunday, has sparked an outpouring of grief and tributes for the basketball great who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles during his 20-year career.

Married in 2001, Kobe and Vanessa had four daughters together: Natalia, 17; Gianna, who was 13; Bianka, three; and seven-month Capri. The Bryants would have celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary this April.

Vanessa also announced the creation of the MambaOn Three Fund to support the other families affected by the tragedy.

“I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.”

There has been no announcement on funeral or memorial plans yet for Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Vanessa Bryant asked for a continued respect of her family’s privacy as they begin to “navigate this new reality.”

The Los Angeles Lakers franchise also its first public comments since Sunday in a statement posted to Twitter.


“Words cannot express what Kobe means to the Los Angeles Lakers, our fans, and our city. More than a basketball player, he was a beloved father, husband, and teammate. Their love and light will remain in our hearts forever.”

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‘He deserves to be there’: Canadian baseball community wants Larry Walker in the Hall of Fame

Larry Walker’s climb toward induction into the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame has been a slow one.

The gatekeepers to Cooperstown, the baseball journalists who cast the votes that determine which players go in and which ones don’t, have been slow to embrace the Canadian outfielder’s career and his indelible mark on America’s game.

But at a recent banquet in Toronto, where a roster of Canadian baseball legends gathered for the Canadian National Team Awards, the verdict on Larry Walker was unanimous.

You ask people in this room and he is the greatest,” says Vancouver’s Jeff Francis, a pitcher who spent 11 years in the major leagues, including eight with the Colorado Rockies, the team Walker had his best years after starting his career with the Montreal Expos. “Of course we’re all biased and we want to see a Canadian get in, but I think the numbers speak for themselves.”

“He has all of the personal accolades you could ask for for a guy to be in the Hall of Fame. He deserves to be there,” adds former first baseman Justin Morneau, who along with Walker is one of only three Canadians to be named league MVP. Joey Votto, first baseman with the Cincinnati Reds, is the other. “Whether he is Canadian, American, Puerto Rican, he is a guy whose numbers stand up and his play stands up against anybody in the history of baseball.”

WATCH | Making the case for Larry Walker:

Larry Walker is arguably the greatest Canadian position player in baseball history, and his numbers make the case for him to be in Cooperstown. 2:09

If he is inducted, Walker, now 53, would be just the second Canadian and first position player so honoured. Pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, from Chatham, Ont., was inducted in 1991.

For the native of Maple Ridge, B.C., this year is his last chance to join the exclusive club. To this point, Walker’s candidacy since being put on the ballot in 2011 — he retired in 2005 — has been treated with relative indifference by voters, never coming close to the required 75 per cent needed for entry.


Walker batted .366 with 49 home runs in 1997, the season he was named National League MVP. (Otto Greule Jr./Allsport)

But this year could be different. According to Ryan Thibodaux, whose website tracks eligible voters, Walker is on pace for more than 85 per cent support of voters who have made their ballots public.

Baseball is game of numbers and statistics and Walker’s have always been a source of controversy.

His most successful offensive seasons were played in the thin air of Coors Field in Denver, where the ball travels further, inflating offensive statistics. During Walker’s decade-long run in Colorado he hit .384 at home, compared with only .280 on the road. But a deeper dive into Walker’s numbers is illuminating and surprising at almost every turn.

Walker is one of only 21 players in history to be a member of the 300/400/500 club, finishing his 17 seasons with a .313 career batting average, a .400 on-base percentage and .565 slugging percentage.

He also amassed a long list of personal accolades:

  • three batting titles (1998, 1999, 2001)
  • seven Gold Gloves for his defence
  • 383 home runs, including 49 in 1997
  • the 1997 National League MVP award

He could also run the bases, totalling 230 stolen bases for his career.


Walker’s defence was often as spectacular as his batting. (Getty Images)

“He was the kind of player who did everything well. We all knew he could hit, but he hit home runs, hit for average,” Francis says. “I played for a lot of the same coaches growing up and they could never say enough about his defensive ability, his base-running ability, his baseball instincts.”

His statistics would be much loftier but for the injuries that sidelined Walker for lengthy stretches during the prime of his career. From 1996-2004, Walker missed 375 games, the equivalent of more than two seasons.

No needles went in my ass, I played the game clean. It’s almost like Coors Field is my PED.– Larry Walker in 2019

Most of Walker’s career was played during an era that subsequently came to be defined by performance-enhancing drugs, something Walker has never been accused of or linked to. Walker has rarely talked about his candidacy for the Hall of Fame, but after coming up short last year with just 54.6 per cent of the ballots, his frustration was clear in an interview with a Montreal radio station.

“I played for a major-league team that happened to be in Denver,” Walker said. “If that’s a problem, and there’s going to be an issue, then get rid of the team and move it elsewhere if it’s going to be that big of an issue. No needles went in my ass, I played the game clean. It’s almost like Coors Field is my PED.”


Walker with his MVP award. (Getty Images)

That Walker is even in a position to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is improbable. In an era where most players arrive as polished products, the result of years of specialized training, Walker spent as much time growing up in Maple Ridge playing hockey, dreaming of being an NHL goaltender, as he did playing baseball.

“Hockey was my first love,” Walker told CBC in 1993. “We played maybe 20 [baseball] games a season when I was a youngster.”

There was no baseball team at his high school, and even when he did play, it was mostly fast pitch, where pitchers throw the ball underhand with top speeds around 70 mph, as opposed to the 90 mph-plus that’s typical in baseball.

Walker was never drafted, instead signing as a free agent with the Montreal Expos for a meagre $ 1,500 US bonus after attracting the attention of scouts at the 1984 World Youth Baseball Championships in Saskatchewan.

His rise through the minors was hardly meteoric as he struggled to adjust to professional baseball.

“Back home all I really saw were fastballs and what were supposed to be curveballs but didn’t do anything but really spin,” Walker told CBC. “I had to learn a lot of new pitches — the slider, the forkball, the splitter. The pitchers were just so much more advanced because they had high school and college ball. I was able to play at their level but I had to work a lot harder.”


Walker began his major-league career in 1989 with the Montreal Expos, playing six seasons there before signing in Colorado as a free agent in 1995. (Getty Images)

Walker was always easy to cheer for. It’s hard to find an unkind word written or said about him, and always maintaining the quintessential Canadian humility.

Former pitcher Jason Dickson, now president of Baseball Canada, remembers meeting Walker during the outfielder’s 1997 MVP season.

“I obviously spot him as soon as I see him because of the Canadian connection. He’s an established big-league guy and of course I’ve been watching him when he played with the Expos,” Dickson says. “And he came right over to me and we had a chance to talk. And I remember telling my dad that night that I had a chance to meet Larry Walker. We all know the numbers side but he was the person I had always hoped he would be and he was exactly that way”

“I have never been let down by Larry,” says Morneau, who wore Walker’s No. 33 in tribute when he played in Colorado in 2014-15. “When you’re around him you realize how much he cares about people, how much he looks out for his fellow Canadians. He has a big personality but his ego doesn’t match it. It’s amazing how humble he is, what he does for other people.”

Even if Walker falls short of the Hall of Fame, his impact on Canadian baseball continues to run deep. Since his retirement, Walker has appeared as a coach numerous times for Team Canada at various international competitions.

“With our young players he is still very relevant in what he says and sharing everything he knows about the game, how to play it the right way,” Dickson says. “The kids love working with him. He is easy to approach, talk about hitting, he’s seen it all, he means a lot for us.”

Above all, he has given a generation of Canadian baseball players hope that anything is possible. Maybe even the Hall of Fame.

“Maybe it will influence some younger Canadians to pick baseball over another sport,” Morneau says. “We have tremendous athletes in this country and if we can steer more towards baseball we’ll hopefully have more guys like Larry in the future.”

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‘Possible’ there was limited human-to-human transmission of new coronavirus in China, WHO says

There may have been limited human-to-human transmission of a new coronavirus in China within families, and it is possible there could be a wider outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to SARS. A Chinese woman has been quarantined in Thailand with a mystery strain of coronavirus, Thai authorities said on Monday, the first time the virus has been detected outside China.

In all, 41 cases of pneumonia have been reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, which preliminary lab tests cited by state media showed could be from a new type of coronavirus, and one patient has died. There have since been no new cases or deaths, Wuhan health authorities said on Tuesday.

“From the information that we have it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families, but it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit.

The WHO is however preparing for the possibility that there could be a wider outbreak, she told a Geneva news briefing. “It is still early days, we don’t have a clear clinical picture.”

Some types of the virus cause less serious diseases, while others — like the one that causes MERS — are far more severe.

The UN agency has given guidance to hospitals worldwide about infection prevention and control in case the new virus spreads. There is no specific treatment for the new virus, but anti-virals are being considered and could be “re-purposed,” Van Kerkhove said.

With Chinese New Year approaching on Jan. 25, when many Chinese tourists visit Thailand, the WHO called on Thai authorities, the public and holidaymakers to be on alert.

Richard Brow, the agency’s representative in Thailand, said anyone with a fever and cough who had spent time in Wuhan should get checked out by a health worker.

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Atlanta bombing movie brings back memories of terror for Canadian Olympians who were there

Donovan Bailey awoke on the morning of July 27, 1996 with two items on his personal to-do list.

The first was to set a world record in the men’s 100-metre Olympic final. The second was to claim Olympic gold as the world’s fastest man.

“My coach, Dan Pfaff, felt I was going to break the world record,” says a reflective Bailey, now 52. “So the time really was not going to matter to me. I knew I was going to run faster than I had ever run before.”

Initially, Bailey thought Pfaff was playing a mind game when he told him a bomb had exploded at 1:25 a.m. in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, the free concert zone with no metal detectors, no scanners and no controlled access 

Without another word, Pfaff left the room.

“That’s just the relationship between Dan and myself,” Bailey says. “Dan is always trying to test me.”

WATCH |  News coverage of Atlanta 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing:

CBC News’ Eric Sorensen reports on the infamous Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27, 1996 from Atlanta. 5:16

So Bailey sat down to eat his omelette, fresh fruit and toast, while sipping his English breakfast tea with milk and honey. The house manager flipped the television on and the mind game became real.

“I didn’t know how many people had died,” Bailey says of the carnage he saw on the screen. “I didn’t know if they were going to cancel the Olympic Games. I didn’t know what was happening.”

That same morning, Marnie McBean woke up and saw a yellow Post-it note slipped under her door by her coach, Al Morrow.


Jewell was hounded by media after an erroneous report linked him to the bombing. Jewell died in 2007. (The Associated Press)

The note read: Last night, a bomb went off at Centennial Olympic Park. People were injured and/or killed. Expect security delays and/or cancellations. You might want to get an earlier bus.

“Personally, I had 30 family members come down to Atlanta,” McBean says. “And my family, they’re all precarious adventurers. People barely had cell phones, so I couldn’t call them up and make sure everyone was okay.

“So we got on an earlier bus. We didn’t know what was going on, and we’re on the bus that’s supposed to go to our Olympic final.”

Bailey and McBean are among scores of Canadians who remember the terror depicted in the new Clint Eastwood movie, Richard Jewell. The film is based on the true story of Jewell, the Atlanta security guard wrongly suspected in the Centennial Park bombing.

Jewell likely saved many lives that night when he discovered an unattended backpack containing three pipe bombs during a rock concert attended by about 50,000 people. He helped clear the immediate area before a bomb exploded, killing a woman and injuring 111. (A Turkish television camera operator also died when he suffered a fatal heart attack as he rushed to the scene.)

I didn’t know if they were going to cancel the Olympic Games. I didn’t know what was happening.– Donovan Bailey, 1996 100-metre champion

Initially hailed as a hero, Jewell’s life fell apart on July 30 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran the headline: ‘FBI suspects hero guard may have planted bomb’.

Though police never charged him, many people still thought Jewell — who died in 2007 from complications of diabetes — was responsible for the bombing. It wasn’t until 1998 that authorities charged Eric Rudolph, who pleaded guilty to the bombings in 2005 and is serving a life sentence.

“I think most of us still had the feeling in Atlanta that Olympic security would keep everybody safe and sound and that nothing like this could happen,” says Mark Lee, a broadcaster who worked the 1996 Games for CBC. “It was pre-9/11. You still thought with all the security, you would be safe.”

After a long day of calling volleyball, Lee and commentator Charlie Parkinson arrived back at the International Broadcast Centre. In a scene familiar to every Olympics, they stood outside waiting for a bus that never came.

They managed to arrange a ride, and at around 1 a.m., less than half an hour before the bomb would explode, the pair found themselves about 100 metres from the sound tower at Centennial Olympic Park waiting to be picked up.

At 3:30 a.m., Lee’s phone rang.

“Are you okay?” a CBC manager asked.

“Yeah, I’m asleep,” Lee replied. “What’s going on?”

The manager told Lee he was listed as last being seen leaving the broadcast centre around the time of the explosion.

We started chasing people down. We were trying to find everybody.– Dave Bedford, Canadian Olympic Committee media attache at 1996 Olympics

It was also where Canadian Olympic Committee media attaché Dave Bedford had trudged through Centennial Olympic Park at around the same time before heading back to his sleeping quarters at Clark Atlanta University.

The ringing phone interrupted his slumber with an order to report to the Main Press Centre as soon as possible.

Half asleep, Bedford rushed back but shortly after arriving, the facility received a bomb threat and went into lock-down.

“That kind of scares the hell out of you,” he says. “You’re in there by yourself and none of the other COC staffers can get in or out. It’s a little disconcerting.”

The phone in the COC office rang constantly, with panicked parents calling to check on their loved ones.

“We started chasing people down,” he says. “We were trying to find everybody.”

Olympic security protocols are much more sophisticated these days, but back in Atlanta, Bedford and his colleagues connected with the manager assigned to each team. The manager then physically went out and found each team member.

No injuries to Canadian team members

“Once we determined everyone was accounted for then the messaging was really simple,” he says. “It was just, ‘hey, you, everyone’s accounted for and there are no injuries with Canadian team members.’

“Parents and family members were very happy to hear that.”

Lee woke up around 7:30 a.m. — he had willed himself back to sleep for fear of not being at his best on air — and immediately called his wife.

“I needed to let her know I was okay,” he says. “The Olympics are such a huge undertaking. When you have your loved ones away from an Olympics and they hear something has happened — like a bombing or shooting — everyone thinks you’re right in the middle of it even though it was nowhere near you.”

Except in this case, Lee was way too close for comfort.


Marnie McBean, right, and Kathleen Heddle won gold in the double sculls on the morning after the bombing. (Bongarts/Getty Images)

That morning, all was quiet when the bus pulled up to the Olympic rowing venue at Lake Lanier. At the entrance, the driver killed the engine and crews conducted their routine bomb sweep before granting the vehicle entrance.

McBean looked over and saw actual spectators in the grandstand — which she saw as a good sign. After all, they wouldn’t let people in if the event was cancelled.

Once inside, McBean huddled with her coach and found out the band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack was performing the night before at Centennial Park.

“[The band] was nobody my family had ever heard of,” McBean says. “So I was like, ‘Odds are super high that my family never went.’ It was just a guess that my family was fine and then we went on with the race day.”

In Lane 4 for the women’s double sculls final, McBean and her partner, Kathleen Heddle, sat in their boat with gold in their sights. Heavy favourites, the Canadians lived up to the hype.

‘Huge chunk of perspective’

Holding off the Chinese and Dutch at the finish, McBean leaned over and kissed her oars in sweet celebration of Canada’s first gold of the Atlanta Games.

Around 2 p.m., McBean and Heddle walked into the lounge in the athlete’s village and saw Olympians from around the world glued to the TV in hopes of learning more about the bombing.

“Kathleen and I were staring at real life,” McBean says. “We had just done this sporting thing, but there was this huge chunk of perspective that came into that moment.”

Already guarded by the RCMP at a safe house in the upscale district of Buckhead, Donovan Bailey received word mid-morning that his 100-metre race was on. From that moment, he intentionally banished any thought of the bombing.

“The 100 metres is the biggest event of every Olympic games since 1896,” he says. “So, for me, coming in being the reigning world champion, and obviously, being a favourite to win, my responsibility was to stay focused and compartmentalize as best as I could the events of that day so that I could really get the job done.”

WATCH |  Donovan Bailey reacts to news of Atlanta bombing

Donovan Bailey discusses his reaction to the infamous Centennial Olympic Park bombing, in an interview with CBC Sports’ 1996 Atlanta Olympic host Brian Williams. Bailey won 100 metre Olympic gold on the same day the bombing took place, on July 27, 1996. 1:01

Competing in spite of a torn left adductor, Bailey concentrated on his game plan.

“I felt that the semifinals and obviously the finals would kind of undo the negativity and the clouds around the Olympics,” he said. “And I’m no stranger to that because I did compete for Canada.”

On Bailey’s ample shoulders rested the hopes of Canadians still scarred by memories of 1988 when Ben Johnson was stripped of his Olympic gold after testing positive for steroids at the Games in Seoul, South Korea.

That night, Bailey rode to the stadium in a motorcade with police vehicles both in front and behind him.

“I was the king of the world.” he says with a chuckle.

In the final, the king was the second last man to burst out of the blocks.

“I realized I had a terrible start,” he says. “What I had to do was step back, breathe a little bit and get into my drive phase knowing that when I hit top speed, I would pass everybody.”

And pass everybody he did. Knowing he would win at 70 metres, Bailey glided over the finish line and saw a sea of Canadian flags to his right.

He looked at the clock: 9.84 seconds — a new Olympic and world record.


Canada’s Donovan Bailey won the gold medal and set a world record in the 100 metres hours after the Olympic bombing in 1996. (Getty Images)

“I opened my mouth,” he says. “It was a reactionary thing. I got it done. Let me take my flag and take my place in history.”

Standing to the right of that historical moment was an exhausted Dave Bedford, still working after the terrifying experience at the Main Press Centre.

“Donovan ran right by me with both his arms down going at his side and his mouth gaping open,” says Bedford, now the chief executive officer of Athletics Canada. “It was wild for sure. Highs and lows to the extremes.”

All these years later, Bailey hopes people will look back at the highs of Atlanta even when reliving the lows while watching Richard Jewell at the local movie theatre.

“The Olympic Games should never be about politics — about somebody with some sort of agenda,” Bailey says. “The Olympic Games are all about sports and celebrating the greatest athletes on the planet.”

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