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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.”
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 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
One company or another has been trying to sell consumers on cloud gaming for the last few years, but no one has made it stick. Not only do you need the clout to get game publishers on board, but you also need the network infrastructure to make the experience reliable for people all over the world. Google might have all the pieces in place to make Stadia work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should start buying your games on Stadia right now. You need a lot of bandwidth for the best Stadia experience, and hardware support will be skimpy at launch. Stadia has potential, but that’s what we’ve been saying about game streaming for nigh on a decade at this point.
Eventually, Stadia will work on a variety of devices including most smartphones and Chromecasts. However, the launch support is limited to just Google’s Pixel phones, Chrome browsers, and the Chromecast Ultra — specifically, the Chromecast Ultra that comes with Stadia. Google won’t roll out the Stadia update to other Chromecast units until a later date. Additional phone support is also coming on some vague future date.
You need the Stadia app on your phone to get started, even if you don’t plan to play games on the phone. From there, you configure the controller, which connects directly to the internet rather than going through your streaming device. You can also “pair” the controller with the Chromecast Ultra so it can launch Stadia with a button press. This is a clunky experience, though. It took me about five tries to get the devices linked. You should be able to link a controller simply by inputting a series of button presses shown on your Chromecast’s ambient screen.
Stadia is tied to your Google account, and you can’t move your library to another login. So, make sure you choose your preferred account before you purchase anything. Google has connected Stadia to the same back-end as Google Play, so you earn Play Points when you buy games. Once you’re set up and buy some games (Destiny 2 and Samurai Showdown come with the Founder’s bundle), you can launch them from the mobile app or the TV by selecting a screen. Your controller should automatically connect to the service over Wi-Fi, so you don’t need to fumble with Bluetooth or additional wireless dongles.
I’ve tried most of the major game streaming services that have popped up over the years, and Stadia is the first one that sufficiently replicates a local gaming experience. Destiny 2 runs smoothly at 4k60 on Stadia with HDR enabled, which is truly impressive — my gaming desktop PC would probably struggle to do that. It’s easy to forget the game is being rendered on a distant server and streamed to your screen. I haven’t noticed any lag at all.
There are a few clear advantages to having games render in the cloud. For example, Stadia keeps your game instances running for several minutes after you close the app. So, you can start a game on your TV or phone, and then switch seamlessly to the other and continue playing where you left off. The games are, of course, vastly more advanced than anything you could play on a low-power device like a phone or Chromebook, and the experience is almost identical to what you’d get on a powerful gaming PC.
You need a USB-C cable to play Stadia games on a phone right now, which is very silly.
In its prettiest form, Stadia will absolutely devour your bandwidth. Google recommends 35Mbps down for 4k60 HDR gameplay, and that’s very close to what I’m seeing on my end. If you’ve got a monthly data cap, Stadia could blow right through it. After all, you are streaming 4K video every second you spend in a game even if it’s paused, but you can turn down the quality in the Stadia settings.
Mortal Kombat 11 on Stadia.
The Stadia controller is easily the equal of the Xbox One or PS4 versions. The thumbsticks have good resistance and smoothness, and the buttons are tactile but not too loud. I also enjoy the convenient screen capture button next to the main button cluster. I personally prefer the staggered thumbstick layout of the Xbox controller, but PS4 gamers will adapt to the symmetrical sticks on the Stadia controller easily. One strange foible: the controller doesn’t work wirelessly with a phone yet. You have to plug in a USB-C cable.
Is Stadia Right for You?
If you’re reading this, the odds are you won’t want Stadia — at least not yet. The selection of games is limited, and the prices are usually higher than what you’d get buying from Steam or Amazon. It also requires a fast internet connection. The highest-quality streaming requires a Stadia Pro subscription, as well.
Stadia performed extremely well for me during testing. The experience I’ve had with Stadia might not match what everyone gets after launch — there were very few people on the servers during the review period, so performance might degrade when the floodgates open. That said, Google is one of the few companies with the infrastructure to support thousands of cloud gaming connections.
Kine is a quirky puzzle game available on Stadia at launch.
If Stadia can avoid growing pains as more players come online, I can safely say it will provide the best cloud gaming experience available. Once additional device support rolls out, Stadia could be an ideal way to play your games wherever you happen to be. Playing Mortal Kombat 11 on your phone is pretty undeniably cool. I could see Stadia being great for frequent travelers and those who don’t want to deal with maintaining a gaming PC. However, it won’t make you want to dump your console or gaming PC if you’ve already invested in the hardware.