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The Biden Administration Pledges to Address the Semiconductor Shortage

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Early on Thursday, a group of US chip designers and manufacturers sent a letter to the White House, asking that the government include “substantial funding for incentives for semiconductor manufacturing” as part of the overall COVID-19 economic recovery plan. The Biden Administration has now pledged to take action to help remedy the situation by “identifying choke points in supply chains.” President Biden will sign an executive order directing a government-wide review of supply chains for critical goods.

Both the request and the Biden Administration’s response are mostly grandstanding. There is no practical way that any action taken by the Biden Administration is going to have a near-term impact on silicon supplies. Increasing foundry capacity takes months to years, not weeks. TSMC has already stated that while it will allocate more space for automotive production, it will be taking that space away from other customers. The leading-edge foundries are shipping every wafer that they can.

According to the 21 CEOs who signed the letter, including those representing Intel, AMD, Micron, and Qualcomm, the reason the United States has not retained a larger share of the global chip manufacturing market is because “the governments of our global competitors offer significant incentives and subsidies to attract new semiconductor manufacturing facilities, while the U.S. does not.” This is the supposed explanation for why the United States manufactured 37 percent of the world’s semiconductors in 1990, but just 12 percent today.

This is ridiculous twaddle. Samsung has literally just proposed building a foundry in Austin. In return for this grand act of corporate benevolence, it wants the county to hand over a 20-year 100 percent tax abatement. It wants the city of Austin to provide a 50 percent abatement over the same period of time, for a total value of over $ 800 million dollars. Not content with that, Samsung also wants to be excused from the estimated $ 252 million it would pay in school taxes over the same period. If it succeeds, the state of Texas will be responsible for making up the shortfall to the school district, leaving taxpayers literally on the hook.

The US federal government may not, as a rule, provide enormous incentive packages. That doesn’t change the fact that Samsung feels perfectly fine asking for over a billion dollars in tax relief at a time when it earned more than $ 34 billion in profit the previous year. Intel set revenue records last year. It may be true that other companies provide aggressive support for silicon manufacturing at the federal level, but silicon manufacturers clearly have no qualms about demanding special treatment.

There are absolutely things the Biden Administration could do to encourage greater semiconductor manufacturing in the United States, but simplistically tying the drop in US semiconductor market share to the presence or absence of government subsidies isn’t persuasive. This chart of leading edge foundries over time is useful:

Image by EnerTuition

Back at 90nm, when the cost of advancing to a new node was far smaller and chip designs cost a fraction of what they do today, there were a lot more companies on the leading edge — and most of them weren’t in the US. Of the 18 companies listed in the 90nm column, only Freescale, Texas Instruments, IBM, AMD (GlobalFoundries) and Intel were American companies. Just five, out of 18 firms — and that was nearly twenty years ago.

The reason why the United States accounts for just 12 percent of chip manufacturing today is because partly because the first and most successful pure-play foundry was founded in Taiwan. When mobile chip designers like Qualcomm needed someone to manufacture their chips, they turned to the likes of TSMC and Samsung. The subsequent explosion in mobile SoCs and now AI and edge processors has favored the countries where massive pure-play foundries were established. Intel tried to adopt the foundry model and collect its own stable of customers, but the effort was unsuccessful and the company may have quietly abandoned it.

The reason you see companies leaving the leading edge with every generation is twofold. First, the cost of new foundry upgrades and chip designs rises every generation. Not all types of transistors benefit from new nodes, and not all chips sell in high enough volumes to justify node transitions. Plenty of companies are like GlobalFoundries: Off the leading edge and earning a tidy profit.

The second reason is that the number of customers available at any given node has historically shrunk from one node to the next. This may have changed recently, given the sudden influx of spending from a lot of various AI companies propped up with VC dollars, but for most of the past two decades, fewer and fewer companies have jumped to the leading edge with every generation. With fewer customers available, higher costs, higher design costs, and smaller gains from each passing generation, we’ve seen repeated waves of consolidation in the foundry industry. When GlobalFoundries announced it was leaving the leading edge a few years ago, it didn’t blame a lack of subsidies. It blamed a lack of customers and an inability to make the math work when AMD was its only public big-name 7nm customer.

If the Biden Administration can find supply chain bottlenecks it can address, like boosting the supply of raw materials used to manufacture components, that would be useful, but the chance of a near-term improvement to the situation is probably nil. Building new factories takes time. Bringing new capacity online takes time. There are no quick solutions in semiconductor manufacturing, no matter how much the auto industry squawks to Congress.

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Trudeau to address Canadians on COVID-19 as Tam releases sobering new projections

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to address Canadians today as COVID-19 cases climb across the country and provinces impose new restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam discussed the latest modelling with detailed projections on new infections during a news conference Friday morning.

CBC reported Thursday that COVID-19 could reach 60,000 cases a day by the end of December if Canadians increase their current level of contact with other people, according to modelling charts prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada and seen by CBC News.

That number could be limited to 20,000 a day if Canadians maintain their current number of personal contacts, according to PHAC. 

But to drive that number under 10,000 cases a day by the end of the year, Canadians would need to limit their interactions to essential activities while maintaining physical distancing and adhering to other public health guidelines.

“We are not on a good trajectory,” Tam said Friday. “I think across the board, across Canada, we have to say the time is now, with urgency, that we limit contacts. However that is being done at the local level, that is the underlying principle. Keep those contacts down by restrictions and of course each individual doing their work.”

‘This won’t be forever’

Tam said the caseload has already surpassed the peak during the first wave of the virus, and it is spreading across a wider geographic area of Canada.

She said the rise in infections is causing a strain on hospitals and health-care systems, pushing some to capacity and leading to the postponement of other medical procedures.

Tam asked people to take precautions during the upcoming holiday season by following public health guidelines, limiting outings and keeping in-person activities to household members where possible.

“This won’t be forever. Recently there has been some really good news about vaccine development. Keep this beacon of hope in mind as we all come together, apart, to do what is needed,” she said. “Right now every effort you make as an individual matters.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu also urged vigilance.

“The more people who get this disease, the harder it is to get it under control,” she said.

Hajdu said the federal government has been working to support the provinces and territories with “surge demands” with necessary supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. But she said front-line workers, pharmacy workers and personal support workers are under strain after working flat out for several months.

“That is a limiting factor for all of us,” she said.

More, and larger, outbreaks

Trudeau and opposition leaders met with Tam and her deputy Dr. Howard Njoo late Thursday to discuss the new modelling.

Trudeau will address Canadians Friday about the worsening situation at 11:30 a.m. ET from outside Rideau Cottage, returning to the doorstep media conferences that characterized the early days of the pandemic.

The modelling predicts that the number of COVID-19 deaths could rise from the current level of slightly more than 11,100 to just more than 12,100 by the end of the month if Canadians maintain their current level of contact with other people.

The modelling says that there are more outbreaks now, those outbreaks are larger — more than 50 cases each — and they are affecting long-term care homes. 

It also says that Indigenous communities and schools are also seeing rising caseloads and that the situation is set to get worse in all regions except the Atlantic provinces and parts of the North unless action is taken.

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CBC | Health News

How a national response could address an unprecedented COVID-19 surge across Canada

COVID-19 levels are surging across Canada at rates never before seen in the pandemic and showing no signs of slowing down. 

The coronavirus continues to spread like wildfire both in areas that were hit hard in the first wave and those that were practically untouched previously, and the reaction from the federal government has taken a desperate tone.

“I’m imploring the premiers and our mayors to please do the right thing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week. “Act now to protect public health.” 

We’re now averaging 4,000 coronavirus cases per week and 50 deaths per day, with more than 45,000 active cases across the country.

A record of nearly 5,000 cases and 83 deaths were also reported in a single day in Canada this week, and we’re on track to record over 10,000 cases a day by early next month. 

But with a second wave of the pandemic that’s worsening by the day, experts say the federal government may need to do more to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

‘Never too late’ to turn around dire situation

Ontario is now projecting 6,500 new COVID-19 cases per day by mid-December if no further action is taken to address the worsening situation in the province. 

In the face of that ominous prediction and a Toronto Star investigation that found major discrepancies between guidance from experts and thresholds for increased regulations, Ontario changed its guidelines and imposed severe restrictions on five major cities and regions on Friday. 

Across the country, the situation is no less dire. 

Quebec is weighing temporarily closing schools this winter, Manitoba has imposed strict new “code red” restrictions and Alberta is limiting bar hours and activities. Cases in British Columbia are doubling every 13 days, and Saskatchewan is expanding mandatory masking.

But is that enough to curb the worsening second wave?

Experts are divided on what Canada should do next to address the unprecedented surge of COVID-19, but one thing is becoming clear — what we’re doing may not be working.

Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says he feels “stupid and naive” for thinking Canada had adequately prepared for a second wave when cases were low in the summer. 

“We opened up our economy perhaps a bit too early [and then] the numbers were out of control. We were testing non-strategically. We squandered our testing capacity,” he said. “But is it too late? It’s never too late.”

Deonandan estimates that while we’re still at least 12 months from the widespread rollout of a safe and effective vaccine in Canada, how we use that time is still up in the air. 

“How do you spend that year? Do you spend it rolling the dice and letting people die?” he said. “Or do you spend it paying some hard economic costs now, so that you spend most of this year in relatively good economic standing?” 

Could a national response help control Canada’s 2nd wave?

One approach that has been put forth by public health experts is the use of emergency federal powers to co-ordinate our response to the pandemic across the country. 

That can be done either by using the Emergencies Act or through the inherent power the federal government has in times of emergency under the Constitution Act

The Emergencies Act is far-reaching in that it allows the federal government to extend its power over provinces and their health-care systems to deal with the pandemic. 

WATCH | How Canada could regain control of COVID-19:

COVID-19 cases are soaring and lockdowns are returning. After eight months of the pandemic, epidemiologists have a decent playbook. Where did Canada go wrong? And how does it get back on track? 2:01

“It authorizes the federal government to essentially take control over a situation,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

“That’s the nuclear bomb approach.” 

Bogoch said that strategy would be unrealistic to take in the current situation, as the federal government would then be responsible for countless health-care decisions at the provincial level. 

“Canada doesn’t have the capability of micromanaging a health-care system,” he said. “They don’t have the manpower. They don’t have the skill set. They can’t do it.”

The less extreme option is to use the emergency powers in the Constitution Act to enact stricter measures across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

“There’s no real requirement for using it except that the government says there’s an emergency,” said Amir Attaran, a professor in the Faculties of Law and School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa. “That’s it. That’s all they have to do.” 

Attaran favours that approach because he feels the premiers have failed to effectively control the pandemic, save for the success of the four provinces in the Atlantic bubble. 

“The court could be called on to judge whether that’s the case or not,” he said, referring to a potential court challenge of the emergency power. “But find for me a court in this country that’s going to say there’s no emergency.”

“Anyone who says, ‘that would be an illegal overreach,’ doesn’t know, because whether it’s illegal or not comes to a decision that’s in the courts, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the judges of this country would realize, yes, we’re in quite a mess.” 

Measures enacted using Constitution Act

Under this approach, the federal government would not take over provincial health-care decisions but instead could enact measures like national mask mandates, countrywide gathering limits and even cordon off hot zones and restrict travel between regions. 

“It’s not running anything. These are orders of what must and must not happen,” Attaran said of the approach. “Operationalizing it remains in the hands of the provinces.” 

The benefit of this approach is that it would co-ordinate Canada’s response nationally and overrule provinces that may be hesitant to enact stricter measures in the face of a growing number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The drawback is that it would likely bring the ire of premiers who feel they’re handling the situation well and don’t want to be micromanaged. 

“That just wouldn’t fly,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said this week in response to questions about the possibility of increased federal intervention in the pandemic response. 

“That’s not their jurisdiction. We don’t need the nanny state telling us what to do. We understand our provinces, and I’ll tell you, he’d have a kickback like he’d never seen from not just me, from every single premier.” 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the possibility of increased federal intervention in the pandemic response ‘wouldn’t fly’ with premiers across the country. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Deonandan said the two main reasons why a national strategy hasn’t been deployed is because of a lack of political will and the complexity of our country’s political makeup. 

“How does a Liberal federal government compel a Conservative government in Alberta to do something that is maybe philosophically problematic to find consensus on?” he said.

The federal carbon tax was a perfect example of this challenge, he said.

“If you can’t find a philosophical consensus, how do you, with a heavy hand, enact homogeneity of policy across the country?” 

Despite this, Attaran said the federal health minister has the power to invoke the Constitution Act to address surging COVID-19 numbers immediately — even without consulting cabinet.

“The great thing about the federal emergencies power is it comes with no substantive requirements,” Attaran said. “The only requirement legally is that an emergency measure be temporary.” 

Trudeau said this week the federal government “doesn’t decide who closes down where and how fast.” But if its emergency powers were enacted, it could ensure thresholds to stop the spread of the virus are being met across the board. 

But Ottawa might also risk alienating provincial leaders — and the Canadian public. 

“Once you take control, provinces can do anything. They can stay engaged. They can take a step back,” Bogoch said. 

“Then you’ve got problems.” 

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CBC | Health News

National strategy needed to address grieving process ‘distorted’ by pandemic, coalition says

Tasha Jory, 37, struggles with what she calls “suspended grief” over her father’s death. 

Dale Hunter, who lived on a southwestern Manitoba farm near Belmont, died suddenly at home from a heart attack on April 20.

He was 60 years old.

Jory, who has lived in British Columbia for the past 12 years, got the news over the phone from her dad’s sister, a nurse in Brandon, Man.

“I keep having this running track in my head of memories, or just constantly thinking about him. Replaying that phone call back in my head when my aunt told me he was gone. So many sleepless nights in the beginning,” said Jory.

She spoke with her sister in Grand Prairie, Alta., trying to figure out how they would hold a funeral during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which large gatherings have been restricted.

They also knew they couldn’t travel back home to Belmont, even though that is what they desperately wanted.

We are social beings who crave social contact, human contact. These are being blocked during the pandemic and there will be fallout.– Paul Adams, Canadian Grief Alliance

Jory’s grandmother is self-isolating in her condo, and her grandfather, who is in a Brandon personal care home, can’t have visitors.

“A family member was unable to tell my grandfather his son died until my aunt, the nurse, was able to see him before a medical procedure,” said Jory.

“My grandparents couldn’t even be together to grieve. We couldn’t be with either of them…. We just felt helpless.” 

They considered holding a very small service for five people, or even gathering on Zoom. In the end that didn’t feel right. Her grandparents don’t have computers.

“There is a reason why we have funerals. I find it hard to get any type of closure,” said Jory. 

No ritual of funeral

She knows other families across the country are having a similar experience. 

“This is new ground we really don’t know how to tread,” said Jory.

Dr. Harvey Chochinov says her story illustrates what he calls “distorted” dying and grief caused by the pandemic — and he’s part of a new organization that says Canada needs a national strategy to deal with that grief.

Chochinov is a distinguished professor of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba. He is also the co-founder of the Canadian Virtual Hospice — an online resource on issues related to death, dying and bereavement that connects with more than 2.5 million people every year.

Winnipeg psychiatrist Harvey Chochinov is the co-founder of the Canadian Virtual Hospice — an online resource on issues related to death, dying and bereavement. (CBC)

“As a result of the physical distancing and public health restrictions upon visiting and holding funerals, the process of dying is being distorted. As a psychiatrist, what we are seeing and what we anticipate is that the process of grieving is also distorted,” said Chochinov.

He says not only has COVID-19 affected patients who have been infected with the illness and died, but the pandemic has also affected the process of dying for tens of thousands of people who are facing death from other causes.

Alliance born out of COVID

In response, the Winnipeg-based Canadian Virtual Hospice formed the Canadian Grief Alliance, gathering 36 leaders in grieving and bereavement from across the country. The group includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and researchers.

In a proposal released earlier this month, the coalition asks the federal government to invest $ 100 million over the next three years for a national pandemic-related grief strategy — including specialized supports for front-line health-care workers and first responders suffering grief-related trauma.

Paul Adams is the spokesperson for the alliance. He says having a support network of family and friends around you is critical in moving through grief leading up to a funeral and in the days after. 

But now, people finding out about the death of their loved one when they can’t be physically present, he notes. They may be alone in an empty home when they get the news.

“We are social beings who crave social contact, human contact. These are being blocked during the pandemic and there will be fallout,” said Adams.

Jory is experiencing that first-hand.

“I found it more difficult to grieve, and kind of be able to get the emotions out that I know need to come out. I am struggling to fully grieve without being able to see my sister,” she said.

“It’s bizarre.… It’s a weird feeling.”

Grief ‘hangover’ coming

Chochinov says there is a price to pay emotionally and psychologically for not being able to be at the bedside of a dying loved one.

That leaves mourners unable to follow what he calls “the path of least regret.” They don’t know if their loved one died in pain, for example, or if someone wearing a latex glove held their loved one’s hand when they took their last breath.

“Those are the things that we feel need to be done for the people we love. None of that is available,” because of COVID-19, said Chochinov.

There are other layers of grief too, says Adams, such as health-care workers leaving the bedside of a deceased person, having to isolate from their own families at home and being expected to “suck it up” on the job.

“There is a limit to how much those on the front lines can hold in terms of grief, and I think there is going to be a hangover,” he said.

Grief manifested 

In addition to a national grief strategy, the Canadian Grief Alliance is also calling for a public awareness campaign focusing on coping strategies such as the Canadian Virtual Hospice’s MyGrief — an online resource that aims to help people work through the grieving process — and KidsGrief, which offers resources for parents helping a child dealing with death.

The group is also calling for $ 10 million dollars for research. Chochinov says because we are in unprecedented times in terms of grief and mourning, research needs to be done to determine the best way to address it in the wake of COVID-19.

Both Adams and Chochinov say if grief support isn’t available, the consequences could be devastating.

“Grief may be more protracted,” Chochinov said.

“It may be grief that becomes complex, meaning that some people may become depressed.”

That might manifest as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or even thoughts of suicide, Chochinov said.

“There is a kind of train that starts moving if grief isn’t dealt with. It can turn into a mental health issue and down the road affect someone’s physical health,” said Adams.

In a written statement, Health Canada has confirmed it has received the Canadian Grief Alliance’s proposal.

It says the government’s recently rolled out $ 25-million Wellness Together Canada Portal — which provides online access to a range of mental health and substance abuse supports — can be used to help people work through their grief of losing a loved one.

Adams, though, says the federal government’s latest funding for mental health does not include money for grief support services.

“Mental health services do not see grief as their mandate,” he said.

Channelling grief

Tasha Jory says she suspects there are many others who need support in dealing with their grief.

“I am constantly replaying what has happened in my head. Missing my dad, who was so well known and loved in the community,” as well as a lifelong baseball fan and player, who was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Tasha Jory says her dad, a lifelong baseball player and fan, ‘was so well known and loved in the community.’ (Submitted by Tasha Jory)

Dale Hunter was cremated a week after his death. Jory and her family are waiting for the go-ahead to hold a memorial when everyone can meet at his farm to celebrate his life.

In the meantime, she has found a way to channel her grief.

“I sat down and wrote a letter to my sister. She did the same. We both wrote letters, which was super therapeutic. And then we shared our letters together.

“We kind of found our own way of working around the pandemic.”

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Google Makes Stadia Free to Anyone With a Gmail Address

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Google has finally had an idea for how to expand Stadia’s audience, and it only took a worldwide pandemic for the company to realize there might be a better way to reach potential customers. A recent company blog post states:

Video games can be a valuable way to socialize with friends and family when you’re stuck at home, so we’re giving gamers in 14 countries free access to Stadia Pro for two months. This is starting today and rolling out over the next 48 hours

You can read our review of Stadia by my colleague Ryan Whitwam here.

How It Works and What You Get

First of all, the offer is free to anyone with a Gmail address, which is to say, it’s free to anyone who can figure out how to make up a name for a burner email account they’ll never otherwise use. The nine games you’ll have access to are:

  • Destiny 2: The Collection
  • GRID
  • Gylt
  • SteamWorld Dig 2
  • SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
  • Serious Sam Collection
  • Spitlings
  • Stacks on Stacks (on Stacks)
  • Thumper

This is a two-month trial of Stadia Pro, which means you get access to the free games offered with that service. Other titles have to be purchased at full price. Stadia Pro is normally $ 10 per month, but nobody will be charged for the next two months; existing customers will receive two months free. You also don’t need a Chromecast or any other hardware from Google.

Does This Make Stadia a Good Investment?

No. The average lifetime of a Google service, based on ~200 products and services the company has killed, is about four years. Google has made absolutely no guarantees about Stadia longevity and I will not recommend Stadia as a paid service to anyone for anything until it’s either sufficiently successful that Google would be downright stupid to kill it, or Google starts making written minimum-service guarantees. That’s been my consistent opinion since Stadia launched, and it remains my opinion today.


Stadia can put a fair load on bandwidth, but the company is only planning to stream in 1080p temporarily, which should help.

Obviously, if you don’t care about retaining access to games you’ve previously played, you may feel differently about the value proposition. But the prospect of paying full price for games that I promptly lose access to when Google decides Stadia hasn’t made enough money instantly kills my interest in paying for the service.

Trying Stadia, on the other hand, seems pretty reasonable. Yes, Google is hoping these nine games will persuade you to sign up for the service. I wouldn’t. Use Stadia as a way to investigate two different questions: First, can your local ISP deliver game streaming at acceptable frame rates in the first place? If it can’t, no streaming game service is going to be worth your time and money, regardless of what you think of the underlying product. Second, do you want to buy the games from stores with longer histories or better track records? Stadia is a perfectly useful way to answer those two questions and if you choose to sign up, that’s what I’d use it for.

I’d like to say something along the lines of “And if you enjoy it and think the value is good, why not stay a Pro subscriber at $ 9.99?” But my problem with Stadia isn’t the idea of a $ 10-per-month subscription, it’s the fact that Google charges you full price for games you have no access to if or when they shut the service down. Until the company provides a method for consumers to keep the games they purchased, makes an in-writing commitment to operate Stadia for at least five years, or guarantees in writing that customers will not lose access to games they’ve purchased by providing equivalent digital licenses for products via Steam/GOG/Epic in the event of a shutdown, I can’t recommend spending money on it.

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How to talk to children and address their coronavirus concerns

There’s no escaping it. On television, in schools, on the street and at home, one word hangs in the air: coronavirus.

The coronavirus — which causes COVID-19 — and its repercussions are unlike anything people today have ever experienced. Stock markets have been plunging, travel restrictions have been put in place, major sports events have been suspended, schools are closing and an entire country, Italy, is under lockdown.

All of this information can be overwhelming and frightening for children, and it’s up to parents to provide accurate information in an age-appropriate manner, one expert says.

Julie Farrally, of Oakville, Ont., is the mother of two teenagers. She noticed heightened concern from her 15-year-old son, Noah. It started fairly early on and began with frequent handwashing.

“He’s definitely more conscious about germs,” Farrally said. “He’s definitely way more conscious about keeping the house clean, to the point where I’m like, ‘No, you’re in the house, and you’ve been in the house, you don’t need to rewash our hands.'”

It’s not that he’s paranoid, she said, just more conscious about being clean.

Youth psychiatrist Dr. Rachel Mitchell, with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said it’s important to validate fears held by children, to listen to them and to be sure to speak to them at the age-appropriate level. If they have asked questions, answer them honestly, and don’t share any more information other than what they asked.

“Obviously, the conversation you have with a five-year-old is not going to be the same conversation that you have with a 10-year-old, which is not the same conversation that you’re going to have with a teenager,” Mitchell said.

Dr. Rachel Mitchell, a youth psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says it’s important to validate children’s fear and concern over COVID-19. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC )

Limit exposure to the news

Also, don’t keep them in the dark.

“Don’t hide news from kids,” Mitchell said. “The instinct to protect them is natural and valid and inherent to being a parent. But as with any difficult news story, telling them the realistic truth at their level of understanding is very important.”

But that also doesn’t mean putting on the news 24/7. Mitchell said there is value to limiting exposure to the news. 

That’s something that Farrally and her husband are doing.

I won’t turn on the news and just keep it on.– Julie Farrally, mother of two teens

“I won’t turn on the news and just keep it on,” she said. “I don’t want to overdo it. I’m not hiding it, but I just don’t want to overdo it.” 

For young children, Mitchell said, parents could read the news with them. This provides the opportunity to ask questions along the way. But tell them only what you think they need to know. 

A child, wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of coronavirus, uses hand sanitizer at Stella Kids, daycare centre in Tokyo. (Stoyan Nenov/Reuters)

“Thinking that something is being kept from you is more anxiety-provoking than a real conversation at any age,” Mitchell said.

And a bit of empowerment goes a long way.

“Helping kids feel that they have agency through handwashing, for example, is amazing,” Mitchell said. 

Be a role model

With COVID-19 cases rising across Canada daily, it may be difficult for parents to deal with their own fears and concerns. But Mitchell said it’s important to keep calm around children.

“You have to be aware of your anxiety,” she said. “If it’s out of control, then that’s probably not something you want to show your kids.”

Instead, parents can leave the room if they feel their anxiety is overwhelming and return once they’ve calmed down.

For Farrally, she said her concerns over COVID-19 ebb and flow.

“Sometimes I think, ‘OK, most people are going to get over this,'” she said. 

But the fast and ever-changing status of the disease makes it difficult to keep those fears at bay. One challenge was the announcement Wednesday by the World Health Organization that it was a pandemic, she said.

“I thought, ‘Damn, how nervous should I be about this?'” she said. “And,honestly, I’m really glad we’re not going anywhere for March Break.'”

And finally, ensure that children are reading trusted sources and not listening to rumours or misinformation passed through social media, particularly for children who may be more anxious than others.

“Always validate that anxiety and that concern, because it’s valid, especially now,” Mitchell said. “If it’s dismissed, then that’s a missed opportunity” as a parent.

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CBC | Health News

Billy Porter Delivers Impassioned 2020 ‘LGBTQ State of the Union’ Address — Watch!

Billy Porter Delivers Impassioned 2020 ‘LGBTQ State of the Union’ Address — Watch! | Entertainment Tonight

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Jada Pinkett Smith Says T.I. Will Address His Comments on Daughter’s Virginity on ‘Red Table Talk’ (Exclusive)

Jada Pinkett Smith Says T.I. Will Address His Comments on Daughter’s Virginity on ‘Red Table Talk’ (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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Pharmacists press federal parties to address persistent drug shortages

Pharmacists in Canada want to hear more from the federal leaders about what they plan to do to address drug shortages.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association said there have been 178 drug shortages reported since the federal election was called last month.

“It would be good to hear something, but we are hearing deafening silence,” Barry Power, senior director of digital content, said about what the association says is a lack of emphasis on the issue.

“It’s rather surprising that nobody has mentioned this. There are some fairly high-profile drugs and some lifesaving drugs that are currently difficult to locate, if not impossible, so I find that quite concerning.”

The association is calling on federal leaders to work with them on a plan to address drug shortages, including research into the causes and possible solutions.

The group said current reactive measures for dealing with each drug shortage don’t help mitigate shortages.

“It would be great if they would at least acknowledge that this is a problem facing the health-care system,” Power said. “It would be even better if they had some idea as to how to fix it.”

The organization said more than two-thirds of pharmacists deal with drug shortages daily or multiple times a day, estimating that managing shortages can take up to 20 per cent of their shift.

“It seems over the past year it’s, I hesitate to use the word skyrocketed, but it’s become more prevalent in our day-to -day,” said Curtis Chafe, a Halifax pharmacist and chair of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.

Since the federal election was called on Sept. 11, there have been an average of five drug shortages in Canada per day, the Canadian Pharmacists Association says. (Jon Nazca/Reuters)

He said the problem is worsening as more commonly used medications are running short.

He pointed to the recent warning about possible shortages of the flu vaccine, the national shortage of blood pressure medications and the recall of heartburn drug ranitidine. Chafe said they’ve also been having issues with some antidepressants in short supply.

“Any time somebody relies on a medication and they’re told that their supply could be disrupted, it’s going to cause some stress,” he said. “It’s a scary situation for them.”

The association says pharmacists estimate managing drug shortages can occupy up to 20 per cent of their shift, or up to two hours of a standard 10-hour shift. (The Associated Press)

The problem has doctors worried, too.

“It’s a concern that’s always lurking in the background,” said Kevin Chapman, director of partnerships and finance with Doctors Nova Scotia.

He said shortages can cause patients to ration their doses, which runs counter to what the doctor has determined is in the patient’s best interest.

“It’s a worry at a time when individuals are obviously sick and need the prescription.”

Parties respond

CBC News asked the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens about their plans to address drug shortages should they win Monday’s election.

The Conservatives did not respond to CBC’s request, but the Liberals, Greens and NDP all cited a national pharmacare program — and the power of such a program to negotiate with drug companies — as the solution.

But Power said a pharmacare program could be a threat to the drug supply, depending on how it’s rolled out.

Some vaccines have also been privy to the drug shortage problem. (Robert Short/CBC)

If there were only one or two brands covered by a national pharmacare program, that would mean little incentive for other manufacturers to supply that type of product to Canada.

“So it could create a shortage of those, and the increasing demand for the drug that is listed could result in a shortage at least short term for that particular drug,” Power said.

That trickle effect is what’s currently happening with ranitidine. As people turn to less common alternatives, those have started running out, too.

Some acid-reducing and heartburn medicines were recalled because they may contain low levels of a cancer-causing impurity, contributing to a shortage of other similar drugs in Canada. (CBC)

Since 2017, Canadian pharmaceutical companies have been required to report a shortage to Drug Shortages Canada.

Health Canada said manufacturing issues are the most commonly cited cause of drug shortages.

Chafe said consolidation of the as the pharmaceutical supply chain has led to fewer manufacturing facilities.

“You could have multiple brands of a particular medication, but they’re all coming from the same facility,” Chafe said. “Instead of one brand being affected now, there’s a host of other brands that are going to be affected.”

Power said Canada does have a working group to tackle drug shortages. But because many manufacturers are based outside Canada, he said, Canada needs to work with other countries to establish more rigorous regulations and standards.

He also said while there has been a lot of work done by Health Canada employees, it doesn’t seem to be changing anything on the front lines for pharmacists.

“There’s been a lot of talk,” Power said. “We need to start making some progress.”


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CBC | Health News

Iran’s president to address UN as Persian Gulf tensions mount

With tensions high in the Persian Gulf, all eyes will be on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday as he speaks on the second day of the UN General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders.

In another highly anticipated speech, Ukraine’s freshly minted president will address the group for the first time as a fast-escalating scandal involving U.S. President Donald Trump swirls around him. Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s speech comes just a day after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump, focused partly on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from Ukraine to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own re-election.

Many of the world’s leaders have used their speeches so far to defend the multilateralism embodied by the United Nations at a time when the U.S. and other nations are sliding toward unilateralism and going it alone.

In a flurry of diplomatic activity this week, European and other leaders have pushed for a thaw in the nuclear standoff between the Iran and the U.S.

But Rouhani has hinted at only the faintest possibility of a breakthrough. He said he would not even consider meeting with Trump until the U.S. lifts crippling sanctions imposed in the wake of Trump’s pullout from a nuclear deal. The Iranian told a group of U.S. media leaders that his government would first need a clearer idea of what the U.S. administration actually seeks.

Rouhani’s speech comes a day after Trump took his turn at the UN General Assembly, blasting what he called Iran’s “bloodlust” and rising aggression. The U.S. has blamed Iran for recent strikes on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that have rattled the Middle East and global oil markets. Iran has denied being behind the attacks, saying they were solely the work of Yemeni rebels.

Rouhani said he had some optimism that the departure of national security adviser John Bolton could change U.S. behaviour, but he had seen “no tangible evidence” of that yet. At the UN meetings this year, Rouhani said he would remind many leaders that the Iran is still here, despite what he described as mistaken promises from Bolton that tough sanctions would destabilize the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

On Wednesday, Iran’s defence minister rejected any deal with world powers over Tehran’s missile program.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Gen. Amir Hatami as saying any deal with the U.S. over Iran’s “missile power” would damage the country’s capabilities. He said Iran’s leaders all support improving their missile program.

Tehran long has insisted its ballistic missile program was non-negotiable. Trump, however, cited it as a reason for unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from the nuclear deal over a year ago.

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