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Ontario issues emergency orders to allow hospitals to transfer patients without consent

The Ontario government’s health agency has issued two emergency orders to help hospitals cope with a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care admissions that is threatening the province’s critical care capacity, the Ministry of Health said in a news release Friday. 

One order allows hospitals to transfer patients without their consent if those facilities are in danger of being overwhelmed. This is the first time such an order has been made during the pandemic

The other allows the redeployment of health-care professionals and other staff who work for the province’s community care agencies to work in hospitals.

“With Ontario’s hospitals facing unprecedented critical care capacity pressures during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government is taking immediate action to ensure no capacity nor resource in Ontario’s hospitals goes untapped,” Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in the release.

In an exclusive interview with CBC News on Friday evening, Elliott said the province is concerned about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases driven by the variants of concern, which are deadlier and result in more hospitalizations and ICU admissions. 

The province reached a record number of 552 people with COVID-19 in ICUs on Friday. 

Boosting capacity

Effective immediately, health-care professionals and other staff with Ontario Health and Home and Community Care Support Services organizations will be provided the authority to voluntarily deploy staff, such as care co-ordinators, nurses, and others, to work in hospitals that are experiencing significant capacity pressures due to COVID-19.

Elliott said these staff members would work primarily as ward nurses to allow nurses currently in those hospitals who have intensive care experience to move to those units. 

She didn’t have an exact number of workers who could be redeployed, saying: “We’re not looking at huge numbers of people but any assistance that we can get will be most welcome.” 

The organizations will also be authorized to deploy staff to backfill redeployed staff within and to another Home and Community Care Support Service organization.

During surges when the demand for critical care threatens to overwhelm a hospital, hospitals will be allowed to transfer patients without obtaining their consent or, when the patient is incapable, their substitute decision maker’s consent. 

The attending physician must be satisfied the patient will receive the care they require at the other site, and that the transfer won’t compromise the patient’s condition. 

After the surge, the other hospital would be required to make reasonable efforts to transfer the patient back to the original site, or to another suitable location, with the proper consent, as soon as possible, the government says. 

Elliott says the non-consenting transfers will only be done in extreme circumstances, adding that no hospital in the province has neared this capacity level yet. However, she noted that it’s a waiting game as numbers are expected to increase in the next short while. 

These orders are expected to increase ICU capacity in Ontario by up to 1,000 beds, the news release reads. The orders will remain valid for 14 days unless revoked or extended, the government said. 

Over the last year, the government has created over 3,100 more hospital beds. 

“Now we know that we need to take more steps and increase capacity again,” Eliott said. 

She added that these measures will help to ensure that hospitals continue having adequate staffing and resources to care for patients. 

Hospitals have also been told to ramp down all elective surgeries and non-urgent activities in order to preserve critical care and human resource capacity, effective Monday.

“We understand that deferring scheduled surgeries and other procedures will have an impact on patients, their families and on caregivers. We are monitoring the situation and will work to resume as soon and as safely as possible these deferred services and procedures,” said Matt Anderson, CEO of Ontario Health.

Elliott said this order will create between 700 to 1,000 more spaces in hospitals that will be used for COVID-19 patients.

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Tentative agreement would allow Alberta to withhold doctor pay to balance physician budget

A tentative agreement between Alberta’s doctors and the provincial government would set the current physician services budget at the 2018-19 level and allow the government to withhold payments from doctors if overspending is expected.

The agreement also appears to signal that the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) has abandoned its attempt to secure binding arbitration, which has been used in other provinces to resolve disagreements. 

A letter signed by both Health Minister Tyler Shandro and AMA president Dr. Paul Boucher says a condition of the agreement would be the AMA discontinuing its $ 250 million lawsuit against the province that sought binding arbitration.

CBC News has obtained a leaked copy of the agreement, which members of the AMA are now reviewing for potential ratification.

The agreement, dated Feb. 26, outlines the proposed physician services budget for the next three years:

  • $ 4.571 billion for 2020-21 through 2021-22, the same amount as the actual physician services cost for 2018-19.
  • $ 4.621 billion for 2022-23.
  • $ 4.671 billion for 2023-24.

The tentative agreement comes after a bitter public fight between the two parties that began in February 2020 when Shandro unilaterally ended the AMA master agreement and imposed a new physician compensation framework.

That sparked a public outcry from the AMA and many of the province’s doctors.

The new agreement makes it clear Shandro has ultimate authority over the amounts paid to doctors.

“The AMA acknowledges that the physician services budget is established by the minister in the minister’s sole discretion,” it states.

“The AMA further acknowledges that nothing in this agreement fetters the minister’s authority or discretion with respect to the physician services budget.”

CBC News has reached out to Shandro for comment. An AMA spokesperson said doctors are declining comment during the ratification period.

The agreement appears “quite favourable” to the government, according to University of Calgary health law professor Lorian Hardcastle.

“I think that the government kept most things that they probably wanted to keep in this agreement, for example, the cap on the budget. And I think that the government kept the things that they wanted to keep out of this agreement, namely any guarantees around binding mediation or binding arbitration,” Hardcastle said.

She said the AMA’s negotiators likely decided to offer the agreement to their members now because they feel there is nothing more they can get from the government. 

Province could withhold payments 

The agreement says Alberta Health will monitor the expenditures under the physician services budget every month and, if the actual costs are expected to exceed those budgeted, “a determination will be made if strategies and measures to reduce the expenditures are to be implemented.”

This won’t occur for overspending in 2021-22 through 2023-24 attributed to physician growth exceeding population growth.

It states that the ministry will consult with the AMA as it develops those strategies to prevent overspending. But one of those possible methods will likely prove contentious with the province’s doctors.

“The strategies may include withholding amounts from physician payments,” it says.

If withholding payments is used as a strategy, any amounts left over at the end of the year that aren’t necessary to balance the budget “will be returned to physicians proportionate to their original contribution” to the amount withheld.

Hardcastle said she suspects most of the province’s doctors will be concerned about their pay being reduced to cover the cost of any budget overspending. And she said the public also may have concerns in the future. 

“Patients may be concerned that their doctors may see fewer patients if they are in a situation where certain visits are being capped or certain services aren’t being billed at the full rate,” she said. 

If the AMA does not agree with those budget-balancing strategies, or the government refuses an AMA request to adjust the physician services budget, it can take the matter to a mediator.

The agreement lists four lawyers who can act as mediators.

But any recommendations from the mediator would be non-binding.

If the mediation report is not accepted by both parties, Alberta Health “agrees to consider the mediation report before making its final decision on the issue mediated,” the agreement states.

The agreement would expire March 31, 2024.

Alberta Health, in the agreement, has committed to tabling legislation by Dec. 31, 2021 that would exempt the agreement from legislation that allows the government to terminate the master agreement with the AMA.

“I think that certainly this is going to be a tough sell to the members of the AMA,” Hardcastle said. “What we are seeing on social media already is that some doctors are quite opposed to this.”

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Olympic champion Kingsbury calls for urgent action to allow sport in Quebec schools

Quebec mogul king Mikael Kingsbury is calling for the return of sport in schools.

In an open letter on Wednesday to Quebec Premier François Legault, the reigning Olympic and world moguls champion says urgent action is needed amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

“I am worried about the situation of young athletes,” wrote the 28-year-old freestyle skiing star. “The health of thousands of young people is at risk.”

Inspired in part by his own experiences growing up, Kingsbury is lending his voice to the efforts of a 16-year-old high school student, Isaac Pépin, who has been urging the provincial government to show flexibility in its approach to sport in schools.

WATCH | Kingsbury writes open letter to Quebec Premier François Legault:

Days before the world championship, the moguls skier writes an open letter to Quebec Premier urging the government to get kids out of their houses. 5:49

Kingsbury told CBC Sports in an exclusive interview on Thursday that the plea is something he understands all too well.

“Having grown up skiing and playing baseball with my friends, sport is a motivator. A source of meaning,” he said, adding that sport was a big part of what helped keep him coming back to class.

For the 28-year-old native of Deux-Montagnes, Que., it’s also a question of mental as well as physical health.

“I am worried that young people are lost. That they are abandoning sport in favour of screens,” Kingsbury wrote in his letter to Legault.

This is why Kingsbury supports Pépin’s calls for the resumption of supervised sport.

‘I got dizzy’

“I stopped this week and wondered what I would do if I was this young man deprived of sport for a year in a period of a pandemic,” Kingsbury wrote.

“I got dizzy! I wouldn’t have had the capacity to survive a full year without my passion. I tell you very simply: I would be adrift. I am convinced that sports clubs, sports organizations and federations have the capacities, the means, but above all the determination necessary to protect young people and their families. Before, during and after sports practice.”

And Kingsbury feels the time to act is now.

“It’s been a year where people across Canada, but especially in Quebec, have not been able to play collective sports,” he told CBC Sports. “It’s like a year the kids are losing and will never get back again.”

WATCH | Kingsbury reflects on consecutive World Cup victories:

A day after winning his 1st event in Deer Valley, reigning Olympic and world moguls champion Mikael Kingsbury from Deux-Montagnes, Que., earns his 2nd straight victory with a win in dual moguls. 1:35

Legault said he understands the frustration, but also the importance of sport on mental health during a COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

“People who know me know that I do a lot of sports,” Legault said. “Sports is important. There’s nothing better to decrease stress levels, and it’s important for mental heath. But we all agree that certain sports, at the very least, we might get too close and bring about contagion.”

While discussions with sports federations are still ongoing, Legault will offer more of an update next week and acknowledged that “as of March 15th, everywhere in Quebec will be able to start outside school activities.”

Meanwhile, Kingsbury — who only recently returned to action in February after fracturing his T4 and T5 vertebrate in November prior to the opening of the freestyle ski season — is in Kazakhstan gearing up for freestyle skiing world championships in Almaty.

He says the passion that Pépin and fellow organizers have exhibited for sport has given him extra motivation to win. 

“[They] are only asking for one thing: to breathe new life into young people by allowing them to reconnect with their passion.”

Kingsbury won’t be able to stand with protestors at a planned rally in front of the provincial parliament on Sunday, but remains hopeful activities will open up when he returns to his home province.

“On behalf of all athletes in Quebec, amateurs and professionals, I hope that when I return home in mid-March, sport will find its rightful place.”

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EA Will ‘Allow’ BioWare to Pull Dragon Age 4’s Unnecessary Multiplayer

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Earlier this week, news broke that saddened the hearts of at least a few dozen people: The moderately-awaited overhaul to BioWare’s Anthem, dubbed Anthem Next, will not be released. Now, we’ve got fresh BioWare news that manages to be both positive and somewhat alarming. EA will “allow” the Dragon Age 4 development team to remove multiplayer from the game.

If you’re scratching your head trying to remember all those delightful online adventures you had in Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age 2, and Dragon Age Inquisition, it’s not just you. Dragon Age has historically been a single-player series, though Inquisition did feature a small multiplayer co-operative campaign.

It turns out DA4 may have been saved by the way Anthem tanked. Up until last fall, EA had apparently mandated that multiplayer be front-and-center to the Dragon Age 4 experience. It was the catastrophic response to Anthem that seems to have changed their minds, combined with the success of the single-player title Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Not Every Game Needs Multiplayer

Since 2012, EA has been on a corporate mission to stuff multiplayer into every title it builds. Like the mandate that all game development takes place on the Frostbite engine, no matter how poorly it fits the title, EA has been laser-focused on integrating multiplayer into its properties, regardless of player preference.


Battlefront II became a much better game than it was in the beginning. It didn’t start off well.

One of the biggest reasons why people disliked Anthem was the lack of content and the flimsiness of the story. BioWare is one of a handful of companies in the industry known for well-crafted RPGs. BioWare always made it clear that Anthem was supposed to take the company in a new direction, but a lot of people clearly expected the company to meld that new direction with the storytelling it’s known for. EA CEO Andrew Wilson gave an interview back in 2019 in which he acknowledged this:

We brought together these two groups of players who were making this emotional value calculation on two different vectors…One was traditional BioWare story driven content, and the other was this action-adventure type content. About the 30 or 40 hour mark they really had to come together and start working in on the elder game. At that point everyone kind of went, ‘Oh, hang a minute.’ Now the calculation is off. It’s off because I’ve got a friend who sits in this other category of player. They want to play the game a certain way. I want to play the game a certain way. The promise was we can play together, and that’s not working very well. Oh, by the way I’m used to 100 hours of BioWare story, and that’s not what I got.’ Or, ‘I expected that this game would have meaningfully advanced the action component that we’d seen in games like Destiny before, and I don’t feel like it has.’

This quote is from 2019, and the Bloomberg story linked above makes it clear that DA4 only got permission to cut the multiplayer focus late into last year. In other words: A year after the CEO of EA was handing out quotes about how EA had learned its lesson with Anthem, the company was still attempting to shoehorn an explicit multiplayer focus into Dragon Age, despite the fact that DA is a single-player experience first and foremost.

DA4 entered development in 2015 but was rebooted in 2017 to focus on long-term monetization, Schreier writes. This was the catalyst for Mike Laidlaw’s departure from the game, and development has reportedly been in flux ever since. A group of BioWare leaders has been fighting with EA to turn the focus back to single-player development and the game’s success is vital after both Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem both critically flopped.

Despite the above, it’s not clear either title financially flopped. EA panned Andromeda’s sales back in 2016 but sang its praises a year later. Anthem isn’t thought to have hit its 6 million copy target, but nobody knows how well or poorly it actually did. The NPD Group listed Anthem as the 10th best-selling title of 2019. For reference, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was the 10th best-selling title of 2018.

News that DA4 has dropped multiplayer is the best news I’ve heard about the game thus far. The team working on Anthem will reportedly be folded into DA4 development.

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Indian farmers continue protest against new laws as police allow them into capital

Thousands of angry Indian farmers protesting against new agricultural laws were allowed to enter the national capital late Friday after they clashed with police who had blocked them at the outskirts of the city.

The farmers, who fear the new laws will reduce their earnings and give more power to corporations, will be escorted to a protest site in New Delhi, police in a statement. It was not immediately clear where the protests would be held.

For the last two months, farmer unions unwilling to accept the laws, which were passed in September, have camped on highways in Punjab and Haryana states.

They say the laws could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their being exploited by corporations that would buy their crops at cheap prices.

The government has said the laws are aimed at reforming agriculture by giving farmers the freedom to market their produce and boosting production through private investment.

The farmers began their march to the capital on Thursday to mount pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to abolish the laws, but were stopped by large numbers of security personnel in riot gear on the boundary between New Delhi and Haryana state.

They resumed their march early Friday, unfazed by overnight rain and chilly winter temperatures.

Clashes with police outside New Delhi

Heading toward New Delhi on tractors and cars, the farmers were again blocked by police at the capital’s fringes. This led to clashes between the farmers and police, who used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to push them back.

In response, farmers used tractors to clear walls of concrete, shipping containers and parked trucks set up by police on roads leading to the capital.

Some protesters also threw stones at the police and waved the flags of farmer unions. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Police use water cannons to disperse protesting farmers on Friday. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

“We are fighting for our rights. We won’t rest until we reach the capital and force the government to abolish these black laws,” said Majhinder Singh Dhaliwal, a leader.

Earlier, in a bid to stop the protesters from riding commuter trains into the capital, the Delhi Metro suspended some services. Traffic slowed to a crawl as vehicles were checked along state boundaries, leading to huge jams on some highways.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh urged the federal government to initiate talks with leaders of the farmers. Many of the protesting farmers are from Punjab, one of the largest agricultural states in India.

“The voice of farmers cannot be muzzled indefinitely,” Singh wrote on Twitter.

The protesting farmers said the new laws, passed in September, could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their being exploited by corporations. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

Negotiations between the leaders of farmer unions and the government to defuse the standoff have been unsuccessful. Farmers say they will continue to protest until the government rolls back the laws; opposition parties and some Modi allies have called the laws anti-farmer and pro-corporation.

Farmers have long been seen as integral to India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people. But they have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades. Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now produce only 15 per cent of the country’s $ 2.9 trillion US economy.

Farmers often complain of being ignored and hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.

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AMD May Allow Custom RX 6900 XT Cards, Launch Stock May Be Limited

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On the heels of AMD’s Big Navi reveal earlier this week, there are fresh rumors for both good and ill. On the positive side of things, AMD is apparently in talks with multiple AIB partners about the possibility of building their own custom designs for the Radeon 6900 XT. Currently, AMD has only stated that there will be custom variants for the Radeon RX 6800 and 6800 XT families.

On the less-good side of things, there are rumors that AMD’s stock situation may mirror Nvidia’s. According to a comment from a redditor who claims to have spoken with Morele.net (a Polish e-tailer), they do not expect great stock levels on the RX 6000 series. According to reddit + Google, the translated text reads:

“[W]e don’t know when they [AMD Radeon RX 6000 Series GPUs] will appear on the website yet. Similar accessibility problems may arise.”

This is not great news for anyone hoping to score a Radeon card before Christmas, but it isn’t the most unexpected news, either. TSMC is currently ramping the Ryzen 5000 family, the RX 6000 series, Nvidia’s 7nm Ampere HPC variant, the PlayStation 5, and the Xbox Series X, all of which are using the same node. There’s also the fact that AMD may not have anticipated the GPU shortage Nvidia would encounter, which means they would not have had an opportunity to increase their own shipments to compensate.

A second rumor from the Chinese PPT Forums appears to confirm this, though Google Translate makes absolute hash of it. For example, when asked why everyone thinks AMD has sufficient production capacity to build Big Navi, the respondent states (according to Google Translate):

At present, the console’s first wave of listings has just been digested and Nami can start work directly, but people have not yet come… In terms of the timeline, even if the gods are jammed by the shift star logistics car tomorrow morning 11/ 18 It should be quite difficult to get a new card to be cool. To be honest, it is quite unexpected that Su Ma dared to bet on this release date. I personally think that the heavy volume should start in December. Of course, it may also be to give my fellow villagers time to think about how to cut XD?

“Nami” may actually be a reference to “Navi.” I’m interpreting this passage to mean: “Even if we had the parts sitting right beside the factory, it’s going to be difficult to get a new card. It’s surprising that Lisa Su picked this release date, and volume manufacturing isn’t likely to pick up until December.”

That’s me attempting to interpret Google Translate, not any kind of actual human translation, so if you can provide additional context feel free to speak up.

I don’t know if this low-production rumor should be believed. Rumors of Samsung/Nvidia issues at 8nm have implied that AMD might have made the better call, going with TSMC, but TSMC’s fab lines are full precisely because they’re handling most of the planet’s 7nm production. There have been rumors that Nvidia used Samsung over TSMC because of tight allocation. We don’t know how true that is, specifically, but it doesn’t strain credulity that fab space might be limited given that the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are both ramping towards retail release.

AMD stated in its Q3 2020 conference call that it expects to recognize more revenue from console sales in Q4 as opposed to in Q3, implying a robust ramp to meet expected launch demand. That’s why it could make sense for AMD to have limited card supply at launch — TSMC may be frantically meeting Xbox and PlayStation demand.

I want to stress that this is all theory, not established facts. We always caution readers not to read too much into the experience of any single company when it comes to allocation or product availability, and that still applies in this case. Ironically, AMD GPUs still might be hard to find this winter even if shipments are strong, if customers began buying larger numbers of AMD GPUs as substitutes for Nvidia products.

Given that we saw this exact problem four years ago, the most likely explanation is if yields are low, they’re low because of the intrinsic difficulty of the GPUs themselves. In that case, we can expect overall availability to improve in the coming months as the early manufacturing issues get sorted out.

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B.C. to allow designated visits for residents in long-term care after months of restrictions

B.C. is easing restrictions for visits in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities across the province, allowing residents to have in-person visits for the first time since March.

Residents will be able to see one person at a time — a single, “designated” visitor — in a designated area. The visits will be booked in advance and can happen indoors, outdoors or, in some cases, in a single room.

Visitors will be screened for illness upon entry and must wear a mask.

For many residents, it will be the first time they’ve seen somebody they love in three-and-a-half months.

“There have been many dark and anxious days, but today is a brighter day for us all,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.

The designated visitor will be trained on using personal protective equipment, or PPE, to ensure the visit happens safely.

Visits will not be allowed in facilities with ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19. There are currently five such outbreaks in B.C.

Henry said residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities should still limit their visits outside to essential trips only. She said personal service providers such as barbers and hairdressers will also be now allowed into facilities, so long as they follow safety protocol.

Henry said the risk in communities is low enough and the supply of PPE strong enough to start opening visits up.

“We’re tipping the balance now where not having your family, not having your loved one, is starting to outweigh the risks. But it is a very fine balance,” she said.

“I will admit that I am anxious, but also hopeful.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry says the decision of when to allow long-term care home residents visitors has caused her “the most distress in the last few months”:

B.C.’s provincial health officer says the risk of COVID-19 is low enough to ease restrictions for the first time in three months. 2:18

To help facilitate safe visits, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is providing more than $ 160 million so long-term care and assisted living facilities for seniors can hire more full-time staff. Dix said the money will equate to about 2,040 additional staff for more than 680 homes across the province, both public and private.

Non-essential visits were banned from care homes after health officials declared an outbreak inside the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver in early March.

Seniors and elders are most at risk for serious illness and death if they become sick with COVID-19. Dix said nearly 100 people in long-term care have died of the illness provincewide. Several more in assisted living have also died.

Patricia Grinsteed, right, visits her daughter through a glass barrier at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver on June 23. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Henry said it is critical for loved ones to cancel visits if they feel the slightest bit unwell, so as not to undo the progress made over the past few months.

“To all of the seniors and elders in our care homes: thank you. This has been a difficult time for you, being separated from the ones you love. For many people, with things like dementia, it can be a very confusing and difficult time,” Henry said.

“You have shown resilience, determination and courage despite this challenge… As we move forward, we’ll all do this slowly and carefully, so that sacrifice is not wasted.”

Long-term care homes have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic and new outbreaks continue to happen, but experts say B.C. has fared better than other provinces like Ontario and Quebec in slowing the spread of the virus inside the facilities.

Around 32,000 people in B.C. live in long-term care or assisted living. Henry said the visitation policy will be reviewed monthly.

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NASA Will Allow SpaceX to Reuse Rockets and Capsules for Astronaut Launches

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SpaceX and NASA made history a few weeks ago when astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley lifted off on their way to the International Space Station (ISS). Unlike all past astronaut launches, Behnken and Hurley flew aboard a privately developed spacecraft launched from the US as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule used for that launch were shiny and new, but that might not be the case later. NASA has agreed to let SpaceX use previously flown hardware to transport people to and from space. 

SpaceX designed the Falcon 9 to be reusable, and it has been making good use of that capability on cargo missions for years. After launch, the Falcon 9 first stage booster detaches from the second stage while it’s still got some fuel remaining. It uses that fuel to slow its descent and land vertically on land or one of SpaceX’s drone ships at sea. It can then refurbish and reuse the rocket. The Dragon capsule is also a reusable vehicle that can be recovered after splashdown. 

As SpaceX worked toward its goal of launching NASA astronauts, the plan was only to use new hardware. SpaceX could recover the booster and capsule for use on non-NASA missions, but the astronauts on their way to the ISS would always be climbing into a nice, new spacecraft. With the Demo-2 mission behind us, NASA and SpaceX have been reassessing this restriction. SpaceX proposed using pre-flown Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules. After assessing the possible risks, NASA has agreed this is in the best interests of the government. 

The booster recovered after the Demo-2 mission.

SpaceX has been reflying boosters for years, and some of them have racked up as many as five cargo launches. There has not, thus far, been any evidence to suggest the hardware has a higher likelihood of failure after refurbishment. Reusing rockets allows SpaceX to offer launch services for lower prices. However, NASA will inspect the hardware beforehand, and it won’t allow SpaceX to use boosters with too many previous flights for crewed missions. 

NASA’s next crewed launch with SpaceX should take place later this summer, but preparations have already started. SpaceX is planning to use a new booster and capsule for this mission as it did for Demo-2. SpaceX’s next trip to the ISS after that won’t be until early 2021, which could give it time to fix up a recovered booster to fly it again.

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Coronavirus: Ontario to allow some retail stores to reopen next week

The latest:

Schools in the hard-hit Montreal area won’t be reopening until the fall amid continued concern over the coronavirus pandemic, Quebec Premier François Legault announced at his daily briefing on Thursday.

Except those for children of essential service workers, daycares in the region will not reopen before June 1. Legault had previously announced high schools, colleges and universities wouldn’t reopen until late August; the new decision now includes elementary schools.

The province has opened daycares and primary schools outside the Montreal region, though attendance is voluntary. 

WATCH | Montreal mayor on 2 key COVID-19 decisions made by Quebec:

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante welcomes financial help from the Quebec government to buy masks for the public and approves of the province’s decision to delay opening Montreal schools. 1:50

In Ontario, the fate of the school year is not yet known, but the premier announced the province will enter Stage 1 of its reopening plan next week.

The plan, which begins Tuesday, includes resuming construction projects, as well as the reopening of some workplaces, seasonal activities and health-care facilities.

Still, Premier Doug Ford stressed caution, and warned that plans could change if caseloads increase. 

WATCH | Premier Ford announces further opening of Ontario economy:

Just ahead of the holiday weekend, Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the  province is lifting some restrictions in areas such as retail, recreation and construction. 3:47

“Businesses should open only if they are ready,” Ford said in a briefing on Thursday.

“We can’t fully predict where things will go … we cannot let our guard down now.”

Ontario’s reopening also includes retail stores outside of shopping malls with street entrances, and involves “gradually restarting” scheduled surgeries, along with allowing libraries to open for pickup. Property management services, such as cleaning, painting and pool maintenance, will also resume.  

Ahead of the premier’s expected announcement, Health Minister Christine Elliott put out a tweet saying as the province plans for a gradual reopening, it will expand testing guidelines so that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms can be tested. 

“Doing so will help identify and contain new cases and monitor any shifts in community spread to keep Ontarians safe,” Elliott said in the tweet. The new guidelines from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams will say anyone with symptoms can be tested.

Elliott, who did not provide specifics on what had changed or how the expanded testing would be implemented, said the province has “nearly completed” testing for all long-term care home workers and residents, and will now expand testing to other vulnerable populations, including people in retirement homes and other group settings like group homes and shelters.

Alberta lifts restrictions — but not for the whole province

Alberta, meanwhile, is taking a step forward on Thursday as a range of businesses — including stores, daycares and hair salons — are being allowed to open across most of the province. Calgary and Brooks, which account for the majority of the active cases in the province, won’t reopen at the same pace.

At a briefing on Thursday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the decision to keep some restrictions in the two cities was a provincial call, one that he found out about only a day earlier. Nenshi asked citizens to continue to respect the restrictions, and encouraged them to order food from local restaurants, some of which had ordered food and rehired staff in preparation for reopening over the long weekend.

“Please, please, please, please don’t let up now,” Nenshi said. “Be safe, stay kind. Together we’ll save lives.”

Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, warned that reopening doesn’t mean going back to normal.

She said she’s received reports of some businesses opening earlier than they should, but that she’s seeing more and more people wearing masks and following distancing rules. 

Hinshaw asked people to consider wearing masks to protect people around them.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was set to speak with the premiers Thursday evening in a weekly call to discuss the coronavirus​​​​​​ outbreak, which has left more than 70,000 Canadians infected and led to sweeping public health measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. 

Trudeau used his daily briefing to outline a support program for fish harvesters, announcing $ 469 million in federal funding for fish harvesters who have been ineligible for other aid initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also announced that some federal historic sites and parks, which have been closed as part of the response to the outbreak, will be reopening as of June 1. He said parks would open in phases, and some parks — including Arctic parks — won’t be reopening any time soon.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO director of emergencies, said Wednesday that “this virus may never go away.”

“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities,” he said Wednesday, noting that other previously novel diseases such as HIV have never disappeared, but that effective treatments have been developed to allow people to live with the disease.

When asked about that remark at his briefing on Thursday, Trudeau said, “We know there are things that we took for granted last year and years before that have changed.”

WATCH | PM asked about WHO official’s remark that novel coronavirus may be here to stay:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asked by CBC’s Tom Parry what happens if the COVID-19 virus never goes away. 1:51

Also Thursday, Canada’s spy agencies warned that Canadian COVID-19 research is a “valuable target” for state-sponsored actors. A joint statement from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s foreign signals intelligence agency, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned of an “increased risk of foreign interference and espionage due to the extraordinary effort of our businesses and research centres.”

It comes just a day after U.S. intelligence agencies warned of China-backed hacking of institutions and companies researching vaccines, treatments and tests for the novel coronavirus.

The CSE and CSIS statement doesn’t name the state actors suspected of posing a threat and neither agency would say whether they have witnessed specific attacks.

As of 8:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 73,401 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 36,104 of those considered recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of COVID-19 deaths based on provincial health data, regional information and CBC’s reporting stood at 5,576.

While most cases of coronavirus are mild or moderate, some people — particularly the elderly or those with underlying health issues — are at higher risk of severe disease or death. There are no proven vaccines or treatments for the novel coronavirus, which causes an illness called COVID-19. 

Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories

Fifteen more people in British Columbia have been diagnosed with COVID-19, while the province announced three more deaths in the past 24 hours. At the same time, the province’s chief health officer is asking people not to travel over the long weekend if it’s not essential. “Let’s make this our summer of care and consideration for our families, our communities and our province. A summer for us all to remember to be kind, to be calm and to be safe,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta is starting the first phase of its relaunch plan on Thursday — but not for the whole province. The premier had words of caution as he announced the details, saying: “If we slack off … maybe people we love will suffer. And if cases and hospitalizations spike, we’ll have to reintroduce either regional or provincewide restrictions again.”

The province announced 50 new cases for a total of 6,457, with one death bringing the total to 121. There are 1,131 active cases, with 65 in hospital and 10 in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta. 

WATCH | Alberta releases relaunch plan with some COVID-19 restrictions:

Alberta will proceed to the first phase of its relaunch plan on Thursday, though Calgary and Brooks will reopen more slowly than the rest of the province, says Premier Jason Kenney. 3:49

Saskatchewan schools are closed for the rest of the education year, and no decision has yet been made on whether students will return to in-person learning in the fall. The school year was formally ended earlier this month. Universities have said they will be returning to digital classrooms in the fall. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and one probable positive case has now been ruled out, public health officials say. The province said it is opening up testing so that people with cold or flu-like symptoms can go directly to a testing siteRead more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

WATCH | Does Canada need to ramp up testing before reopening the economy?

Ontario reported 258 new cases on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 21,494 cases. According to the province, 16,204 of those cases are considered resolved. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, where officials are set to expand testing.

Quebec Premier François Legault has announced that schools in the Montreal area will not reopen until September. He said it’s possible children won’t be back in school before the end of September, and students with special needs may return even later in the year.  Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, where non-contact sports such as tennis and golf will be allowed to resume.

New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy says there’s risk in reopening daycares, but some risk is necessary if the province is “going to come out on the other side of this … with a functioning economy.” Cardy stressed that operational plans and precautions around safety will be required at every facility that reopens. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Health officials in Nova Scotia reported two new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 1,026 with 909 of those considered recovered. To date, the province has reported a COVID-19 death toll of 51, with the vast majority of the deaths linked to a long-term care facility in Halifax. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

WATCH | An inside look at Canada’s COVID-19 detectives:

The National’s Adrienne Arsenault spends a day with contact tracers in London, Ont., who help figure out where someone caught COVID-19 and determine who else may be at risk. 3:43

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has laid out the basics on what will be expected of child-care providers when they reopen. “We know that we have to change how we deliver programs. Also, where some of these programs have been traditionally delivered will need to change as well,” the premier said. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new coronavirus cases on Thursday, marking its seventh straight day with no new cases of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in N.L., including a story about a plan by universities to do most learning online next fall.

The Northwest Territories could begin the first phase of its reopening plan — which includes allowing some businesses to reopen and small indoor gatherings — as soon as Friday, officials said. Read more about what’s happening across the North, including a story about a drop in emergency room visits in Yukon.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world

WATCH | England has cautiously started to reopen, but the decision has been met with trepidation on the streets of London:

England has cautiously started to reopen, but the decision has been met with trepidation on the streets of London. 2:02

As of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, there were more than 4.4 million reported coronavirus cases, with more than 300,000 deaths, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. According to the university’s case tracking tool, more than 85,000 of those deaths were in the U.S., which has more than 1.4 million cases.

A fishmonger serves clients behind a plastic sheet at a street market in Paris as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

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MLS to allow voluntary individual player workouts under strict guidelines

Major League Soccer is easing its training restrictions, allowing clubs to use their practice fields but only for individual workouts and under strict rules.

Team training facilities have been closed, other than for approved rehab, since the league suspended play March 12 due to the global pandemic.

In giving the green light Friday to individual workouts, the league said they would be voluntary and would have to meet local public health official or government policies.

The league is also imposing a list of requirements, including players completing a “screening assessment survey” prior to every arrival and temperature checks upon arrival at the facility.

Guidelines to be followed

Players will have to wear personal protective equipment from the parking lot to the training field and back. Staff will also have to wear “appropriate personal protective equipment” during training while maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet (3.1 metres) from players at all times.

Players and staff will have to arrive and leave at staggered times, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.

Field can be divided into a maximum of four quadrants per field. Only one player per quadrant is allowed, with no equipment sharing or playing (passing, shooting) between players.

Teams still have work to do to make it happen. They have to come up with a plan that satisfies both local authorities and the league.

‘It’s a good thing’

“We’re working on it,” said Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney. “It’s a good thing.”

Vanney says he and his coaching staff won’t be directly involved in the workouts, whose details will likely be texted to players the night before. Trainers will oversee the sessions and ensure the rules are followed.

“It kind of gives the guys a bit of a safe space to prepare for their work,” said Vanney. “They’re actually safer doing it there than they are anywhere else.

Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney speaks to the media during an end-of-season availability in 2019. After Major League Soccer eased individual training restrictions on Friday, Vanney said it allows a “safe space” for players to prepare for a return to action. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

“There’s a lot of hoops that we have to jump through to make sure that that can happen and happens safely. But I think it feels like, for everybody at least at the club, a step towards getting back onto the field. We know there’s many more steps that need to be taken before we’re actually playing games but this is the first one.

“And by them being able to do this, it could shorten whatever the pre-season phase might be as we do find a day, hopefully soon, that we can come back.”

A league-wide moratorium on small group and full team training remains in place through May 15.

The league has extended its suspension of play to at least June 8. It initially announced a 30-day suspension of play on March 12 — two weeks into the regular season.

League exploring scheduling options

A week later, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, it extended its season hiatus with a target return date of May 10. That was then pushed back into June.

The league says it continues to explore scheduling options for fitting in the entire season, including pushing back the MLS Cup “into December or later.” This year’s MLS Cup had been scheduled for Nov 7.

The league is also in discussion with its players about wages, due to the financial impact the shutdown is having on the league.

MLS said the regulated individual workouts allows clubs “to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and social distancing measures for players and staff.”

The individual player workout protocol does not allow access to all club facilities, with locker-rooms and certain other areas still off-limits. Team gyms and training rooms may still only be accessed by players receiving post-operative and rehabilitation treatment, as directed by the club’s chief medical officer.

Teams must submit to the league their plans to facilitate individual workouts. That must include restricting access to essential staff, as well as sanitization and disinfection plans (including balls, cones, goals).

All plans must be reviewed and approved by the club’s medical staff and local infectious disease expert before submitting to the league.

ICYMI | TFC becomes first Canadian club to hoist MLS Cup:

After losing last year’s MLS Cup final to Seattle 5-4 in penalties, Toronto avenged their defeat with a 2-0 victory over Seattle in the championship rematch 1:56

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