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Why guidelines for what Canadians can and can’t do after getting COVID-19 vaccines are still unclear

Canada has delayed second doses of COVID-19 vaccines by up to four months — the longest interval recommended by a country so far — but has yet to provide any new guidance to Canadians on what they can or can’t do while waiting for the second shot.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) changed its guidelines earlier this month on the recommended time between doses of COVID-19 vaccines from three weeks to four months.

NACI said it based its revised guidelines on emerging real world evidence and the reality of Canada’s limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, although there is no research yet on the long-term effect the delay could have on immunity to the coronavirus disease.

The decision was also informed by findings from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control that determined that one dose of the vaccine was actually more effective than clinical trials had initially shown. 

NACI said if second doses were stretched to four months across the country, close to 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could get at least one shot by the end of June. 

But Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, has said the decision to delay second doses amounted to a “population level experiment.”

The United Kingdom has delayed second doses by up to three months, but no other country is known to have delayed them by up to four months. Spokespeople from Pfizer and Moderna said they recommend sticking with intervals of three and four weeks for their respective vaccines as studied during clinical trials. 

What can Canadians do after being vaccinated?

Many Canadians are wondering what they can do after getting vaccinated and if they can safely see their families, other vaccinated people or generally feel less at risk from COVID-19 after a year under strict public health measures. 

But the recommendations still haven’t been updated weeks after the change was made — meaning Canadians could be tempted to make up their own rules in the interim.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines on March 8 for fully vaccinated individuals, saying they can safely meet indoors without masks or physically distancing with others who had received both shots.

The CDC also said those who have had both shots can visit with unvaccinated people from a single other household who are at “low risk for severe COVID-19,” as well as skipping quarantine and testing if exposed to COVID-19 without showing symptoms. 

But unlike Canada, the U.S. hasn’t delayed second doses by up to four months and answers to those questions have been harder to come by for Canadians weeks after guidelines changed and close to 5 million doses administered.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said during a news conference Tuesday that the issue is being actively discussed with the provinces and territories and that while new guidance is coming, the country is in the “early days” of its vaccine coverage.

“For now, the key message is that everyone needs to keep up with their personal protective measures which are wearing a mask, handwashing, watching your distance and avoiding closed, crowded conditions,” she said. 

“I think as more and more people get vaccinated I would expect the advice to evolve as we go along, but it’s a little bit too early.” 

WATCH | ‘Too early’ to update guidelines for vaccinated Canadians: Tam

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says guidance for Canadians who have been vaccinated will likely evolve as more people get vaccinated, but it’s too early in our roll out to update recommendations yet. 1:35

Tam said the spread of coronavirus variants across Canada amid already high levels of community transmission should factor into “local decisions” on what public health measures need to be put in place or lifted for vaccinated individuals.

She provided no timeframe for when Canadians can expect to see new guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada on what they can and can’t do after being vaccinated. 

Guidelines for Canadians with only one dose even less clear 

And what about guidelines for Canadians who have only had one dose? 

“It’s maybe not clear to the general public, but it should be clear that you’re only fully vaccinated after two doses,” said Prof. Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University and virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology.

“I can completely sympathize that it’s been a long haul for everybody, but it’s really important that we continue with those public health measures until we have a low level of virus transmission within the community.” 

She says until Canada’s hardest-hit regions have significantly lowered their rates of community transmission, Canadians will have to continue practicing physical distancing, proper hand hygiene, avoiding crowds and wearing masks in public.

“You’re still at risk even though you’re fully vaccinated,” says Kelvin, who is also evaluating Canadian vaccines with the VIDO-InterVac lab in Saskatoon.

“Even with two doses, you can still be infected and transmit the virus — you just might not be as ill as somebody who wasn’t vaccinated.”

A team from Humber River Hospital administer first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to parishioners of St. Fidelis Parish church on March 17, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Until Canada has a large proportion of vaccinated people across the country who can help decrease overall COVID-19 levels, Kelvin says it makes sense for hard-hit regions to hold off on relaxing public health measures. 

Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, says communication from public health officials on what people can do after getting a COVID-19 vaccine has been lacking — especially for older Canadians. 

“I’ve had patients who have showed up at the vaccination clinic expecting to get their second shot and have been turned away, so they are devastated emotionally, I’ve had people who have found out immediately beforehand,” he said. 

“I think their questions are very reasonable, which [are]: ‘Do we have evidence to support this? Am I going to be at higher risk? How does this impact my behavior during the third wave now?'”

WATCH | The science behind delaying the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccines

Federal government scientists have put their support behind delayed second doses of COVID-19 vaccines — which several provinces were already doing — and ongoing research shows some of the benefits of the adapted strategy. 2:04

Stall, who is a member of NACI but does not speak on behalf of the committee, said it’s important for public health officials to be transparent about the emerging data on delaying second doses and that the guidelines will likely change.

“I think we need to do a much better job of messaging,” he said. “Because this population [of older seniors] has been living in terrible isolation for a year.” 

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases physician and an associate professor at the University of Alberta, says updated guidelines will likely come in the near future as new data emerges.

She said it was important to note that the recommendations allowed for a maximum interval of up to four months, though the actual interval between doses could be shorter and the guidelines revised if new data showed certain groups were at higher risk. 

“So the main thing is to kind of stay light on your feet and make changes that make sense to try to protect everyone the best we can,” she said. 

Saxinger said the second dose delay made sense given Canada’s limited vaccine supply, because it allowed for an expanded vaccination rollout and offered protection to a greater number of vulnerable Canadians.

“It really will actually save a great many lives,” she said. 

“But if there’s populations where deferring the second dose will actually make them less likely to be immune in the longer term, then obviously that’s a place that has to be readdressed.”

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CBC | Health News

Mike Weir can’t hang on to lead, finishes 2nd at Cologuard Classic

Kevin Sutherland chipped in for the only birdie of the final round on No. 16 and had a tap-in for another on the next hole, shooting a 4-under 69 to overtake Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont. in the Cologuard Classic on Sunday.

Sutherland trailed by two to start the day and was down four after Weir birdied the par-5 eighth in blustery conditions at Tucson National. Sutherland cut Weir’s lead in half with two birdies in his first three holes to start on the back nine and chipped in from short right of the 183-yard, par-3 16th.

Sutherland tapped in on 17 after putting through the fringe on the par 5 and just missed another birdie on the difficult 18th to close out his second victory in his last three PGA Tour Champions starts and fifth overall. He finished at 15 under, two ahead of Weir, three up on Steve Stricker and Scott Parel.

Weir had bogeys on two of his final three holes to shoot an even-par 73. The 2003 Masters champion has twice been runner-up on the PGA Tour Champions since turning 50 last year.

Calgary native Stephen Ames finished in a tie for 52nd place at 4-over par.

Phil Mickelson’s long-shot bid to win his first three PGA Tour Champions starts came to a screeching halt with a triple bogey on the par-4 ninth. He shot 73 to finish 11 shots back.

Weir opened the second round with a birdie as gusting wind bent flagsticks at sharp angles. He followed with five straight pars and walked up to the green at the par-3 seventh as Rush’s “Limelight” blared from one of the backyards lining Tucson National.

WATCH | Sutherland wins Cologuard Classic:

Kevin Sutherland came from behind to defeat Mike Weir by two strokes and finish 15-under on Sunday in Tucson, Arizona. 2:03

The Canadian left-hander responded with a little inspiration of his own, chipping in for birdie from about 90 feet. A curling 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 eighth gave him a four-shot lead over Sutherland.

Sutherland, who won the Charles Schwab Championship in November in Phoenix, opened the back nine with a birdie and had another on the par-5 12th. The 56-year-old from Sacramento, California, stumbled when he couldn’t get up and down from a bunker on the par-3 14th, but closed with a flourish as conditions worsened.

Weir watched a slick 4-foot par putt slide by the hole after a nice bunker shot on No. 16 and missed a birdie putt from the fringe on No. 17 after a bunker shot ran through the back of the green. He three-putted to bogey the par-14 18th.

Mickelson was the last amateur to win on the PGA Tour in Tucson 30 years ago, but couldn’t conjure up the same magic in his return.

Nine shots back entering the final round, he had three birdies and a bogey through the first eight holes before hitting his tee shot into the water on the par-4 ninth. He then hit into the greenside bunker and three-putted for a seven.

Mickelson did avoid the mud on No. 15, at least.

He hit two good tee shots in the opening two rounds and both found the pond on the dogleg of the par 5. Mickelson made a birdie after hitting his second shot out of the mud in the first round and salved par after another mud shot in the second.

He avoided the pond altogether Sunday by hitting into the adjacent 17th fairway and ended up with par after missing a birdie putt of about 15 feet.

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Pope says women can read at mass but still can’t be priests

Pope Francis changed church law Monday to explicitly allow women to do more things during mass while continuing to affirm that they cannot be priests.

Francis amended the law to formalize and institutionalize what is common practice in many parts of the world: Women can be installed as lectors, to read Scripture and serve on the altar as eucharistic ministers. Previously, such roles were officially reserved for men, even though exceptions were made.

Francis said he was making the change to increase recognition of the “precious contribution” women make in the church, while emphasizing that all baptized Catholics have a role to play in the church’s mission.

But he also noted that doing so further makes a distinction between “ordained” ministries, such as the priesthood and diaconate, and ministries open to qualified laity. The Vatican reserves the priesthood for men.

The change comes as Francis remains under pressure to allow women to be deacons — ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests, such as presiding at weddings, baptisms and funerals. Currently, the ministry is reserved for men even though historians say the ministry was performed by women in the early church.

Experts to study whether women could be deacons

Francis has created a second commission of experts to study whether women could be deacons, after a first one failed to reach a consensus.

Advocates for expanding the diaconate to include women say doing so would give women greater say in the ministry and governance of the church, while also helping address priest shortages in several parts of the world.

Opponents say allowing it would become a slippery slope toward ordaining women to the priesthood.

Phyllis Zagano, who was a member of the Pope’s first study commission, called the changes important given they represent the first time the Vatican has explicitly and through canon law allowed women access to the altar. She said it was a necessary first step to let women be lectors and perform other ministries on the altar before any official consideration of the diaconate for women.

“This is the first movement to allow women inside the sanctuary,” said Zagano. “That’s a very big deal.”

Noting that bishops have long called for such a move, she said it opens the door to further progress. “You can’t be ordained as deacons unless you’re installed as lectors or acolytes,” said Zagano, a professor of religion at Hofstra University.

Lucetta Scaraffia, the former editor of the Vatican’s women’s magazine, however, called the new changes a “double trap.” She said they merely formalize what is current practice, including at papal masses, while also making clear that the diaconate is an “ordained” ministry reserved for men.

“This closes the door on the diaconate for women,” she said in a phone interview, calling the change “a step backward” for women.

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Cyberpunk 2077 Benchmarks Show Even the Fastest GPU in the World Can’t Play at 4K

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Polish developer CD Projekt Red has been working on Cyberpunk 2077 in some capacity since 2012, and that’s a long time for hype to build. Anticipation has ratcheted up each time the game was delayed in 2020, but it finally launched this week. It was probably impossible for Cyberpunk to live up to the hype, but the performance issues aren’t helping. Current-gen consoles struggle, and the latest benchmarks show just how much power a PC needs to run the game well.

Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in Night City, a futuristic megacity where corporations rule. You play a V, a mercenary who gets caught up in the machinations of Night City after stealing an experimental biochip with the mind of a long-dead terrorist (played by Keanu Reeves) stored on it. The visual style of the game is bold, flashy, and apparently very difficult to render unless even with the latest GPUs. 

We’re just starting to get detailed PC benchmarks with the launch version of the game. According to Techspot, even the $ 1,500 RTX 3090 barely clears 40 frames per second with all the settings cranked and the resolution set to 4K. At 1440p, you can get up above 60 fps with that premium GPU. If you’ve got something a bit more middling like an RTX 2070 or AMD RX 5700 XT, good luck even breaking 40fps on ultra settings. 

I’ve been playing Cyberpunk 2077 on a PC at 3440×1440 with an RTX 2080 Super, which was a $ 700 GPU in early 2020. The game is very playable on high settings, but ultra sometimes dips below 40fps, which I would not consider an enjoyable experience. Adding ray tracing to the mix makes matters worse — some areas of the game slow to a crawl with 20-30fps with medium RT enabled. Nvidia’s AI-powered DLSS can boost performance somewhat, but any GPU more than a year old is hopelessly outclassed by this game. 

CDPR fans are currently venting their frustration online, but the developer promises updates are on the way. Although, this is a very, very ambitious game. There might not be any magic bullet fixes that will boost performance — time might be the only solution. Cyberpunk 2077 is straddling consoles and GPU generations. The RTX 3000 series and next-gen consoles run the game much better, but you can’t buy any of those unless you’re willing to pay the insane markups from resellers. That’s if you can even find one. Even RTX 2000-series cards are priced over $ 1,000 because of the ongoing shortage. It’s just not a great time to launch this game, but it wouldn’t have been any better back in April.

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Sony Releases List of PS4 Games You Can’t Play on PS5

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For months, there have been questions about what Sony’s backward compatibility looked like, and which titles would and wouldn’t be supported. The company has been cagey on this issue, stating that 99 percent of PS4 games would work, but declining to offer specifics much past that. Sony has now published what it calls “a list” of PS4 games that won’t work on its newest console. They are:

  • DWVR
  • Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume One
  • TT Isle of Man – Ride on the Edge 2
  • Just Deal With It!
  • Shadow Complex Remastered
  • Robinson: The Journey
  • We Sing
  • Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
  • Shadwen
  • Joe’s Diner

Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1, in addition to being one of the worst-named titles of all time, was one of the worst-received games of all time. How bad is it? Well, GameSpot gave Daikatana a 4.6/10, while AS2RKV1 got a 2/10. Draw your own conclusions.

Not all of these games are bad. TT Isle of Man is well-reviewed, and Shadow Complex Remastered, while based on an old game, received strong reviews. So did Hitman: Go. All of them, however, seem like fairly niche titles.

There are a few things of note on Sony’s new backward compatibility page. First, the company does not state that the list of incompatible titles is complete, referring to it as “a list” rather than “the” list. Games might still be added as launch day approaches. Second, Sony is warning gamers to be cautious before assuming perfect backward compatibility. The company states:

Although many PS4 games are playable on PS5 consoles, some functionalities that were available on the PS4 console may not be available on PS5 consoles. In addition, some PS4 games may exhibit errors or unexpected behavior when played on PS5 consoles. Before purchasing add-ons to play with your PS4 games on PS5 consoles, please try to boot and play your PS4 games on your PS5 console to see if you are happy with the play experience.

Sony has not clarified what errors, missing features, or unexpected behaviors might occur, so it’s difficult to know how much emphasis to put on the warning. Until more is known, we suggest taking the company’s recommendation to test the base game experience before committing to any additional content purchases. Games that only run on PS4 will be marked in the PlayStation Store as “Playable On: PS4 Only.”

One tidbit of information we discovered today is that the PlayStation 5 has a Game Boost mode to improve the performance of older titles. The FAQ states that “select” games will run in this mode, which may make frame rates on last-generation titles higher or smoother compared to playing the same game on PlayStation 4.

The More Details, the Better

I’d really like to see Sony speak more transparently on this issue, not because I think Microsoft is automatically offering a better deal, but because it’s impossible to compare them given how little we know about the specifics of Sony’s support.

It’s good to know that the first list of incompatible games is both short and a bit niche-y, but it’d be nice to know if there are more titles to be added or not. COVID-19 has dictated that backward compatibility is a major feature this generation, but we don’t know if Microsoft and Sony will support “boost” modes in the same games, or how the feature upgrades will differ.

We also don’t know how the emphasis on backward compatibility will impact purchasing decisions this year. Microsoft’s Xbox Series S/X is a great deal for anyone already invested in the Xbox ecosystem because you can once again play any game you’ve previously owned. Does it offer much value to a current PlayStation gamer (or vice-versa?) I’m less certain.

I’m sure some PlayStation gamers will buy an Xbox this generation and then pick up a few last-gen games for it (or vice-versa), but the entire point of offering backward-compatibility as a feature is to keep support for games you already own. I doubt many gamers are going to pick up an Xbox Series or a PlayStation 5 primarily to play older titles in the long term, and that may limit the ability of this feature to attract new buyers. Back-compat is more for the customers you’ve previously had, though obviously there’s a certain promise being dangled in front of new owners as well.

With the launch just weeks away, we’ve gotten most of the information we’re going to get from both Sony and Microsoft, but there are a few things I’d still like to know: How many games are going to get the Game Boost treatment, and are there any more titles expected to drop on the initial no-play list?

For now — assuming that these 10 titles are all that’s coming — Sony is in a pretty good place as far as backward compatibility for the PS4 generation is concerned. It’s disappointing that older consoles aren’t included, but that difference is a known point between fans of both platforms these days.

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Donald Trump can’t delay the election or stop it, but he can avoid it

An unsung benefit of the Donald Trump presidency is how it demands a deeper understanding of American civics and law.

His behaviour has added intrigue to previously ho-hum questions about the U.S. Constitution.

Can a sitting president be indicted?

Can he commit crimes and then pardon himself?

And the latest, prompted by a presidential tweet Thursday: Can the president delay the November election?

Trump tweeted that voting by mail — something many think might be wise during a pandemic — would lead to “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”

“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” he finished.

Then he pinned the tweet so that it remained at the top of his account and wouldn’t get lost in the fire hose stream of his other tweets, a clear sign he wants to get people worked up about it.

Later in the day, during a briefing with reporters, he repeated his unsubstantiated claim that the vote in November “will be the most rigged election in history,” and that mail-in voting is an invitation to fraud.

“Everyone knows it. Smart people know it. Stupid people may not know it,” he said.

In truth, mail-in voting is available in many states, has been the standard way of voting in Oregon for more than 20 years, and all without the massive fraud Trump alleges.

Mike Babinski opens applications for voter ballots at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland on July 14. More states are embracing mail-in balloting as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in the U.S. (Tony Dejak/The Associated Press)

The election is not going to be delayed. The question of whether it even could be delayed is settled. It was put to constitutional scholars months ago when COVID-19 deaths started rising and support for the president started falling.

The answer was a heavily qualified, technical “yes but no, not really.” The president can’t reschedule the election. Congress could but only under extraordinary circumstances and for a very brief delay.

The U.S. didn’t cancel elections during the Civil War, the pandemic of 1918, or the two world wars. So, as extraordinary and tragic as this moment seems, it has equally serious precedents.

And, besides, Democrats are calling the shots in the House, and the states administer elections. At least one Republican governor was quick to push back against the president.

“Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd. End of story,” tweeted New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.

Trump knows all this, so what is he up to?

If his tweet isn’t really serious about an election delay, then the important part is his claim that the election will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent in U.S. history. That’s a tell — it suggests he thinks he’s going to lose.

He did the same thing before the 2016 election when polls were suggesting Hillary Clinton would be the next president.

WATCH | Sound familiar? Trump also suggested the 2016 election would be rigged: 

Donald Trump will determine if election was rigged after voting ends 1:41

The evidence shows that when there is a threat to election integrity and it might benefit Trump, he keeps quiet about it. So does his family.

As Robert Mueller’s special counsel report laid out, Trump, his son Donald Jr., his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner all knew the Russian government was offering to help Trump during the 2016 election. The proof is in their own private emails that are now public. The Trumps didn’t report the threat to the FBI, or tweet about it, they sat on it or lied about it.

More recently, Trump was impeached in 2019 for misusing the power of his office to try to pressure the president of Ukraine into making damaging statements about Trump’s presumed election opponent, former vice-president Joe Biden. He was acquitted by the Republican majority in the Senate.

So Trump is clearly not offended by election shenanigans in principle.

A much different take

The conventional wisdom among many Washington pundits is that Trump is conjuring election fraud in order to seed the ground now for discrediting the result in November. He can then claim the presidency was stolen from him. To what end is uncertain: To challenge the result if it’s close, or to save face if it isn’t?

One famous pundit, the colourful Louisiana Democrat James Carville, has a startlingly different take.

“There’s a significant chance that Trump doesn’t run,” Carville said on MSNBC earlier this month, citing what he saw as an impossible path to Trump’s re-election. “I think there is a better chance Donald Trump does not run for re-election than he is re-elected.”

Sometime FOX Business commentator Charles Gasparino tweeted in late June that his Republican sources were “for the first time raising the possibility that @realDonaldTrump could drop out of the race.”

The explanation offered is not simply that Trump hates losing, it’s that he has a deep fear of humiliation. Casparino said some Republicans noted Trump’s fragile “psyche.”

Humiliation and diminishment seem to have scarred Trump at an early age.

In her new book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, the president’s niece, Mary Trump, recounts a scene from Donald’s youth. He’d been teasing his older brother Fred, when suddenly Fred turned and dumped a bowl of mashed potatoes on the head of seven-year-old Donald and everyone laughed at him.

This composite photo shows the cover art for Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, left, and a portrait of author Mary L. Trump. The book, written by the niece of President Donald Trump, is a bestseller. (Simon & Schuster, left, and Peter Serling/Simon & Schuster via AP)

Many decades later, at a big family dinner in the White House, Mary describes an aunt recalling the mashed potatoes story in front of the president:

“We’ve come a long way since that night when Freddy dumped a bowl of mashed potatoes on Donald’s head for being such a brat,” [said aunt Maryanne]. Everybody familiar with the legendary mashed potato story laughed — everyone except Donald, who listened with his arms tightly crossed and a scowl on his face, as he did whenever Maryanne mentioned it. It upset him as if he were that seven-year-old boy.”

Mary Trump considered the mashed potato story so revealing that she included it in the prologue of her book and then expanded on it in a later chapter as though it were an emblem of the president’s life — like the sled in the movie Citizen Kane.

The idea that Trump would be so driven to avoid humiliation that he’d conjure the inevitability of election fraud as an excuse to quit the presidency and avoid defeat sounds too far-fetched to take seriously. But not long ago, the whole idea of his presidency sounded that way.

And if that is what he’s preparing to do, this is exactly how it would look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wearing masks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Stress, anxiety a heavy burden for people who can’t work from home or properly isolate

Almost two months into social distancing and working from home, the verdict seems to be in — for most of us, the measures have worked and the surge medical workers feared would overwhelm our hospitals hasn’t materialized. So why are we still seeing a steady stream of new COVID-19 cases?

“I think we did a really good job with social distancing and getting the message out and getting people washing their hands,” says the University Health Network’s deputy medical director of regional emergency departments, Dr. Erin O’Connor. 

“But I keep saying the surge hasn’t happened yet, we are not out of the woods.”

Some pockets of Canadian society have been harder hit than most, and many of the positive COVID-19 cases hospitals are seeing are the people who have not been able to work from home or isolate — such as transit drivers, grocery workers, taxi drivers and the homeless population.

In Toronto, for example, public health says about 40 per cent of new cases are connected to infections in the community or the workplace, which are then spread back to households.

Dr. Erin O’Connor, deputy medical director of regional emergency departments for University Health Network, says ‘We need to be aware that there are still new cases happening, people are still getting sick from this virus.’ (University Health Network)

O’Connor says the demographics of the patients now bearing the brunt of COVID-19 aren’t surprising, despite the precautions being taken by many employers to keep front-line workers safe.

“I think the thing is, it’s really tough when you are going to work every day to spend eight and 12 hours making sure that you are being meticulous with hand-washing and not touching your face. It’s actually hard,” she says.

Sarif Ali knows exactly what that’s like. A bus driver with Toronto’s transit system for 10 years, he is currently off recovering from COVID-19 after two stays in hospital. 

“It was very mild for the first few days,” Ali says. “And there were a few days where I pretty much couldn’t move at all. I felt like my body gave up on me. I didn’t know what was happening.”

Toronto bus driver Sarif Ali contracted COVID-19 while on the job, and spent more than a month in hospital. ‘I think it will always be in the back of my mind, this experience, and I have been shaken a lot.’ (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The Toronto Transit Commission has reported nearly 40 positive cases among its front-line workers.

Since Ali tested positive on March 25, the TTC has installed additional safety equipment on its vehicles, including barriers around drivers, and taken precautions such as asking customers to board buses and streetcars from rear doors to minimize contact with drivers, roping off seats on vehicles, and adding more routes to keep crowding down.

Although Ali can’t be sure he caught the virus at work, when he thinks of returning after his time off sick, it weighs on him despite the TTC’s safety measures.

“I think it will always be in the back of my mind, this experience, and I have been shaken a lot,” he says.

Toronto bus driver Sarif Ali was hospitalized twice with COVID-19. ‘I felt like my body gave up on me. I didn’t know what was happening.’ (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Another hard-hit sector is grocery workers, designated as essential businesses from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. While the numbers of those infected have not been centrally tracked, most stores have self-reported positive cases and the figures posted on their websites total in the hundreds.

Longo’s, which operates 37 stores in Ontario, has reported cases of infected staff to its customers since the beginning of the outbreak, even though the transparency has cost the company business.

“It’s the right thing to do — it’s not about business, it’s about people’s lives,” says CEO Anthony Longo.

Longo’s disclosed that 19 employees had tested positive for the virus in its stores as of early May, with the hardest-hit location being in Woodbridge, Ont., with 11 cases. That location closed for a deep clean for two weeks and recently reopened to much more stringent protocols.

“We’re actually asking you questions related to travel before you enter our stores, and then we’re taking your temperature, too, in our hot-zone stores,” he says.

Longo’s grocery chain CEO Anthony Longo says making the number of staff infections at his company public is ‘the right thing to do – it’s not about business, it’s about people’s lives.’ (Longo’s)

In addition, Longo’s made masks mandatory for customers at all its stores last week, and has committed to pay employees when they stay home sick to ensure they self-isolate for the required time period.

Loblaw has reported that 134 of its staff have been infected across the country as of early May, and Sobeys and Metro are also self-reporting significant numbers among their staff.

Helen Stathopoulos works at two different grocery stores operated by the same chain, and says she feels the stress of being on the front lines when she goes to work every day. She adds that the reality of her situation hits her when she gets home at night.

“It’s draining, I have to say it, it takes your energy right out of you,” she says. “You put all the strength that you have to make it through the day, to be able to do your job, to execute your daily functions. And by the time you get home, you’ve just got nothing in the tank. It really takes all your energy right out of you.”

Helen Stathopoulos, a manager at a chain of Toronto grocery stores, wants the province to do more to help non-medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

While COVID-19 has saddled her with a lot of extra job stress, Stathopoulos is still much luckier than some. She has remained healthy throughout the pandemic outbreak, and she has a home to return to after her gruelling shifts. 

For thousands of Canadians who make up the homeless population, there’s no safe refuge at the end of the day.

The federal government earmarked $ 157 million for Canada’s homeless population several weeks ago to help specifically with COVID-19, opening up more shelter beds, recovery centres for those infected, and even freeing up hotel rooms for added shelter, but advocates argue much more is needed.

Ve’ahavta is an outreach group that delivers food and supplies to Toronto’s homeless population. Since COVID-19 appeared, the number of people they serve on the streets has nearly tripled, because many don’t want to go to shelters.

“It’s really difficult to stay safe from a virus that’s spread through public places, if you have no choice but to exist in the public space at all times,” says outreach worker Kelly Bouchard. “So that’s a huge part of it for people, especially out on the street. And then in shelters, they’re packed together, so to try to maintain social distancing is a super challenge.”

Bouchard and his colleagues say they’ve noticed many more people sleeping on the streets, fearing that staying in shelters could pose a greater threat of catching COVID-19 because of the close quarters.

Outreach worker Kelly Bouchard says more of Toronto’s homeless are sleeping on the streets out of fear of contracting COVID-19 in the city’s shelter system. (Jean-Francois Bisson/CBC)

Cities can only track infection numbers among homeless people who use shelters, and in Toronto alone, there have been 237 COVID-19 cases  as of early May in city-run shelters. Although there’s no exact count of how many homeless people are infected, those working in the community say they know their clients are at heightened risk of infection simply because they have no supplies to sanitize with and no means of properly social distancing. With places like public libraries and community drop-ins closed, Bouchard says it’s a challenge to find a place to just wash their hands. 

This week, provinces are moving towards the first phases of reopening after initial hints that the curve is flattening, but experts agree that vigilance is still required.

“We need to be aware that there are still new cases happening, people are still getting sick from this virus. What we’re doing is working, but it’s not time to end [our precautions],” says O’Connor.

That’s especially true as more businesses reopen and their staff become a new group of front-line workers. 

Meanwhile, for those like Sarif Ali who have already experienced the infection, day-to-day life has become much harder. He has recovered from COVID-19 after battling its symptoms twice. He’s preparing to go back to work now, but says the impact of his ordeal will be lasting.

“I think the trauma is more because it’s the unknown, you don’t know what’s going to happen to you and it’s a concern you go through every day,” he says.

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Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher Can’t Stop Laughing During Hilarious Voice Swap Game With Jimmy Fallon

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‘I can’t get up without losing my breath’: Ex-Habs tough guy Laraque on COVID-19

A couple of weeks ago, former Montreal Canadiens tough guy Georges Laraque was running five or six days a week as he trained for a marathon.

Now, the former NHL enforcer’s biggest challenge is trying to breathe clearly as he fights COVID-19 from a hospital on Montreal’s South Shore.

“Now I can’t even get up without losing my breath. It’s insane,” he said.

In a series of videos from his hospital bed, the 43-year-old, said he began feeling symptoms last Sunday, at a time he was helping to deliver groceries to vulnerable people in his community.

Over the next days, his condition deteriorated.

“I have pneumonia in both my lungs, they’re affected by the COVID because I have asthma, I have to have oxygen blowing through my nose,” said Laraque, who wore a hospital gown and could be seen coughing at times during the videos.

Questions Quebec government plan to reopen schools

“The nights are the worst,” he said a moment later. “At night, I have fevers a couple times a night. I have to get up and take pills.”

Laraque thanked the staff at Charles-Le Moyne hospital who have been taking care of him, and told people not to feel sorry for him because “I’m not the only one fighting this.”

The former hockey player questioned the Quebec government’s plan to gradually reopen elementary schools and daycares beginning on May 11, given the limited amount of testing taking place.

“If you can’t test all the kids in school, it’s not going to be a safe environment for the parents and the teachers that are already way underpaid, so for two months of school is it worth it?” he said.

Laraque played parts of 12 seasons in the NHL from 1997 to 2010, including eight with Edmonton. He capped his career with two seasons in Montreal.

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