Tag Archives: Choice

Trump facing critical choice on coronavirus measures

As Americans hunker down for another weekend, President Donald Trump faces a critical choice. The U.S. has topped 120,000 coronavirus cases, the most in the world and by late Monday, the White House campaign of “15 days to stop the spread” will end, leaving an unpredictable president with a critical decision to extend, tighten or loosen the mitigation measures.

“Our country has to go back [to work],” he said Thursday. “Our country is based on that. And I think it’s going to happen pretty quickly. A lot of progress has been made, but we’ve got to go back to work.”

His options are complicated. State governments have locked down 169 million Americans in varying stay-at-home orders. Every day, Vice-President Mike Pence has brandished the one-page guidelines for the 15 days, urging compliance with hand washing and physical distancing.

A new mail out to millions of Americans titled “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America,” arrived in mailboxes just before the weekend.

Trump hopes for economic resurrection 

Yet President Trump has, for a week now, been peddling the idea of allowing more freedoms, hoping for an economic resurrection, with the country “raring to go by Easter.” That statement set off red alarms among health care experts who strongly urge strict adherence for a longer period.

This weekend the White House’s coronavirus task force will present the president with “a range of recommendations and guidance for going forward,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the team leaders.

One strategy is to identify if areas in the U.S. that have fewer cases could open up first — the theory being that America could be divided into low, medium and high-risk areas.

A woman exits a new coronavirus testing site while others wait in line at Elmhurst Hospital Centre, in the Queens borough of New York on March 27. New York state as a whole is the current epicentre of the outbreak in the U.S. (John Mincillo/The Associated Press)

“We may take large sections of our country that aren’t so seriously affected and we may do it that way, but we’ve got to start the process pretty soon,” President Trump repeated at a briefing Thursday.

States with fewer confirmed cases, like North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico and pockets in the northeast could be targeted as lower risk, while places like New York, with nearly half the reported cases, and other hot spots in urban areas, would be higher risk.

On Saturday, Trump said he was considering putting sections of New York and New Jersey into quarantine. It was not clear how he would be able to block road, air and sea travel out of a region that serves as the economic engine of the eastern United States, accounting for 12 per cent of GDP. 

By Saturday night he’d retreated from that plan, saying the CDC would instead urge a strong travel advisory to hard-hit  areas, and that “a quarantine will not be necessary.”

“I think we can start by opening up certain parts of the country, you know, the farm belt, certain parts of the Midwest, other places,” Trump said.

But the job of defending that decision, were it to happen, falls to his coronavirus response team working round the clock to get more data.

“What we’re trying to do is to utilize a laser-focused approach rather than a generic horizontal approach. And I think in the 21st century we should be able to get to that,” said Birx, who co-ordinates the White House’s coronavirus response team.

“The president’s made it clear that, in his words, he wants to open up the country. But we’re going to do that responsibly,” she added.

Muddling the public health message

After declaring himself a “wartime president,” the president appeared impatient this week with the economic casualties, including 3.2 million unemployed, cratering growth and a kick to a stock market that was soaring just a month ago.

Friday, he seemed to lean toward public health advice, telling a briefing, “life and safety and then the economy.”

But health professionals and state officials are deeply worried he will muddle the public health messaging.

“I am quite concerned that we’re considering these measures, especially when the science doesn’t support it,” says Nadia Abuelezam, an Infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at Boston College’s Cornell School of Nursing.

Even if we do see a reduction in the number of cases, that doesn’t mean that it can’t resurge there, or it can’t be reintroduced to that particular area.”

It’s not at all clear how some states with fewer cases could open up, while neighbouring states with a higher incidence remain locked down. Confusion over what’s allowed where could prompt people to pay less heed to the restrictions, health experts fear.

Viruses do not respect borders. Viruses do not discriminate. Viruses just want to find another body where they can replicate. And I think that’s something to really keep in mind,” says Abuelezam.

Infectious disease experts want more time to measure if the mitigation efforts across the country are working. They also want to better understand how many Americans have or had the virus, with few or no symptoms. That data would help more accurately define how much coronavirus is circulating in the community, but capturing that picture is still extremely complicated and will take time.

“I understand the concept — we’re hearing of ‘pockets’ [of coronavirus]. But the problem with those pockets is we don’t know if those are places where the disease just hasn’t spread, or testing hasn’t started,” said Dr. William Jaquis, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in an interview with CBC News.

“Look, we all had low cases at one time, right? And then Seattle started, then New York started, New Orleans, now Detroit, and California is ramping up.”

The USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship is seen docked at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, Calif., on March 18. To help combat an expected shortage of hospital beds as the virus spreads, the U.S. Naval hospital ship with 1,000 beds departed San Diego on Monday, March 23, bound for Los Angeles. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

Modelling the new virus and predicting its effect on large populations is challenging, and changing, but data from more tests will ultimately produce a clearer picture.

“It’s really important to remember that the modelling results, the mathematical modelling results that are coming out about the United States, are all indicating that if we let up on the [physical] distancing now, we will see a large spike in the number of new cases,” says Abuelezam.

The coronavirus team at the White House is collecting as much data as fast as it can to provide concrete evidence to persuade an unpredictable president, who has a habit of freelancing from the podium.

Birx’s role at the daily briefings is to balance the bad news piling up as the cases mount and the slope of the virus goes straight up, with no levelling off.

You know, it’s one thing to have it. It’s another thing to die– Donald Trump, U.S. president

“Nineteen out of 50 states that had early cases have persistently low level of cases, at this point less than 200 cases [on Thursday]. So that’s almost 40 per cent of the country with extraordinarily low numbers, and they are testing,” said Birx.

“Models are models. We are adapting; there is enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground to really make these predictions much more sound,” she said.

President Trump has seemed persuaded the number of deaths does not justify shutting down the whole of the country for longer than a few weeks.

“In my opinion, the mortality rate, it’s way, way down, and that takes a lot of fear out. You know, it’s one thing to have it. It’s another thing to die,” he said.

“When I first got involved, I was being told numbers that were much, much higher than the number seems to be. That’s one of the reasons I say, look, we’re going to beat this and we’re going to get back to work.”

Nearly empty on- and off-ramps as viewed from the roof of the Space Needle in downtown Seattle. Most people in the usually bustling city were off the streets during a state-wide stay-at-home mandate amidst one of the worst outbreaks of the new coronavirus in the U.S. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Practically, Trump does not have the powers to regulate whether businesses open or close; the U.S. states can independently decide which restrictions will apply under broader federal guidelines.

On Friday, one of those lower-risk states, Wyoming, extended its closures of schools and some businesses to April 17.  “It’s clear how important it is for us to take sustained action,” said Governor Mark Gordon.

With the U.S. now eclipsing cases in all other countries, the experience on the ground changes by the hour and the health-care response in some hard-hit areas is severely strained.

Nurses and doctors say they can’t get enough personal protective equipment; ventilators now being raced into production may not come soon enough. States are competing with each other to procure supplies.

The number of cases is one marker, but the rate of growth or the ‘cadence’ is even more telling, said Jaquis. In New York, cases doubled in three days.

Doctors say they need more time to allow them to respond to what’s about to hit, without worrying about the second rotation of spread.

“We’re not quite ready to take care of what’s coming. And we need to make sure that all of our patients and our communities and our health-care workers are protected. So right now, we need people to continue to stay home and we need to flatten that curve; they just need to continue with this for longer,” Jaquis said.

President Trump, calling himself a “wartime president,” travelled Saturday to Norfolk, Virginia, “to  kiss goodbye” to the USNS Comfort, a naval hospital ship, headed for New York harbour to deal with the pandemic.

“It sends a great signal,” Trump said, “when the president is able to go there and say thank you.”

Perhaps a confusing signal for the millions of Americans under orders to stay at home.

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2020 Critics’ Choice Awards: The Complete Winners List

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Deeply divided Britain faces historic choice on election day

Britain’s exhausted party leaders have spent the past five weeks competing with Christmas markets and holiday shopping trips as they spread their wildly divergent messages across the dark, wet U.K. countryside.

But for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, the end of this pivotal election campaign may be coming one week too soon.

Corbyn, 70, whose opponents claim wants to give Britain something akin to a Marxist makeover, has been slowly closing the gap with Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, according to most pollsters.

Whereas Johnson’s oft-repeated “Get Brexit done” slogan has found a receptive audience with many who voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, Corbyn has continued to promote plans to reinvest in health care and other non-Brexit themes.

“I have come here with a message of hope … for what our party represents,” he told a pre-dawn crowd in Glasgow on the eve of Thursday’s vote.

Lead shrinking

Polls have differed somewhat on the size of the Conservative lead, but all have shown a tightening between the two parties as voting day approached. 

Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery urged his campaign teams not to let up until the polls close at 10 p.m. GMT.

“We are only inches away from the winning line,” he told volunteers.

Corbyn’s party seems to have narrowed the gap with Johnson’s Conservatives. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

With the Conservatives being the only party in Parliament that favours the current Brexit deal, Johnson needs a majority of the 650 seats to ensure the legislation is passed. A minority, or hung Parliament as it’s called in the U.K., would put the deal to leave the EU in jeopardy.

Stark choices

The choice between the two leaders — and their visions for the U.K. — couldn’t be more stark.

The path of Johnson and the Conservatives involves a huge leap away from the European Union and an uncertain future negotiating trade deals and forging new business relationships with the rest of the world.

The advocacy group Shout Out UK holds a mock election at a community college near London earlier this month. (Fred Gagnon/CBC)


Corbyn is offering — whether the U.K. stays in the EU or not — a more socialized country, with redistributed wealth, more nationalized services, such as railways, and likely higher taxes.

He has promised to negotiate a new deal with the EU and put it to a final, in-or-out vote in another referendum to settle the Brexit question once and for all — though Corbyn has said he would officially stay neutral.

‘Oven ready’

The election is clearly Johnson’s to lose and his tightly scripted, take-no-chances final day reflected that.

Stopping at a bakery in Derby, north of Birmingham, and wearing an apron, Johnson put the last bit of pastry on top of what he called “an oven-ready Brexit pie.”

“This is the perfect metaphor for what we’re going to do in the run-up to Christmas if we can get a working majority,” he told the media, suggesting the Brexit deal with Europe is set to go as soon as the election is over.

Conservative Leader Boris Johnson prepares a pie during the final day of campaigning before the general election. (Ben Stansall/Pool via Reuters)

But Johnson’s constant downplaying of the potential difficulties of navigating a post-Brexit landscape has some observers suggesting the election has been notable more for its lack of truthfulness than anything else. 

“The quality of the discourse around this election has been absolutely appalling,” said Matteo Bergamini, who heads up Shout Out UK, an advocacy group that goes into high schools and colleges pushing for political literacy and against misinformation.

Political misinformation

Bergamini said one of the worst examples was when the Conservative campaign headquarters changed the name of its Twitter account to Factcheck UK, making it difficult for social media users to tell the difference between a partisan account and a supposedly independent one.

“The parties are trying to manipulate voters, as opposed to what democracy should be about, which is, ‘This is what we stand for’ and ‘This is what we’re about,'” he said.

Another key feature of the campaign has been the strong focus on the party leaders and their personal characteristics, with very little mention of the potential teams of MPs behind them.

“For a British election, it’s been an extremely presidential style of campaigning, on both sides,” BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg told Radio 4 on Thursday.

“They are very fixed on the two central characters of Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson.”

Many voters have serious doubts about both men, she said, with the choice coming down to which one is “best of a bad bunch.”

Internal divisions

During Corbyn’s turbulent time as party leader, he’s faced searing internal criticism from party moderates — including former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who encouraged people not to vote for Corbyn.

Johnson, meanwhile, has been called a serial liar and a racist — including by many Conservatives.   

A pre-election Brexit showdown saw Johnson kick 21 MPs out of caucus for defying him by supporting an opposition motion that sought to deny Johnson the option of leaving the EU without a formal divorce agreement.

Among those dumped was 71-year-old Conservative icon Nicholas Soames, a grandson of former prime minister Winston Churchill, who served in Parliament for more than 36 years and is now retired.

WATCH| Retired MP Nicholas Soames describes why he defied Johnson over Brexit.

Retired veteran Tory MP Nicholas Soames, grandson of former British prime minister Winston Churchill, defends voting against Boris Johnson along with 20 other rebel Tories to block a no-deal Brexit, which got them kicked out of the party. 4:50

“Nothing is going to allow the country to put Brexit behind it,” he told CBC News in an interview. 

“The process of Brexit is going to last for many, many years,” he said, echoing opponents who argue the Conservatives aren’t telling the truth about Johnson’s “oven-ready” Brexit deal.

In spite of that, Soames says he believes Johnson, the man who ended his long political career, is still the best choice for the country — because the other option is too terrible to contemplate.

“The prospect of a Labour government led by a Marxist who wants to overthrow the established order in this country is more serious even than the effect of Brexit.”

The Liberal Democrats and their 39-year-old leader Jo Swinson had hoped to turn the negatives of both Johnson and Corbyn to their advantage, but the party’s campaign has struggled to gain traction. Pollsters show the party running a distant third.

Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, visits a volunteer hub in London on Wednesday. (Aaron Chown/Pool via Reuters)

On the eve of the vote, at a Christmas market in Romford, in north London, many voters reflected the split in the deeply polarized country.

“If Corbyn gets in, I’m outta here, because the country will be ruined,” said Tony Geery of Kent, who was there selling clothes.

But Dianne Masse, who was sitting just a few booths away, shared the opposite view:

“It’s all false promises with them [the Conservatives],” she said. “This country will never be great again, like it used to be.”

Dianne Masse, a vendor at the market in Romford, says Britain will ‘never be great again, like it used to be,’ because of Brexit. (Fred Gagnon/CBC)

A big wild card for all of the parties on Thursday is the weather, which could affect voter turnout.   

Britain’s first December election in 80 years is expected to be wet and chilly almost everywhere, with freezing temperatures forecast for most of Scotland.

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President’s Choice brand coleslaw recalled due to possible salmonella

President’s Choice brand coleslaw has been recalled due to possible salmonella contamination, Loblaws says.

The recalled product was distributed in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and possibly nationally and in Saskatchewan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a release Wednesday.

The recall applies to President’s Choice Coleslaw 397 g 0 60383 22267 3 with best before dates 2019 DE 04 – B318005 and 2019 DE 04 – B318006. 

The recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. Agency staff is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. 

No reported illnesses have been associated with the consumption of the recalled product.

The agency advised consumers: 

  • If you think you became sick from consuming a recalled product, call your doctor.
  • Check to see if you have the recalled product in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.
  • Food contaminated with Salmonella may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may contract serious and sometimes deadly infections. Healthy people may experience short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Long-term complications may include severe arthritis.

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Hannah Brown Wins Big at 2019 People’s Choice Awards as Exes Colton Underwood & Tyler Cameron Cheer Her On

Hannah Brown Wins Big at 2019 People’s Choice Awards as Exes Colton Underwood & Tyler Cameron Cheer Her On | Entertainment Tonight

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Pink Makes 2019 People’s Choice Awards a Family Affair As She Accepts Champion Award: Pics!

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‘We have no other choice’: Tens of thousands in Hong Kong join anti-government rally

Tens of thousands of protesters poured into one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts on Sunday, braving a downpour to join an anti-government rally in the 11th week of what have been often violent demonstrations in the Asian financial hub.

Sunday’s heavy turnout suggested that the movement still has broad-based support despite the ugly scenes witnessed during the past week when protesters occupied the city’s airport, for which some activists apologized.

“It’s bloody hot and it’s raining. It’s a torture just to turn up, frankly. But we have to be here because we have no other choice,” said a 24-year-old student named Jonathan who was at the rally in Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong island.

“We have to continue until the government finally shows us the respect that we deserve,” he said.

Demonstrators gathered in Victoria Park at the start of the rally, but the park could not accommodate the crowd and many headed west towards the city’s financial centre. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Anger over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China erupted in June, but the rising unrest has been fuelled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place after Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Gathered in Victoria Park at the start of the rally, protesters held aloft placards with slogans including “Free Hong Kong!” and “Democracy now!,” and umbrellas to shield them from the rain. The crowd was peaceful and included the elderly, the middle aged, young people and families, with some parents carrying toddlers.

Despite rally organizers not having permission to march, the park could not accommodate the crowd and many headed west towards the city’s financial centre, chanting for the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, to step down.

The crowd at the Central subway station, one of the city’s busiest, was at a near-standstill on Sunday afternoon as a sea of people dressed in black T-shirts waited to board trains. The group erupted in cheers and chanted “Revolution of our time!” in Cantonese when an empty train finally arrived.

Protesters march alongside a banner depicting a woman with an injured right eye, a reference to a female medic who was hospitalized after being hit by a pellet round in the eye. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Aside from Lam’s resignation, demonstrators are seeking complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, a halt to descriptions of the protests as “rioting,” a waiver of charges against those arrested, an independent inquiry and resumption of political reform.

“When we were young, we didn’t think about it. But my son tells me: After 2047, what will happen to me?” said a history teacher named Mrs. Poon, referring to the year when the 50-year agreement enshrining Hong Kong’s separate system will lapse.

“I will come again and again and again. We do not know how any of this is going to end. We will still fight,” she said.

Protesters ‘here for the future’

Police have come under criticism for using increasingly aggressive tactics to break up demonstrations, and on Sunday some people handed out balloons resembling eyeballs, a reference to the injury suffered by a female medic who was hospitalized after being hit by a pellet round in the eye.

On Saturday, however, a demonstration in support of the government attracted what organizers said was 476,000 people, although police put the number of attendees at 108,000.

Watch footage from Saturday’s demonstration:

Hong Kong saw several pro-democracy protests Saturday, including one led by teachers supporting student activists 1:11

The anti-government protests present one of the biggest challenges facing Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. And with the ruling Communist Party preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct 1, the crisis in Hong Kong has come at a sensitive time.

Beijing has struck an increasingly strident tone over the protests, accusing foreign countries including the United States of fomenting unrest.

Scenes of Chinese paramilitary troops training at a stadium in the city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, gave a clear warning that mainland intervention by force is possible.

The Chinese city of Shenzhen is located across the border from Hong Kong. Paramilitary police were assembling in Shenzhen for exercises in what some saw as a threat to the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. (CBC News)

Last week, protesters who occupied the terminal at Hong Kong’s airport forced the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights and detained two men they thought were pro-government sympathizers, prompting Beijing to liken the behaviour to terrorism.

“We are Hong Kongers. We are here for our future. We feel for the teenagers,” said Frances Chan, 60, a retired journalist attending Sunday’s rally.

She said only a few protesters had used violence, sparingly, and that it was brought on by pressure from authorities and police.

“Actually, we want peace and freedom,” she said. “If the government would just listen to the five requests, things would calm down.”

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2019 Teen Choice Awards: All the Standout Moments From Hosts Lucy Hale & David Dobrik to the Jonas Brothers

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Taylor Swift Shines on the 2019 Teen Choice Awards Red Carpet — She Her Vibrant Versace Look!

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Rural communities facing ‘stark choice’ over care home cuts

Municipalities in eastern Ontario are facing the choice of either funding long-term care homes themselves or reducing services to make up for cuts from the provincial government.

Effective this year, the Progressive Conservatives have eliminated a pair of funds — the high wage transition fund and the structural compliance premium — that had existed for more than two decades and had come to be considered part of the core funding for the homes.

Renfrew County is responsible for two long-term care residences with a total of 340 beds — Bonnechere Manor in Renfrew, Ont., and Miramichi Lodge in Pembroke, Ont..

Michael Donohue, mayor of Admaston-Bromley, Ont., is chair of the county’s health services committee. He said the disappearance of those funds created a $ 175,000 gap in the 2019 budget, and will leave an even bigger $ 366,000 hole for 2020.

“We’re not going to find administrative efficiencies that are going to be able to satisfy this $ 175,000 shortfall in 2019 because these were funds directly used for front-line care, for nursing services for residents of long-term care,” Donohue said.

He said the county’s options are limited this year as its budget was set before the provincial budget came down. County council will have to decide whether property taxes are used to replace the provincial funding, or if services should be reduced at the residences.

Staff are looking at whether those cuts could be made with minimal impact on residents. Renfrew County and nearby Lanark County are both writing the province about the situation.

“We have very stark choices in front of us at our county,” Donohue said.

Lanark Lodge is a 163-bed long-term care residence in Perth, Ont. (Google Streetview)

‘Pass the burden’

At the Lanark Lodge in Perth, Ont., they’ve decided not to hire a replacement for a retired nurse manager and are avoiding overtime bookings.

“We can’t maintain the staffing levels we need unless we continue to pass that burden on to the local taxpayers,” said interim director Jennie Bingley.

The lodge has 163 residents and 225 staff providing 24-hour care, she said.

Bingley said that even though the PCs have announced additional beds in parts of the province and increased “per diem” funding for care homes, that hasn’t offset the loss of those supplemental funds.

“It seems that money has been channeled more toward redevelopment or increasing beds, but at the cost of what we’re currently already trying to look after,” she said.

“You have to make sure the staff is safe and the residents are safe, but at the end of the day we have to operate in the money that we have.”

Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton says the Ontario government has increased funding to long-term care homes by $ 72 million overall. (Canadian Press)

New minister ‘willing to listen’

Recently-appointed Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton said the government has increased funding to long-term care by $ 72 million, with the goal of increasing capacity and reducing red tape.

“There’s a better funding model now,” Fullerton said. 

“This has been standardized to allow funding across the long-term care sector. We’re trying to reduce the regulatory burden on long-term care homes so it’s easier for them to have flexible funding so they can allocate the funding they need for their special circumstances.”

Fullerton said she’s still getting up to speed with the files in her new portfolio, which was previously combined with the health, and how the funding envelopes are distributed.

“I’m willing to listen and hear from our partners. We want to work with our partners and collaborate with our long-term care homes, make sure that we have the capacity that meets the needs of our patients and families,” she said.

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