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Samsung’s Fab Woes Are Now Expected to Cause an SSD Shortage

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When Samsung announced it would be shutting down its Austin production facility during last months’ winter storm, the company expected to have the fab up and running in a few weeks. Last week, we reported that the restart was taking longer than expected. Now there are reports that the facility might not be back online until April. That means it probably won’t ship hardware until May.

Samsung’s S2 line is responsible for manufacturing some 75 percent of its SSD controllers. If the company resumes manufacturing in early April, it might have controllers ready to ship by May. That assumes the report from DigiTimes (via THG) is accurate, but we’ll find out soon enough if it is. A 75 percent reduction in available SSD controllers is a material risk to Samsung’s storage business, short term.

We don’t know how many SSD controllers Samsung had on hand when the shutdown hit, but 75 percent is a big number and it looks as though the fab will be offline for at least three more weeks. Samsung’s S2 line produces about 5 percent of semiconductor silicon per month. The initial 1-2 percent projected impact from the shutdown is looking more like 5-10 percent depending on exactly when Samsung can get the fab running.


Image by Samsung

The problem, once again, is that semiconductor manufacturing is slow, at every stage. It takes years to build a fab and 6-12 months to bring it to full production. It takes 6-12 months to port a chip design from one foundry to another. Once you’ve got your design finished, it’s time to contend with the actual manufacturing process. Spoiler alert: It’s not fast.

Wafers are typically processed in batches known as wafer lots. It takes a wafer lot weeks to move through the entire manufacturing process. According to this 2017 article, it typically takes between 0.8 and 1.5 days to process each mask layer for a device. 28nm devices typically have between 40-50 mask layers, while 14/10nm chips have around 60. We don’t know exactly how many layers Samsung uses for its SSD controllers, but if you assume 0.8 days per mask layer and 55 masks it comes out to a 44 day processing time. SSD controllers aren’t as complex as a CPU so it makes sense that they might take a bit less time to construct. DigiTimes’ references to a month-long delay between restart and new hardware shipments are unconfirmed but plausible.

Samsung accounts for about 28 percent of the NAND market. A 75 percent drop in controller production could very well lead to price increases on Samsung SSDs, likely driving customers to seek alternatives. This, in turn, is likely to raise the price of other drives. If you’re planning on picking up an SSD at any point in the near future, you may want to do it sooner than later. Historically, shortage-driven price increases in the storage market have taken several years to fade.

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ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

Head of Tokyo Olympics expected to resign over sexist comments: reports

The long saga of Yoshiro Mori appears to be near the end.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency and others reported on Thursday — citing unnamed sources — that Yoshiro Mori will step down on Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

The move follows his sexist comments about women more than a week ago, and an ensuing and rare public debate in Japan about gender equality.

A decision is expected to be announced on Friday when the organizing committee’s executive board meets. The executive board of Tokyo 2020 is overwhelmingly male, as is the day-to-day leadership.

The 83-year-old Mori, in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee more than a week ago, essentially said that women “talk too much” and are driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.” Mori, a former prime minister, gave a grudging apology a few days later after his opinions were reported, but declined to resign.

This is more than just another problem for the postponed Olympics, which have made the risky choice of trying to open on July 23 in the middle of a pandemic with 11,000 athletes — and later, 4,400 Paralympic athletes.

Country lags in gender equality

More than 80 per cent of the Japanese public in recent polls say the Olympics should be postponed or cancelled.

Mori’s remarks have drawn outrage from many quarters and have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings.

Though some on the street have called for him to resign — several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are withdrawing — most decision makers have stopped short of this and have simply condemned his remarks. Japan is a country that works largely on consensus with politicians — often elderly and male — acting behind the scenes and leaking trial balloons to sense public sentiment.

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CBC | Sports News

Canada’s Caribbean flight ban expected to cost Jamaica up to $449M, minister says

For the last 10 months, Noel Harrison’s tour bus has sat mostly idle. The pandemic put a stop to the vacations that used to keep him busy shuttling tourists around the sun-soaked resort town of Montego Bay.

In the last few months, he was hoping Jamaica had turned a corner. Hotels were reopening and tourists were starting to trickle back. But then came another blow in a year filled with adversity: Canada cancelled all flights to the Caribbean.

“That was a shocker to us, because we get a lot of business from Canada,” said the 54-year old Harrison who has worked in tourism for almost 20 years. “That was a big blow to us. We just don’t know when a disaster will strike.”

The decision to cancel all flights to the Caribbean until April 30, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week, caught many in Jamaica’s tourism industry off-guard. Jamaica’s government, along with industry and private partners, had just completed a mad rush to provide a new testing and quarantine system to accommodate North American requirements that visitors return with negative COVID-19 results. 

‘Unintended consequences’

In an interview with CBC News, Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said he was surprised by the extent of the measures Canada took, though he recognized that countries must do what they can to manage the pandemic domestically.

“Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is difficult and it is causing us some unintended consequences, because I know that Canada has no real intention of hurting Jamaica,” Bartlett said.

Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, seen here at a 2016 event, says up to 200,000 Canadians visit Jamaica during the peak winter season. Losing that number of visitors will cost his country hundreds of millions of dollars, an impact that will be felt across the country. (Jamaican Ministry of Tourism)

He estimates Canada’s decision to cancel flights to the region will cost his country $ 350 million US ($ 449 million Cdn). That estimate is based on what the country would see during a regular peak winter season, when Jamaica welcomes between 175,000 – 200,000 Canadians. 

“What we are doing here is to hope and pray that Canada will get through this very quickly so that we can return to the normal course of our trade relations,” said Bartlett.

Jamaica’s tourism industry lost $ 76 billion US last year because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism and related industries contribute to 34 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and employ 20 per cent of its workforce.

Workers trying to cope

Harrison is one of the 100,000 Jamaican tourism workers who lost their jobs when travel ground to a halt during the pandemic. He’s lucky that his wife is still working, but he knows lots of others who aren’t as fortunate.

“I got a lot of calls everyday from friends who are having serious problems. They don’t know how they’re going to cope, or where the next meal is coming from, so it’s tough, tough stuff.”

Harrison saw hope in December, when travel to the island started to pick up. From January to November last year, just over 13,000 Canadians visited Jamaica, but in December, that number jumped to 10,802. 

The Jamaica Tourist Board says the country welcomed 10,802 visitors from Canada in December 2020, compared to 52,044 in December 2019. (Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images)

Now, with the flight ban from Canada, hotel operators like Jason Henzell who runs Jake’s Hotel in Treasure Beach, estimates his occupancy, which stands at around 22 per cent, will only decline in the coming months.

“In my heart, I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. At least we know there’s a vaccine now, so we know that things are going to turn,” said Henzell. 

Trickle down effect

Henzell has tried to keep as many of his 150 employees working as possible during the pandemic. After shutting down for four months last year, he brought back his entire staff on shortened work weeks. A GoFundMe page launched by former guests also raised more than $ 50,000 US to help the staff.

Festival and concert promoter Scott Dunn said the effect of losing Canadian tourists will be felt across the Island.

“Hoteliers are going to feel it, restaurant owners are going to feel it and the trickle down to all their suppliers of people in agriculture are going to feel that that’s what we’re seeing in Jamaica right now,” said Dunn, managing director of event promotion company Dream Entertainment.

Dunn, who promotes the Dream Festival, one of the largest festivals on the island, said Jamaica has done a good job of containing the virus; he questions why Canada took a blanket approach to Caribbean travel.

He notes the loss of festivals like his add up to a $ 60-million US hit to the local economy.

“You could feed a lot of people with $ 60 million US dollars and right now those people are starving.”

Bad timing

Canada’s decision to suspend travel couldn’t have come at a worse time, Jamaican tourism officials said. The Ministry of Tourism and Resorts had just completed setting up onsite testing and arranged for quarantine sites to comply with new entry protocols announced by the U.S. and Canada. The industry even got Canada to delay implementing the new rules to allow more time to comply, officials said.

The country had already created “resilient corridors” with enhanced safety and cleaning protocols around the  most popular tourist destinations, giving visitors more freedom of movement. 

A flyer advertising new tests available for tourists in Jamaica before they fly back to North American destinations. The tests were recently put in place to fulfill requirements mandated by the Canadian and U.S. governments for all returning travellers. (Jamaica Tourist Board)

That the government and industry went to such lengths to accommodate tourists, including providing mobile testing sites within the resilient corridors, testing that’s still not easily available to everyday Jamaicans, has been a point of controversy domestically.

“I applaud the government for this testing, but it’s one of the ironies of Jamaica and how important or how much more the government values tourism and tourists than their own people,” said Dream Entertainment’s Dunn who has been pressing the government to allow domestically produced events like his move forward.

‘Better days are ahead’

Tourism Minister Bartlett acknowledges tough decisions had to be made but put a positive spin on the effort, saying it means the infrastructure is in place when travel restrictions are eventually eased. 

He welcomes vaccination efforts in North America, which many in Jamaica view as key to rebuilding confidence in the travel industry. But he warns that recovery is still months away, with a turnaround not expected until winter 2021-22 and a full recovery potentially two or three years away. 

Hotel operators like Henzell are preparing for yet another rough year, where unexpected developments will continue to challenge their business.

WATCH | Canada’s Caribbean travel ban to cost Jamaica $ 350M US:

The pandemic had already taken a big toll on Jamaica’s economy and Canada’s decision to cancel flights to the Caribbean is expected to cost the country more than $ 350 million in lost tourism. 2:02

“This thing has ups and downs and knocks you sideways and,there’s just no one to blame. Governments have to take the right decision at that time.”

For Noel Harrison, the tour bus driver said it’s the faith and resilience of the Jamaican people that will carry them through these dark times.

“We know that better days are ahead. We’ll get back on our feet, we are praying to the Lord because he will help us through this.”

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CBC | World News

Somalia hotel hit by explosion and gunfire; casualties expected

A suspected suicide car bomb exploded on Sunday in Somalia’s capital and was followed by a shootout between militants and security forces at a hotel, causing an unknown number of casualties, witnesses and authorities said.

A vehicle loaded with explosives crashed into the entrance gate of the Afrik Hotel, near Mogadishu’s strategic K-4 junction, on Sunday afternoon, police spokesperson Sadiq Adan Ali said.

A number of armed gunmen then quickly invaded the hotel, opening fire on staff and patrons inside, he said. Government forces responded to the attack, and gunfire could be heard coming from the hotel. Police rescued many people from the hotel, including its owner and an army general.

At least seven wounded civilians could be seen, although police did not immediately give casualty figures.

“The blast made the hotel tremble as we sat inside and were talking. We were panicked, confused,” witness Ahmed Nur said, adding that he escaped via a ladder down a wall. “I jumped down and ran.”

In this image made from video, people flee from the area as gunshots are heard on a street near the Afrik Hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday. (The Associated Press)

Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s homegrown jihadist rebel group, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Andalus radio station.

“We know, they have changed nothing from their usual tactic, ramming explosives into a building and following up, assaulting with rifles,” Ali said.

There was no immediate word from Somali officials or the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission, which supports the government against al Shabaab.

In a separate incident, at least eight children have died and scores of others were wounded when a bomb went off in the Golweyn area, about 40 kilometres north of the coastal town of Merca, some 120 kilometres south of Mogadishu.

Smoke billows from the scene of the explosion in what’s known as the Kilometre-4 area of Mogadishu. (Feisal Omar/Reuters)

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CBC | World News

U.S. House expected to vote on impeachment of Donald Trump today

U.S. President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time in an unprecedented House vote Wednesday, a week after he encouraged a mob of loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results just before they stormed the U.S. Capitol in a deadly siege.

Trump, who would become the only U.S. president twice impeached, faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

The stunning collapse of Trump’s final days in office, against alarming warnings of more violence ahead by his followers, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

The House chaplain opened the session early Wednesday with a prayer for “seizing the scales of justice from the jaws of mob-ocracy.”

Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern began to make the party’s case that the only remedy was Trump’s removal.

“Domestic terrorists broke into the United States Capitol and it’s a miracle more people didn’t die,” McGovern said of the Jan. 6 violence.

“These were not protesters. These were not patriots. These were traitors. These were domestic terrorists, and they were acting under the orders of Donald Trump,” he added.

Republicans push for censure, commission

Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole urged Democrats to consider other measures, and he and colleagues from his party who spoke early on pushed for a formal censure that Cole claimed would have “significant bipartisan support,” as well as a national commission to understand the events that lead to the deadly Capitol siege.

“There’s still time to choose a different path, one that leads to reconciliation,” said Cole.

Cole objected to what he called a rushed process, with no scheduled witnesses testifying. He said that legal experts in the past week have arrived at “dramatically different conclusions” as to whether Trump’s words and actions justified an impeachment charge.

Five deaths have been connected to the Jan. 6 riots, two in violent fashion. A San Diego woman who travelled to Washington to protest the certification of Biden’s win, Ashli Babbitt, was shot to death, while Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was assaulted in the violence and later died in hospital.

Three other people were said to have suffered medical episodes leading to death, while another Capitol Police officer on duty that day died by suicide on Jan. 9.

Lawmakers had to scramble for safety and hide as rioters took control of the Capitol and delayed by hours the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.

The outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”

WATCH l Trump pans House’s efforts:

Staging what will surely be one of his ‘last stands’ before a section of border wall in Texas, U.S. President Donald Trump praised his accomplishments while deriding Democratic efforts to impeach him for the second time even as members of Congress prepare for an impeachment vote. 3:02

The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in building its case for high crimes and misdemeanours as demanded in the Constitution.

Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him, rather than his actions around the bloody riot, that was dividing the country.

“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.

Limited House Republican support so far

At least five Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were unswayed by the president’s logic. The Republicans announced they would vote to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership and the party itself.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Hundreds of National Guard troops are seen inside the Capitol Visitor’s Center to reinforce security at the Capitol in Washington, as their colleagues were posted throughout the complex. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is said to be angry at Trump, and it’s unclear how an impeachment trial would play out. In the House, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a top Trump ally, scrambled to suggest a lighter censure instead, but that option crumbled.

So far, Republican Reps. John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran; Fred Upton of Michigan; and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state announced they, too, would join Cheney to vote to impeach.

The House tried first to push Vice-President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday night calling on them to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.

The resolution urged Pence to “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

Pence made it clear he would not do so, saying in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”

With new security, lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about the screening.

The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

Trump was impeached just over a year ago for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for trying to strong-arm Ukraine’s leader to help damage Biden politically.

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CBC | World News

House Democrats expected to introduce resolution to press for Trump’s removal

Congressional Democrats begin their drive to force U.S. President Donald Trump from office early this week, with a House vote on articles of impeachment expected as early as Wednesday that could make him the only president in the country’s history to be impeached twice.

“It is important that we act, and it is important that we act in a very serious and deliberative manner,” Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, chairman of the House’s rules committee, told CNN on Monday. “We expect this up on the floor on Wednesday. And I expect that it will pass.”

Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol last week, scattering lawmakers who were certifying Democratic president-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, in a harrowing assault on the centre of American democracy that left five dead.

The violence came after Trump urged supporters to march on the Capitol at a rally where he repeated false claims that his resounding election defeat was illegitimate. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, many of her fellow Democrats and a handful of Republicans say Trump should not be trusted to serve out his term, which ends on Jan. 20.

“In protecting our constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi wrote to fellow House Democrats on Sunday.

Dozens of people who attacked police officers, stole computers and smashed windows at the Capitol have been arrested for their role in the violence, and officials have opened 25 domestic terrorism investigations.

Trump acknowledged that a new administration would take office on Jan. 20 in a video statement after the attack but has not appeared in public. Twitter and Facebook have suspended his accounts, citing the risk of him inciting violence.

WATCH l Assessing the pros and cons of a 2nd impeachment:

Cross Country Checkup25:39Ask Me Anything: David Frum on U.S. Capitol Hill riot

The Atlantic’s David Frum takes calls about Wednesday’s siege on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. 25:39

On Monday, Trump was denied an avenue for his false claims of pivotal election fraud from the highest court in the land. The U.S. Supreme Court steered clear of more cases involving bids by Trump and some Republican allies to overturn his election loss and turned away a Democratic effort to expand mail-in voting in Texas.

The justices, as expected, declined to expedite consideration of eight Trump-related cases including three filed by his campaign challenging the election results in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two of the states he lost to Biden. It already was clear that the court had no intention to intervene because it had not acted before Congress last week certified Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election.

Impeachment charge could involve insurrection

When the House convenes at 11 a.m. ET, lawmakers will bring up a resolution asking Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke a never-used section of the 25th Amendment of the U.S. constitution, which allows the vice-president and the cabinet to remove a president deemed unfit to do the job. A recorded vote is expected on Tuesday.

McGovern said he expected Republican lawmakers to object to the request to invoke the constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove Trump. In that case, he said, his committee will provide a rule to bring that legislation to the House for a vote and, 24 hours later, the committee will then bring another resolution to deal with impeachment.

“What this president did is unconscionable, and he needs to be held to account,” McGovern said.

Members of the National Guard are shown outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday. They had not been called as a preventive measure ahead of last week’s protest, which devolved into chaos. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Pence was in the Capitol along with his family when Trump’s supporters attacked, and he and Trump are currently not on speaking terms. But Republicans have shown little interest in invoking the 25th Amendment.

If Pence does not act, Pelosi said the House could vote to impeach Trump on a single charge of insurrection. Aides to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who voted against recognizing Biden’s victory, did not respond to a request for comment.

House Democrats impeached Trump in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstructing Congress for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden, but the Republican-controlled Senate voted not to convict him. No president has ever been impeached twice.

LISTEN l Canadian-born U.S. commentator David Frum on last week’s riot:

Democrats’ latest effort to force Trump out also faces long odds of success without bipartisan support. Only four Republican lawmakers have so far said publicly that Trump should not serve out the remaining nine days in his term.

The lawmakers who drafted the impeachment charge say they have locked in the support of at least 200 of the chamber’s 222 Democrats, indicating strong odds of passage. Biden has so far not weighed in on impeachment, saying it is a matter for Congress.

Unclear when, or if, Senate would take up impeachment

Even if the House impeaches Trump for a second time, the Senate would not take up the charges until Jan. 19 at the earliest, Trump’s last full day in office.

An impeachment trial would tie up the Senate during Biden’s first weeks in office, preventing the new president from installing cabinet secretaries and acting on priorities like coronavirus relief.

READ l The impeachment resolution, which now has over 200 co-sponsors:

Representative Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, suggested his chamber could avoid that problem by waiting several months to send the impeachment charge over to the Senate.

Trump would be long gone by then, but a conviction could lead to him being barred from running for president again in 2024.

The votes also would force Trump’s Republicans to again defend his behaviour.

Several prominent U.S. corporations, including Marriott International Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., have said they will suspend donations to the nearly 150 Republicans who voted against certifying Biden’s victory, and more are considering that step.

Washington remains on high alert ahead of Biden’s inauguration. The event traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city, but has been scaled back dramatically because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who will become majority leader after Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris are inaugurated and the two new Democratic senators from Georgia are seated, said on Sunday that the threat from violent extremist groups remained high.

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CBC | World News

Ontario government expected to announce province-wide COVID-19 lockdown ahead of Christmas

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce sweeping new public health measures later today as the province tries to curb a climbing number of COVID-19 cases and increasing strain on hospitals.

Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park. The premier’s office says he will be joined by the ministers of health and education, as well as the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams. 

You’ll be able to watch the news conference live in this story.

Sources told CBC News on Sunday that new measures will include a 28-day lockdown for all parts of the province south of Sudbury.

The restrictions in these areas will look much as they did during Ontario’s initial shutdown in the spring, with only essential businesses remaining open. The specific list of closures and guidelines was still being fine-tuned over the weekend, the sources said.

Areas north of Sudbury, however, will move into a two-week lockdown, the sources said, and winter break for elementary students across Ontario could be extended by up to two weeks.

The measures come against a backdrop of modelling that forecasts, under any scenario, Ontario could see up to 300 patients with cases of COVID-19 in intensive care units by the end of December.

In a worst-case scenario, that number could balloon to more than 1,500 by mid-January, said public health officials at a morning briefing.

  • You can see the full government modelling at the bottom of this story

During the height of the first wave of the illness in Ontario, some 264 patients required intensive care. As of this morning, there were 265 people with COVID-19 in Ontario ICUs.

Over the past four weeks, officials said, there have been a 69.3 per cent increase in overall hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 and an 83.1 per cent jump in the number of patients requiring intensive care.

Experiences in other jurisdictions, such as in Victoria, Australia and France, four to six-week “hard lockdowns” have resulted in “dramatic reductions” in case numbers, officials said.

The forecasts come as hospitals in some of Ontario’s hardest-hit regions are warning of unsustainable pressures on front-line staff and rippling effects throughout the health-care system. Last week, CBC Toronto reported nearly half of all ICU beds at one Scarborough hospital were taken up by COVID-19 patients.

In a joint statement over the weekend, hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area, along with the Ontario Hospital Association, said that health-care workers are “stressed and overstretched.”

Rising admissions of patients with COVID-19 mean that some hospitals have already been forced to postpone or cancel unrelated procedures, many of which were already put off in the spring.

“This level of strain is simply not sustainable for much longer,” the statement said, adding that a potential surge following the holiday season will only make things worse.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. ET today. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

2,123 more cases of  COVID-19

Meanwhile, Ontario reported another 2,123 cases of COVID-19 this morning as admissions to intensive care topped those seen during the first wave of the pandemic. 

It is the seventh straight day of more than 2,000 further cases in the province.

The new cases include 611 in Toronto, 480 in Peel Region, 192 in York Region and 138 Windsor-Essex. All four public health units, along with Hamilton, are currently in the grey lockdown tier of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.

In lockdown zones, restaurants can offer only takeout and delivery service, and only retailers that have been deemed essential can stay open.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in today’s report were:

  • Waterloo Region: 94
  • Halton Region: 92
  • Durham Region: 91
  • Niagara Region: 68
  • Middlesex-London: 64
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 61
  • Hamilton: 36
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 33
  • Ottawa: 32
  • Southwestern: 21
  • Haldimand-Norfolk:19
  • Brant County: 16
  • Eastern Ontario: 11

(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)

Combined, the additional infections push the seven-day average to 2,276, the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic.

The Ministry of Education also reported 154 new cases that are school-related: 119 students and 35 staff members. Around 976 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 20.2 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19.

There are currently 19,019 confirmed, active cases of the illness in Ontario, also a new record high. 

The province’s network of labs processed 54,505 test samples and reported a test positivity rate of 4.7 per cent.

Public health officials also reported 17 more deaths of people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 4,167.

Here’s the latest modelling on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario:

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CBC | Health News

Several U.S. states left confused by smaller Pfizer vaccine shipments than expected

Several states say they have been told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution, prompting worries about potential delays in shots for health-care workers and long-term care residents.

But senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion over semantics, while Pfizer said its production levels have not changed.

The first U.S. doses were administered Monday, and already this week, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly health-care workers, have been vaccinated. The pace is expected to increase next week, assuming Moderna gets federal authorization for its vaccine.

Efforts to help ward off the coronavirus come amid a staggering death toll that surpassed 300,000 on Monday. Johns Hopkins University says about 2,400 people are dying daily in the U.S., which is also averaging more than 210,000 cases per day.

In recent days, governors and health leaders in more than a dozen states have said the federal government has told them that next week’s shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be less than originally projected.

‘Disruptive and frustrating’

Little explanation was offered, leaving many state officials perplexed.

“This is disruptive and frustrating,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter Thursday after learning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the state’s allocation would be cut by 40 per cent. “We need accurate, predictable numbers to plan and ensure on-the-ground success.”

California, where an explosion in cases is straining intensive care units to the breaking point, will receive 160,000 fewer vaccine doses than state officials had anticipated next week — a roughly 40 per cent reduction.

Pharmacists and technicians assemble doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at SwedishAmerican hospital in Rockford, Ill. on Thursday. Illinois is one of many states that have been told to expect smaller Pfizer vaccine shipments initially. (Scott P. Yates/Rockford Register Star/AP)

California hospitals began vaccinations this week from the first Pfizer shipment of 327,000 doses and had expected even more to arrive next week. Instead, officials have been told to expect about 233,000 doses, said Erin Mellon, a spokeswoman for Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Missouri’s health director, Dr. Randall Williams, said his state will get 25 to 30 per cent less of the vaccine next week than anticipated. A statement from the Iowa Department of Public Health said its allocation will be “reduced by as much as 30 per cent, however we are working to gain confirmation and additional details from our federal partners.”

Michigan’s shipment will drop by about a quarter. Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire and Indiana have also been told to expect smaller shipments.

“States need clear and precise updates and information from the federal government as we continue the large and complex process of distributing this critical COVID-19 vaccine across the nation and here in Nevada,” the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, said in a statement after his state’s second allocation was cut 42 per cent, to 17,550 doses.

“To slash allocations for states — without any explanation whatsoever — is disruptive and baffling.”

Trump administration chalks it up to misunderstanding

Hawaii’s health department said as much as 40 per cent of its doses will be delayed, but it still expects to receive nearly 46,000 doses by the end of the month.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday said Georgia is in line to receive 60,000 doses next week after initially expecting 99,000. Still, the Republican governor has had little but praise for the vaccination effort and did not strongly object to the decreased amount.

“I wish it were a lot more, but it could be zero right now if you look at the past history of vaccines,” Kemp said.

In Washington, D.C., two senior Trump administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning said states will receive their full allocations, but misunderstandings about vaccine supply and changes to the delivery schedule may be creating confusion.

One official said the initial numbers of available doses that were provided to states were projections based on information from the manufacturers, not fixed allocations. Some state officials may have misunderstood that, the official said.

LISTEN: Tackling vaccine hesitancy

Front Burner31:38Vaccine hesitancy, the next pandemic hurdle

As the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine rolls out across the country, and other vaccines await imminent regulatory approval, many public health experts are focusing on the issue of vaccine hesitancy. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam has spoken out about the “moveable middle” and says it is critical that as many people get vaccinated as possible to protect themselves and others from risk. But, since conversations about vaccines can be hard, today we’re bringing in an expert to explain how to have more meaningful and productive discussions with people who have questions or fears. Maria Sundaram is an infectious disease epidemiologist who studies vaccines. 31:38

The two officials also said that changes the federal government made to the delivery schedule, at the request of governors, may be contributing to a mistaken impression that fewer doses are coming. The key change involves spacing out delivery of states’ weekly allocations over several days to make distribution more manageable.

“They will get their weekly allocation, it just won’t come to them on one day,” one official said.

No production issues, Pfizer insists

Pfizer made it clear that as far as production goes, nothing has changed.

“Pfizer has not had any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed,” spokesperson Eamonn Nolan said in an email. “We are continuing to dispatch our orders to the locations specified by the U.S. government.”

The company said in a written statement that this week, it “successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them. We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”

The senior administration officials said Pfizer’s statement about doses awaiting shipping instructions, while technically accurate, conveniently omits the explanation: It was planned that way.

WATCH l Provinces decide on whether to throttle supply for a 2nd does:

The provinces are taking different approaches to distributing their first COVID-19 vaccine doses, which require two shots. Some will hold back half their allotted doses, to ensure patients get the full amount of vaccine, while others are giving out their whole allotment to double the number of recipients, which some infectious disease experts say is risky. 3:38

The federal officials said Pfizer committed to providing 6.4 million doses of its vaccine in the first week after approval. But the federal Operation Warp Speed had planned to distribute only 2.9 million of those doses right away.

Another 2.9 million were to be held at Pfizer’s warehouse to guarantee that individuals vaccinated the first week would be able to get their second shot later to make protection fully effective. Finally, the government is holding an additional 500,000 doses as a reserve against unforeseen problems.

Pfizer said it remains confident it can deliver up to 50 million doses globally this year and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

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Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial data debated at U.S. hearing before expected authorization

A panel of outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to endorse emergency use of Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine during a meeting on Thursday, as the nation prepares to roll out a second vaccine.

The panel vote on whether the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks is likely to come in the late afternoon, with an FDA authorization expected as soon as Friday.

It is the same committee of expert advisers that last week backed the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE, clearing the way for the FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) a day later.  A massive inoculation program began at U.S. hospitals on Monday.

The Moderna vaccine uses similar messenger RNA technology but with less onerous cold storage requirements than the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, making it a better option for remote and rural areas. Both vaccines were about 95 per cent effective in preventing illness in pivotal clinical trials.

WATCH l Canada’s procurement minister talks to CBC News about Moderna vaccine deployment:

Procurement Minister Anita Anand is asked why the U.S. is slated to receive 20 per cent of its initial order of Moderna vaccines by the end of the month, while Canada is expecting 0.84 per cent of its original order. 1:33

SVB Leerink analysts said the Moderna vaccine appears less tolerable than the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, but noted that is not a proper comparison across trials and unlikely to stand in the way of an EUA.

The FDA staff did not raise any serious concerns about safety in documents published on Tuesday in preparation for the meeting. It said a link between Bell’s palsy, which causes temporary paralysis of facial muscles, and the vaccine could not be ruled out after some cases were reported in trials of both vaccines.

Moderna is seeking authorization for people aged 18 and older. 

Some cases of allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNtech shot have been reported in the United States and Britain since the rollout began.

No cases suggestive of anaphylaxis to Moderna’s vaccine were identified after analyzing safety data from clinical trials, Moderna executive David Martin said at Thursday’s meeting.

Two cases of severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction occurred in Moderna’s large clinical study, one among those who received the vaccine and the other in the placebo group, Martin said.

The vaccine recipient with the allergic reaction had a history of asthma and a shellfish allergy, he said.

U.S. government eager to deploy vaccine

The Massachusetts-based company, which has never produced a vaccine on this scale, is working with multiple partners to produce its vaccine, including Switzerland’s Lonza.

Initial Moderna vaccine supply would likely go to the United States, which has signed deals to secure as many as 200 million doses and is expecting the first 20 million this month. The vaccine is administered in two doses about four weeks apart, a longer interval than Pfizer’s three-week period before the second shot.

Meanwhile, the FDA said it is working with Pfizer to revise fact sheets and prescribing information on the Pfizer-BioNTech shot after two health care workers in Alaska experienced allergic reactions minutes after receiving the vaccine, FDA official Doran Fink said at Thursday’s panel meeting.

“We anticipate that there may be additional reports, which we will rapidly investigate,” Fink said.

The White House is eager to deploy the Moderna vaccine, given the toll the virus has exacted on the U.S. There were 3,400 deaths attributable to the coronavirus across the country, the COVID Tracking Project from The Atlantic magazine reported on Wednesday. The death toll since the start of the pandemic in the U.S. recently passed 300,000 Americans.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday said nearly 6 million doses of Moderna Inc.’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine were poised to ship nationwide as soon as it secures Food and Drug Administration approval.

“We’re ready to start shipping this weekend to them for rollout Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of next week. We’re ready to go,” Azar said in an interview with CNBC.

The company has also signed supply deals with Canada, the European Union and the U.K. The vaccine is undergoing a “rolling review” by regulators for all three.

READ l FDA briefing document on Moderna’s vaccine:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week it is expected Canada will receive 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine before the end of the year, contingent on an expected approval soon from Health Canada.

In total, six million Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are expected to be delivered to Canada by the end of March 2021, the government has said.

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which is being delivered directly by the company to points of use, the federal government will be responsible for the logistics associated with importing the Moderna shot and distributing the product to the provinces and territories.

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168,000 doses of Moderna vaccine expected in Canada this month

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that the promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Massachusetts-based Moderna will be available in Canada by the end of the month if the shot secures the necessary regulatory approvals.

Health Canada regulators are in the final stages of the review process for this vaccine. A final decision on authorization could come as early as this week.

If it’s approved, Trudeau said, Canada will receive up to 168,000 doses of the two-dose Moderna vaccine before the end of December. Trudeau said deliveries are slated to begin within 48 hours of Health Canada’s authorization.

“As with the early shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, this moves us even further forward on getting Canadians protected as quickly as possible,” Trudeau said. “We are very, very well positioned.”

With recent polls showing that a sizeable number of Canadians will refuse a vaccine altogether, or will wait some time before lining up for a shot, Trudeau said he wants Canadians to be assured that the science will not be rushed and Canada’s regulators will only approve a product that works.

“The approval of vaccines is not a political issue. Experts at Health Canada will do their jobs, and this is what they do for all drugs and vaccines in normal times,” he said in French. “The work has to be done without being compromised.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hear Thursday from an outside advisory panel on whether the vaccine is safe for use in the United States. FDA’s own scientists today endorsed it as safe and effective.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by Health Canada regulators last week and vaccinations started in some provinces yesterday — but its stringent temperature requirements for storage mean the shot isn’t the best fit for much of the country.

Northern, rural and remote communities simply don’t have the health care infrastructure to safely store the Pfizer vaccine at ultra-low temperatures.

The Moderna product must be kept at -20 C — many degrees above the -70 to -80 C range that Pfizer demands for its shot — and there are more commercial-grade refrigerators on hand across the country that can store this vaccine.

Because the territories will not receive the Pfizer vaccine, Trudeau said the first Moderna doses will be directed to northern regions, remote and Indigenous communities. He said this vaccine is easier to ship over long distances in winter conditions.

“We are working to ensure the logistics planning is ready when vaccines are available, and have already shipped medical-grade freezers to the north. As soon as we get the green light, we’ll be ready to go,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau also said today that Canada will receive about 200,000 more Pfizer shots next week, while the number of sites where this temperature-sensitive shot can be administered will increase from just 14 this week to 70.

In total, six million Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are expected to be delivered to Canada by the end of March 2021.

Long-term care and retirement home residents and staff, the elderly, front line health care workers and some Indigenous adults will receive shots in this first phase of distribution. The vaccination campaign for other populations will begin in April.

Maj.- Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccination logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said Canada is ready to receive the Moderna product and planning is already “well underway” to ensure the provinces and territories are well-positioned to begin administering the shot.

“This week, we’re executing a dry run exercise, similar to what we did last week with the Pfizer product,” Fortin said. 

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which is being delivered directly by the company to points of use, the federal government will be responsible for the logistics associated with importing the Moderna shot and distributing the product to the provinces and territories.

“That is work that is going on now to ensure that the logistics are in place to go and pick up the Moderna vaccine,” Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said.

Moderna, which has never produced a vaccine on this scale, is working with multiple partners to produce its vaccine. Switzerland-based Lonza, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical services companies, will produce the key active ingredient for the vaccine in New Hampshire and Switzerland.

Canada has ordered 40 million Moderna shots

In August, Canada placed an order for 20 million doses of the Moderna product. Earlier this month, Anand announced the government would exercise its contractual options for 20 million more shots in 2021. Canada could still buy up to another 16 million doses.

Trudeau attributed the December shipments of the Moderna vaccine to Canada’s early commitment to buy the product. 

“Like the co-founder of Moderna pointed out a few weeks ago, Canada was among the first to pre-order their vaccine. That, combined with our solid plan on vaccine rollout, is why we have an agreement for early doses,” he said.

Health Canada has been reviewing Moderna’s clinical trial data on a rolling basis since Oct. 12.

The rolling review process — a policy shift implemented because of the urgency of this pandemic — allows drug makers to bypass the lengthy timelines they normally face when launching a new vaccine.

The company’s final clinical trial data are encouraging, demonstrating that the vaccine is 94.1 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 and 100 per cent effective at preventing severe cases of the disease.

In July, Moderna began administering its vaccine and a placebo to 30,000 clinical trial participants in the U.S.

Of the 15,000 people who received the vaccine, only 11 developed COVID-19. None of those 11 people became severely ill. Among the 15,000 people who received the placebo — a shot of saline that does nothing — 185 developed the novel coronavirus. Thirty of those 185 patients reported severe illness and one died.

Health Canada is currently reviewing other vaccines from companies like AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen.

In total, Canada has ordered roughly 418 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from seven different companies — an insurance policy against the risk that some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective.

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