Tag Archives: faces

Trudeau says J&J vaccine faces production challenges

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today Canada has been warned of manufacturing problems plaguing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The viral vector vaccine developed by J&J’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, was authorized by Health Canada as safe and effective last week.

Canada pre-ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine, which is the first and only one in Canada’s vaccine plan that requires only one dose.

But Trudeau said Canada still doesn’t have a target date for the first deliveries.

“We have heard in many conversations with Johnson & Johnson that there are challenges around production of the Janssen vaccine, but we will continue to engage with them and we look forward to receiving doses as soon as possible,” he said today at a news conference in Ottawa.

“And as soon as we get confirmation of doses being sent to Canada, we will let everyone know.”

Canada’s vaccine rollout stepped up this month after deliveries slowed to a trickle in February. Nearly one million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were delivered last week, and 910,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna are arriving this week.

It took Canada 67 days to vaccinate the first one million people. It will take less than one-third of that time to vaccinate the second million.

As of noon on Tuesday, more than 1.9 million Canadians have now received at least one dose.

Canada not ready yet to issue guidance on relaxing measures 

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada isn’t quite ready to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and issue guidance on how vaccinated individuals can relax their public health measures.

The CDC said Monday that those Americans who received their second dose at least two weeks ago can now visit indoors, without masks, with other fully vaccinated people, or with those who are not vaccinated but are at low risk of serious illness.

Tam said there are still too many unknowns, including the effect of COVID-19 variants and how vaccines will affect the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“So I think we need to take a thoughtful approach, but it is important that we have to evolve our public health approach as more Canadians are getting vaccinated,” she said.

The United States is far ahead of Canada, having now vaccinated more than one in four people. Canada has vaccinated about one in 20.

Tam said there are “initial positive signs” that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preventing transmission, as well as reducing the severity of illness, but it is still early.

The emergence of variants that aren’t all responding as well to vaccines is also a concern, she said. Tam said Ontario now believes almost one-third of its new cases are one of those variants, with the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom the most common.

That variant also appears to be the most receptive to the current vaccines.

The number of new cases in Canada has plateaued at about 2,900 cases per day in the last couple of weeks, but the number of people dying appears to be diminishing.

WATCH | Trudeau addresses challenges Johnson and Johnson face in vaccine production

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses production challenges Johnson and Johnson is facing with its COVID-19 vaccine. 0:53

On Feb. 23, Tam reported a one-week average of 2,900 new cases and 54 deaths per day. On March 2, the weekly average was 2,933 cases and 42 deaths. On Tuesday, it was 2,900 new cases per day and 37 deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador also seems to be recovering from a major outbreak that swept through St. John’s last month. Public health officials reported one new case Tuesday and said active infections are down to 80, from 203 a week ago.

Johnson & Johnson hasn’t even yet confirmed for Canada where its vaccine doses will be made. The company is producing the vaccine in the U.S. and Europe, and Health Canada has authorized facilities in both places to make it.

But neither the company nor Canadian officials will say yet where Canada’s doses will be made. The United States isn’t allowing exports of doses made there until the U.S. is fully served, but that may happen by late May.

Still, J&J’s production problems are affecting Europe and the U.S. as well. Several European countries, where the vaccine isn’t yet authorized, said they don’t expect as many doses of it next month as originally planned.

U.S. President Joe Biden said last week that when he took office, he was informed that Johnson & Johnson was behind on production and efforts began to find additional production space. Sanofi was first contracted to help produce the vaccine in Europe and last week Biden announced Merck would help produce it in the United States.

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CBC | Health News

Tokyo Olympics chief faces storm over comments about women

Derogatory comments about women made earlier in the week by Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee and a former prime minister, could force him to resign.

It’s one more problem the postponed Tokyo Olympics don’t need as organizers and the International Olympic Committee try to pull off the games in the midst of a pandemic. They are to open on July 23.

The organizing committee said Thursday it did not have a statement but expected to have one later in the day.

In an online meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee board of directors earlier in the week, Mori was reported by the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun saying women talk too much in meetings. His comments have created a storm in Japan where women are grossly under-represented in politics and in board rooms.

In an interview with the Japanese newspaper Mainichi published on Thursday, the 83-year-old Mori apologized and suggested he could resign.

“I had no intention to disrespect women,” Mainichi reported him saying. “I believe I must carry out my responsibility, but if calls for my resignation grow, I may have to resign.”

He added: “It was careless of me, and I would like to apologize.”

WATCH | Understanding the Tokyo Olympics’ pandemic ‘playbook’:

With less than six months to go to the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have said the Games will go on no matter what. Now, they’ve released some preliminary guidelines explaining how that will happen. 1:37

On Tuesday in a online meeting, Asahi reported him saying: “Women are very competitive. When one of them raises her hand, they probably think they have to say something, too. And then everyone says something.”

His comment came when he was asked about the presence of few women on the board of the Japanese Olympic Committee.

“If we are going to have more women directors, someone has remarked, then meetings go on for a long time unless we restrict the comments. I’m not saying who that is.”

The Tokyo Olympics he leads are already swamped with problems.

About 80 per cent of Japanese in polls says the games should be postponed or cancelled in the midst of a pandemic. They also have spoken out on rising costs that may total more than $ 25 billion US to put on these Olympics.

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CBC | World News

Messi faces lengthy suspension for ‘excessive force’ against Athletic Bilbao opponent

After losing the Spanish Super Cup final, Barcelona is also in danger of losing Lionel Messi for an extended period after he hit an opponent toward the end of the match.

Messi could be suspended for up to 12 games for the red card he received in the final minutes of his team’s 3-2 loss to Athletic Bilbao in Seville on Sunday.

After passing the ball out to the left flank, Messi swung his right arm toward the head of Athletic forward Asier Villalibre as they ran forward toward the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances for Barcelona.

Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with “excessive force” while the ball was not near him.

The Spanish soccer federation’s competitions committee will decide on the charges against Messi, and the player’s eventual suspension could range from one to three matches or from four to 12 matches, depending on how severe the federation considers the incident.

Barcelona was already preparing its defence regardless of the charges that would be presented by the federation against its player.

If found guilty, Messi will be suspended for matches in the Spanish league or the Copa del Rey. Barcelona is in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey and trails Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the league.

Title drought

Messi was visibly frustrated as the match went on and Barcelona struggled to recover from its deficit against Athletic. The Catalan club twice relinquished leads, including conceding a 90th-minute equalizer scored by Villalibre. Antoine Griezmann scored both Barcelona goals, with Messi assisting in the first one.

The defeat cost Barcelona a chance to end a title drought that has lingered from last season, the club’s first without a title since 2007-08.

While it was Messi’s first red card for his club, he has been sent off twice while playing for Argentina’s national team, including a few seconds into his debut in a friendly against Hungary in 2005. The other time was in the 2019 Copa America in a match against Chile. He was also sent off once while playing for Barcelona’s “B” team.

Messi, who asked to leave the club in the off-season but had his request denied, is having an average season compared to previous years, having scored 14 goals in 22 matches with Barcelona. He was far from his best on Sunday despite helping set up the team’s first goal.

Messi had been doubtful to play in the final because of an unspecified fitness issue that had caused coach Ronald Koeman to leave him out of the semifinal against Real Sociedad on Wednesday, when Barcelona prevailed in a penalty shootout.

Barcelona’s next match is on Thursday at Cornella in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey.

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CBC | Soccer News

Biden blasts Trump as U.S. COVID-19 cases mount, Pence staff faces outbreak

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence forged ahead with campaigning on Sunday despite a COVID-19 outbreak among his aides, and President Donald Trump claimed progress as the United States set records for daily infections, prompting Democratic challenger Joe Biden to accuse Trump of surrendering to the pandemic.

The White House cited Pence’s status as an “essential worker” as justification for his campaign travel, despite exposure to his chief of staff, Marc Short, who tested positive on Saturday.

Multiple senior aides to Pence also tested positive for COVID-19, the White House chief of staff said.

The U.S. in the past two days has registered its highest number of new COVID-19 cases — about 84,000 on Friday and about 79,900 on Saturday, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. The pandemic, which has killed about 225,000 people in the U.S. and left millions of Americans jobless, remains front and centre in the presidential race.

With nine days to go before the Nov. 3 election in which Biden is facing the Republican president, more people already have cast ballots in this year’s presidential election than voted early or absentee in the 2016 race. The start of in-person early voting in big states has led to a surge in turnout in recent days.

While Pence was set to campaign in North Carolina later on Sunday, Trump addressed a rally at an airport in New Hampshire.

Even as the novel coronavirus surged in many parts of the country, Trump told the rally: “There’s no nation in the world that’s recovered like we’ve recovered.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence addresses supporters at a rally on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla. Multiple senior aides to Pence, including his chief of staff, have tested positive for COVID-19, but he’s continued to campaign. (Steve Cannon/The Associated Press)

“We are coming around, we’re rounding the turn, we have the vaccines, we have everything. Even without the vaccines, we’re rounding the turn,” Trump told cheering supporters, many not wearing protective masks or observing physical-distancing recommendations. “It’s going to be over. And you know who got it? I did. Can you believe it?”

While numerous COVID-19 vaccines are being developed, none has been approved for use in the United States.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN’s State of the Union program.

In a statement released by his campaign, Biden seized on those comments, saying Meadows “stunningly admitted this morning that the administration has given up on even trying to control this pandemic, that they’ve given up on their basic duty to protect the American people.”

“This wasn’t a slip by Meadows, it was a candid acknowledgement of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn’t, and it won’t,” Biden said.

WATCH | Trump and Biden hit the campaign trail before election:

Donald Trump cast his ballot early in Florida before heading to rallies. 4:04

The outbreak among Pence’s aides marked the latest White House COVID-19 cases, which have included Trump, first lady Melania Trump, their son, Barron, and numerous aides and associates. The president was hospitalized for three nights this month after contracting COVID-19.

The new infections offered a reminder of the way Trump and his allies have downplayed the advice of public health experts to wear masks and observe physical-distancing guidelines to combat COVID-19 transmission.

Trump heads to Maine

Trump is also due to campaign in Maine on Sunday. Biden had no campaign events scheduled for Sunday. He leads in national opinion polls, but contests in battleground states that could decide the outcome appear closer. About 58.8 million voters have already cast ballots.

Meadows told reporters that White House doctors cleared Pence to travel after Short tested positive. Pence is scheduled to address rallies in Kinston, N.C., later on Sunday and in Hibbing, Minn., on Monday. Meadows said Pence would continue to campaign and speak at rallies.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden waves as he leaves St. Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., on Sunday. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

A spokesperson for the vice-president said late on Saturday that Pence and his wife had tested negative.

Asked why Pence was not following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to quarantine for 14 days after such exposure, Meadows on Sunday cited the vice-president’s status as “essential personnel.”

CDC guidance states: “To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.” The CDC guidance does not mention political campaigning.

‘He should be following the guidelines’

Explaining why the Trump campaign is not requiring people attending rallies to wear masks, Meadows said the campaign offered masks to attendees, but “we live in a free society.”

Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, took four days off the campaign trail this month after an aide tested positive for COVID-19.

Speaking in Detroit, Harris criticized Pence for continuing to travel, saying: “He should be following the guidelines.”

Trump has mocked Biden for wearing a protective mask.

WATCH | What early voting patterns say about the U.S. election race:

U.S. political scientist Cal Jilson says up to 60% of total votes could be cast before election day on Nov. 3. 6:38

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Sandra Nelson of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital said it appeared that Pence would be at high risk of becoming infected and transmitting infection.

“With multiple members of his office testing positive, this would be considered a work-based cluster. Any time there is a cluster like this, I would advise that the entire office transition to remote work for 14 days,” Nelson said.

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CBC | World News

Scattered around world, Canada’s women’s BB team faces extra challenges in advance of Tokyo Olympics

If it was up to Ruth Hamblin, she might be in space right now.

Instead, she’s self-isolating in an apartment in Poland after her basketball team experienced a coronavirus outbreak.

“Unfortunately, I have checked out the astronaut requirements [and I’m] about two inches too tall,” said Hamblin, who has studied aerospace engineering.

At six-foot-six, Hamblin signed to play centre for Politechnika Gdanska in Poland’s Basket Liga Kobiet.

The Houston, B.C., native said she was on the fence about playing overseas this year, but ultimately chose to go because it was a job.

From Gdansk to Mondeville to Toronto, the Canadian women’s basketball team now finds itself scattered across the globe.

That fact on its own isn’t different from any other year. The difference in a pandemic is they don’t know when they’ll come together next. The team is ranked No. 4 in the world and is a strong contender for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

An international competitive window — when there would typically be a tournament or practices — opens Nov. 8, but the logistics of gathering a group of people from around the world mean both Canada Basketball and its players are unsure on how they will proceed.

For now, the team meets monthly on Zoom and the players connect on an ongoing group chat.

In March, Hamblin was playing with fellow Canadians Miah-Marie Langlois and Jamie Scott for Dynamo Novisibirsk in Russia when their league shut down due to the pandemic. Still, the team scheduled mandatory practices as the Canadians saw pleas from the prime minister to return home.

Hamblin obliged, only to learn her team was fining her for skipping practice when she returned to North America.

“I ended up having to terminate my own contract, which at that point I was like, this is worth it. I don’t need money. I just want to be safe from this pandemic. And so, yeah, just kind of cut ties. And thankfully, it seemed to be on pretty good terms, but it was definitely a bit of an arm wrestle to get there,” Hamblin said.

The 26-year-old wound up having her fine rescinded after she says the general manager and president got on the same page.

In August, Hamblin signed in Poland.

“I’m just going to stick to Europe because there’s always going to be a flight back from Europe. You just never know from Russia,” Hamblin said.

Canada’s Ruth Hamblin is seen above at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The 26-year-old is currently playing overseas in Poland in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

When she arrived in Gdansk around one month ago, she tested negative for coronavirus and positive for antibodies. The league is not doing regular testing during the season beyond the initial intake. 

Recently, one of Hamblin’s teammates felt sick and tested positive for the virus. At least five other players have since contracted the virus, though Hamblin did not. The team won’t play for two weeks.

“It’ll be interesting what happens. Our season just could end up having a lot of postponed games as teams eventually test positive. But, yeah, I don’t know what it’s going to look like. And I wish that they would have a few more protocols. But at this point it’s out of our hands,” Hamblin said.

Hamblin earned her mechanical engineering degree at Oregon State, with a focus on aerospace. She joined the rocketry club at the suggestion of a professor, and the field is something she’s eyeing once her basketball career is over.

For now, she’s just hoping to play.

Langlois rehabbing in Toronto

Like Hamblin, Langlois isn’t returning to Russia. The 29-year-old was injured last October and chose to skip this season to get healthy ahead of the Olympics. Scott is the only of the three still with Novisibirsk.

Langlois had surgery to fix a sciatic nerve issue last week.

“Within a year, I’m hoping I have my Masters, become an Olympian for the second time and hopefully have a winning season at the University of Toronto,” Langlois said.

Also like Hamblin, Langlois knows there’s more to life beyond basketball. She’s currently working toward her Masters of innovation and entrepreneurship at Queen’s University.

In a positive spin on the pandemic, Langlois is taking advantage of online classes to remain home in Toronto and work as an unpaid coach at U of T, where former national teammate Tamara Tatham is an assistant.

“She became a big mentor of mine, to be honest, to see how she coaches and lead the girls. And she’s really helping me get better with my ability to be a leader — not as a player, but as a coach to a player, which is completely different,” Langlois said.

At the team’s pre-Olympic qualifiers last October, when Langlois first noticed the injury, she battled through two-minute shifts per half where she knew her body wasn’t right.

The U of T opportunity isn’t just good for her future, but for her present too as she trains alongside the players, even though pandemic restrictions mean no defence is allowed.

“Just working on the basketball IQ, becoming a coach in the sense of seeing the game in a different way. It has definitely helped a lot leadership-wise and just looking at the whole picture. So once I’m able to get back on the court, I’m just going to work my way back up to an elite Olympian,” Langlois said.

Gaucher stationed in France

Veteran Kim Gaucher didn’t face the same playing questions as Hamblin and Langlois when her French league season ended in March.

Gaucher and her American husband contemplated returning home, but travel restrictions made things complicated enough to lead them to stay in Mondeville, where Gaucher has played since 2015.

The 36-year-old Surrey, B.C., native plays a leadership role on the developmental team, though she still averaged 10.9 points per game last season.

Gaucher says protocols are constantly changing in France, but she’s still felt comfortable. While the season has begun, Gaucher’s yet to play due to injury.

“I still feel quite, quite safe here. Everything’s very well disinfected and stuff. … It’s going to be very interesting, but I feel like COVID is anywhere right now. And so even if I stayed home, there would still be still be heightened risk of going out and training and having to get to a gym,” Gaucher said.

Gaucher receives physiotherapy during a media availability ahead of the Rio Olympics. (Michelle Siu/The Canadian Press)

Certain arenas are allowing fans for games, while others are not. The league recently banned drinking at games. It also limited testing just to players who are symptomatic following a spate of positive tests.

Despite the uncertainty, Gaucher remains happy to play out the season in France.

“During the pandemic, we still got paid, so our salary, our contracts run through July 1 and all of us were still paid through July 1, but that was not the case in a lot of countries,” Gaucher said.

Gaucher had contemplated retirement after the 2016 Olympics, but Canada’s seventh-place finish left her wanting more. The delayed Games meant another year of training on the road to Tokyo.

“It was a whole lot tougher pill to swallow when they were postponed. Taking it day by day, month by month and seeing where the body stands come July 2021 now,” Gaucher said.

The Canadian also works every other week with Mondeville’s feeder team, helping to develop young French talent.

WNBAers take different routes

Two of Canada’s top young talents, Bridget Carleton and Kia Nurse, are taking different approaches to their WNBA off-season.

Carleton, 24, enjoyed a breakout year with the Minnesota Lynx. She’s currently at home in Chatham, Ont., quarantining ahead of her sister’s wedding, but will head to France after to join Landerneau Bretagne Basket.

With six other Canadians, including Gaucher, in France, Carleton said the familiarity in the league is something she cherished.

Nurse, meanwhile, is already looking ahead. Following post-season rehab, she returned home to Hamilton, Ont., where she’s working as a basketball analyst for TSN.

“I wanted to get myself and my body a chance to rest a little bit because it’s been so many years of 12 months a year of basketball that I really thought that this was a great opportunity to continue to grow off the court and learn and do something that I love in broadcasting,” Nurse said.

Nurse and Carleton both played in Australia last year.

Currently, there are also Canadians in Spain and Belgium and at American colleges. 

The national team prides itself on its grit, hustle and basketball IQ. If any team can withstand the extreme separation, it should be the Canadian women.

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CBC | Sports News

Ontario faces ‘runaway train’ of COVID-19 cases if families don’t scrap Thanksgiving gatherings, doctor warns

Ontario could be “on the brink of disaster,” a Toronto epidemiologist said Wednesday, as officials continued to urge families to scrap Thanksgiving gatherings amid soaring COVID-19 cases.

This week, the province — and public health officials in the hot zones of Toronto and Ottawa — stressed the safest way to celebrate is with only members of your own household.

Should Ontarians not heed those warnings, some weekend gatherings could become superspreading events once infected attendees return to their homes, schools and workplaces, said Dr. Jeff Kwong, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of Toronto.

“It’s not just about this one transmission event; it’s the onward transmission,” he said. “Ten people gathering, say four or five get infected, then they go on to their social circles and infect another five or 10, and so on.”

The result could be like a “runaway train” given the millions of residents potentially congregating indoors with extended family members from different households, he said.

Dr. Jeff Kwong, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of Toronto, says Thanksgiving celebrations could become COVID-19 “super-spreading” events. (CBC)

Ontario is experiencing a seven-day average of more than 600 cases per day, up sharply from a seven-day average of fewer than 100 cases per day at the start of August.

The province has also been struggling to tackle high demand for testing and an existing backlog of more than 55,000 tests. Most contact tracing efforts in Toronto have been suspended because of the dramatic rise in infections.

Against that backdrop, Ontario officials are now encouraging household-only celebrations for Thanksgiving while saying people who live alone can pair up with one other household.

Activities now ‘much higher risk’

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said residents let their guard down on previous holidays, such as Labour Day weekend, which led to increased cases.

But there are several stark differences between those earlier festivities and Thanksgiving, Kwong said. 

Unlike the long weekend holidays of spring and summer, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated indoors given the colder weather. Also, it often marks the first time college and university students return home from campus, and it now falls against a backdrop of already-rising cases.

“Things are a little bit out of control already,” he said. “It’s not like cases are going down steadily like they were earlier in the summer.”

Dr. Irfan Dhalla, vice-president of physician quality at Unity Health, which includes St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s hospitals in Toronto, agreed the climate has changed.

“The same activities that we could do with relatively low risk at 50-70 cases per day are now much higher risk at 500-700 cases per day,” he said.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said residents let their guard down on previous holidays, such as Labour Day weekend, which led to increased cases. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

One park gathering, 27 cases

According to Dr. Vera Etches, medical officer of health for Ottawa, even outdoor dinners aren’t advised for Thanksgiving, given the risks tied to close contact in settings like a park.

One outdoor gathering in that city already wound up becoming a superspreading event, she said.

It was a barbecue in a park, Etches revealed last month, with 40 attendees, including two who went on to develop COVID-19 symptoms. Those infections led to outbreaks in their households, a workplace and a daycare — causing dozens of exposures and at least 27 cases. 

The messaging throughout the pandemic has long been “outdoors is better than indoors,” said University of Toronto epidemiologist Ashleigh Tuite, but she stressed that only goes so far.

“I think the concern is still, you’re eating a meal together, it’s hard to keep a distance,” she explained. “You’re sharing food. You’re passing dishes.”

Thanksgiving a ‘potent accelerator’ 

Experts say there are ways to avoid those risks while still celebrating the spirit of the occasion. 

Tuite said a family hike, if physical distancing is maintained, is one option. Kwong said he’s carving up a turkey, offering curbside pickup for family and gathering online for the meal. 

The challenge, both agree, is people trying to gather together like usual and slipping up once food and drinks start flowing.

With that in mind, Kwong issued a public plea for Ontarians, and particularly those in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel region, to cancel any planned gatherings.

“We are on the brink of disaster,” he said in a tweet on Wednesday.

WATCH | Canadians confused by advice on Thanksgiving celebrations 

Canadians are trying to decipher confusing advice from public health officials about what kind of gathering, if any, is appropriate and safe for Thanksgiving. 1:57

Toronto warns of spring peak

In Toronto, where medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa is also calling on residents to celebrate Thanksgiving with only their own household, there’s growing concern about rising case counts beyond just the holiday.

The city’s latest modelling shows without further public health interventions — like month-long restaurant and gym closures de Villa is requesting from the province — the spread of COVID-19 throughout October could exceed the April peak. 

“If the virus is left unchecked, heading into November, things can get much worse,” she said. “Infections continue to rise week over week, peaking between early March and early May 2021.”

When asked when the city will know if Thanksgiving gatherings caused even more infections, de Villa’s answer was blunt: “I hope we don’t get there.”

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CBC | Health News

Quebec faces pressure to act against anti-Indigenous racism after Joyce Echaquan’s death

Pressure is mounting on the Quebec government to address the racism evidenced in a disturbing video Joyce Echaquan recorded just before dying in a Joliette hospital, but the provincial minister handling the file has kept a low profile over the last few days.

Sylvie D’Amours, the provincial minister responsible for Indigenous affairs, has faced repeated criticism for her inaction since the Viens report, which documented discrimination Indigenous people face when receiving public services, was made public a year ago.

Echaquan, a mother of seven from the Atikamekw community of Manawan, died on Monday. 

Opposition parties at the National Assembly criticized D’Amours for not speaking out about the death, other than issuing a press release.

Today, she gave an interview to Radio-Canada’s afternoon radio show Le 15-18. Host Isabelle Craig questioned why D’Amours hadn’t spoken to media directly since the death on Monday.

“You probably weren’t looking at social media,” D’Amours told Craig, noting she’d been at the vigil held Tuesday, offered her condolences to the family and had a meeting with Health Minister Christian Dubé and Manawan Chief Paul-Émile Ottawa.

“It might be a way of working that is different than others, but I made my presence with the family known more discreetly.”

On Twitter, Dubé confirmed the meeting between him, D’Amours and Chief Ottawa, concerning the recommendations made in the Viens report specific to health care.

“We must take the necessary actions to ensure that a situation like Joyce Echaquan’s never happens again,” Dubé wrote.

An orderly who was attending to Echaquan was fired on Thursday, the second health-care worker to be dismissed since the video surfaced. A nurse was fired on Tuesday.

Echaquan’s death is the subject of three investigations: two by the local health authority and a coroner’s inquest.

Quebec Premier François Legault said Thursday he too had been in touch with Echaquan’s partner, Carol Dubé, the father of their seven children, and had expressed his condolences.

WATCH | Carol Dubé, Joyce Echaquan’s partner, calls for change:

Carol Dubé pleads for accountability after his wife’s death in troubling circumstances. 0:55

Pandemic has slowed progress, Legault says

Legault said Echaquan’s partner wants to make sure something like this never happens again. On that front, Legault said, his government is making progress.

But he said the pandemic delayed the government’s ability to act on the recommendations in the Viens report.

“It’s not that easy. We first want to have an agreement with the First Nations because they don’t want us to apply recommendations without their consent, so it wasn’t possible in the past seven months to continue having those meetings,” he said.

Echaquan’s death has prompted outcry far beyond the borders of her home community of Manawan, and has become the focus of opposition politicians in Quebec City.

One of Joyce Echaquan’s children attended the vigil earlier this week near the Joliette hospital where her mother died. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade has called on D’Amours to resign, while Québec Solidaire tabled a motion calling on the province to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, one of the key recommendations in the Viens report.

Veronique Hivon, a Parti Quebecois MNA representing Joliette, said she is hopeful Echaquan’s death will lead to swift change.

She wants the government to follow through on recommendations in the Viens report that might have helped Echaquan, including ensuring health authorities “set up services and programs based on cultural safeguard principles developed for Indigenous peoples and in co-operation with them.”

“I think today it’s really important to send a signal that actions must be taken,” she said.

Jennifer Brazeau, the executive director of the Native Friendship Centre in Lanaudière, said she has heard dozens of stories of wrongdoing by medical staff in Joliette. She said Indigenous people living elsewhere have similar stories.

“As an Indigenous person, you often feel that you’re not going to be believed or that people are looking to see what your fault is in this,” she said.

In a statement earlier this week, D’Amours condemned racism against Indigenous people and said she has a plan in place to follow through on 51 of the 142 calls to action in the Viens report.

Legault, for his part, said his government’s action plan on racism will be tabled in the coming weeks, and said his government will act on those recommendations.

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FIFA president faces criminal charges in Switzerland

A criminal case against FIFA president Gianni Infantino was opened by a Swiss special prosecutor on Thursday, plunging the soccer body into a new scandal and potentially threatening the tenure of the man who was brought in to restore its tarnished reputation.

FIFA said it and Infantino will co-operate with Swiss authorities after prosecuto Stefan Keller — barely a month into the job — concluded there is enough evidence to go to court after investigating the circumstances of a meeting Infantino had with Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber.

The turmoil involving Lauber, who offered his resignation last week, centres on three meetings he had with Infantino in recent years — including one that he hadn’t disclosed and claimed no memory of — just as he was leading a sprawling investigation into soccer corruption.

Keller, a regional court judge, uncovered “elements that make up reprehensible behaviour,” an oversight panel monitoring federal prosecutors said in a statement. He opened a case against Infantino and regional prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold, a childhood friend of the FIFA boss, and sought authorization to open a case against Lauber.

Keller, who was named to the post of special prosecutor on June 29, found possible infractions included abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, “assisting offenders” and “incitement to these acts,” the panel said, adding other criminal acts and proceedings could also be considered.

Under the Swiss criminal code, conviction for abuse of public office can bring penalties of up to five years in prison or other detention, while breach of official secrecy and assisting offenders can incur up to three years each. Each charge can also bring financial penalties.

Suspects in such cases benefit from a presumption of innocence in Switzerland until legal proceedings are completed.

It was unclear whether Keller believes the alleged wrongdoing was the mere fact that Lauber and Infantino had met, or if compromising information was divulged during their conversations.

FIFA said it “acknowledges” Keller’s decision, and vowed it and Infantino “will, as we have always done, co-operate fully with this investigation.” It also highlighted past troubles at soccer’s governing body before Infantino took office, and said meetings with prosecutors were necessary.

“As president of FIFA, it has been my aim from day one, and it remains my aim, to assist the authorities with investigating past wrongdoings at FIFA,” Infantino said. “FIFA officials have met with prosecutors in other jurisdictions across the world for exactly these purposes.”

FIFA also revived a statement from Infantino on June 25, when he said: “To meet with the attorney general of Switzerland is perfectly legitimate and it’s perfectly legal. It’s no violation of anything. On the contrary, it is also part of the fiduciary duties of the president of FIFA.”

At the time, Infantino also quipped: “this whole thing is quite absurd.”

In March, Lauber was found to have lied to and obstructed the oversight panel. Its probe began after reports last year said he had an undisclosed meeting with Infantino in a hotel in Bern in June 2017.

Lauber did not take notes at the meeting and both men later claimed not to recall details of their discussion.

It was their third meeting and had stayed secret when Lauber called a November 2018 news conference to acknowledge the previous two, which had been revealed in the “Football Leaks” series publishing confidential documents in the soccer industry.

Lauber and Infantino, in meetings brokered by Arnold, had previously met twice — soon after the FIFA presidential election in February 2016.

On Friday, Lauber offered to resign only minutes before a federal court upheld allegations that he lied about the third meeting — in essence rejecting his appeal of the March ruling.

“On the basis of general life experience, such a case of collective amnesia is an aberration,” the federal court ruling said.

Elected in 2016 

Infantino gained the FIFA presidency in the fallout from the investigations that erupted around the governing body in 2015. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who had already announced plans to resign in the wake of arrests of dozens of soccer officials, was banned from world football.

Michel Platini, the favourite to succeed Blatter and then serving as UEFA president, was also suspended, which ended his chances of leading FIFA.

In the void, Infantino, who led the UEFA administration as general secretary, saw a route to leading FIFA. The Swiss-Italian was elected in 2016, beating Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman.

The Bahraini is senior vice-president of FIFA so would be in line to replace Infantino temporarily if he was suspended due to the criminal case.

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Even the loonie is rising against the U.S. dollar as the Fed faces currency threat: Don Pittis

No one will be surprised if Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell uses part of his news conference on Wednesday to scoff at the idea of the U.S. dollar losing its place as the world reserve currency.

But even as he scoffs, the comments this week by strategists at global finance giant Goldman Sachs that “real concerns around the longevity of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency have started to emerge,” will certainly be in the minds of everyone listening to the Fed’s latest plans.

Predictions of the mighty U.S. dollar’s fall from its place as the ultimate measure of value are nothing new.

“Gold bugs” — the slightly disrespectful term for people convinced the yellow metal is the only truly safe investment — roll out an attack on the U.S. dollar’s safety every few years.

Deposing king dollar

The euro has been an aspiring candidate, but has had many troubles of its own. Countries that don’t get along with the U.S., including Iran, have complained about the absurdity of having to sell their oil to third parties priced in U.S. dollars.

After the global financial meltdown of 2008, China’s then central banker, Zhou Xiaochuan, criticized the use of a single country’s currency for a world standard, calling it a historical anomaly.

“The crisis again calls for creative reform of the existing international monetary system toward an international reserve currency with a stable value, rule-based issuance and manageable supply,” wrote Zhou.

But the comments from New York bankers Goldman Sachs just as gold is hitting new highs and the greenback is hitting new lows are quite different from bellyaching from those who would like to take the dollar’s place.

Most people in finance will tell you, as financial specialist Kamal Smimou once told me, that dislodging the U.S. dollar from the key place it has held for 75 years since the Bretton Woods conference would be disruptive and costly.

But the Goldman comments act as a warning of what might happen if the U.S. currency eventually becomes debased through too much government spending and too much borrowing at interest rates close to zero.

Fear of debasement

“The resulting expanded balance sheets and vast money creation spurs debasement fears,” said the strategists’ report.

That puts Goldman in the inflationist camp, adding their voices to the idea that central banks will be afraid to raise interest rates even in the longer term.

That’s certainly the impression the central bank chair seemed to offer at his last news conference when, in his most quotable statement, he promised that higher rates were not on the cards.

“We’re not thinking about raising rates,” Powell said in June. “We’re not even thinking about thinking about raising rates.”

Perhaps now the bank will at least have to start thinking about thinking about it, or at least explain what its strategy will be if the currency continues to fall or if inflation shows signs of perking up.

The Canadian dollar is up two cents against the U.S. currency in the last month. (Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters)

Even the Canadian loonie has been on a tear against the U.S. dollar, perhaps a sign that even with the WE controversy in Ottawa, Canada is seen as a relatively stable country and a healthier economy than some.

The Canadian dollar is up two cents against the U.S. currency in the last month. But as usual, that is deceptive. With most of our trade happening with the U.S., the loonie tends to rise and fall with the U.S dollar. The loonie continues to trade lower against the euro.

The Goldman Sachs report is making lots of headlines and offers a little thrill of dread to those who are looking for an even more dire outcome from the current pandemic. But gold quite regularly rises in value during times of financial uncertainty and it tends to fall shortly after.

Speculation not investment

When the U.S. economy starts chugging along again, gold will once again be expensive to hold and will still provide no investment return. The rule from the past is the only people who make money by buying gold are those who sell fairly quickly, before it plunges again.

The fact is, Goldman’s fearmongering may be playing into the hands of Powell and other central bankers. Research has shown that one of the biggest predictors of inflation is what people think inflation will be.

Perhaps Powell and Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem would be pleased for people to think inflation is on the way back, thus offering a little more insurance that its evil twin, deflation, will be driven away for good.

But with so many of our longstanding rules about what causes inflation seeming to be in abeyance, the potentially perilous consequences of the Goldman Sachs warning mean that it will be hard for central bankers to completely ignore.

Follow Don on Twitter @Don Pittis

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U.S. Postal Service faces budget uncertainty in a year of increased mail-in ballots

The U.S. Postal Service’s famous motto — “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers” — is being tested like never before, by challenges that go well beyond the weather.

Its finances have been devastated by the coronavirus. The Trump administration may attach big strings to federal bailouts.

The agency’s responsibilities, meanwhile, are mounting. A dramatic shift in many states to voting by mail is intended to protect voters from spreading the virus at polling places. But it’s also making more work for post offices and contributing to delays in determining election winners.

Primary election results were delayed this week in Kentucky and New York as both states were overwhelmed by huge increases in mail ballots. Both states are now giving voters extra time to return mail ballots, as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday.

“What we don’t need is more chaos in the chaos,” said Wendy Fields, executive director of the voting rights advocacy group The Democracy Initiative, who said worries about undue strain at the post office only exacerbate larger struggles against voter suppression.

President Donald Trump opposes expanding voting by mail, and has argued ahead of the Nov. 3 general election that it  will trigger fraud, even though there’s no evidence that will happen. Trump and many of his administration’s leading voices frequently vote absentee themselves.

Unsubstantiated allegations of fraud

The president has also called the Postal Service “a joke” and says package shipping rates should be at least four times higher for heavy users like Amazon. But shipping and packages are actually a top revenue generator for the Postal Service, and critics say Trump is merely looking to punish Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in retaliation for unflattering coverage in The Washington Post, which the billionaire Bezos also owns.

Trump has acknowledged larger political calculations are at work, tweeting that expanding vote by mail will “LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has suggested the Republican president’s opposition to absentee voting and criticism of the Postal Service may help him “steal” the election.

“The U.S. Postal Service is an essential pillar of American life. We simply cannot let Donald Trump destroy it,” Biden said in a tweet last month.

Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents 200,000-plus employees, said the Trump administration is “shamefully trying to use the crisis to carry out an agenda” of privatization, which would ultimately “break up the Postal Service and sell it.”

Jim Condos, who was president of the National Association of Secretaries of State from July 2018 to July 2019, said “our democracy depends on a reliable post office.”

“Mid-election year is not the time to see changes in the dependability of the Postal Service, especially during a year when our country is experiencing a pandemic and health crisis, which will dramatically increase the necessity of voting by mail,” he said.

The Postal Service predates the United States, created by the Second Continental Congress in July 1775. Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general.

Tweet from Maine Democrat:

Unlike its private competitors, the Postal Service cannot refuse to make costly deliveries to especially hard-to-reach addresses. Still, much of its budgetary concerns stem from a 2006 law requiring the agency to fully fund retiree health benefits for the next 75 years.

It normally operates without taxpayer funds. Amid the pandemic, however, it lost $ 4.5 billion US in fiscal year 2020’s second quarter.

Line of credit in coronavirus aid package

Congress approved a $ 10 billion line of credit for the agency as part of March’s sweeping economic rescue package. Since then, though, the Postal Service and the Treasury Department have had discussions about requirements to extend those loans.

Neither side will say publicly what’s being negotiated, but Trump has made his feelings clear. A 2018 Treasury task force also recommended the Postal Service increase package rates and cut labour costs. A second coronavirus aid package passed in May by the Democratic-controlled House includes $ 25 billion in direct aid for the Postal Service, but the Republican-led Senate hasn’t passed its own version.

In the meantime, more than 3,420 of the Postal Service’s 630,00-plus employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and some have died. While package deliveries have increased as Americans stay home, mail volumes plummeted — as much as 30 per cent, according to the American Postal Workers Union.

In April, then-Postmaster General Megan Brennan said the agency could be out of money by Sept. 30. Last week, Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman and Republican fundraiser who’s donated to Trump, succeeded Brennan.

Postal Service spokesperson David Partenheimer said more recent trends “indicate that our 2020 financial performance will be better than our early scenarios predicted,” though he said much remains uncertain.

“Our current financial condition is not going to impact our ability to deliver election and political mail this year,” Partenheimer said.

Condos, currently Vermont’s secretary of state, fears keeping such a promise could force the Postal Service to cut back on routine services, which may see voting materials prioritized over regular mail. The pressure is also on since absentee ballots for overseas military members are sent 45 days before Election Day, or Sept. 18 — less than three months away.

“This whole idea that we have until November to decide, we really don’t,” Condos said.

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