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Positive COVID-19 tests in Calgary bubble halt playoffs at men’s curling worlds

Playoffs at the world men’s curling championship in Calgary have been suspended because of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus.

Those who tested positive are asymptomatic and don’t involve playoff teams, according to Curling Canada.

  • Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live  Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET; Sunday 5 p.m. ET) featuring the men’s curling championship on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

But games are halted until athletes and staff on playoff teams are tested Saturday and receive their results.

“All teams that made the playoffs will undergo testing on Saturday morning, and until the results are clear and it’s known that the players and event staff are safe, no further games will be played,” Curling Canada said in a statement.

Those who have tested positive for the virus are in quarantine and contact tracing is underway, the organization added.

Canada’s Brendan Bottcher was eliminated from gold-medal contention Friday evening in a 5-3 loss to Scotland.

Saturday’s playoff game involving the United States and Switzerland, and semifinals involving Russia and Sweden are on hold. The medal games are scheduled for Sunday.

Fourteen teams, including 13 who travelled to Calgary from outside the country, competed in the men’s world championship.

The field was whittled down to six teams by Friday afternoon. The eliminated teams were preparing to travel home.

WATCH | Scotland upends Canada in qualification game:

Canada’s Brendan Bottcher loses to Scotland’s Bruce Mouat 5-3 in the qualification game at the men’s world curling championship. 1:04

The Canadian men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships held at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre before the world championship were completed without any positive tests for the coronavirus.

Athletes and team personnel quarantine and are tested upon arrival in Calgary before competing. They’re confined to the arena and the their hotel across the highway.


A pair of Grand Slams with international men’s and women’s fields are scheduled to start next week in Calgary’s curling bubble.

Participants in those tournaments have begun arriving in Calgary to undergo their testing and quarantine before getting on the ice.

The women’s world championship, which was relocated from Switzerland to Calgary, is planned for April 30 to May 6.

WATCH | Where Canada fits in the current curling climate:

The two-time world champion explains how the rest of the world has caught up to Canadian curling. 3:20

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CBC | Sports News

Is your N95-style mask failing you? Lab tests show some falling way short of filtration standards

As more dangerous variants of the coronavirus spread, many Canadians are looking to upgrade their mask. 

That has some people reaching for N95-style respirators that promise to filter at least 95 per cent of airborne particles.

When shopping online and in stores, consumers are most likely to find the international equivalents of the coveted N95, as these masks are still generally not available in stores. 

The imported equivalents include the KN95 respirator, which meets the Chinese standard of 95 per cent filtration efficiency and the KF94, which meets the Korean standard of 94 per cent filtration efficiency.

However, as demand for these masks has grown, so has the presence of counterfeits and poor-quality respirators in Canadian stores.

To find out how much Canadians can trust what they’re buying, CBC’s Marketplace tested 14 KN95 and KF94 respirator brands purchased from Amazon and big box stores. 

Three masks from each brand were tested at a lab at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health to see if they meet their filtration efficiency claims. Half failed.




“As a consumer in Canada right now, you can’t be confident of going to a reputable vendor, buying a pack of masks with a stamp that says KN95 or N95 or KF94, and have really any confidence that those masks meet that standard, and that’s a huge worry from me as an academic, but also as a consumer,” said James Scott, a professor of occupational and environmental health who oversaw the testing. 

Marketplace shared the failing results with the stores and the manufacturers who made them. Some stores have since removed the products or say they are investigating further. Others maintain they are following regulatory guidelines. 

What do the test results tell you? 

While some masks tested well below the 95 per cent filtration standard threshold, others failed by just a percentage point or two. So how much do the results matter?

According to emergency room physician Dr. Jay Park of San Diego, Calif., it depends on who is using the mask and the level of protection they need or want. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Park has been working to verify the authenticity and quality of N95-style respirators destined for hospitals. He has since shared his expertise and compiled tips on what average consumers can look for when buying these masks.

“The respirators on the low end of the test results may provide a similar level of protection to many cloth masks,” said Park. 

WATCH | We tested 14 types of KN95 and KF94 masks. Here’s what we found:

CBC Marketplace tested KN95 and KF94 masks sold online and at big box stores. Half of them didn’t offer the level of protection they’re supposed to. 6:27

As for the masks that came in just a percentage point or two below the standard, he said they can still be used.

“If you are a consumer and you’re just using this to go shopping or do low-risk activities, then yes, your testing results do show that it protects you better than cloth masks. You don’t have to throw them out. I think that you just need to be informed that these do not meet KN95, 95 per cent filtration standards.”

Scott said that the consequence of a failing mask could be greater for those at higher risk of exposure or more severe disease.

“They matter for [health-care] workers and to a similar extent they matter for members of the public who have very specific susceptibilities where they need to go that extra distance to [protect] themselves from people in the environment.”

Should I be wearing a KN95 or KF94 respirator?

Experts agree the best protection against COVID-19 is to limit contact with others by staying home and physical distancing. When it comes to masking, the level of protection is up to you. 

“I don’t necessarily think that the general population necessarily needs the highest protection possible,” said Park. “Do you deserve the highest protection possible? Do you want the highest protection possible? Now those are different questions, right?”

He advises that those at higher risk choose the best protection available to them. 

“If you’re telling me that you’re riding the subway or you need to ride public transportation, or you’re a teacher and you’re working in an indoor classroom full of children that typically don’t show signs and symptoms of COVID-19, then yes, I believe you should get the highest protection possible.”

What are some tips to avoid poor-quality or counterfeit respirator masks?

1. Cut out resellers

Park advises to avoid resellers. Instead, he said to buy directly from the source or companies with a history in selling personal protective equipment (PPE).

These companies, he said, are more likely to have a relationship with a reputable supplier. Some manufacturers also sell directly to consumers, including Canadian companies that have recently been ramping up production of N95-style respirators.

2: Avoid the FDA logo

Health Canada and the United States Food and Drug Administration had temporarily authorized the sale of some KN95 and KF94 respirators during the pandemic. However, even authorized respirators are not allowed to use the FDA logo.

“The FDA logo is for the official use of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and not for use on private sector materials,” the FDA website says. 


If you see the FDA logo on product packaging and marketing, it means it’s likely not authorized, said Dr. Jay Park. (CBC)

3: Be wary of unmarked packaging or an unknown manufacturer

Some of the products Marketplace purchased arrived in unmarked packaging or in boxes that did not include the manufacturer’s name and address. That’s another red flag, said Park. 

“You don’t want to buy something that is potentially a medical product and not know who the manufacturer is for you to be able to trace back and say OK, this is who made it and I can look up their registration or certification online,” he said.


Park said unmarked packaging is a red flag. (John Lesavage/CBC)

4: Check Health Canada, the FDA and CDC websites

Health Canada has a list of authorized medical devices for uses related to COVID-19. You can check whether your mask is among them. However, only respirators authorized under the interim order introduced after COVID-19 struck are on this list. 

The FDA also has a list of KN95s and other imported respirators that have been authorized for use. 

You can also check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of Counterfeit Respirators/Misrepresentation of NIOSH-Approval.

Park has also created a PPE authentication site that aggregates the data on masks that are authorized for sale or recalled in Canada, the U.S and Europe.

What do the companies say about the results?

Marketplace reached out to the stores and retailers selling the KN95 and KF94 respirators that failed the filtration test. Here is how they responded: 

Well.ca, whose masks tested among the lowest, did not respond directly to the test results. Instead, it directed Marketplace to contact the manufacturer. That information was not listed on the product packaging and Well.ca did not provide it when asked.  

Amazon said that it verifies that all masks on their sites are legitimate. It said that there are “bad actors” that purposely evade their protections and that they removed the products that failed. The seller of the Seal Goods mask on Amazon said the ones purchased by Marketplace could be counterfeit.

Walmart also removed the mask that failed from its website. It said it does not permit the sale of KN95’s and that the product purchased should never have been for sale. They did not explain how this mask and other KN95s ended up on their site. 

Home Depot and Home Hardware said they follow regulatory standards. Home Depot said that it is investigating further. 

Marketplace also shared its results with Health Canada, which said it “monitors information about counterfeit, fraudulent and unauthorized COVID-19 devices, including personal protective equipment. Devices that are confirmed to be counterfeit or unauthorized are removed from the market and are not permitted to be sold in Canada.”

  • Watch full episodes of Marketplace on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.

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CBC | Health News

Canada’s soccer World Cup qualifier postponed after Cayman Islands misses COVID-19 tests

The complexities of executing sporting events in a global pandemic were illustrated Sunday when Canada’s World Cup qualifier against the Cayman Islands was pushed back a day to Monday.

At issue were the pre-match COVID-19 tests taken by the Cayman Islands delegation, which did not meet FIFA requirements.

It appears the Caymans delegation did its best but was foiled by a tumultuous plane ride as it tried to get to Florida from Suriname, where it lost 3-0 on Wednesday in the capital of Paramaribo.

Alfredo Whittaker, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, said his team missed its scheduled testing upon arrival because of travel issues.

The team’s charter was originally scheduled to arrive at a private airport in Sarasota, Fla., only to be turned away by U.S. Customs. The plane was diverted to Miami but, as it was about to descend, the pilot was told he could not land because it was not a scheduled flight. The plane eventually landed in Tampa with the team not getting to its hotel until 1:30 a.m. local time Friday.

The delegation underwent a rapid antigen test, which detects protein fragments specific to COVID-19. While the rapid test can deliver results in as quick as 15 minutes, the results are not always accurate as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Canada hopefully to play Monday

FIFA requires a PCR test, which is considered the gold standard in testing for the virus. It involves a lab testing a sample typically collected using a swab inserted into a person’s nose or throat. Turnaround time for the PCR test is longer.

“We did a rapid test because there was no lab around the area that would give us results until Monday or Tuesday,” Whittaker said. “But miraculously we managed to get that lab that was originally closed on Saturday and Sunday to open for us [Sunday].”

The results are expected to be ready between 2 and 3 p.m. ET Monday, ahead of the 6 p.m. kickoff at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

News of the one-day postponement came out Sunday in brief releases from Canada Soccer and FIFA in the hour before the scheduled 4 p.m. kickoff. The decision to delay the match was made “to ensure the safety of all participants in the match,” according to FIFA.


Whittaker said Canada Soccer had been “very understanding.”

“We’re living in difficult times. These are requirements and we respect requirements,” he added.

Whittaker noted the Caymans have been pretty much COVID-free.

According to the Cayman Islands government website, the country had 487 confirmed cases of COVID and two deaths as of Friday. The four most recent cases were tourists, who tested positive following routine screening.

As of Friday, 28,861 (44 per cent of the estimated population) had received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with 26 per cent having completed the two-dose course.

WATCH | Larin hat trick leads Canada past Bermuda:

Canada dominates Bermuda 5-1 as they start World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region. 3:19

The Canadian team was still at its hotel in nearby Sarasota when it got news of the problem Sunday. Canada coach John Herdman said his squad took news of the postponement in stride, after some initial “disappointment, shock.”

“I think we’re used to the many ups and downs that this world keeps throwing at us,” Herdman said in a video posted by Canada Soccer.

“If anything we’ll look at the positives which are more recovery, more regen time for those players that played on Thursday,” he added.

Herdman said he pulled his team’s leadership group together in wake of the news. The decision was made to go ahead and hold a “light, bright” training session Sunday.

“We just turn the page and [Monday] will be the big day for us.”

Canada Soccer said teams are required to provide FIFA with negative COVID-19 PCR test results for all players and staff taken no earlier than 72 hours before accessing the venue. Without the test results, teams can’t access the stadium.


Canada Soccer said it had “engaged a laboratory to be on-site with the team to conduct its testing” and that all of its players and staff had received negative testing before arriving and while in camp in Florida.

Sunday’s game was officially a home game for the Caymans. But the three-island group has the same 14-day quarantine as Canada so opted to shift the site to Bradenton.

The current FIFA international window runs through Tuesday for CONCACAF teams. But the delay in the Caymans game means extending whatever quarantines are in place at the other end when player return home.

Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson left Friday to return to his club team Besiktas in Turkey as part of an apparent prearranged deal.

The Canadian men are ranked 73rd in the world, 120 places above the Cayman part-timers.

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CBC | Soccer News

George Floyd murder trial tests how much — if anything — will change in U.S.

Bishop Richard Howell Jr. thundered from his North Minneapolis pulpit Sunday that the city “is under great stress right now” as the George Floyd murder trial tests how much, if anything, will change in the U.S. almost 10 months after the killing sparked global outrage.

Jury selection for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, whose knee pressing on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes was captured on graphic video last May, is expected to get underway Monday.

“This officer coldly refused to respond to his plea and kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, snuffing the very life out of him,” preached Howell as his congregants shouted out their acknowledgement.

“A senseless, cold, hideous act of hate, bigotry and brutality,” said Howell, who is opening his church to those who may struggle watching the live-streamed trial.

WATCH | Security high in advance of trial in George Floyd’s killing:

Emotions are high and security is heavy as the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is slated to begin. The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, touched off numerous protests and an ongoing racial reckoning. 3:37

Benjamin Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, told CBC News that the upcoming case is “one of the most important civil rights cases in the last 100 years. It is the Emmett Till of today.”

Till, a 14-year-old Black teenager, was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a white woman in a grocery store. His killers were swiftly acquitted.

“Mississippi or Minnesota, I don’t see much difference,” Deborah Watts, one of Till’s cousins, said at a Minneapolis news conference on Friday surrounded by dozens of families whose relatives have been shot or killed by police. “Emmett Till was murdered in August 1955, and we are still fighting for justice.

“Something is wrong with that … we have not made much progress.”

Last summer, millions of people protested across the U.S. against Floyd’s killing in scenes not witnessed since the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Protests against racial injustice and police brutality spread to Canada and many cities internationally.

WATCH | Lawyer for George Floyd’s family discusses upcoming trial:

Benjamin Crump tells CBC’s Susan Ormiston that if the officer’s involved in George Floyd’s killing aren’t convicted, it would be ‘one of the worst miscarriages of justice’ in U.S. history. 1:59

Crump said the video of Floyd — handcuffed, face down on the pavement, gasping for breath — is “ocular proof” of a man being “tortured to death by the very people who are supposed to protect and defend.”

“The world had gotten used to seeing reality TV, but we were still shocked,” he told CBC News from his office in Tallahassee, Fla.

The criminal trial against Chauvin will be prosecuted by the state of Minnesota. While Crump is not directly involved in this case, its outcome will inevitably impact the family’s civil case against the city of Minneapolis and the four police officers involved in Floyd’s death.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, with the potential addition of a third-degree murder charge. Three other officers involved in Floyd’s death go on trial in August.

Increased security around courthouse

Cameras in the courtroom will capture the trial and live stream it for broadcast on some TV channels — a first for Minnesota. The trial is being compared to that of the Los Angeles police officers who were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King 30 years ago, as well as the O.J. Simpson murder trial, which commanded large TV audiences.

“The killing of George Floyd by Officer Chauvin is akin for many Americans to some type of public lynching, the likes of which we haven’t seen for decades,” said Kami Chavis, a law professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

“I don’t want people to underestimate the power and the importance of this case and what might happen,” she said. “It’s a huge signal, I think, to law enforcement about what they can and can’t do.”


The Hennepin County courthouse and many federal buildings in Minneapolis are barricaded and surrounded by concertina wire ahead of the trial. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

The Hennepin County courthouse in Minneapolis is now surrounded by three rings of cement barriers, three-metre high fencing and concertina wire. The state has allocated $ 36 million US to security and has activated the Minnesota National Guard. Staff in the building, which includes the county government office, have been told to stay home.

The courtroom has been modified to accommodate physical distancing due to COVID-19, restricting the number of people allowed inside. One person per family, four each for the defence and prosecution teams and two media members are allowed in at a time. Masks are mandatory, but cannot have anything written on them. 

Challenges in selecting a jury

Three weeks have been allotted to jury selection as lawyers try to screen potential jurors for bias, a complicated task in such a highly publicized case.

Activists in Minneapolis say Chauvin is the fourth police officer to be prosecuted in the death of a citizen in Minnesota. Two were acquitted, while one other was convicted in the death of a white woman.

“For the most part, officers are pretty sympathetic figures in a lot of these cases. And juries give a great deal of deference to what police officers do. So that will be a challenge as well,” Chavis said.


The courtroom for Chauvin’s trial has been modified to allow for physical distancing due to COVID-19. (Hennepin County)

One of those acquittals involved the death of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by police in July 2016 in a St. Paul suburb while stopped at a traffic light with his girlfriend and a four-year-old in the car. The officer, who was charged with second-degree manslaughter, was acquitted — but fired from the force.

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, sent a message to legislators during Friday’s emotional news conference.

“We’re gonna have to be brutally honest about what’s going on in this country”, she said. “To the State of Minnesota: we are not going to shut up, we are not going to sit down, we are going to stand in unity and we’re going to bring it to you”.

‘Many other people were murdered before George Floyd’

The death of Floyd, who was originally from Texas, has propelled the fight against anti-Black racism and police brutality back into the forefront.. Artwork of the 46-year-old’s face has popped up on billboards, buildings and in museums, and his death has become a lightning rod for thousands of Black families whose relatives have been stopped, shot or killed by police in their communities.

“What happened after George Floyd’s death — the riots, the uproar — did not happen as a result of one man’s life. It happened because many other people were murdered before George Floyd. And nothing happened. Nothing changed”, Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, told CBC News.

Garraway’s fiancé, Justin Teigen, died following a run-in with police 12 years ago. According to St. Paul police, Teigen was fleeing police and did not die in their custody.

A mural showing his face along with dozens of others, including Floyd’s, covers the side of a building in North Minneapolis. It serves as a visual reminder of the more than 400 people who’ve been killed in altercations with police in Minnesota in the last 20 years, according to the Communities United Against Police Brutality advocacy group.

“If George Floyd did something wrong, if all the rest of our loved ones did something wrong, [police] were to arrest them. Not take their lives, not destroy our lives,” Garraway said.


Toshira Garraway, who founded Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, stands in front of a mural of Minnesotans who have died after police encounters. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

Crump said the Floyd family is “very, very anxious” and wants “a conviction to the fullest extent of the law.” He said anything less has the potential to unleash more unrest.

Violence and riots last summer in the days after Floyd’s killing burned blocks of the city, with damage estimated at $ 350 million US. Minneapolis is bracing against heightened tensions when the case goes to the jury, which is expected to happen late April or May.

“Historically in America, the police have not been held accountable for killing African Americans,” said Crump, who has taken on dozens of cases where Black men and women have been shot or injured by police.

“The George Floyd case will be a referendum on how far America has come in this quest for equal justice under the law.”

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CBC | World News

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tests positive for COVID-19

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Sunday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and that the symptoms are mild.

Mexico’s president, who has been criticized for his handling of his country’s pandemic, said on his official Twitter account that he is under medical treatment.

“I regret to inform you that I am infected with COVID-19,” he tweeted. “The symptoms are mild but I am already under medical treatment. As always, I am optimistic. We will all move forward.”

Lopez Obrador, 67, has long been criticized for not setting an example of prevention in public. He has rarely been seen wearing a mask and continued to keep up a busy travel schedule taking commercial flights.

He has resisted locking down the economy, noting the devastating effect it would have on so many Mexicans who live day to day.

Early in the pandemic, asked how he was protecting Mexico, Lopez Obrador removed two religious amulets from his wallet and proudly showed them off.

“The protective shield is the `Get thee behind me, Satan,”‘ Lopez Obrador said, reading off the inscription on the amulet, “Stop, enemy, for the Heart of Jesus is with me.

Sputnik V vaccine negotiations expected Monday

His announcement came shortly after news emerged that he would speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday about obtaining doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter the two leaders would speak about the bilateral relationship and supplying doses of the vaccine.

The vaccine has not been approved for use in Mexico, but the government is desperate to fill supply gaps for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Mexico has given more than 618,000 vaccine doses.

Mexico has registered nearly 150,000 COVID-19 deaths and more than 1.7 million infections. Hospitals in the capital have been near capacity for weeks as a surge of cases followed the holiday season.

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French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive for COVID-19

France’s Élysée Palace says President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19.

It said the president took a test “as soon as the first symptoms appeared.” The brief statement did not say what symptoms Macron experienced.

It said he would isolate himself for seven days. “He will continue to work and take care of his activities at a distance,” it added.

It was not immediately clear what contact tracing efforts were in progress. Macron attended a European Union summit at the end of last week, where he notably had a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He met on Wednesday with the prime minister of Portugal. There was no immediate comment from Portuguese officials.

Macron on Wednesday also held the government’s weekly cabinet meeting in the presence of Prime Minister Jean Castex and other ministers. Castex’s office said that the prime minister is also self-isolating for seven days.

Political party chiefs from the Senate and France’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, were also in isolation as they had a lunch with Macron earlier this week.

The French presidency confirmed that Macron’s trip to Lebanon scheduled for next week is being cancelled.

Macron is the latest world leader to test positive for COVID-19, joining a growing list of others just as inoculation drives against the illness are beginning in a number of countries.

U.S President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, are among the world leaders and prominent politicians who have contracted the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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Ontario reports single-day high of 1,983 new COVID-19 cases, record number of tests

Ontario reported single-day highs of 1,983 new COVID-19 cases and nearly 62,000 tests on Thursday.

The additional cases include 515 in Peel Region, 496 in Toronto, 208 in York Region and 112 in Windsor-Essex.

There are currently 16,233 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide, the most at any point during the pandemic. 

Moreover, hospitalization figures all hit second-wave highs in today’s update. There are now 829 patients with cases of COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals. Of those, 228 are being treated in intensive care units, while 132 people require the use of a ventilator.

Ontario also recorded 35 more deaths linked to the illness, pushing the official toll to 3,871. 

More to come.

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CBC | Health News

Parents welcome asymptomatic COVID-19 tests in schools, even if news isn’t always good

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster weekend for Toronto father Yaser Nadaf, after Ontario’s new asymptomatic testing for schools in COVID-19 hot spots turned up 19 new positive cases at his children’s school.

While his daughter and her Grade 3 class were cleared to return to school on Monday, his son’s Grade 2 class must self-isolate for 14 days, even though the youngster himself was among those who tested negative.

The weekend’s testing blitz at Thorncliffe Park Public School — the first Toronto District School Board (TDSB) location selected for the voluntary testing pilot announced last week — saw 14 classes affected and sent home for two weeks. However, the rest of the school will remain open, according to direction from Toronto Public Health.

Nadaf is rolling with it, saying he believes teachers and staff have been trying their best to maintain health and safety precautions and protocols.

“What can we do? This is going on everywhere in the world,” he said. “They try their best, but at the same time they cannot prevent it completely.”

Testing asymptomatic students and staff is currently being offered at designated schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions and Ottawa — four Ontario regions with a high number of active COVID-19 cases.


Thorncliffe Park Public School was the first Toronto District School Board location selected to participate in a new voluntary asymptomatic testing program at schools in four COVID hot spots in Ontario. The testing found 19 positive cases, and 14 classes were sent home to self-isolate. (CBC)

The goal is to improve tracking of the coronavirus and prevent transmission within schools, as well as to inform future public health decisions. While parents and health experts seem to be applauding the pilot, some are also highlighting shortcomings in how it’s being rolled out.

Over the weekend, testing also began in Ottawa at Manordale Public School, part of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Amber Mammoletti, an occasional teacher working at two schools this fall, dropped by on Sunday to be tested with her son, Flynn.

“I think there’s people walking around not realizing they have it — no symptoms — so it’s just better to keep everyone safe: Get tested if you can and see what happens,” she said.

WATCH | How testing helped Cornell University become a model of COVID-19 prevention:

At the start of the school year, Cornell University implemented a strategy of regular testing and robust contact tracing on campus. The plan was expensive, but it’s prevented any major COVID-19 outbreaks at the New York institution. 8:19

School boards are working with local public health authorities to determine which schools to target over the next four weeks, but the expectation is that new positives will undoubtedly emerge, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said.

“The 19 cases we’ve learned about over the weekend [at Thorncliffe Park PS] as a result of the testing is a concern, but it’s not unexpected,” he said Monday.

“While this information is concerning, it really is the information that our public health officials need to know, because it gives them a better snapshot of how many of those asymptomatic people are positive cases of COVID.”

Despite the batch of positive cases arising from this first weekend, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce reiterated his assertion that “99.9 per cent of Ontario students are COVID-free” during a press briefing on Monday afternoon.

Acknowledging that “we still have work to do” in tracking COVID-19 cases in communities, he characterized the new testing initiative as an extension of the existing safety measures his ministry had announced.

“The fact that hundreds of children, students and staff have gotten tested [at Thorncliffe Park PS] in conjunction with the local public health unit I think underscores that the plan in place is … working hard to mitigate any further spread: identifying COVID cases, isolating them or moving them from the school, so we don’t have spreaders within the school.” 

‘Canaries in the coal mine’

A targeted campaign of testing in schools — which in most neighbourhoods are considered trusted, known places — is a welcome tool that adds to the barometer of what’s happening in the communities they’re located in, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“Parents who may not be encouraged to go get tested in their local communities will readily take their kids to the school, which is a place they know,” he said.

“Things like this are going to be canaries in the coal mine. You kind of get a better sense of what’s happening in the community by doing these local testing strategies.”


Manordale Public School in Ottawa was also among the schools selected for the pilot project. Students and staff lined up on Sunday for testing. (CBC)

He added the caveat, however, that the type of test being used will likely cause more chaos for families and schools.

For the pilot, Ontario is using PCR testing, which detects the genetic material of a virus. Although considered the gold standard, it’s also so sensitive it would “pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago,” Chagla said.

He suggested that they could have chosen rapid antigen tests, which flag active infections by identifying proteins on the surface of infectious virus particles.

The rapid antigen tests may offer a more precise picture “of who is really a threat to the community versus who had COVID six weeks ago, where they’re not really a threat,” Chagla said.

WATCH | Nova Scotia offers rapid COVID-19 tests in Halifax for asymptomatic cases:

Health officials in Nova Scotia offered rapid COVID-19 testing in Halifax to reduce the virus’s spread in the province by catching asymptomatic cases. 2:01

Though Toronto parent Jessica Lyons welcomes the introduction of asymptomatic testing, she said it comes months late and should be offered more widely.

“This is desperately needed,” said the mother of two school-aged children and an organizer with the Ontario Parent Action Network.

“Much more testing in schools — to make it accessible, to make it easy for parents and families and students to do — is really essential. So we support this pilot, obviously, but we think that it should have come … weeks and weeks ago, and it needs to be expanded.”


PCR testing being used in the pilot project is considered the gold standard, but it’s also so sensitive it would ‘pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago,’ said Dr. Zain Chagla. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Back in Thorncliffe Park, among the Toronto communities hardest hit by COVID-19 this year, parents in the neighbourhood expressed concern about the new positive cases found through the testing initiative. But they’re also adamant about one thing: their schools staying open.

Remote learning last spring was “really hard for kids. We’ve seen the mental stress on our child and other kids,” said Osamah Aldhad, father of a second grader who he said really missed being at school.

“When we were kids, you know, we used to run away from school,” Aldhad noted.

“Now they’re actually really wanting to go to school, which is really important for them.”

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PS5 Outperforms Xbox Series X in Tests as Sony Promises More Consoles

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Two pieces of news on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X today. First, ongoing performance reviews of the two consoles continue to find that the PS5 outperforms the XSX in specific game modes, and sometimes in entire titles.

As we’ve previously covered, the Xbox Series X has problems with Devil May Cry 5’s high-performance mode. It also apparently runs Assassin Creed: Valhalla more slowly than its rival, and with heavier screen tearing. In Dirt 5, the Xbox Series X runs at lower resolutions and image quality, though Codemasters has pledged to fix this in an upcoming patch. Call of Duty 5 does buck the trend of Sony winning at 60 fps play but again falling behind in 120 fps.

It is unclear why this is happening. Multiple sources I have spoken to indicate that Sony’s GPU is based on RDNA with ray tracing attached, while Microsoft waited to implement “full” RDNA2. Microsoft has asserted this, and Phil Spencer has stated that XSX production ramped later than Sony because they were waiting “for some specific AMD technology in our chip.” There does appear to be a low-level feature difference between the two consoles, which isn’t unprecedented.

I want to stress that it is currently unclear if this feature distinction will make any difference whatsoever in shipping titles, ever. But whatever it is, it clearly isn’t helping Microsoft today. The rumor mill has suggested this may be due to immature API support for Microsoft compared with Sony. It could also be that some of Microsoft’s specific studio partners or engineers were affected by COVID-19 this year in ways their counterparts at Sony weren’t, resulting in Sony having a higher overall level of polish on the product right now. It’s hard to say.

Either way, the Xbox Series X is not yet living up to its full performance potential. Given the events of the year and the circumstances of the launch, I think this is understandable, but it’s also a bit disappointing. Yes, the Xbox Series X “wins on paper,” but we have no reason to believe it shouldn’t be winning in performance in real life. The architectural differences between these systems are minimal. In the PC industry, when comparing two GPUs built from the same architecture, the GPU with more cores, higher fillrates, and more memory bandwidth will win. Everything we know says the Xbox Series X outguns the PlayStation 5 in all three categories.

I don’t think we’re seeing the results of the PS5’s faster SSD in these figures. I’d expect that sort of difference to manifest itself most clearly in load times. I suppose it is possible that when playing at 120 fps, the system needs streaming texture performance to be absolutely top-notch, and the XSX has less bandwidth to play with. The XSX’s split memory, with 10GB of 560GB/s and 6GB of 336GB/s, could also be a factor. There is no evidence, as of this writing, that either of these hardware-level differences is to blame, but they constitute a meaningful difference between the two platforms.

For now, based on what’s known, I still think we’re seeing software-level differences and that the Xbox Series X currently isn’t performing where it ought to be. We’ll see if Microsoft can fix it any time soon.

Switching topics, Sony is pledging to ship more consoles as quickly as it can. The company calls the demand spike ‘unprecedented’ and says it will work with retailers to deliver more units.

A lot of companies are blaming their problems on demand right now, and it’s still hard to tell if that’s true or not. There are a lot of moving factors in play, including yield figures for whatever part you care about (Xbox, PS5, AMD, Nvidia). There’s the inevitable impact of COVID-19 on supply lines and deliveries. And there’s the fact that a huge chunk of the world’s shopping has shifted to emphasize online orders. Any one of these factors is enough to cause a shortage — back in 2016, Nvidia and AMD couldn’t keep GPUs on store shelves due to low yields, either, and this was before the cryptocurrency boom.

Neither Sony nor Microsoft have released updates on concrete sales numbers, but Sony has said that it had more PlayStation 5’s on-hand to launch with than the previous launch of the PlayStation 4.

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Marta, 6-time world soccer player of the year, tests positive for COVID-19

Brazil’s six-time world player of the year Marta has tested positive for COVID-19, the country’s soccer governing body (CBF) said on Saturday.

Marta, 34, has been withdrawn from the national team that is set to face Ecuador in two friendly matches at home on Nov. 27 and Dec. 1.

The CBF did not give any details about the forward’s condition but they have informed her club, Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League, saying they would provide any assistance necessary.

Marta was the first player, male or female, to score in five World Cups with 17 strikes in total – also a record.

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CBC | Soccer News