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Stress from scuffle with police ‘more than Mr. Floyd could take’, medical officer testifies

George Floyd’s scuffle with police, along with Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed into his neck, was too much for his underlying heart condition and caused the death of the 46-year-old Black man, the local county’s chief medical officer told a Minneapolis court on Friday.

“[The adrenaline is] going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation,” said Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Floyd and ruled his death to be a homicide.

Baker’s testimony marked the 10th day of the murder trail of Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is facing trial on charges of second-degree unintentional murder; third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Floyd.

“And in my opinion, the law enforcement subdual restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” Baker said.

Baker’s testimony veered somewhat from what the court had previously heard from other medical witnesses called by the prosecution.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed a knee on the back of his neck for around nine minutes as two other officers held him down.

Witness reaffirmed autopsy report

The outcome of the high profile trial is being closely watched after video of the arrest of Floyd captured by a bystander prompted widespread outrage, setting off protests over race and police brutality across the U.S. and around the world.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell questions Baker at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. (Court TV/Associated Press)

The prosecution says Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck while detaining him on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, caused his death. But the defence argues Chauvin did what his training taught him and that it was a combination of Floyd’s underlying medical conditions, drug use and adrenaline flowing through his system that ultimately killed him.

The court has so far heard from prosecution medical experts, including a leading lung specialist, who have testified that Floyd died from asphyxia — or insufficient oxygen — because of the actions of police. Baker has not ruled asphyxiation to be a cause of Floyd’s death.

Previous witnesses had significantly downplayed Floyd’s pre-existing medical conditions and drugs found in his system as playing a role in his death. 

However, Baker reaffirmed the findings of his autopsy report. He said those elements were contributing factors, though not the primary cause of death.

Adrenaline impacts

Under questioning by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Baker explained that Floyd had narrowed coronary arteries — about 75 per cent blockage in his left anterior descending artery and 90 per cent blockage in his right coronary artery. Floyd also had hypertensive heart disease, meaning his heart weighed slightly more than it should.

Chauvin’s defence attorney Eric Nelson cross-examines Baker. (Court TV/Associated Press)

Floyd’s confrontation with police, which included being pinned facedown on the pavement while Chauvin pressed his knees into his neck, produced adrenaline that made Floyd’s heart beat faster.

Baker testified that Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” 

Asked to explain cardiopulmonary arrest, Baker said that was “fancy medical lingo for the heart and the lungs stopped.”

He also explained the definition of “homicide” in an autopsy report, that it was a medical and not a legal term, which is applied when the actions of other people were involved in an individual’s death.


During cross-examination, Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson seized on the potential role played by Floyd’s heart condition and drugs found in his system.

“In your opinion, both the heart disease as well as the history of hypertension and the drugs that were in his system played a role in Mr. Floyd’s death?” Nelson asked Baker.

“In my opinion, yes,” Baker said. 

Chauvin takes notes at his trial in the death of George Floyd. (Court TV/Associated Press)

Baker also agreed that he had certified overdose as the cause of death in other autopsies where that individual had much lower levels of fentanyl in their system than was found in Floyd.

Nelson asked Baker if he recalled having conversations last year with prosecutors in which he described the level of fentanyl found in Floyd’s system was a “fatal level.”

“I recall describing it in other circumstances, it would be a fatal level,” Baker said.

But Baker also agreed that he had described Floyd’s s death as a “multifactorial process.”

He said drugs and hypertension were not “direct causes” but they were “contributing causes.”

The trial continues. 

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CBC | World News

Canadian men’s soccer team battling more than tough opposition at Olympic qualifier

Canada will be battling more than El Salvador on Friday when it opens play at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in Guadalajara.

Heat (the forecast for the 4 p.m. local time kickoff calls for a temperature of 29 C), altitude (1,550 metres), inactivity (14 of Canada’s 20-man roster play in North America and so are coming from out of season) and unfamiliarity (the Mexico tournament marks the first exclusive get-together for this under-23 team) will likely all come into play at Jalisco Stadium.

But for Canada Soccer and men’s supremo John Herdman, who has tasked the Olympic team to assistant Mauro Biello while he looks after the senior side in World Cup qualifying, it’s a chance to test Canada’s depth and processes.

Since taking over the men’s national team in January 2018, Herdman has brought plenty of young talent into camp to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Canada looking to end Olympic dearth 

“This is an opportunity for a lot of young players here to showcase themselves but at the same time, in terms of the program, everything’s aligned from the men’s national team all the way to our U-15 program,” Biello told a virtual news conference Thursday.

“So a lot of these players that have had some experience graduating through the youth teams and now into the U-23s in our environments are now ready.”

Ten of Canada’s 20 players have national team experience.

Derek Cornelius (13 caps), Marcus Godinho (5), Zachary Brault-Guillard (4), Charles-Andreas Brym (3), Theo Bair (2), Zorhan Bassong (2), Ballou Tabla (2) and Kris Twardek (1) have all played for the senior side while the uncapped Tajon Buchanan and James Pantemis have been called into at least one senior camp.

Herdman and Biello joined forces in guiding a young Canadian side that turned heads at the prestigious Toulon youth tournament in France in May-June 2018.

Cornelius, Pantemis, Aidan Daniels and forward Theo Bair were on that Toulon team.

Now they are looking to help the Canadian men return to the Olympics for the first time since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, where Canada lost to Brazil in a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals.

Finding the ‘rhythm’

“We’re sure that the quality is there. We’re sure that we have the talent,” said Cornelius, a 23-year-old defender with the Vancouver Whitecaps. “And it’s just about getting the small things right so that we can really show it on the pitch.”

The eight-team Olympic qualifier was originally scheduled for last March but was postponed due to the pandemic. It will send two teams from the region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, to the Summer Olympics.

Only players born in 1997 or later are eligible for Olympic qualifying (the same age limit was kept despite the qualifying tournament’s one-year delay). Countries that make it to the Olympics are allowed up to three overage players.

After facing El Salvador, Canada continues Group B play against Haiti on Monday and Honduras next Wednesday. Group A, which opened the tournament Thursday, consists of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the U.S.

The top two in each group advance to the semifinals with the winners booking their tickets to Tokyo.

Mexico, which has won the last two CONCACAF qualifiers, and Honduras represented the region at the last two Olympics. Honduras was fourth at the 2016 Rio Games while Mexico defeated Brazil 2-1 to win gold in 2012 in London.

Biello calls El Salvador a possession-based technical team that is organized defensively. It’s also a team that has been together three times already, he noted.

“Obviously my main concern is getting that rhythm,” Biello said of his squad. “A lot of these players haven’t played, whether it’s off-season, whether it’s pre-season.”

Plenty to play for

“This is not going to happen perfectly on the first go,” added Cornelius. “I’m just looking to improve and get the team to be better and better as we go along in the tournament.”

With World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup on deck this year, the Canadian men have plenty to play for.

Canada and El Salvador tied 0-0 when they met at the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament. Canada won 4-2 in 1996.

Biello was unable to summon Toronto FC young talent after the MLS team went into a training camp lockdown earlier this month due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

El Salvador forwards Joshua Perez and Enrico Hernandez are both based in Europe, with Spain’s UD Ibiza Spain and the Netherlands’ Vitesse, respectively.

Canada Olympic Team

Goalkeepers: Sebastian Breza, Bologna (Italy); Matthew Nogueira, CS Maritimo (Portugal); James Pantemis, CF Montreal (MLS).

Defenders: Zorhan Bassong, CF Montreal (MLS); Zachary Brault-Guillard, CF Montreal (MLS); Derek Cornelius, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Marcus Godinho, FSV Zwickau (Germany); Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, Pacific FC (CPL); Callum Montgomery, Minnesota United FC (MLS).

Midfielders: Michael Baldisimo, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Aidan Daniels, Oklahoma City Energy FC (USL Championship); Lucas Dias, Sporting Lisbon (Portugal); Patrick Metcalfe, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); David Norman, Cavalry FC (CPL) Ryan Raposo, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS).

Forwards: Theo Bair, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Charles-Andreas Brym, Royal Excel Mouscron (Belgium); Tajon Buchanan, New England Revolution (MLS); Ballou Tabla, CF Montreal (MLS); Kris Twardek, Jagiellonia (Poland).

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CBC | Soccer News

Canadian keeper Sheridan vows to return ‘stronger, better than ever’ from surgery

Sky Blue FC says Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan has undergone successful surgery on her right quad.

The NWSL club said there is no timetable for Sheridan’s return.

The 25-year-old from Whitby, Ont., was injured Feb. 18 in Canada’s first game at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. She was helped off the pitch in the 10th minute of the 1-0 loss to the U.S., going down in pain after a seemingly innocuous pass to a teammate.

“Surgery went really well and I am excited to start my recovery process,” Sheridan said in a statement Tuesday. “I will be pushing myself to come back stronger and better than ever.”

The Olympic football tournament is scheduled for July 21 to Aug. 7 in Tokyo. Canada Soccer said it had no information on Sheridan’s possible return to action.

Veteran Stephanie Labbe, who has 72 caps, started the rest of the SheBelieves Cup, with the uncapped Rylee Foster as her backup. Erin McLeod, a 38-year-old who has 118 caps, had to leave camp early with a dislocated finger.

WATCH | Sheridan leaves SheBelieves Cup game with injury:

Early in the match against the United States, Canada’s goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan plays the ball then goes down in pain. She would have to be replaced by Stephanie Labbé. 1:19

Also Tuesday, the Chicago Red Stars said Canadian defender Bianca St-Georges had successful arthroscopic surgery to repair a “lower knee injury” suffered in camp with Canada prior to the SheBelieves Cup.

The NWSL team said the surgery happened Feb. 24. The 23-year-old from Quebec is expected to return to action before the May 15 start of the regular season.

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CBC | Soccer News

Why Canada’s pandemic experience has been easier than some

Although difficult months remain ahead — especially for poorer countries lacking the resources to buy vaccines — the end of the coronavirus pandemic in the developed world is now in sight.

Virus variants remain an unpredictable element but trendlines suggest that the great majority of deaths anticipated in developed countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic have occurred already.

The range of impacts on different countries can be seen in the statistics as the first full year of the pandemic draws to a close.

These statistics compare how Canada has fared to the experiences of five other Western countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy.

When historians look back on this pandemic, the first yardstick they’ll apply to measure its severity is, of course, the number of people it killed.

How bad did it get?

The United States is now coming down from its third wave of COVID infections. Canada has only had two so far. The peak came at different times in different places — but each of the six countries in this comparison experienced one week that was worse than any other.

In France and Italy, the pandemic peaked in November 2020, but in North America and the U.K. the first two weeks of 2021 were the worst.

On January 8, Canada reported a single-day record of 9,214 new cases. The following day, the U.S. reported a single-day record of 315,106 new cases.

A health care worker walks through the post-vaccine waiting area at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Peel Region in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, March 1, 2021. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The peak of intensity is measured here by the highest recorded daily caseload, per capita. At the pandemic’s height in the U.K., U.S. and France, COVID-19 was infecting almost one person in a thousand every day. In Canada, that number never reached one in 4,000.

Canada had the least intense pandemic of the six.

Immunizations vs infections

Vaccinations are the magic bullet that will end this pandemic. Some countries have done far better than others in administering them. 

The U.K.’s vaccination effort started strong and stayed that way. Germany and the U.S. showed steady increases week over week. France was slow to start but soon caught up. Italy and Canada faltered and lost ground.

But vaccinations don’t tell the whole story. Vaccines entered the picture as much of the western world was racing to get ahead of a new wave of infections.

Canada placed last among this group of nations in terms of doses per capita. But it also has posted the lowest per capita caseloads through 2021.

The U.K. was the undisputed winner of the vaccine race but posted the worst per capita caseloads and death rates of the six. And the nation with the second-best record on vaccinations — the U.S. — had the second-worst caseloads.

Given this strange inversion, how should we measure each nation’s overall performance?

The next graph attempts to do that by dividing each nation’s total number of vaccines administered, week over week, by the number of new cases it recorded in the same week, to give an overall score — call it the “O Factor” — that may offer a clearer picture of how much progress each country has made so far in 2021.

The O Factor penalizes countries for failing to control infections in the present, but gives credit for the future caseload reductions they can expect to achieve by getting needles in arms now.

The damage to economies

Historians will one day study the pandemic’s social and economic effects. Some of those effects aren’t clear yet.

By killing a vast number of European peasants, the Black Death transformed the labour market, allowing workers to demand more for their work and ultimately helping to free them from feudalism. Perhaps this (far less apocalyptic) pandemic will free workers from the bondage of commuting and cubicles.

Whatever changes it leaves in its wake, it’s clear the economic blow of the pandemic has not fallen evenly on all nations.

The six countries we’re comparing here have taken different approaches to pandemic-related shutdowns and layoffs. Some (such as Canada) went big on public spending, while others held back. And some countries will struggle more than others with the debts they have accumulated.

All six of the nations measured here saw nearly unprecedented spikes in the number of unemployment claims as the pandemic took hold.

But some were hit harder than others and some bounced back faster than others.

The graphs shown here only offer snapshots of a pandemic that isn’t over yet. Although immunization appears to offer a path out of this global disaster, new mutations and new variants have the potential to delay that.

Unless Canada can improve its vaccination performance, other countries probably will be quicker to bend their rates of death and hospitalizations downward, closing a gap that currently favours Canada.

But the numbers suggest that one thing won’t change: when compared with its peers in Europe and North America, Canada’s pandemic experience has been less intense — and less deadly.

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CBC | Health News

Why people working snowy slopes may be at greater risk of catching COVID than skiers

Fresh air, blazing speed and spacious alpine terrain makes skiing and snowboarding low-risk activities for COVID-19 transmission, infectious disease doctors say.

But the threat is never zero during a global pandemic, they add. And people working on those snowy slopes may be at greater risk of catching the virus than those dashing down them.

Most ski hills in Ontario were permitted to reopen Tuesday, joining other mountainous resorts across the country that have remained operational through the winter.

Many have implemented extra safety precautions and operate under local restrictions, including:

  • Asking patrons to wear face coverings on lifts.
  • Cancelling classes.
  • Limiting access to indoor spaces.

While the activity of skiing is relatively safe from a transmission standpoint, experts say spread can still happen, and COVID outbreaks have been reported at larger resorts over the last couple months, mostly affecting staff members.

One outbreak in Kelowna, B.C., in December began with workers living on site before it sprawled to include more than 130 cases. Popular Lake Louise and Nakiska resorts in Alberta also reported outbreaks among staff.

‘Tale of two pandemics’

Dr. Andrew Boozary, the executive director of population health and social medicine at the University Health Network, says it’s clusters of cases like those that make ski hills concerning.

“I have no anti-skiing bias — it’s an activity that makes a whole lot of sense in Canada — but there’s a lot of people who take on risk to ensure a ski hill is operational,” he said.

“A lot of the time we rely on people who are in temporary work or who’ve been underpaid, without living wages and without paid sick leave, to take on risk so some of us can have that pleasure and leisure activity.” 

Boozary likened the recent emphasis on ski hills to that of golf courses over the summer, or to policy around cottages and seasonal vacation homes that were tailored to higher-income populations.

Skiing, like golf, isn’t affordable to everyone, he says.

And while Boozary agrees that skiing and snowboarding can provide mental health benefits of exercise in a low-risk setting, he’d like to see more emphasis on ensuring lower-income populations have safe, outdoor spaces, too.

WATCH | Ont. ski resorts welcome people back to the slopes:

Jim Hemlin, chief operating officer of Calabogie Peaks Resort, says skiers and snowboarders are excited to be back on the hill after the extended shutdown. 0:45

“We’ve seen this dichotomy, this tale of two pandemics. And we’re seeing it now with skiing,” Boozary said. “There’s an income divide on who gets access to these spaces.”

Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert with the University of Alberta, says staff members at ski resorts are more likely than visitors to become infected because of the close proximity workers tend to be in.

Sometimes they share indoor spaces like lunchrooms, which aren’t conducive to mask-wearing when people are eating, Schwartz says, and “transmission thrives” in those settings.

“The likelihood of infection is going to be a function of physical proximity, the amount of time they’re in that proximity, the activities they’re doing and whether there are precautions taken to minimize transmission.”

Precautions for skiers

While skiers will generally be safe, those who wish to hit the slopes still need to be mindful of safety precautions, Schwartz says.

He added that spread is more likely to happen before or after people glide down the mountains, like when they put on ski boots in a crowded indoor area. Those spots should be avoided when possible, Schwartz says, and masks should be worn when distance can’t be maintained.

Skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes as Mount Pakenham in Eastern Ontario reopens after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakenham, Ont., on Feb. 11. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Other factors could make trips to snowy resorts more dangerous, he added, including guests travelling from COVID hot spots and potentially bringing the virus with them into small ski towns.

The rise of new variants of concern might require more stringent restrictions on skiers as well, says Parisa Ariya, a chemistry professor at McGill University who specializes in aerosol transmission.

Ariya says while outdoor settings are far safer than indoors, spread “actually does happen outside” in some instances, and she recommends wearing a mask while skiing or snowboarding.

Winters in Quebec and Ontario make air more dense, Ariya adds, which could have an impact on how long viral particles stay in the atmosphere.

WATCH | Ski resorts walk a fine line during pandemic: 

The ski industry in the Canadian Rockies is struggling during the pandemic, with operators trying to balance COVID-19 safety and industry survival. 2:00

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says that while cold air may cause physical changes to aerosols “it does not translate to increased risk of disease transmission.”

He says risk of outdoor spread remains “quite low,” except for situations with large crowds in close contact, like during concerts or sporting events.

“From a public health standpoint I would much rather see 50 people skiing outdoors than a group of 10 watching TV together indoors,” he said.

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CBC | Health News

Why the NHL’s Canadian division is controlling COVID-19 better than U.S. teams

About 160 kilometres separates Toronto from Buffalo, N.Y., but when it comes to the NHL and COVID-19, the two cities are even farther apart.

The Buffalo Sabres have seen head coach Ralph Krueger and nine players placed on the NHL’s coronavirus protocol list and the team has been forced to reschedule 12 games.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have no players on the protocol list and have had no changes to their schedule.

Krueger, wearing an N95 mask, and defenceman Rasmus Dahlin returned to Buffalo’s practice on Sunday. Forward Taylor Hall was back on the ice Saturday.

WATCH | Week 4 roundup of the NHL’s North Division:

Rob Pizzo catches you up on the week that was in the all-Canadian division in the NHL. 2:54

The tale of the two teams is an example of the contrast between what has been happening in the seven-team, all-Canadian North Division and the NHL’s 24 U.S.-based clubs.

As of Sunday, 35 players appeared on the NHL’s COVID-19 list.

The Ottawa Senators were the only Canadian team with a player on the list after acquiring forward Ryan Dzingel Saturday in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes. Dzingel must quarantine for 14 days before he can play.

Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi was placed on the list Thursday morning ahead of a game with the Montreal Canadiens, but has since been cleared.

Of the 35 games the NHL has postponed this year, none have involved Canadian teams.

“I think it’s a great natural experiment,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician for St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton. “You’re running the same league, with the same rules on both sides of the border, and you’re seeing a completely different result.”

Greater community transmission in U.S.

Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor in infectious diseases at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, said the blame for what’s happening with U.S. teams comes from outside the arena.

“My interpretation of what’s happening in Canada is there’s a lot more regulation in terms of what people are allowed to do and restrictions than what we’re experiencing here,” said Weatherhead, who was raised in Michigan and grew up a die-hard Detroit Red Wings fan.

“As a result, we have more widespread community transmission and what’s happening in the community will be reflected in what’s happening in these teams, if they’re allowed to interact with the community.”

Sabres centre Jack Eichel said players understand how serious the virus is.

“We’re in the middle of a global pandemic,” he said during a teleconference. “The league is trying to do what they can to keep us safe. It is still a learning experience for all of us. It’s unchartered territory.

“At times maybe we are learning as we go.”

WATCH | Rob Pizzo on the NHL’s biggest pests through the years:

Matthew Tkachuk has spent the season driving players crazy, but he is far from the first to do it. Rob Pizzo looks at 9 other players who got under their opponents skin. 2:03

Chagla said the NHL no longer has the control over players it did during the playoffs when teams were confined to bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. COVID-19 restrictions also vary in different U.S. states.

California, Texas, Florida and New York State lead the U.S in COVID-19 infections.

“Some parts of the States are more lax in rules,” said Chagla. “Every one of those players has a connection outside of the rink. Some of these guys have families, they have kids that have access to schools, their spouses have access to jobs.

“It makes it a whole lot more liable for you to get into trouble if the pressures and the density of infections in the community is 10 times more than it is in Canada. The odds of you bumping into someone with COVID, or one of your contacts, your household members … is up every day.”

Last week, the NHL announced it was expanding its protocols to battle COVID-19.

The league is introducing game-day rapid tests for players, team staff and on-ice officials. The tests, initially being made available to the U.S.-based teams, provide results with half an hour.

Among other moves, the league is advising players not leave their homes except to attend practices, games or essential activities. There’s also a recommendation that household members stay at home and consider using grocery-delivery services.

Plans for more contact tracing

The NHL is also launching a player-tracking system to assist in contact tracing.

Weatherhead said contact tracing is a key weapon in fighting the spread of the virus.

“If you don’t have the resources to do that sort of in depth contact tracing, then you’re going to miss cases and there will be more widespread transmission on teams and between teams,” she said.

WATCH | 9 NHL Black history moments … in 90 seconds:

Willie O’Ree broke the league’s colour barrier in 1958, and there have been a lot of firsts since then. Rob Pizzo walks you through 9 trailblazers for Black History Month. 1:52

Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness said travel presents one of the biggest challenges for teams.

“Because you are going in and out of hotel lobbies and elevators with other people around, it’s impossible to feel as safe,” Bowness told The Associated Press. “You’ve got strangers on the elevator. In Carolina the other day when we were getting on to an elevator, a couple got off and the woman did not have a mask on, so we don’t know, was she coughing in the elevator? Was she sneezing? Who knows?”

The start of the Oilers game Thursday night was delayed an hour to allow for contact tracing and test results after Puljujarvi was added to the COVID-19 protocol list.

Chagla said it’s possible there may be more positive tests on the Canadian teams.

“I certainly can’t say that every team is going to get through this unscathed,” said the Leafs fan. “I don’t think it’s going to be as profound as what’s happening in the U.S. though.”

Considering the number of infections and games that have already been postponed, Weatherhead doubts the NHL will be able to complete a 56-game season on May 8 as originally planned.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they have to extend the season,” she said. “I feel like they’re at a transition point. If it keeps going like this, it will be very difficult.”

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CBC | Sports News

More Pfizer shots will arrive in 2nd quarter than originally planned: Trudeau

Canada stands to receive more Pfizer doses in the next quarter than expected; a promising development for a country that has been grappling with vaccine shortages for weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today.

The pharmaceutical giant will deliver 10.8 million shots between April and June as the manufacturing supply chain stabilizes after a shaky start to the year, the prime minister added. That’s 2.8 million more shots in this period than the government had originally forecasted.

Trudeau said Pfizer deliveries previously earmarked for the fourth quarter of 2021 have also been shifted earlier, meaning the New York-based company will be able to flow more shots to Canada over the summer months. 6.2 million more doses than planned will be deployed between July and August.

“We will soon share the schedule with provinces and territories so they can prepare to get all those doses into people’s arms,” Trudeau said. “We’ve been continuing to work every single day on getting as many doses as possible, as quickly as possible, into Canadians’ arms. Better days are ahead of us.”

The federal government has also agreed to purchase four million more doses of the Moderna product, Trudeau said, for a total commitment of 44 million shots. Those additional doses will be “arriving over the summer,” he said.

Pfizer and Moderna, the two leading suppliers of vaccines, have been fine tuning their operations in recent weeks to meet insatiable global demand with new COVID-19 variants taking hold.

With these developments, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said 23 million vaccine doses of these two products — enough to fully vaccinate 11.5 million people — will be delivered by the end of June. “More Canadians will be vaccinated more quickly,” Anand said.

The government has already said it expects 3 million people to be vaccinated with the two-dose regime by the end of March. Based on this revised delivery schedule, up to 14.5 million people could get both shots by Canada Day.

In total, 84 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer shots will be delivered by the end of September, up from previous estimates.

The vaccination numbers could be higher still because Health Canada regulators are still reviewing other promising vaccine candidates, including those developed by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen and Novavax.

WATCH: Trudeau provides an update on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on Canada’s Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply. 1:51

Anand said the 20 million doses that Canada has ordered from AstraZeneca will be delivered in the second and third quarters, pending regulatory approvals. Those shots will be shipped from a factory in the U.S.

As procurement agents await Health Canada’s authorization, Anand said Canada is already “negotiating the precise weekly delivery schedule” with AstraZeneca.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said this week the review is in the final stages.

Canada also stands to receive up to up to 1.9 million AstraZeneca shots in the second quarter from Covax, a global vaccine-sharing initiative jointly co-ordinated by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. Those shots will come from a factory in South Korea.

3M people vaccinated in first quarter

The federal government has long promised that it would have 6 million vaccines in country by the end of March.

Pfizer is on track to deliver its promised four million doses while Moderna continues to make “assurances” that it will hit its target of two million shots in Canada by the end of March, Trudeau said.

“We will, of course, continue to follow up directly with the company to make sure that we can get those doses as soon as possible,” Trudeau said of Moderna.

Roughly 1.4 million doses of both shots have been delivered so far.

While Pfizer deliveries have been limited over the last month, owing to plant upgrades at its site in Belgium, the company has said it will send hundreds of thousands of doses to Canada weekly for the foreseeable future.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said more than 400,000 shots will arrive next week.

According to the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada now ranks 47th globally in terms of vaccines administered — well behind allies like the United States and the United Kingdom and some middle-income countries like Turkey and Serbia.

Canada’s vaccination effort has also been outpaced so far by those in Bahrain, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, among dozens of others.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Trudeau has failed to adequately address ongoing vaccine delays and cancelled deliveries, which, he said, has led to Canada’s poor showing globally.

“Canadian businesses continue to shutter, and families are forced apart. Canada needs the government to succeed in getting COVID-19 vaccines, that’s why Canada’s Conservatives will continue to advocate for greater transparency and a real plan to get needles in the arms of Canadians,” he said in a statement.

The Opposition Conservatives have been pushing the government to release the contracts it signed with manufacturers. Anand has rejected these demands, saying it would violate confidentiality clauses.

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Intel Launches Iris Xe, Its First Desktop GPUs in More Than 20 Years

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Intel is finally back in the desktop graphics business, at least if you squint. The company has announced a partnership with certain PC OEMs to bring DG1 silicon to specific pre-built systems.

This isn’t exactly a full-on desktop graphics launch — that’ll come later in 2021 with the launch of DB2 — but Intel is still indisputably shipping at least a handful of discrete GPUs in the low end of the desktop market, for the first time in more than 20 years. The company announced it had partnered with “two ecosystem partners, including Asus” in its initial PR, but LegitReviews thinks the GPU featured in the image above is manufactured by Colorful. The other DG1 card identifies itself, ships without a fan, and is clearly an Asus-branded product.

Unfortunately for anyone hoping to play around with Intel’s latest desktop card and/or hoping to find a low-end GPU at a reasonable price, this GPU is OEM-only. Sometimes, OEM-only products will surface on secondary markets like eBay, but that’s not going to happen in this case. According to Intel, these GPUs will only work on very specific systems. LegitReviews inquired on this point and was told:

The Iris Xe discrete add-in card will be paired with 9th gen (Coffee Lake-S) and 10th gen (Comet Lake-S) Intel® Core™ desktop processors and Intel(R) B460, H410, B365, and H310C chipset-based motherboards and sold as part of pre-built systems. These motherboards require a special BIOS that supports Intel Iris Xe, so the cards won’t be compatible with other systems.

So, that’s that, then. It’s not clear why a motherboard would require a special UEFI to use a new GPU. Presumably DG2, when it arrives, will not have this problem.

It’s interesting to see Intel back in the graphics market because it’s been so long since we had an actual three-way fight. Once 3dfx died, the only company to offer any kind of competition to the ATI/Nvidia duopoly was PowerVR with the Kyro and Kyro II. While these GPUs were an interesting alternative to the Radeon and GeForce product lines, they did not find mainstream success and faded from the market.

Intel has not previously covered itself in glory where GPUs are concerned. The company’s first attempt at a discrete GPU, the Intel i740, was custom-designed to showcase the capabilities of Intel’s new AGP bus. It didn’t compare well against GPUs with onboard RAM, and Intel didn’t stay in the market very long. Intel’s Larrabee was based on a modified Pentium architecture with 512-bit vector processing units. Overall interest in Larrabee was high, but Intel canceled the product and used Larrabee as the basis for the first generation of Xeon Phi processors.

It’s not unfair to be skeptical of Intel’s ability to launch a competitive GPU. We don’t even necessarily expect Intel’s first-generation cards to be all that great, objectively speaking. So long as they’re good enough to get a little traction somewhere in the market, Intel has an opportunity to iterate and improve the design. With a third player on the field, both AMD and Nvidia are presented with new challenges — but also, potentially, with new opportunities depending on how Intel’s presence impacts user GPU purchases.

All of this hinges on Intel building competitive products and being willing to stay the course over the long term. Incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger may have his own ideas about where to take the company. These DG1-equipped systems aren’t going to make a huge splash in the wider market, but we should know how effectively DG2 will compare against AMD and Nvidia before the end of the year. Given how hard AMD and Nvidia cards have both been to source, Intel could spin a modest GPU into a smash hit just by shipping it on-time, at MSRP.

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Intensity of Russian protests indicates outrage about more than Alexei Navalny

The wave of demonstrations that swept across Russia this weekend were notable for more than just the huge number of people who answered Alexei Navalny’s call to protest his arrest.

Just as striking were those in the crowd who said they had never supported the opposition figure before, but came out to signal their discontent with corruption and other complaints about Vladimir Putin’s government.

The composition of the crowd, as well as the breadth of the protests across more than 100 Russian towns and cities, is a strong indication that Navalny’s protest movement has significantly expanded its reach.

“The Kremlin’s mistake was to underestimate Navalny’s level of support,” Russian political observer Andrei Kolesnikov said in a tweet Monday.

Kolesnikov, a fellow at Moscow’s Carnegie Center who has extensively tracked Russian public opinion toward the Putin government, said that when people saw Navalny’s arrest on live TV upon his return to Russia on Jan. 17, as well as the online release last week of a documentary about President Putin’s alleged corruption, “it provided a strong emotional impulse to take to the street.”

A protester is detained by law enforcement during Saturday’s protest in Moscow. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

The Reuters news agency reported that more than 40,000 people showed up in Moscow and 100,000 nationwide. What made the weekend turnout even more remarkable was that it happened against a backdrop of threats of arrest and intimidation from Russian security forces and cold weather (in some parts of Siberia, it was below –40 C), as well as the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Nationwide, authorities made more than 3,700 arrests, including many of Navalny’s top organizers. His wife, Yulia, who some believe may end up leading the protest movement while Navalny is in jail, was also taken into custody but released a few hours later.

Striking turnout

Navalny, a 44-year-old lawyer turned anti-corruption crusader, staged a dramatic return to Russia just over a week ago after spending five months in Germany recovering from an assassination attempt.

The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons confirmed the presence of a nerve agent on Navalny’s clothing during a flight through central Russia in August, and further investigations by the journalism collective Bellingcat implicated a team of Russian secret police agents controlled by the Kremlin as having been responsible.

A still image taken from video footage shows law enforcement officers speaking with Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny before leading him away at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow on Jan. 17. (Reuters)

After his recovery, Navalny ignored repeated warnings by Russian prosecutors to remain outside the country, and was promptly arrested after landing in Moscow. During a lightning-fast hearing in a police station, Navalny was ordered held in custody in a process one veteran Russian legal observer told CBC News was “bullshit.”

Prosecutors claim Navalny was jailed because he violated his parole — terms it would have been impossible for him to comply with since he was recovering in Germany from the attempt on his life.

Navalny’s persona and politics are complicated. While he has been embraced as a pro-democracy crusader by allies in the West, Navalny has also said the disputed Crimean peninsula should remain part of Russia. Other critics claim that Navalny is anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim and that in the past he has supported the far right.

For years, even as he organized huge anti-Kremlin rallies in Russia, Navalny failed to build a united coalition against Putin, prompting many in opposition to claim Navalny is not a team player.

Nonetheless, the assassination attempt and his subsequent arbitrary arrest appears to have helped some people overcome their misgivings.

“I am sick of this government of thieves,” 68-year-old pensioner Galina Zolina told the CBC News crew at Saturday’s protest in central Moscow. “This is a police state that gives nothing to the people. [Putin] builds palaces for himself. What is this?” 

Protester Yevgeny Goloviev told CBC News why he defied warnings and the threat of arrest to come out to Saturday’s anti-government protest in Moscow. (Dmitry Kozlov/CBC)

Yevgeny Goloviev, a 28-year-old musician, said he wants Russia to be more democratic, with elections that aren’t pre-determined by the Kremlin.

“I don’t even think Navalny is the best politician,” Goloviev said. “But I believe in the fact that power should change.”    

Many young people at the protests were reluctant to provide their names to CBC, fearing repercussions for them and their families.

“I think we have a police state, and we don’t have fair judgments,” said one 25-year-old woman. “If something goes wrong, I don’t feel I will be protected by my government.”

Putin’s palace

Part of what spurred people to take to the streets this weekend was the release by Navalny’s team of an investigation into corruption involving Putin and his allies. The almost two-hour video, entitled “Putin’s Palace,” claims Russia’s leader has been the beneficiary of a $ 1.35 billion US estate on the Black Sea, paid for by cronies of the regime.

The documentary has been viewed a staggering 80 million times on YouTube.

Among the extravagances cited in the video were toilet brushes that cost more than $ 800 each, leading many in Saturday’s giant crowds to wave toilet brushes high above their heads.

Russian President Vladimir Putin does a video conference call with university students at a state residence in Zavidovo, Russia, on Monday. (Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters)

Putin himself took the unprecedented step Monday of personally denying Navalny’s allegations, saying the opulent property “does not and has never belonged to me or my close relatives.”     

His statement, however, did not directly address Navalny’s claim that the Black Sea estate was built and managed on Putin’s behalf by his friends. 

‘Coalition of the fed-up’

Mark Galeotti, a London-based Russia analyst and host of the podcast In Moscow’s Shadows, said in his podcast episode on Sunday that the protests are “not a knockout blow to the state. We shouldn’t start moving into hyperbole, that this is the beginning of the end of Putinism.”

Nonetheless, Galeotti said the fact that so many people with grievances against Putin’s government managed to unite around Navalny’s call to demonstrate is unprecedented.

It’s a “coalition of the fed-up,” said Galeotti. “People have all kinds of reasons to feel unhappy with the way things are going and [Navalny] kind of becomes the catalyst.”

The size and impact of the weekend’s demonstrations triggered a notable change in tack for the state TV news broadcasts. Rather than the usual practice of ignoring Navalny, the major programs addressed him and his “Putin Palace” investigation directly.

“Putin isn’t taken with toilet brushes,” claimed host Dmitry Kiselyov of Vesti Nedeli (News of the Week). “He’s of a completely different calibre.”

Kisyelov’s program dedicated 55 minutes out of a two-hour long show to denigrating Navalny with unfounded claims that he has an extensive “criminal history.” Kisyelov also bizarrely accused Navalny’s team of resorting to “political pedophilia” by using teenagers and other young Russians to drum up support for the street demonstrations.

Law enforcement officers stand in front of participants during a rally in support of Navalny in St. Petersburg on Saturday. (REUTERS)

In the days leading up to Saturday’s protests, tens of thousands of young Russians posted short pro-Navalny videos on TikTok — everything from diatribes against Putin to tips on how to stay safe at the protests.

Western meddling?

Another common theme on Russia state TV this weekend was that the protests were Western-inspired and led by the United States.

As it has done before, the Russian embassy in the United Kingdom seized on a warning issued by the U.S. embassy in Moscow for people to avoid the protest zone. The notice gave out specific times and places for protests, leading Russian officials to claim the U.S. was in fact instigating the unrest.

“Hypocrites continue to inflate the fake Navalny case to interfere into internal affairs of our country,” said the Russian embassy in the U.K. on Twitter. “This is a professionally prepared provocation, encouraged by embassies of Western countries.”

The crucial question going forward is whether Navalny’s call for sustained protests will follow a Belarus model.

Russia’s much smaller neighbour has witnessed weekly street protests against the government of President Alexander Lukashenko for the past six months, but Belarus’s leader has shown no signs he plans to relinquish power.

Or will the anti-government anger against Putin and his United Russia party simply subside, as has traditionally been the case?

Riot police drag away a protester in Moscow on Saturday. More than 1,400 people were arrested in the capital alone, with 3,700 arrests reported nationwide. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

Although there were many scenes of violence in Moscow on Saturday, including protesters fighting back against heavily armoured riot police, there were no reports of serious injuries, and in general, police were more reserved in their use of force than they have been in the past.

By comparison, the extreme violence unleashed by security forces in the early days of the protests in Belarus last summer in all likelihood drove more people out to protest.

In his latest podcast, Galeotti said “it’s hard to maintain the momentum week after week.”

He said the anti-Putin opposition needs to try to shift the focus off crowd sizes, as they will inevitably dwindle as time goes on. Galeotti said that to sustain momentum, they need to adopt other tactics, such as encouraging flash mobs or more online protests.

He also expected the Kremlin to try to slowly grind down the protesters with a mix of repression and propaganda.

“One way or another, the state wants to slowly de-legitimize the protests and make them less appealing, and by outlasting them, make opposition look increasingly pointless.”

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Why Canada’s vaccine rollout is slower than other countries — and what can be done to fix it

Canada is falling behind in its initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines at a critical time in the pandemic, and experts say our most vulnerable populations are being left at risk.

Despite having months to prepare for the deployment of the initial shipment of vaccines to those most threatened by COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, a consistent rollout plan has yet to fully materialize on the ground.

“It just seems to be chaos right now,” said Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University and a virologist at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology evaluating Canadian vaccines with the VIDO-InterVac lab in Saskatoon. 

“We know who is a vulnerable population, so we need a strategy of actually vaccinating them.”

Long-term care residents were largely left out of Canada’s initial rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires storage temperatures of –80 to –60 C, in favour of waiting for the more easily transportable Moderna vaccine and vaccinating health-care workers first.

But once thawed, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be used for up to five days at basic refrigeration temperatures — meaning it could be taken out of distribution hubs across the country and brought into long-term care facilities directly during that window of time. 

A registered pharmacy technician prepares COVID-19 vaccines in Toronto on Dec. 15. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“We treated the Pfizer vaccine with as much care and respect as possible and that really created all these hub sites,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University. “And I think that did hinder some of the innovation and the ability to do things elsewhere.”

Fragmented rollout across Canada a ‘failure’

The federal government has deployed almost 500,000 doses of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to distribution sites across the country since mid-December, but the actual rollout of vaccinations is up to the individual provinces and territories. 

Quebec took the bold step of actually putting its vaccine distribution centres inside long-term care facilities, making it easier to inoculate residents as quickly as possible.  

While British Columbia made the decision to move the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from its distribution sites almost immediately into long-term care homes to inoculate residents and staff upon receiving its first doses.

Andy Yoon, 77, of Abbotsford, B.C., became the first long-term care resident in the Fraser Health region to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 24. (Submitted by Fraser Health)

Yet Ontario decided against bringing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine directly into long-term care homes initially, despite other provinces doing so, and is only now doing so more than three weeks after receiving its first shipment. 

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, announced Tuesday the city would be transporting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine out of its distribution hub at the Ottawa Hospital and directly into long-term care residences, after vaccine-handling criteria from Pfizer were changed.

Despite receiving 53,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine last week, which is much easier to bring into long-term care residences, only 3,000 doses have actually been administered in Ontario as of Tuesday.

Ontario has pledged to vaccinate all residents, health-care workers and essential caregivers at long-term care homes in the hardest hit regions of Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex by Jan. 21, but has not set a deadline for the rest of the province. 

To date, fewer than 1,000 long-term care residents have been vaccinated in Ontario.

“The provincial health-care systems aren’t experts in newly emerging viruses, brand new speedy vaccine platforms and pandemics,” said Kelvin. For that reason, ongoing communication from the federal government to the provinces and territories and local level is essential, she said.

“To leave each province and territory to have to come up with their own plan, when they’re not experts in this, I think is a failure.” 

Kelvin said putting experts with relevant backgrounds in long-term care at the helm of vaccine rollouts across the country could have mitigated some of the missteps made so far.

“We need somebody who’s knowledgeable about long-term care facilities in Canada and their current functioning states,” she said.

WATCH | Vaccination lessons from around the world: 

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has gotten off to a sluggish start, but there could be lessons to learn from countries such as Israel, which has vaccination clinics operating around the clock. 3:11

Chagla said Ontario could have either proactively opened up more vaccine distribution centres, or used the five-day model of thawing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and getting it directly into long-term care facilities in order to vaccinate those most at risk sooner.

‘Rules are made to be broken’

Dr. Allison McGeer, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital who worked on the front lines of the SARS epidemic in 2003, says provinces need to be much more flexible in how they roll out the vaccines. 

“You want to do what got done in studies, because you know what the outcome of studies were,” she said, referring to the clinical trial data for both COVID-19 vaccines. 

“However, this is a pandemic and rules are made to be broken.” 

Quebec and Manitoba decided not to reserve second doses for those who had received their first shot in an effort to speed up their vaccination campaigns, while Ontario has asked Health Canada to “look into” the possibility of providing Moderna’s vaccine as a single dose.

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Public Health Agency of Canada advise against administering only a single dose of the vaccine.

McGeer said Canada should be focused on the most effective way to use the vaccines it has in hand, as opposed to letting them sit in freezers, even if that doesn’t always line up entirely with the usage guidelines.

WATCH | Weighing the pros and cons of going ‘off label’:

In order to distribute more COVID-19 vaccines faster, some jurisdictions are looking at using different vaccine doses, vaccination schedules and possibly mixing and matching vaccines. Experts say these choices are about weighing the risks of going ‘off label’ and the potential rewards. 2:01

She said that includes being open to the possibility of administering more initial doses to people as quickly as possible and spacing the second doses differently over a longer period of time.

“While we have to be careful with messing with what we’re doing with vaccines, we also really want to be focused on the most protection for the largest amount of people in the shortest period of time,” she said.

“And that definitely means being open to half doses, spreading doses further apart, mixing vaccines.”

Chagla agrees there are ways to pick up the pace that could be considered, including prioritizing giving people their first dose without reserving their second. 

“But I don’t think we’re even at that point yet,” he said. “We just need to start getting the logistics up, and again, using the supply we have before we start reconsidering.”

The U.K. has come under fire for its decision to stretch the interval between doses to up to three months, as opposed to the recommended three to four weeks, and for opening the door to giving a person doses of two different vaccines.

Israel has made the decision to use up its initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible in order to vaccinate as many people with the initial doses it has, with more than two million people set to get a shot by the end of the month. 

“We need to be open to the concept that the way [the vaccines] were studied is not necessarily the best way to use them in the middle of a pandemic,” said McGeer.

“In Ontario, it actually doesn’t matter, because we’re so far behind in delivering vaccine that we could give second doses to everybody that’s had a first dose and we wouldn’t make a dent in our vaccine supply.

“So it’s actually become irrelevant.” 

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