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Everything you need to know about the Blue Jays this year

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

The Toronto Blue Jays open the 2021 baseball season Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium. Here’s a quick catchup on Canada’s only major-league team:

They’re not coming back to Canada any time soon

The Jays announced Wednesday that they’re extending their stay in Dunedin, Fla., through at least their May 14-24 homestand. They still want to return to Toronto at some point this year. But if Canadian government pandemic restrictions don’t soften, they’ll continue playing their home games in the United States — either in Dunedin or, if Florida gets too hot and humid, in Buffalo.

2 key new players should bolster the lineup

Toronto’s big off-season catch was slugging centre-fielder George Springer, who it lured from Houston with the richest contract ($ 150 million US over six years) in team history.

The 31-year-old leadoff man won the World Series MVP award in 2017 and averaged 31 home runs in the last four full seasons. But he’s out for a bit because of an oblique strain.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin joins John Northcott to preview Jays’ season: 

Jamie Strashin of CBC Sports joins John Northcott on CBC News Network to talk about the kick-off to the Toronto Blue Jays season today. 3:18

New second baseman Marcus Semien, 30, will be in the opening day lineup and looking to recapture his form from 2019, when he hit 33 homers for Oakland and finished third in American League MVP voting.

Springer and Semien join a talented young team

Corner outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernández are both coming off excellent seasons and are still on the right side of 30. Ideally, 22-year-old Alejandro Kirk can soon take over at catcher after hitting well in his cameo appearance last year.

But the Jays’ future — and present — hinges on their three core young guys.

A big year by a smaller Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be huge for the Jays. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Shortstop Bo Bichette, 23, should be a line-drive machine again after a knee injury sapped him of his power last year. Cavan Biggio, 25, is a good hitter who can steal bases and play almost anywhere on the field.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., though, could ultimately be the make-or-break guy. The 22-year-old hasn’t lived up to the massive hype yet. But he’s still very young, very talented and he’s in better shape now. If Guerrero becomes the all-star-calibre slugger everyone expects, he can push the Jays to the next level.

The pitching looks a little shaky

Opening day starter Hyun Jin Ryu is a legit ace who finished third in American League Cy Young voting last year. Behind him are a lot of journeymen and question marks.

The Jays hope prospect Nate Pearson can become the No. 2 guy after he showed flashes as a rookie, but he’s hurt again (strained groin).

The bullpen is pretty deep, but Toronto’s gamble on closer Kirby Yates went bust. The one-time 41-save man suffered a season-ending elbow injury in spring training, leaving the job up to a committee that could be led by Canadian righty Jordan Romano.

Another post-season trip is in reach

Last year’s appearance by the Jays in the post-season was a product of the field temporarily expanding from five teams to eight in each league.

The added randomness of a 60-game season may have helped, too, as the Jays gave up more runs than they scored.

But they’re a good, young team that made some solid additions, and there are objective reasons to think they can make the playoffs in a normal season.

Fangraphs’ projection model has Toronto finishing 88-74 — seven games behind the Yankees in the AL East, but good enough to claim the top AL wild-card spot from a tightly packed handful of contenders.

The Jays are also trendy in the betting market, which has them as the No. 3 favourite to win the AL pennant, behind the Yankees and White Sox.

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CBC | Sports News

India reports biggest daily jump in COVID-19 infections this year

India reported the year’s biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases on Sunday, with 25,320 new infections, a day ahead of a lockdown in the western state of Maharashtra, the epicentre of the renewed surge.

The increase was the biggest since Dec. 16, according to federal health data. India is the third-most affected country globally with 11.36 million cases, behind the United States and Brazil.

India’s COVID-19 deaths rose by 161 to 158,607 over the last 24 hours, Sunday’s data show, compared to an average of about 100 since early February.

Nagpur district in Maharashtra will lock down on Monday for the first time since nationwide curbs were lifted in June. The state reported the highest number of infections with 2.3 million cases.

The capital New Delhi has reported a steady rise in infections over the last two weeks, with health authorities cautioning residents against any slackening of hygiene measures.

WATCH | Coronavirus surges in India to highest numbers in three months:

The CBC’s Salimah Shivji reports on the big spike in India’s COVID-19 cases and the difficulties of trying to encourage public health policies to curb the virus. 2:04

India’s caseload had been falling steadily since peaking in late September, but increased social gatherings and travel have caused a spike since early February, even as a nationwide vaccination campaign is underway.

The federal government aims to vaccinate a fifth of the country’s 1.3 billion people by August.

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CBC | World News

Breonna Taylor’s family continues to demand justice 1 year after her death

On the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death, the slain Black woman’s family continued their call for justice as hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Louisville, Ky., on Saturday.

“Eyes are on Louisville, Kentucky, today so let’s show America what community looks like,” said Taylor’s aunt, Bianca Austin, who wore her niece’s emergency medical technician jacket.

Austin spoke from a stage set up in Jefferson Square Park, which became an impromptu hub for protesters during months of demonstrations last summer. Flanked by two hand-painted murals of Taylor, activists repeated calls to charge the police officers who killed the Black woman during a raid at her apartment.

The crowd shouted Taylor’s name and “No justice, no peace” as they gathered near an outdoor memorial that includes a mural, posters, artwork and other mementos honouring Taylor’s life. Some organizers gave away food during the speeches.

Taylor’s family then led the protesters on an afternoon march past City Hall.

Members of the protest group known as Bike2Breathe approach the area where the Breonna Taylor memorial protest is occurring in Jefferson Square Park on Saturday. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

No officers charged in death

Taylor’s front door was breached by Louisville officers as part of a drug raid in the early morning hours of March 13, 2020. Her boyfriend fired his gun once, saying later that he feared an intruder was entering the apartment. One officer was struck, and he and two other officers fired 32 shots into the apartment, striking the 26-year-old Taylor five times.

Taylor’s death initially flew under the media radar, as the COVID-19 crisis shut down society, but George Floyd’s death in Minnesota and the release of a chilling 911 call from Taylor’s boyfriend in late May sparked interest in the case.

A portrait of Breonna Taylor is seen in front of another protest sign during a protest memorial for her in Jefferson Square Park on Saturday. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

A grand jury indicted one officer on wanton endangerment charges in September for shooting into a neighbour’s apartment, but no officers were charged in connection with Taylor’s death.

Police had a no-knock warrant but said they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment, a claim some witnesses have disputed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.

The city of Lousiville has since banned no-knock warrants, hired a new police chief and paid a $ 12 million US settlement to Taylor’s family.

An ongoing federal investigation could be wide ranging and is regarded by many as the last chance for justice for Taylor’s death.

WATCH | How the internet worked to keep Breonna Taylor’s name in the news:

The internet worked to keep Breonna Taylor’s name in the news — by turning it into a meme. But does online activism translate to IRL justice? How do those memes serve her memory? Plus: We review Netflix’s new doc phenom, The Social Dilemma. New ep out: http://smarturl.it/popchat 8:32

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CBC | World News

Canada honours those who died of COVID-19 a year after pandemic declared

Canada’s political leaders today marked one year since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by remembering those who died and praising the health sector and other essential workers who have kept the country functioning during a worldwide public health crisis.

“It has been a tough year, a heartbreaking year. But it has been a year we have faced together,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a solemn speech before the House of Commons.

“And that is something we must never forget.”

Over 2.5 million people around the world have died from COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has disrupted social and economic life around the world. More than 22,000 people have died of the disease in Canada.

Earlier this week, Trudeau designated March 11 as a national day of observance — the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Sacrifices, secondary impacts

Trudeau spoke of the sacrifices Canadians have made by staying apart from each other to prevent the spread of the virus, and the solidarity shown in the national effort to end the pandemic.

He spoke of essential workers stocking grocery store shelves, of people cheering health care workers from their balconies and of businesses mobilizing to produce personal protective equipment.

“A year ago, Canadians were asked to stay home and to stay safe. And yet even apart, or perhaps because we were apart, our communities became stronger and stronger,” he said.

Rising in the House after Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole focused part of his speech on the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on people who lost jobs, on businesses that lost income and on others who faced hardship from the secondary impacts of the pandemic.

“In B.C., there have been 60 per cent more deaths from the opioid epidemic than from COVID-19. Increasing rates of domestic violence have been the shadow pandemic this past year. Youth mental health issues, presenting as anxiety to eating disorders, are alarmingly on the rise,” said O’Toole. 

“The true cost of this pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of Canadians of all walks of life has been staggering.”

Crosses representing resident who died of COVID-19 are pictured on the lawn of Camilla Care Community, in Mississauga, Ont., on Jan. 13, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

O’Toole also criticized the Trudeau government’s pandemic response, suggesting that health care workers haven’t received enough support and that a slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations means it’s uncertain when the country will get back to normal.

“Like many Canadians, we are frustrated by the slower pace of vaccines than elsewhere, but we want the government to succeed for the health and well-being of Canadians so that we can get our lives back to normal,” O’Toole said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh paused briefly in his remarks before citing the fact that seniors living in long-term care homes bore the brunt of the pandemic, calling it a source of “national shame”.

“I think of so many people, so many loved ones who were lost when their family could not be there with them in their last days,” said Singh. “They were lost and families couldn’t grieve their loss.”

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet also spoke of the tragic impact of the pandemic on seniors — “the most fragile among us” — and other vulnerable people.

“People who are isolated, who live in poverty, who suffer from anxiety are suffering even more, and are made even more vulnerable by the pandemic,” he said speaking in French.

Blanchet expressed his appreciation for workers in health care, education and child care, and recognized that many of those workers are women.

He also called on Canada to address inequalities and flaws in the national health care system that were exposed during the pandemic.

Impact on mental health

In Ontario, where more than 7,000 people have died of COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford offered condolences to the families of the pandemic’s victims and recognized the difficulties others have faced in trying to limit the spread of the virus.

“Over the past year, the vast majority of people have followed public health restrictions to stop the spread, and we recognize the extraordinary burden this has placed on individuals, families and businesses across Ontario,” said Ford in a media statement.

The Canadian flag flies over the Peace tower at half mast to recognize a national day of observance for COVID-19, in Ottawa, Thursday, March 11, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“And the uncertainty created by the pandemic has had a devastating impact on our collective mental health — especially that of young people, who have been forced to put their lives on hold, and seniors who have had to isolate themselves from friends and family.”

Other ceremonies will be held across the country today. In Quebec, which has experienced the largest number of COVID-19-related deaths among provinces, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante will make a speech later in the day and Premier François Legault will take part in a ceremony at the legislature in Quebec City.

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CBC | Health News

1 year ago, sports around the world changed overnight

This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinion for CBC Sports. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

On the last Saturday in February, Joseph Parker and Junior Fa engaged in a fairly hard-fought, fairly high-stakes, but otherwise unremarkable heavyweight boxing match.

Parker, a two-time world title challenger seeking a third shot at a major belt, pressed the action, belting Fa’s body and scoring points for activity, if not accuracy. And Fa, six-foot-five and previously undefeated, rattled Parker when he connected, but almost never followed up. Instead he employed hit-and-hug tactics reminiscent of former heavyweight champ John Ruiz, whose style was about as spicy as a tub of vanilla ice cream.

What stood out about Parker’s 12-round decision win was the atmosphere. A loud-cheering crowd in an indoor arena sold out and filled to its normal capacity. There were no seating pods to ensure social distancing, no face masks and no virtual fans. These were all real people, shouting at full volume, even though we know close-quarters yelling is an efficient way to spread an airborne virus.

The fight card seemed to have come to us from the pre-COVID past — except the event happened in real time, in New Zealand, where aggressive countermeasures since the dawn of the pandemic have slowed COVID-19 transmission to a trickle.

A contrarian might point out that the day after Parker-Fa, a new COVID-19 case in Auckland prompted a week-long lockdown in New Zealand’s biggest city, but that’s the point. Early, aggressive intervention continues to pay off, and New Zealanders have resumed somewhat normal sports lives. Down there, the single-day case count has never broken 90, and they’re averaging four new cases per day this week. With numbers that low, boxing, Rugby Union and Netball can all unfold before live audiences without fear of any single game becoming a superspreader event.

WATCH | There was so much we didn’t know a year ago:

In the blink of an eye, everything in the sports world changed, culminating in the mayhem that ensued on March 11, 2020. 5:14

A year after the World Health Organization officially declared a COVID-19 pandemic, those snapshots from New Zealand feel like glimpses into an alternate reality. It’s a look at what might have been if we in North America had taken this pandemic more seriously instead of politicizing everything from masks, to vaccines, to settling for takeout from restaurants until it’s safe to gather indoors in big numbers again.

Instead, the pro sports industry continues to push to return to the old normal before medical science and shared responsibility to fellow citizens can bring this virus under control.

A year ago this week, a positive COVID-19 test from Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert served notice that pro sports weren’t immune to this new disease, which had only been identified late in 2019. The league suspended play March 11, when 245 new cases were identified nationwide. A day later, when teammate Donovan Mitchell tested positive, the U.S. recorded 405 new cases.

Nearly 12 months later, the league held its all-star game, with around 1,500 fans in person, in Atlanta on Sunday, a day more than 40,000 Americans tested positive. The week preceding the all-star break saw the Raptors — playing in Tampa this season because COVID-19 has severely restricted border crossings — postpone one game and play another two short-handed because of positive tests and contact tracing.

WATCH | Bring It In: What is the future of sports in a post-COVID world?:

Morgan Campbell is joined by Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin, to discuss what changes in the sports world will continue after the Covid-19 pandemic. 4:37

The NFL pressed through full regular season and playoff schedules. That the league kept rolling even as more than 700 players and staff tested positive was spun as a triumph, instead of a sign it wasn’t quite safe to conduct business as usual.

Various sports organizations with upcoming seasons have announced plans to welcome spectators back into venues at varying capacity levels. Major League Baseball’s website keeps a constantly updating list of teams and in-person attendance limits for 2021, while the University of Alabama has announced plans for unrestricted ticket sales at 101,821 seat Bryant-Denny Stadium for football this fall.

These decisions highlight how little we’ve chosen to learn since last March.

Money talks

Teams aren’t trying to fill their stadiums this fall because, like our friends in New Zealand, they recognize vigilance has driven the risk of a new outbreak to almost nil. Canada added more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, with 1,631 coming in Ontario alone. In the U.S., the new case count more than doubled overnight, hitting more than 98,000 on March 8.

Organizers are bringing fans back to venues for the money. TV makes all these leagues run — cancelling the Ravens-Steelers game first scheduled for U.S. Thanksgiving reportedly would have cost broadcaster NBC roughly $ 70 million US in ad revenue. If leagues eliminate big swaths of their schedules, they jeopardize billions in broadcast revenue.

But they clearly also miss the money they make selling tickets and beer and game-day trinkets. Sold-out stadiums also signal a return to whatever normal will be, because pandemic fatigue is real, and a lot of people feel we’ve been socially distancing and mask-wearing and obsessively washing our hands long enough. It’s an understandable sentiment. We all want to move around freely again and visit with friends and family without breaking a by-law or risking triggering another outbreak.

But the virus doesn’t care what we feel is normal. It’s going to spread until it mutates, then spread some more, because that’s what viruses do unless we intervene. Here in Toronto, we’ve seen what happens when people try to return to normal just because it seems like time.

In June 2019 Kevin Durant limped into the NBA Finals on a strained calf muscle and a string of missed games. If you had seen him slow-motion strolling through Scotiabank Arena, you wouldn’t have pegged him as ready to play. But this was Kevin Durant, one of the top handful of players in the NBA when healthy. And these were the NBA Finals, the most important competition in the top league in the sport. Stakes don’t get higher. The schedule said it was time for Durant to play. Surely his injured tissue would understand and co-operate.

WATCH | Durant injured in 2019 Finals:

Kevin Durant was injured in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and is likely out for months to come with a ruptured right Achilles. Now there are questions about whether he should have been on the court at all. 3:08

We all saw Durant’s Achilles tendon snap when he planted his foot and tried to drive to the basket early in Game 5 of that series. The injury, surgery and rehab sidelined him for all of 2019-2020, both the standard season and the summer restart on the COVID-free campus near Orlando. His calf and Achilles tendon, it turned out, didn’t care about the stakes or the schedule. Whatever problems existed would only disappear with treatment.

The North American sports world could have learned from Durant’s example. A full recovery beats a fast one.

Or we could look at New Zealand, where citizens and political leaders alike mobilized — or stayed home — to keep the virus from rippling through the population. A year into the pandemic, New Zealanders have full stadiums and a microscopic COVID-19 case load.

Over here, we have a rush to return to normal and hope that it all works out.

But hope isn’t a strategy. It’s just another gamble.

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CBC | Sports News

One year later, COVID-19 has left no part of Alberta untouched

It was inevitable, the premier said.

Though there were only dozens of cases of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 reported in Canada, health officials were resigned that the pandemic would eventually spread into Alberta.

A news bulletin went out in the late afternoon March 5, with few details aside from confirmation that a presumptive case had been confirmed.

Less than an hour later, the province’s chief medical officer of health took to the podium.

“Uh, you all know, my name is Dr. Deena Hinshaw,” she said. “I’m here, as you know, to provide an update on COVID-19 in Alberta.”

Hinshaw went on to provide more details: the presumptive case was a woman in her 50s who had been on board the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of California.

The provincial government sent word to travellers returning from outside Canada: monitor your symptoms. The next day, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney commented on the first case.

“Obviously, we are concerned about this initial presumptive case,” he said. “Given the breadth of this virus around the world, [it was] likely inevitable that we would see some manifestation of it here in Alberta.”

Nearly a year later, Hinshaw needed to introduce herself to Albertans no longer — she had become a fixture when it came to her daily updates on cases, hospitalizations, outbreaks and deaths.

But the province she delivered her messages to had changed. 

Since that first case a year ago, 133,202 other Albertans have tested positive for the virus. Nearly 2,000 Albertans have died.

“It is important to remember that every part of this province, at every sector of society, has been touched by this virus,” Hinshaw said recently.

WATCH | The following animation shows active case rates, adjusted for population, in each of the 132 “local geographic areas” defined by Alberta Health over the course of the pandemic. The darker the area, the more active cases at that time. You can pause the video and use the slider to explore the changes over time:

Active COVID-19 cases, per 100,000 people, from April 2020 to February 2021. Map is divided into 132 ‘local geographic areas,’ as defined by Alberta Health. 0:32

A crisis in long-term care

Allan Pasutto, 86, of Penhold, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination in late February of this year.

“I’m very happy to be alive,” Pasutto said.

But during the darkest early days of the pandemic, a vaccine seemed a world away. Whispers of promising research trials still cautioned developments were months, if not years, away.

In the early months of the pandemic, the virus devastated multiple long-term care homes across Alberta. At the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, more than 100 residents and staff tested positive, and 20 people died.

“It was absolutely horrifying,” Renee Laboucane said in December, reflecting on the outbreak that claimed the life of her mother.

Twenty people died at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, a facility operated by Revera, during the first wave of COVID-19. More than 100 residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19 at the centre. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

As the pandemic grew, outbreaks at long-term care homes became typical while remaining terrifying realities for the families involved.

Cases at some long-term care centres approached 100, while one Edmonton long-term care centre became the deadliest in the province, with 55 deaths.

In mid-February, the premier announced that all residents in long-term care and designated supportive living had received their second shot of the vaccine.

But the grim reality remains that two of every three deaths linked to COVID-19 in Alberta came within these facilities.

WATCH | Renee Laboucane discusses outbreak at Calgary long-term care home, which claimed the life of her mother:

Slaughterhouses become front lines

In mid-April, cases at a Cargill slaughterhouse in High River skyrocketed, with at least 950 staff  — nearly half its workforce — testing positive for COVID-19. The outbreak remains the largest workplace outbreak in Canada.  

It was illustrative of the cold working environments within which experts say COVID-19 thrives.

And it wasn’t just Cargill. In late April, the small community of Brooks went from just a few cases of COVID-19 to one of the province’s biggest hotspots.

Three employees of the JBS Foods meat-processing plant were diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-April, and by the end of the month more than 300 workers had been diagnosed and nearly 900 total cases were recorded throughout the city.

It meant that Brooks — which has 0.3 per cent of the province’s population — represented 26 per cent of its active cases.

The animated chart below shows the top 10 local health zones in Alberta for active cases of COVID-19 over the last two weeks of April 2020. Use the play/pause button at the bottom left to start or stop the animation, or drag the slider to adjust the date displayed:

Similar rapid spread was felt this year at the Olymel slaughterhouse in Red Deer, Alta., which has been linked to at least 500 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths.

That slaughterhouse temporarily shut down Feb. 15, but not before it drew a warning from Alberta Health Services that cautioned that one in five of its 1,850 workers was believed to be infected.

Sixty per cent, AHS said, held at least one job outside the slaughterhouse.

Ariana Quesada, 16, holds up a photo of her father, Benito Quesada, in front of the RCMP detachment in High River, Alta. Her father died after becoming one of hundreds of workers at Cargill’s High River meat-processing facility to contract COVID-19. The company is now the subject of a police investigation. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

For those who have felt loss as outbreaks proliferate among workforces, the grief remains long after case counts go down.

Ariana Quesada, 16, filed a formal complaint against Cargill in early January, asking police to investigate potential criminal negligence in the death of her father.

“We have filed a complaint … to finally bring justice to my dad … to finally hold Cargill accountable for what they did,” Quesada said at the time, fighting back tears.

From large complexes to small gatherings

Earlier this year, total cases at Alberta’s oilsands sites crept past 1,000. Correctional centres in communities like Peace River popped up on Alberta’s outbreak list, while hamlets like Gunn saw cases flare up too.

Though Calgary and Edmonton frequently were found atop Alberta’s list of active cases last fall, rural Alberta saw the highest active rates of COVID-19 in late January.

Of course, the spread of the virus wasn’t concentrated to certain facilities or communities. It spread in churches, hospitals, small businesses, fitness studios and within households.

It devastated families and it shut down businesses, and the economic impacts and the lasting grief of the past year will continue to be felt long after the province has enough vaccines to go around.

WATCH: Alberta announces its first case of COVID-19:

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the patient is a woman in her 50s who lives in the Calgary zone. She was on board the Grand Princess cruise ship before it was quarantined off the coast of California, returning to Alberta on Feb. 21 and self-isolating at home on Feb. 28. 19:06

On March 6, 2020, one day after Hinshaw announced the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in the province, she took to the podium again, reading from a page of prepared remarks.

“I want to let you know of news that I learned in this past hour. We have a second presumptive case of COVID-19 in Alberta,” she said, adding public health would be following up with close contacts.

“I want to stress that the risk of getting sick from COVID-19 remains low at this time in Alberta. However, with these recent developments, we are anticipating this risk may increase in the weeks to come.”

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CBC | Health News

New Nintendo Switch With Larger Samsung OLED Rumored for This Year

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Nintendo has consistently downplayed rumors of new Switch consoles, but a report in Bloomberg says 2021 will see the launch of a new high-end version of Nintendo’s massively successful console. This device will allegedly feature a larger Samsung OLED and support for 4K gaming in docked mode, but that might complicate things for developers. 

There are currently two versions of the Switch; the standard hybrid console and the handheld-only Switch Lite. The Switch has a 6.2-inch 720p LCD. and the Lite is just a bit smaller at 5.5 inches. The rumored device would replace the hybrid console and feature a 7-inch OLED panel manufactured by Samsung. 

The LCD on the current Switch is very high-quality, despite the low resolution. The move to OLED could bring better black levels, more vibrant colors, and improved battery life — it’s the same thing we’ve seen with phones over the past few years as even mid-range devices have moved to OLED. The screen will apparently remain 720p, but Bloomberg claims docked mode will feature a resolution change. When this rumored Switch is docked, it might support 4K output. 

The Switch’s lack of support for 4K screens has been a sticking point for gamers who have grown accustomed to higher resolutions, but 1080p was the best the Switch could manage. Developers have complained about the complications of supporting two different resolutions, but the gap will be even bigger if the console steps up to 4K. 

The Switch Lite launched in 2019 with a smaller screen and no support for docked mode.

We don’t know anything about the internals at this point, but it’s safe to assume the device will still have an Nvidia Tegra chip. The GPU on that chip doesn’t have enough power to render games reliably at 4K — it can struggle at 1080p sometimes. The going speculation is that it will leverage Nvidia’s DLSS technology, which uses AI to sharpen and upscale graphics. We know the Tegra can run DLSS because it’s enabled on the Shield Android TV. However, DLSS would use more power, so it might be limited to docked 4K mode. 

Bloomberg’s sources suggest the new display panels will ship to manufacturers around July. That would give Nintendo just enough time to get units manufactured and on the market in time for the holidays. This isn’t the first time rumors have pointed to a new hi-end Switch, but we’re more willing to believe it now. Nintendo will be looking for a way to prop up sales this year as the newer and more advanced PS5 and Xbox Series X become more widely available.

Now read:

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

Ontario’s Rachel Homan reaches Scotties final for 3rd straight year

Rachel Homan is in familiar territory in a strange curling season.

She’ll skip Ontario in a third straight Canadian women’s curling championship final Sunday.

  • Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Homan’s 7-2 win over Saskatchewan and defending champion Kerri Einarson’s 10-9 loss in an extra end to Manitoba on Saturday combined to give Ontario a bye to the final.

“We really wanted to get to the final and see what we can do and to put that Maple Leaf on our back would really be another dream come true,” Homan said.

“We’re going to work and fight hard to the last rock and hopefully we can make more than the other team.”

Homan is a three-time winner of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2017, 2014 and 2013. In the third trimester of her pregnancy, she’ll try for a fourth.

Homan and Einarson owned identical 10-2 records at the conclusion of the championship round Saturday.

Homan’s 7-4 win over Einarson in a Pool A game Thursday was the tiebreaker giving Ontario the higher playoff seeding.

Einarson has a place in Sunday afternoon’s semifinal as the second seed.

The defending champs await the winner of a morning tiebreaker between Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones and Alberta’s Laura Walker, who were both 9-3.

WATCH | Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones sets up tiebreakers with Alberta’s Laura Walker:

Jones led Manitoba to a 10-9 win over Team Canada to set up a tie breaker against Alberta on Sunday. 0:56

“Personally, it’s pretty huge for me not to play three games tomorrow,” Homan said. “I knew we were ready to do whatever it took to be in that final.

“Thankfully the way it fell, we were able to get that bye, get some rest, get our feet up and just prepare for the final tomorrow.”

The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out most of the competitive curling season.

Homan’s team arrived in Calgary incorporating new second Sarah Wilkes and adjusting to the shift of Joanne Courtney to lead without the benefit of 50 to 60 games behind them this winter.

“I think we’ve faced a lot of adversity like every team here trying to show up and put together the best performance we can under the circumstances,” Courtney said.

“I’m really proud of how we’ve supported each other and kind of just stayed tough. Lots of gritty wins, lots of gritty ends. Any time you get a chance to play in a final, it’s a huge honour.”

WATCH | That Curling Show celebrates Curling Day in Canada

From Watson Lake, Yukon to Kirkland, Quebec and even south of the border to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Colleen Jones and Devin Heroux are showing you some of the best outdoor curling rinks in Canada. 1:59:06

Walker took three losses into the championship round, but won a fifth straight game Saturday to keep the host province in contention for the national women’s curling crown.

Alberta came from behind to cap the championship round with a 9-4 win over Chelsea Carey’s Wild Card One.

“I think our confidence is high,” Walker said. “To run the table in the championship round is a pretty special thing I think for us to have just done.”

Six-time champion Jones avoided elimination by drawing for the extra-end win over Einarson.

Her Winnipeg foursome must win three games Sunday for Jones to claim a record seventh title.

“Adrenalin usually takes you through those games,” Jones said. “We didn’t play a lot of games coming in. We’re well-rested.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to play three. At the end of it we’ll be tired, but I think when you’re playing, you’ll be fine.”

This is how Canadians celebrate the roaring game

That Curling Show features fan-submitted photos and video to celebrate Curling Day in Canada 2:34

The 2021 Tournament of Hearts is one of four Curling Canada events to be held in a spectator-free, controlled environment at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre.

The pandemic thwarting many provincial and territorial playdowns prompted Curling Canada to add two wild-card teams to the Hearts field for a total of 18, which in turn shrunk the playoff window.

Instead of the traditional four teams in a Page playoff, only three advance.

Einarson is attempting to win the first back-to-back Hearts titles since Homan in 2013-14.

Sunday’s victor earns $ 100,000 in prize money and a return trip to the 2022 Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as Team Canada.

The runner-up earns $ 60,000 and $ 40,000 goes to the third-place team.

Kerri Einarson has a place in Sunday afternoon’s semifinal as the second seed. The Defending champ await the winner of a morning tiebreaker between Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones and Alberta’s Laura Walker, who are both 9-3. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The winner doesn’t have a world championship, however, in which to wear the Maple Leaf.

The March 19-28 tournament in Schaffhausen, Switzerland was cancelled by the World Curling Federation because of the pandemic.

The 2020 world championship in Prince George, B.C., was called off for the same reason, so Einarson wasn’t able to represent Canada there.

Beth Peterson’s Wild Card Three (7-5) finished with a 10-3 win over Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges (6-6) on Saturday.

Wild Card One, with Carey filling in at skip for Tracy Fleury, and Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson also finished 6-6.

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Diablo II: Resurrected Arrives on PCs and Consoles This Year

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Diablo II: Resurrected, a remaster of Diablo II, will arrive on PCs and consoles this year. To say I’m both excited and curious would be something of an understatement — Diablo II is where I cut my teeth on developing mods. Blizzard is using D2’s original source code, and my heart goes pitter-pat at the idea. That said, this is a game Blizzard can’t afford to screw up, especially after the disaster that was/is Warcraft III: Reforged.

Some definite quality of life improvements are coming with D2R, including a new shared stash and upgraded graphics. The game implements the Lord of Destruction expansion; you can see the launch trailer below:

For those of you who can’t watch video or dislike doing so, here’s a couple of screenshots showing the graphics upgrade in action. Don’t worry if you don’t like the changes; you’ll be able to change to the original graphics options at will. Blizzard hasn’t clarified the situation yet, but we’re betting the company has also dropped Glide support, in favor of standardizing on Direct3D.

The original game, in its 4:3, 800×600 glory. The problem with fixed resolution games is just how badly they’ve scaled to larger monitor sizes.

Here’s the upgraded version. 16:9 and there’ll be resolution options up to 4K. If you don’t like the new graphics you’ll have the option to upscale the old ones to higher resolutions. All cinematics are also being re-done.

Additional features baked into the upgrade include support for cross-platform progression. This allows you to play the same character on, say, a Switch or a PC. Also, characters are now 3D polygons, while backgrounds are still sprites. There’s also a new lighting system.

Blizzard needs to get this right. Warcraft may be the company’s oldest franchise, but Diablo II stands as one of the best and most enduring products it ever built. The baffling choices and changes made to Warcraft 3: Reforged were mistakes that do not need to be repeated.

Also, no word yet on whether everyone will get access to the original Diablo II the way they did when Blizzard launched Starcraft: Remastered. It’d be a nice gesture for the company to make, but we’ll have to stay awhile and listen wait and see if that happens or not.

Anyone else really looking forward to the remastered Tyrael fight in Act II? I admit it. I’m a bit of a fanboy for a game that’s nearly old enough to drink.

Now Read:

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Italy ponders economic recovery a year after 1st COVID-19 casualty

One recent afternoon, at the edge of the main piazza in Vò, a tiny town in the northern Veneto region of Italy, a group of young people hung out near a car, listening to music. Among them was Jasmine Schiavoi, 19, a nursing student.

Schiavoi was paying her way through school by working part-time in a pub. But then the pandemic hit and her job disappeared, along with thousands of others in the region. 

“I lost my job because of the COVID problem,” she said in an interview. “I just want to get through school so I can work in nursing. [Italy] needs medical personnel.”

Nursing student Jasmine Schiavoi lost her part-time job in a pub in Vò, the northern Italian town where the first person in Europe died of COVID-19. She says she wants Italy’s new government to remove the obstacles for women in the workforce and to increase political representation. (Chris Warde-Jones for CBC)

One year ago this week, the world watched with alarm as 11 small towns in northern Italy shut themselves off to the rest of the world overnight. Days before, Annalisa Malara, a young anesthesiologist had diagnosed Italy’s first COVID-19 case. Shortly after, a 77-year-old retired contractor in Vò died, making him the first European casualty of the virus and placing the small town at the epicentre of the outbreak.

Since then, more than 95,000 people in Italy have died from COVID-19, the most in the European Union.  The vast majority of deaths were older people, and most of those, men.

But with almost half a million jobs lost in the past year, Italy’s young people and women are also paying a steep price for the pandemic, just like Schiavoi.

Pharmacist Giuliano Martini, mayor of the tiny town of Vo’ in the northern Veneto region, says it set an example for the rest of Italy on how to curb the spread of COVID-19. But he worries about Italy’s next generation. (Chris Warde-Jones for CBC)

Today, Vò mayor and pharmacist Giuliano Martini recalls with pride how his tourist town responded to the virus. It was the only in Italy to test and trace almost all of its residents, virtually eliminating COVID-19, he said. 

But the economic effects of the pandemic remain. A year later, the piazza is nearly empty. It’s lined with papered-over store windows and “for rent” signs dot the street. Martini is no longer upbeat about what lies ahead for this town, Italy or its next generation.

“I just don’t see a future for the youth in Italy,” he said in Italian. “Governments invested very little in young people, even before COVID. I can only hope this one does better.”

Kickstarting Italy’s faltering economy

Over the past year, 70 per cent of the jobs lost were held by women. Youth unemployment, according to ISTAT, Italy’s national institute of statistics, is once again at 30%, second only to Spain and Greece.

Italy’s latest government, led by ex-European Central Bank head Mario Draghi, who was sworn in earlier this month, has vowed to use Italy’s 200 billion euro slice of the European Union’s COVID recovery fund to relaunch its long-stagnant economy. Draghi says he’ll do this by overhauling the country’s stifling bureaucracy, investing in education and green businesses and closing the employment gender gap.

Guilia De Rossi of Vicenza, northern Italy, left a coveted full-time job to launch her upcycling startup, which compresses shredded, discarded clothing into gift boxes and furniture, all recyclable. (Chris Warde-Jones for CBC)

These are promises Giulia De Rossi of the nearby Veneto town of Vicenza wants to believe.

In a chilly warehouse on the outskirts of town, she flicks the switch on a large fabric shredding machine and feeds discarded clothing onto the conveyor belt. A soft, fluffy cloud of material comes out the other end. It will be compressed and shaped into everything from gift boxes to furniture, all fully recyclable.

WATCH | Turning scraps into a sustainable business:

Giulia De Rossi of Vicenza, northern Italy, feeds discarded clothing into a shredder that turns it into a fluffy material she uses to make everything from gift boxes to furniture, all recyclable. Government funds she was promised for the shredder were diverted because of the pandemic. 0:40

De Rossi quit her coveted day job linked to the oil industry two years ago to launch this circular economy startup. The prime motivator, she says, was to leave the world a better place for her infant son.

“The fashion industry is one of the most polluting, so I asked myself, ‘Is there a way not to send those huge amounts of clothes to landfill or be incinerated?’ So I started doing some tests in my kitchen,” she said. 

But Italy’s infamous bureaucracy, scant investment in the green economy and limited child care made the move risky.

When De Rossi’s son was born, she thought of giving up, before her mother-in-law stepped in to help out, a solution many new Italian parents still rely on.

Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the regional funds De Rossi had been promised to help pay for the 13,000 euro shredder were diverted to fight the pandemic, forcing her to pay for it out of her retirement savings.

De Rossi says COVID-19 must take precedent. But like many here, she says that investment in the circular economy, young businesses and women, always seems to come last.

Pandemic provides unprecedented opportunity

Elly Schlein, vice-president of the northern Emilia Romagna region and a leading voice in Italy’s young generation, says Italy can’t afford to go back to normal. ‘Normal was the problem,’ she said. (Chris Warde-Jones for CBC)

Elly Schlein — vice-president of the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, and at 35, a leading voice of Italy’s younger generation — says COVID-19 and the EU relief fund have provided an unprecedented opportunity for Italy to transform into a modern, green, and digital economy that includes young people and women.

“We are talking about billions of euros, so there are no alibis anymore,” she said of the EU money.

Schlein says what began as a health crisis quickly morphed into an economic and social crisis, putting into stark relief inequalities that persisted after the last crisis in 2008.

“[Those] who paid the highest price for that economic crisis were women and young people in Italy because of the kind of contracts that they have … precarious,” said Schlein. “And even with the unprecedented choice of the Italian government to block firing people during the pandemic, still, [women and youth] have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Why? Because they have part-time contracts or jobs with no protection.”

In December of 2020 alone, she points out, 98 per cent of the 101,000 jobs lost in Italy were held by women, according to ISTAT.

Recovery ‘tinged in pink’

New Italian premier Mario Draghi presides over his first cabinet of ministers reunion after the swearing-in ceremony, at Chigi Palace Premier’s office, in Rome on Feb. 13. He has promised to overhaul Italy’s economy by investing in education and green businesses and closing the employment gender gap. (Andrew Medichini/Pool via Reuters)

The situation prompted Linda Laura Sabbadini, an ISTAT department head, to write in an op-ed in la Repubblica newspaper calling for the allocation of the billions of euros of the Recovery Fund to be “tinged in pink.”

“The gender impact of the entire recovery fund must be part of the plan,” she wrote. “Because if you keep allocating scarce funds [to get and keep women in the workforce] and don’t spend real money on social infrastructures and women’s entrepreneurship, Italy will not develop. Women, as always, will pay. But the whole country will, too.”

It’s a message that a group called Il Giusto Mezzo (Half of It), made up of economists, entrepreneurs and employees, has been transmitting through flash mobs held in piazzas throughout Italy. The larger group it belongs to, Donne per la Salvezza (Women to the Rescue), has issued post-Covid proposals to the government, pushing for everything from the promotion of girls in STEM to better child care.

But with just a third of new Draghi’s cabinet women — most without portfolios — many Italians remain skeptical.

“It’s a sign of a patriarchal society that has not yet understood that you can only write better policies for the complex problems of society if you don’t have one eye closed, the eye of women,” said Elly Schlein.

While thousands of young people have reacted to the exclusion from the Italian economy by voting with their feet — leaving for opportunity elsewhere — women with children don’t often have that choice.

And some, like Giulia de Rossi, are risking and investing in a better future for Italy.

“These days, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I think, ‘Oh my God, I need to do this or that’,” for her business, she says. “Before starting this new adventure, I would wake up worrying I was wasting my life.”

She just hopes Italy will finally prioritize young women like her, who are already betting on a country that has yet to bet on them.

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