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Canada on track for 20K new COVID-19 cases a day without behaviour change: modelling – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
New national pandemic modelling set to be released on Friday shows that on nearly every metric, the COVID-19 crisis is worsening, according to a copy of projections obtained by CTV News.

In the short term, by the end of the month Canada is projected to hit between 366,500 to 378,600 total cases, and between 11,870 to 12,120 deaths by Nov. 30.

The projections also indicate that if Canadians increase their current number of contacts, the country could see upwards of 60,000 cases a day, and even still under current rates of contacts into December the country could be recording 20,000 cases a day.

The modelling shows that instead of flattening the curve, national daily case counts are “increasing significantly,” and rapid growth is occurring in several provinces because each new case in Canada is spreading the infection to more than one other person.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a closed-door meeting with his opposition counterparts where they received a briefing from Canada’s top public health officials Thursday afternoon, getting a first look at modelling projections.

“Canada is facing a continued rise in cases and that it is critical for Canadians to keep following all public health measures, including physical distancing, proper handwashing, and limiting close contacts,” said the Prime Minister’s Office in a statement summarizing the meeting Trudeau had.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada the numbers have not been finalized, but as Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam signalled earlier in the week, the updated modelling is set to be publicly released on Friday morning at 9 a.m. ET.

As of the previous round of national modelling in late October, the advice to Canadians was to cut their contacts by 25 per cent in order to curb the spread. Since then, case counts continued to set records rather than flatten as hoped, forcing new rounds of restrictions.

Based on the modelling presentation prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada for tomorrow’s announcement, more high-risk adults and seniors are contracting the virus at higher rates; the number and size of outbreaks are increasing including in long-term care homes and Indigenous communities; and hospitalizations and deaths are increasing.

Signalling a possible shift in the federal government’s communications strategy, Trudeau’s office has given notice that Friday morning Trudeau will be delivering an address to Canadians about COVID-19 from Rideau Cottage, his residence where he delivered nearly daily press conferences over the first few months of the health crisis.

OPPOSITION LEADERS RAISE ALARM

Following the meeting with Trudeau and the doctors, opposition party leaders began raising alarms. Without offering specifics, the comments made indicated they were concerned with the path this country is on.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said she’ll be calling for an emergency debate in the House of Commons to discuss what more the federal government can and should be doing to help get the pandemic under control.

“What I heard was very sobering,” Paul said in an interview on CTV’s Power Play.

“This is an incredibly urgent situation, it is one that we do not have a handle on,” she said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that what “struck” him from the meeting is that nearing a year into Canada being aware of the threat of the novel coronavirus, “we as a country are worse off than we were at the start of the pandemic.”

O’Toole is now calling on Trudeau to deploy rapid testing and at-home tests; find more effective targeted measures to protect and isolate people with COVID-19; explain how, when, and where Canadians will be able to get a vaccine; and share more information about the locations and sources of community spread.

“Things are looking tough,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on his way out of the meeting in the prime minister’s West Block office.

The PMO statement said that Trudeau “emphasized that the health and safety of all Canadians transcends political interests, and every party must work together to protect Canadians from COVID-19.”

DOSE DISTRIBUTION CONFUSION

The Prime Minister’s Office also confirmed that vaccines, long-term care, schools, rapid testing, and travel between provinces and territories came up during their meeting on Tuesday.

It was anticipated that the conversation around vaccine distribution would come up during Trudeau’s sit down with opposition leaders, as preliminary but promising news from both Moderna and Pfizer has caused a whirlwind of questions about how many vaccine doses the federal government will be sending to the provinces and when that will happen.

Despite officials in both Ontario and Alberta staking claims to a specific number of early vaccine doses, federal officials continue to say it’s far too early to have the details nailed down about how many vaccines each province will receive once approved by Health Canada, and how quickly doses could get out to each province once that happens.

“There are many ongoing preliminary discussions around our plan to… roll out vaccines and deliver them across the country. We know that there is still uncertainty as to when those vaccines are going to be manufactured, they are still all in various stages of trials and as much as have signed contracts around delivery dates, we know there are many uncertainties still to come,” Trudeau told reporters on Thursday.

“The focus that we have as a government is on ensuring that as those vaccines arrive, and are approved safely by health authorities, that they get delivered as quickly as possible to vulnerable Canadians as a priority and then to all Canadians. We’re working closely with the provinces in terms of establishing what those are, but these discussions are still at a preliminary stage.”

On Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province expects to receive a combined 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines during the first three months of 2021, with more to follow after that.

Speaking to CTV’s Power Play Wednesday, Health Parliamentary Secretary Darren Fisher went as far as to say he was “not aware” of where Elliot got her numbers from.

Asked on Thursday whether Elliot was wrong to come out with the figures she did, Trudeau would only say that there are “many numbers circulating” and it’s too early to confirm, despite Ontario Premier Doug Ford backing Elliot up.

Ford said that the figures his government shared came from senior federal officials, though sources in the Prime Minister’s Office have told CTV News that Ottawa has just asked the provinces for rough estimates of how many priority residents they’d like to vaccinate with the first round of vaccines.

On her way out of Thursday’s meeting, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that: “with everything, we work out an agreement with provinces and territories about how best to equitably share the resource, whether it’s personal protective equipment, or most recently rapid testing, and that’s exactly what we’ll do with vaccines as well. That work is underway and we’ll have more to say when it’s completed.”

With files from CTV News’ Annie Bergeron-Oliver and Nicole Bogart

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Tesla seeks entry into U.S. renewable fuel credit market

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Tesla Inc is seeking to enter the multi-billion dollar U.S. renewable credit market, hoping to profit from the Biden administration’s march toward new zero-emission goals, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The electric car maker is one of at least eight companies with a pending application at the Environmental Protection Agency tied to power generation and renewable credits, the sources said. The EPA produces a list of pending applications with some details, but not companies’ names.

Tesla’s entry could potentially reshape the renewable credit market, established in the mid-2000s to boost investment in the U.S. biofuel industry. The market generated some 18 billion credits in 2020 and is currently dominated by ethanol producers. Tesla’s application would likely be tied to the production of electricity associated with biogas.

The Biden administration is expected to review the EPA applications and lay out how electric vehicles could qualify for tradable credits under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this summer, the two sources said.

The move could represent the largest expansion of the RFS program that was created by President George W. Bush and aimed at boosting rural America and weaning the country off oil imports.

The entry of Tesla and other electric vehicle makers to the renewable energy scheme could attract investment for a much-needed infrastructure network, including charging stations, for electric vehicles.

However, it is likely to anger some in the U.S. refining industry who would need to buy the credits, known as RINs, generated by Tesla and other alternative fuel providers, essentially subsidizing an electric car company that seeks to put petrochemical refiners out of business.

Rural farmers could view Tesla’s entry as the Biden White House prioritizing electric vehicles over biofuels as an answer to the climate crisis.

BIOGAS LOGISTICS

In 2016, just before the Obama administration exited office, the EPA published a proposal seeking comment on how best to structure credits for renewable electricity that is used as a transportation fuel.

The proposal largely sat dormant during the Trump administration, which spent most of its time on fuel credits trying to find common ground among rivals in the corn and oil industries.

Electricity from biogas – mainly pulled from the nation’s landfills – is already eligible for generating credits under the RFS program, but the EPA has never approved applications to do so because the agency hasn’t yet figured out the logistical issues.

Key questions include how to trace the credit-eligible biogas from its origin through to a car’s battery, and who along that supply chain should be allowed to claim the lucrative credits.

Under the RFS, refiners must blend biofuels like corn-based ethanol into their fuel pool or purchase compliance credits in a credit market, where prices have swung wildly in recent years.

The program has helped drive investment in ethanol plants in states like Iowa and Nebraska, but liquid fuels have been under attack from the Biden administration.

Tesla would generate the most lucrative type of credits, known as D3s, which trade at a significant premium to the larger pool of traditional ethanol credits.

As well as building electric cars, Tesla is also investing in charging stations and large-scale batteries.

 

(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw and Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Heather Timmons and Richard Pullin)

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Fed privately presses big banks on risks from climate change

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The U.S. Federal Reserve has asked lenders to start providing information on the measures they are taking to mitigate climate change-related risks to their balance sheets, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.

The previously unreported supervisory discussions highlight how U.S. watchdogs are moving to execute President Joe Biden’s agenda to incorporate climate risk into the financial regulatory system, with potentially major ramifications for Wall Street.

While European regulators are this year rolling-out climate-change “stress tests” for lenders, the Fed lags its peers.

Fed officials have previously said they are considering a new scenario analysis to help them understand how climate change may affect trillions of dollars’ worth of bank assets, but have not said how or when they would start to apply such tests.

In private discussions, however, Fed supervisors have begun pressing large lenders to detail the measures they are taking to understand how their loan books would perform under certain climate change scenarios, the four people said.

Fed officials have not dictated the parameters for the analysis but have made it clear they expect lenders to conduct the internal risk-management exercises and hand over the data, the people said.

That analysis includes testing the geographical exposure of bank assets to physical risks such as flooding, drought and wildfires, as well as testing exposures to different sectors, such as how oil and gas loans may perform versus renewable energy loans.

The aim of the tests is to identify risks, but the Fed has not indicated that the data it is gathering would translate into any additional capital charges or other regulatory actions.

“They’re being very pragmatic. They’re doing their homework,” said one of the people.

Global banks — including JPMorgan, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — have been exploring the implications of climate change for some time, both internally and in some cases with European regulators like the Bank of England who are more aggressively integrating climate change risks into the regulatory framework.

Nevertheless, the new climate scrutiny from the U.S. central bank adds to the pressure on Wall Street lenders, forcing them to make investments in technology, data management and staff.

“The data work is a big deal,” said another of the sources.

The banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the private discussions with the Fed.

STRESS TESTS

Climate change could upend the financial system because physical threats such as rising sea levels, as well as policies and carbon-neutral technologies aimed at slowing global warming, could destroy trillions of dollars of assets, risk experts say.

In a 2020 report, a Commodity Futures Trading Commission panel cited data estimating that $1 trillion to $4 trillion of global wealth tied to fossil fuel assets could be lost.

The Fed in January appointed Kevin Stiroh, one of its top supervisors, to lead a new team focusing on climate-related financial risks, but some congressional Democrats are pushing the central bank to move much faster and add climate risks to bank stress tests which dictate Wall Street’s capital plans.

In March, Fed governor Lael Brainard said that climate scenario tests could be helpful but that they would also rely on qualitative judgments and be highly uncertain.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has said the agency will tread carefully and focus on incorporating climate change into existing regulatory obligations, as opposed to creating strict new rules. It is unclear, though, if he will be renominated to lead the Fed after his term expires next year, while his vice chair Randal Quarles, a Republican appointee who oversees bank regulation, is expected to leave this year.

Progressive groups say there is much more the central bank could do to address climate risks, even if it does not want to go as far as its European counterparts.

Tim Clark, a former senior Fed official who helped build its stress tests after the 2008 financial crisis, said it should publicly communicate that it expects banks to incorporate climate change into their risk management processes.

“That’s something they can basically start right now and make it clear to the industry that they expect banks to be working hard on this.”

 

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Michelle Price and Lisa Shumaker)

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Cuban tanker en route to Venezuela reports missing sailor at sea

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A crew member aboard a Cuba-flagged oil tanker on its way from a Mexican shipyard to Venezuela was reported missing this week, according to a shipping report seen by Reuters, marking the second incident aboard the same vessel in about a year.

Sailor Rafael Desiderio Martinez Alonso was not found last Sunday by the doctor onboard oil tanker Petion, which set sail on May 6 from Mexico’s port of Veracruz bound for the Cardon terminal in Venezuela’s western coast.

The report by the tanker’s shipping agency to Venezuelan port authorities about the incident said Martinez Alonso, who was one the tanker’s fitters, is believed to have fallen into open waters because his shoes were found near the ship’s gas plant. He has not officially been reported dead.

The tanker’s general alarm was activated the same day to start search and rescue operations, but after 24 hours the sailor was not found, said the report, which is dated May 11.

The report did not identify Martinez Alonso’s nationality. Cuba-flagged vessels frequently use all-Cuban crews.

Venezuela’s oil ministry and Cuba’s foreign ministry did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The Petion made a stop on Monday for about 18 hours near the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, changing its status from “underway using engine” to “not under command.”

It continued its voyage to Venezuela on Tuesday, according to Refinitiv Eikon tanker monitoring data.

The same ship last year reported the death of a Cuban sailor while anchored near Venezuela’s Amuay port, after the helmsman fell overboard, according to people familiar with the accident.

Both the Petion and its managing firm, Cyprus-registered Caroil Transport Marine Ltd, were hit with U.S. sanctions in 2019 for transporting Venezuelan oil to Cuba. The vessel was serviced in Mexico between March and May.

Caroil could not be reached for comment.

A separate tanker, the Cameroon-flagged Domani, arrived in Venezuelan waters in March with a dead crew member onboard, according to two sources with knowledge of the incident. The death was reported as a suicide before Venezuelan authorities.

 

(Reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Maracay, Venezuela, and Marianna Parraga in Mexico City. Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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