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Coronavirus: How Ontario is prioritizing vaccinating essential workers – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force is facing criticism for not prioritizing essential workers, but the group says they are and that there are still ethical considerations to take into account.

As phase two of the vaccine rollout is set to begin in the coming weeks, many Ontarians have looked at the chart outlining dates and wondered why essential workers, like teachers and grocery store workers, will have to wait until June for their turn.

“We’ve seen vulnerability in the vaccine discussion, be described around age and absolutely age is a layer of vulnerability, but there are other layers of vulnerability, we need to consider including people who live in low income areas and are essential workers,” Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and health justice advocate, told CTV’s National.

But a doctor on the task force says that the focus shouldn’t be on the dates, which come with an asterisk.

“Don’t focus on the June in there because there’s a big asterisk underneath there that says, this can be shifted based on vaccine supply,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Friday.

Vaccine supply can be shifted for better or for worse. Vaccinations could happen sooner than anticipated, or if there are major supply chain hiccups, later than expected.

But experts are still concerned about an equitable rollout.

“I think overall we are focusing our vaccine rollout in a way that doesn’t recognize the dire needs of particular communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19,” said Dosani.

Currently, public health units are beginning to expand into age groups prioritized in phase two. Toronto has expanded mass vaccinations to cover people aged 60 and over. Phase two was set to begin with people aged 75 to 79. Public health units in COVID-19 hotspots are vaccinating people 50 years old and up.

Pharmacies are vaccinating people aged 55 and up using the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is expanding to 350 more pharmacies across the province to target more hotspot areas, some opening as early as Saturday. The additional capacity will have up to 700 pharmacies able to complete vaccinations and the province expects up to 1,500 pharmacies providing the inoculations by the end of April.

“You’re stopping the deaths by really focusing on the older end of the spectrum and those who live in congregate settings, especially long-term care,” said Bogoch. “You’re also helping people who might get infected during the conduct of their work, which are essential workers, people who can’t work from home.”

He said that essential workers are being targeted in three ways throughout phase two.

“One [of the ways] is many essential workers that are 50 years and up can be vaccinated because the age bracket is lower in [hotspot] areas,” he said.

“There’s many essential workers that will be vaccinated because there are more vaccines allocated to public health units, and the public health units can truly use those vaccines in ways that they see fit, including vaccinating essential workers,” he added.

“And the third thing is, stay tuned, because part of the phase two rollout is essential workers are going to be prioritized and vaccinated as they should be in stage two.”

‘THEY NEED SOME GUARANTEE’

Some Ontario doctors are worried about what will happen to patients in the meantime. Dr. Michael Warner, head of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto said that he’s seeing patients who had no choice but to go to work and ended up spreading the virus to their family members. Without paid sick days and vaccinations, this will continue to happen, he says.

“Yesterday 17 people, including myself, and the 18th being the patient, went through a three hour experience, where I’ve never had a patient so close to death in my entire 12-year career, and we saved her,” he told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

But, he added, he shouldn’t have had to and Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford needs to step up to protect essential workers in Ontario.

“It didn’t have to be this way. If the government would just do the right thing, and protect people. Protect the people who are actually being hurt by this, the people that the premier never talks about in his press conferences, and I’m tired of it and so are my colleagues,” he added.

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, CTV News infectious disease specialist, is seeing similar things among his own COVID-19 patients. They need better protection, he told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

“They need some guarantee that they don’t have to make a decision between having their families survive, and putting food on the table, or ending up in an ICU on a ventilator,” he said.

Sharkawy has been particularly concerned about teachers in schools with antiquated ventilation systems and students who sit together unmasked eating their lunches.

“They need vaccines, and what we’ve done right now just deciding that somehow they’ll be OK, they’ll be able to fend for themselves that, you know they’ll come up in the queue whenever they can, unacceptable, unacceptable,” he said. “Teachers are going to die.”

SUPPLY ISSUES?

While it is important to get essential workers vaccinated, Bogoch said that it’s also important to continue vaccinating older populations and those at highest risk of dying from COVID-19.

Dropping age limits in COVID-19 hotspots aims to encompass more essential workers, as well as targeting their family members and close contacts who are at higher risk of severe illness or death. Expanding the pharmacy program means more equitable distribution of vaccines.

Right now, vaccine supply is the biggest hurdle, Bogoch said.

“We just don’t have the vaccine to do it,” he said. “Because we vaccinated long-term care and community dwelling 80-year-olds and many community dwelling 70-year-olds.”

Since the beginning of March, nine long-term care residents have died from COVID-19, compared to 770 long-term care resident deaths in January, according to data published by Ontario. The COVID-19 ward in the hospital where Bogoch works has an average patient age of 65, a lot of them are older than that, some are younger, he added.

He described some of them as essential workers, some have family members who are essential workers and others don’t know where they were infected.

He is critical of those sharing stories of young people in intensive care units who could’ve been saved by a vaccination, he said that these stories don’t help and without vaccine supply, won’t change the pace of rollout.

“We don’t need anecdotes to drive this, we need data to drive this,” he said. “We have an equitable and data driven pathway, essential workers are prioritized in stage two of this process. There’s multiple ways that equity has been baked into the stage two roll out.”

The focus for Bogoch is who he’s not seeing in the ICU. That’s the elderly people who bore the brunt of the first two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in the province. He said that this shows the vaccines are working to prevent deaths and hospitalizations in priority groups, and that that shouldn’t be seen as a failure. Without vaccinating those priority groups a third wave would have torn through long-term care homes again, he added.

“It’s not exciting and it’s not flashy, it’s just the right way to do it. Vaccinate the people who are at greatest risk of death.”

But supply remains the biggest factor in who will get vaccinated and when.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. That doesn’t mean that we’re in the midst of a third wave and a lot of essential workers are being infected. What it means is we don’t have a ton of vaccines. We have to use the ones we have in a strategic manner” 

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Billionaire countries: Canada jumps up the list – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada added seven billionaires in 2020, increasing its total to 53, tied for 12th-most in the world, up from 14th the previous year, according to a new global report.

The combined wealth of Canadian billionaires also tops US$100 billion, an increase of 4.5 per cent from last year.

In its latest billionaire census, Wealth-X, an ultra-high net worth (UHNW) data company, stated the number of billionaires in the world surpassed 3,000 (up to 3,204) for the first time in 2020, after an additional 670 individuals entered the billionaire class. The combined wealth of this group is now approximately US$10 trillion.

The share of wealth held by billionaires among the UHNW class, which is defined as those with a net worth of US$30 million or more, has also increased to 28 per cent, despite billionaires making up just one per cent of the UHNW population.

Seven of the top 15 billionaires in the world made their fortunes in the technology sector.

These are the top five billionaires by net worth as listed by Wealth-X:

  1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon, US$201.2 billion
  2. Elon Musk, Tesla, US$181.1 billion
  3. Bernard Arnault, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, US$154.4 billion
  4. Bill Gates, Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, US$142.4 billion
  5. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, US$137.4 billion, Facebook

Here’s a breakdown of the top 15 countries ranked by billionaire population and their combined wealth.

  1. U.S., 927, US$3.709 trillion
  2. China, 410, US$1.303 trillion
  3. Germany, 174, US$515 billion
  4. Russia, 120, US$397 billion
  5. U.K., 119, US$225 billion
  6. Hong Kong, 111, US$282 billion
  7. Switzerland, 107, US$318 billion
  8. India, 104, US$316 billion
  9. Saudia Arabia, 64, US$144 billion
  10.  France, 64, US$238 billion
  11.  Italy, 60, US$169 billion
  12.  Brazil, 53, US$151 billion
  13.  Canada 53, US$100 billion
  14.  United Arab Emirates, 50, US$151 billion
  15.  Singapore, 50, US$86 billion 

Wealth-X lists Hong Kong as a semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China.

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What the rise of the PPC says about Canada in 2021 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
While the People’s Party of Canada did not manage to gain any seats this federal election, its accruing of the popular vote has experts saying the rise of the far-right populist party cannot be ignored.

Maxime Bernier, who failed to win his own riding of Beauce, Que., said Monday that he will remain as party leader despite the defeat, telling CTV News’ Genevieve Beauchemin at his Saskatoon rally that he views the election outcome as “a huge victory.”

The PPC won over 820,000 votes and more than five per cent of the popular vote this time around, a marked increase from the 1.6 per cent of the vote it got in 2019.

POPULISM FINDS A HOME

The party that ran on an anti-immigration, anti-lockdown platform that has been endorsed by white nationalists, Neo-Nazis and other far-right groups has become a home for anti-vaxxers, anti-government protesters and gun rights activists, showing that populism on the left or right may be more about a movement than a traditional political party, said University of Guelph professor of political science Tamara Small.

“I think the only leader who is ecstatic about last night’s results is Bernier,” said Small in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca after the election. “I don’t think they’re going anywhere… it seems that he’s taken that populism and attached it to far-right politics.”

The idea of Canadian exceptionalism from far-right and populist movements needs to be dispelled, Small said.

“The idea used to be that Canada was immune to sort of far-right populism…this idea that Canadians were sort of going to be free from the populism that we saw in Europe, like Nigel Farage is to the U.K.,” Small said. “But I think lots of people are wondering, if he’s [Bernier] just going to say ‘I’m not here to form government…I’m more here to challenge the system’” as a way of gaining support.

Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, said it makes sense to call the PPC a populist party, and that the party takes “an extremist position on things like immigration and diversity.”

“They’re extreme in terms of their anti-Trudeau or anti-state positioning. They’re extreme in terms of their anti-lockdown and anti-tax standpoints as well. So, yeah, I think they absolutely might be considered extremists,” Perry said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca.

“As is calling them a populist group or populist party, because that’s really what he’s done so effectively is absorbed some of those broad concerns around COVID-19 and freedom and even the more mainstream concerns about economic anxieties, loss of jobs, loss of businesses… and managed to roll them all up.”

Some who support the PPC bristle at the implication that the party is a hotbed of far-right rhetoric or white nationalist supporters, with many online saying they simply support a party that is dedicated to their freedoms.

In an email to CTVNews.ca, PPC candidate for the riding Parkdale-High Park Ont., Wilfried Danzinger, denied that the party is aligned with extremist values, writing that “love was the guiding principle of his campaign,” and that his supporters come from all “different sexual preferences, all ages and religions.”

When CTVNews.ca emailed the PPC for comment on this story, party spokesperson Martin Masse sent back a one-line response: “I don’t respond to requests from leftist activists masquerading as journalists. Get lost.”

COVID-19 WAS A ‘GIFT’ TO THE PPC

The rise of the PPC in the polls can be attributed partially to the “gift” of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

Balgord said that “the COVID-19 pandemic was a gift to the far-right” in general as it allowed them to infiltrate conspiracy theory spaces and begin attracting new followers.

“The rise of the party kind of fit into this because these people didn’t really have a political party. If they voted for any party, they would vote Conservative,” he said. “But they weren’t particularly happy about voting Conservative either because they’re the most fringe. So when the PCC started as a party in 2019, Bernier, right from day one was using their language, their talking points, and the words of the far-right in several spaces. We saw them actually say ‘Bernier is dog whistling to us.’”

But Small questioned whether the end of the COVID-19 pandemic would stop the drip of followers to the PPC and spell a marked decline in the party.

“My sense is that a lot of this anger and concern is tied up in a particular type of anger about lockdowns and vaccine mandates and overreach of the state,” Small said. “I’m not too sure whether or not once the pandemic is done, to what extent the party still exists.”

It is a sentiment echoed by extremism researcher and assistant professor at Queen’s University, Amarnath Amarasingam.

“In early 2020, with COVID-19, the kind of conspiratorial thinking and angst around the pandemic went through the roof, and a lot of these movements coalesced around similar ideas,” Amarasingam said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca, noting that traditionally conspiracy movements generally operate separately from each other.

Amarasingam said the COVID-19 pandemic “gave them all a common cause and they all were playing in the same playground.”

Amarasingam said the question now surrounding the PPC is whether its rise is solely due to the “catch-all” the party provided surrounding anger around lockdowns, quarantine and the pandemic, “or whether it’s a sign of something bubbling beneath the surface that a lot of everyday Canadians actually held secretly anti-immigrant views, anti-refugee groups, all the things that are part of the PPC platform.”

“If that’s the case, I mean, it’s going to be a longer concern of ours,” he continued. “So that’s kind of the big question is whether this is just a blip because of the pandemic or whether it kind of speaks to something else going on that we should be concerned about.”

HATE WAS ON THE BALLOT

Bernier has always denied ties or affiliations to any of the far-right, white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rhetoric he is accused of platforming with his stance on things like reduced immigration and scrapping the Multiculturalism Act.

However, Balgord said known Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups endorse the party, and that the party is populated with a litany of candidates, insiders and supporters who have been documented by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as members of far-right groups.

“There’s so many examples,” he said. “This isn’t a few isolated incidents, this is a pattern. This is what the PPC is.”

Balgord referenced more than 10 incidents of PPC candidates or people associated with the party who have engaged in far-right rhetoric or have been exposed by work done by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as being part of white nationalist groups.

“One of his very first riding executives was a guy [who] ran a USA Neo-Nazi organization and actually did time in the United States for organizing racially motivated assaults,” he said.

Balgord noted that the man charged with throwing gravel at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while he was campaigning as the Liberal leader was a riding director for the PPC, and that his organization had previously exposed him for “posting white power music on social media accounts with lyrics about killing immigrants.”

Another example listed by Balgord was the PPC candidate for the Ontario riding of Vaughn-Woodbridge who was exposed by Press Progress this month for allegedly having touted and created a video game where users can re-enact the 1999 Columbine shooting massacre and partake in their own shooting of caricatures of minorities and LGBTQ2S+ people.

Bernier himself has been featured on what Balgord describes as an “anti-Semitic blog collective,” which endorses a book full of terrorist Nazi ideologies. 

The PPC platform itself is also chock-full of “dog whistles” to the far-right, Balgord, Amarasingam and Perry said, referencing the sections on refugees, immigration and “Canadian identity.”

“I think the Canadian identity is tied to the anti-immigration, anti-refugee stuff,” Amarasingam said. “But I know when someone says Canadian identity, especially with all the other things that are at play in the platform, what that likely means for the PPC, is basically kind of ‘The Great Replacement,’ but around Canadian values.”

The Great Replacement theory is a conspiracy prevalent in white nationalist and far-right groups that posits that a shadowy cabal is behind demographic changes in a country or area, and that “white identity” or “Western values” are in decline because of it.

Balgord said it is known to have spurred terrorist attacks like the Christchurch mosque shooting of 2019.

“When we talk about the PPC, it’s necessary to talk about their ties to white supremacy and white nationalism and how dangerous the thing is, they’re not just another political party, right?” Balgord said. “They’re the white nationalist and the hate movement in Canada. It’s their way of trying to get a foothold into mainstream Canadian politics.”

Perry noted the language Bernier has used in his campaigns, in tweets and even in his speech on election night, in particular his word choices of “government overreach, tyrannies and authoritarian government.”

“Look at some of the language. It’s drawn from groups like three percenters…in particular in the militia movement,” Perry said. “So, yeah, there’s a very direct line. It’s not a dotted line. It’s a direct line.”

But when asked about the PPC and Bernier’s denial of allegations of extremist views, Balgord was unimpressed.

“The PPC is the party of plausible deniability,” he said. “But when you really scratch the surface, you find that it’s a party for white nationalists.”

WHERE DOES CANADA GO FROM HERE?

For the single-issue voters who chose to vote for Bernier’s party because of their views on lockdowns or COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the end of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions may tempt them away from the party, but Amarasingam says they cannot deny that their vote is still an endorsement of what the PPC represents.

“I think if you’re a single-issue voter on the vaccine, and you can find common cause with the PPC that doesn’t necessarily make you far-right, that just means that you’re unfortunately willing to sell a whole host of Canadian communities down the river to hold up this one value,” he said.

Amarasingam said that education on extremism may be what people need to make informed choices moving forward.

“I think everyone basically has to become an extremism watcher now that it’s no longer just some of us who live in these bizarre online communities paying attention to things, because as things become mainstream, people need to understand extremism and how these dynamics work and how these movements work,” he said.

As for the PPC’s presence in mainstream politics, Perry and Small said it’s a fine line to walk between exposing and identifying extremist views and providing too much of a platform for them to gain more followers.

“I think people feel very differently. I think there’s a lot of people who would say you should just ignore these people and never give them any platform,” Small said. “But I’m of the belief that not being aware in some ways is like throwing a match into a forest and then just not worrying about it.”

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Alaska, which led most U.S. states in coronavirus vaccinations months ago, took the drastic step on Wednesday of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system, declaring that a crushing surge in COVID-19 patients has forced rationing of strained medical resources.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and health officials announced the move as the tally of newly confirmed cases statewide reached another single-day record of 1,224 patients amid a wave of infections driven by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant among the unvaccinated.

The delta variant is “crippling our health-care system. It’s impacting everything from heart attacks to strokes to our children if they get in a bike accident,” Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference with Dunleavy.

Alaska’s health and social services commissioner, Adam Crum, announced that he signed an emergency addendum extending to the whole state standards of crisis care announced last week at the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The new document limits liability faced by providers for crisis-level medical care in all Alaska hospitals.

Moreover, it acknowledges the realities of rationed care statewide, with scarce medical supplies and staff prioritized in a way that denies normal levels of care to some patients for the sake of others, depending on how sick they are and their chances for recovery.

To cope with the COVID-19 influx, Alaska has signed an $87 million US contract to enlist hundreds of health-care workers from out of state, officials said.

About one-fifth of Alaska hospital patients are infected with COVID-19, according to state data. But that figure understates the burden placed on the system as a whole as it “squeezes out” capacity to treat victims of car accidents, strokes, heart attacks and other ailments, Dunleavy said.

Paradoxically, back in April, Alaska had ranked among the top states getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of residents, helped in large part by efforts of the state’s pandemic-conscious Indigenous population.

Alaska has since slipped below the national average, with just 58 per cent of residents aged 12 and older fully vaccinated, according to the state database. The vaccination slump coincided with significant political resistance to public health requirements.

-From Reuters, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Record number of COVID-19 cases further strain Saskatchewan’s hospitals: 

Growing calls for lockdown as COVID-19 strains Sask. hospitals

13 hours ago

There are growing calls for tighter restrictions in Saskatchewan, including a lockdown, as the record number of COVID-19 cases further strain the province’s hospitals. 2:20

Saskatchewan’s only children’s hospital is opening its pediatric intensive care unit to younger adults with COVID-19.

Those under the age of 40 are getting admitted to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Wednesday that so far two adults are in the pediatrics ICU, and space is being made for more.

Dr. Susan Shaw, the health authority’s chief medical officer, said critical care capacity is under strain.

The province has recently been reporting record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations — mostly unvaccinated patients.

-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:40 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a private school in Quito, Ecuador, earlier this month. (Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 230.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization has warned that countries in the region could continue to face localized COVID-19 outbreaks well into 2022, even while deaths have fallen from their peak in January.

In the Middle East, Syria is facing a new surge in infections in both government-held areas and territory outside state control that could overwhelm the war-ravaged country’s fragile health system.

In Africa, Uganda’s president has eased restrictions, allowing the resumption of education for universities and other post-secondary institutions, citing a decline in infections.

Police patrol along St. Kilda Beach in Melbourne on Thursday. The city has seen recent protests from construction workers and others against COVID-19 regulations. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Asia-Pacific region, police in the Australian city of Melbourne prepared for a fourth day of anti-lockdown protests on Thursday while a vaccination hub closed after protesters abused staff, the operator said, while COVID-19 cases across the state of Victoria hit a daily record. Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in the city of five million since officials this week ordered a two-week closure of building sites and made vaccines mandatory for construction workers to limit the spread of the virus.

Japan plans to give other countries 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, doubling the target from the previous pledge of 30 million doses.

Thailand pushed back plans to reopen Bangkok and some other major cities to foreign arrivals until November.

In Europe, Italy plans to give other countries 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year, three times its original pledge, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 6:35 a.m. ET


Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments. 

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