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

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The latest:

  • Ontario reports record COVID-19 cases as more politicians admit to foreign travel.
  • U.K epidemiologist warns new variant could replace previous strain if left unchecked.
  • Death toll from COVID-19 in the United States has surpassed 350,000.
  • Funeral homes in Southern California running out of space as deaths mount.
  • Have a question about COVID-19? Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca.

More Canadian politicians travelling over the holidays have come under scrutiny for ignoring public health guidelines against COVID-19 that discourage non-essential travel, and one Toronto-based epidemiologist says they should be held to a higher standard.

Dr. Maria Sundaram, with the health-care research agency ICES, said while she normally doesn’t endorse shaming people as a public health strategy, she believes politicians must be held to a higher standard, because their actions set an example for the public they serve.

“There are some leaders out there who are really practicing what they preach and that is really reassuring and really motivating,” Sundaram told The Canadian Press.

“Unfortunately, there are others who haven’t quite adhered to the policies that they’ve espoused for others and that really damages trust and it really damages our ability to keep going.”

WATCH | NDP MP loses roles as critic over travel to Greece:

NDP MP Niki Ashton has been removed from her roles as a shadow critic after she posted on Twitter that she had travelled to Greece to see her “ailing grandmother.” 3:35


What’s happening across Canada

As of 7 a.m. ET Sunday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 590,280, with 79,483 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 15,714.  

In British Columbia, families are demanding answers after 38 residents at the Little Mountain Place long-term care home in Vancouver have died from COVID-19.

Alberta saw an estimated 900 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, according to the province’s chief medical officer of health. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said tweeted Saturday that Alberta’s hospitalization and ICU totals remained stable, and no additional deaths were reported.

Saskatchewan recorded 495 new cases and three more deaths.

WATCH |  Inside the scramble to mass produce a COVID-19 vaccine:

A major vaccine manufacturer in India scrambling to mass produce the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine so it can get into the arms of billions opened its doors to CBC News. 3:01

Manitoba announced 327 new cases and 11 deaths in the past two days.

Ontario reported a two-day total of 5,839 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday after the provincial health ministry did not release daily figures on Jan. 1. The province saw 2,476 cases on Friday and a new single-day high of 3,363 cases on Saturday. 

In Quebec, three physicians and three other employees in Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital’s emergency room in Laval have tested positive, according to the regional health board. A union representing staff at the hospital is concerned about hospital staff’s ability to deal with a potential influx of patients in the new year.

The province will release its first COVID-19 update of 2021 on Sunday.

A person wearing a face mask leaves the emergency department of a hospital in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia announced 13 new cases, including five cases connected to a Dartmouth school. The province says all the new cases are close contacts of previously reported cases or linked to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador‘s active caseload dropped to 11 after the province reported no new cases and six recoveries Saturday. Health officials are preparing to roll out the Moderna vaccine in Northern Labrador on Jan. 11. They will be the first shots administered in the province, outside of St. John’s.

New Brunswick registered 10 new infections.

WATCH | High number of COVID-19 cases could last until mid-January, experts say:

Ontario has set records for new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions, as the consequences of Christmas gatherings start to set in and the province still has a few weeks before numbers start coming down. 3:31

On Prince Edward Islandtesting clinics are open in Charlottetown and Summerside after clinics were closed New Year’s Day.

Yukon added four new cases, which they say are “close or household contacts” of an out-of-territory traveller. The first vaccination in the territory is set to take place on Monday. A shipment of Moderna vaccines arrived in Whitehorse last Monday. Yukon plans to vaccinate 75 per cent of its population by the end of March.

In the Northwest Territories, a non-resident worker in Yellowknife has tested positive. The territory says the individual travelled to Yellowknife by air, is asymptomatic and “safely isolating” in the city.

Here’s a look at what’s happening with COVID-19 across the country:


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 84.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 47.6 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.

Britain will have 530,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine ready to administer on Monday and hopes to provide “tens of millions” of vaccinations over the next three months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC on Sunday.

The U.K. on Saturday hit a daily record for new coronavirus infections — 57,725 — and looked set to soon overtake Italy once again to become the worst-hit country in Europe with nearly 75,000 COVID-19 deaths. The fear is that with rising infections, the number of deaths will also grow over the coming weeks.

WATCH | Virus variant 1st reported in U.K. spreads quicker than original strain:

The provinces are behind targets of getting COVID-19 vaccine into Canadians’ arms, and experts say logistical challenges are largely to blame but are hopeful the arrival of the Moderna vaccine will help speed things up. 3:22

Britain is struggling with a sharp spike in new cases as a result of a new virus variant that a collaborative study by Imperial College London has confirmed is more transmissible than its predecessor. The so-called B117 variant has been reported in dozens of countries, including Canada.

“We know if we allow it to spread, it’s only a matter of weeks before it replaces the previous variant,” U.K epidemiologist Deepti Gurdasani, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, told CBC News Network on Sunday.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a face mask as he leaves the BBC broadcasting centre in London on Sunday. (Simon Dawson/Reuters)

The COVID-19 death toll in the United States surpassed 350,000 as experts anticipate another surge in coronavirus cases and deaths stemming from holiday gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s.

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. passed the threshold early Sunday morning. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected. The U.S. has begun using two coronavirus vaccines to protect health care workers and nursing home residents and staff, but the roll out of the inoculation program has been criticized as being slow and chaotic.

People line up outside a COVID-19 testing site in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on Saturday. (Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)

Multiple states have reported a record number of cases over the past few days, including North Carolina and Arizona. Mortuary owners in hard-hit Southern California say they’re being inundated with bodies.

The California Department of Public Health on Saturday reported more than 53,341 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 2.3 million. There have been 26,357 total confirmed COVID-19 deaths in California.

The U.S. by far has reported the most deaths from COVID-19 in the world, followed by Brazil, which has reported more than 195,000 deaths.

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Payette stepping down as governor general after blistering report on Rideau Hall work environment – CBC.ca

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Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, are resigning after an outside workplace review of Rideau Hall found that the pair presided over a toxic work environment.

Last year, an independent consulting firm was hired by the Privy Council Office (PCO) to review reports that Payette was responsible for workplace harassment at Rideau Hall.

Sources who were briefed on the consulting firm’s report told CBC News that its conclusions were damning.

President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc told CBC’s Vassy Kapelos the federal government received the final report late last week, which he said offered some “disturbing” and “worrisome” conclusions.

LeBlanc said Payette indicated her intention to resign during a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last night, where they discussed the report’s contents.

In a media statement announcing her departure, Payette apologized for what she called the “tensions” at Rideau Hall in recent months, saying that everyone has “a right to a healthy and safe work environment.”

“While no formal complaints or official grievances were made during my tenure, which would have immediately triggered a detailed investigation as prescribed by law and the collective agreements in place, I still take these allegations very seriously,” she said in the statement. 

“We all experience things differently, but we should always strive to do better and be attentive to one another’s perceptions.”

WATCH | Dominic LeBlanc describes how the resignation of the Governor General happened

The Privy Council president spoke with the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos on Power and Politics Thursday. 2:20

Payette said her resignation comes at a good time because her father is in poor health and her family needs her help. 

Trudeau’s office confirmed receiving Payette’s resignation.

“Every employee in the Government of Canada has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, and we will always take this very seriously,” Trudeau said in a statement. “Today’s announcement provides an opportunity for new leadership at Rideau Hall to address the workplace concerns raised by employees during the review.”

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Richard Wagner will fulfil the duties of the Governor General on an interim basis. In a short statement, Buckingham Palace said “the Queen has been kept informed of developments.”

Third-party review

The Privy Council Office launched the unprecedented third-party review in July in response to a CBC News report featuring a dozen public servants and former employees confidentially claiming Payette belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff. Di Lorenzo, Payette’s longtime friend and second-in-command, is also accused of bullying staff.

Payette tweeted two days after that story aired that she was “deeply concerned about the media reports” and she “takes harassment and workplace issues very seriously … I am in full agreement and welcome the independent review.”

As of Jan. 5, Rideau Hall had spent more than $150,000 in public funds on legal representation in response to the toxic workplace allegations, and had hired a former Supreme Court justice to represent Payette and Blakes law firm for the institution itself.

That sum is larger than the original value of the federal contract that hired Quintet Consulting to conduct the review. The private firm was hired on an $88,325 contract in Sept. 2020.

Sources have also told CBC that Secretary to the Governor General Assunta Di Lorenzo, who has also been accused of harassing employees, recently hired Marie Henein’s firm to represent her.

Henein represented ex-Vice Admiral Mark Norman, the military’s former second-in-command, during his trial for breach of trust. Federal prosecutors stayed that charge. It’s not clear if Henein or another lawyer at her firm is personally representing Di Lorenzo.

The Bloc Québécois issued a statement calling for the immediate release of the Rideau Hall workplace review and said the position of Governor General has no place in a democracy.

LeBlanc said his department has already received — and will comply with — access to information requests for the report. But he added that federal privacy law limits what can be disclosed.

 “The government is not in a position … to necessarily release all the details of the report,” LeBlanc said. “We will clearly comply with the access to information legislation and the appropriate version will be made public as soon as we can.”

Removing a Governor General

Payette joins a very short list of governors general who have left the post early — but she is the first to do so mired in controversy.

Lord Alexander left for England a month before Vincent Massey was sworn in as his replacement in 1952. John Buchan, also known as Lord Tweedsmuir, and Georges Vanier both died while serving, in 1940 and 1967, respectively. In those cases, the Supreme Court chief justice of the day stepped in to fill the role temporarily.

Romeo LeBlanc, Dominic’s father, stepped down in 1999 before the end of his term due to health issues. The office was not left vacant; LeBlanc continued until Adrienne Clarkson was ready to succeed him.

Governors general have resigned under pressure — and have been asked to resign by prime ministers — in Commonwealth countries in the past. In 2003, Australian Gov. Gen. Peter Hollingworth resigned after controversy erupted over the way he had handled sexual abuse claims while he was archbishop of Brisbane.

WATCH | Former heritage minister on choosing a governor general

James Moore was the heritage minister in the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. 1:48

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole released a statement calling on the Liberal government to consult the other parties before choosing Payette’s permanent replacement.

“The Governor General is the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces and has an important constitutional role,” O’Toole said. “Considering the problems with his last appointment and the minority Parliament, the Prime Minister should consult opposition parties and re-establish the Vice-Regal Appointments Committee.”

That committee was created by the Harper government in 2012 to identify a list of possible candidates for viceregal offices, including the Governor General, through a non-partisan consultation process. It was later disbanded and was dormant in 2017.

LeBlanc committed the Liberal government to a “robust and thorough and complete” vetting process when choosing Payette’s successor.

In a statement, Robert Finch, chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, called media reports about Payette’s behaviour “regrettable.” He said he hopes that her resignation will usher in a new chapter at Rideau Hall defined by “loyalty, dignity and respect.”

“It is important to remember that the Governor General represents our admired head of state, the Queen,” said Finch. “If future vice-regals aspire to perform their roles with the grace, dedication and duty as our Sovereign has during almost 70 years, they will excel.”

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Now hiring: StatCan needs 32000 Canadians to administer 2021 census – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Statistics Canada plans to hire 32,000 employees across Canada to conduct the next census in May 2021.

StatCan said in a press release on Thursday that individuals will be hired in “”both big and small communities” to collect “crucial data that will be used to plan for the future.”

The agency says positions available include supervisory and non-supervisory roles between March and July 2021.

“Over the past 100 years, through the census, Statistics Canada has captured an ever-evolving snapshot of the country and its people. Canadians have relied on census data to tell them about how the country is changing and about what matters to them,” Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada at Statistics Canada, said in the release.

Arora noted that the data from the “large-scale nation project” holds even more significance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we all work to respond to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we collectively pursue data-driven solutions that work for families, businesses and diverse communities from coast to coast to coast,” Arora said.

With COVID-19 in mind, Statistics Canada said the census process has been adapted to ensure Canadians have the opportunity to be heard “in the best and safest way possible.”

According to the release, census procedures have been redesigned to limit the amount of contact required to participate, with the majority of Canadians being able to complete the questionnaire through a “user-friendly” online application.

StatCan said it will provide all equipment required to keep census employees safe while on the job, and will have employees work close to home in their local communities.

The agency says census staff will “identify dwellings on maps, follow up with respondents by phone and conduct physically distanced in-person interviews, when required.”

According to the press release, census workers will be paid between $17.83 to $21.77 per hour, depending on position. In select northern and remote communities, StatCan says the rate of pay ranges from $29.25 to $31.25 an hour. In addition, all employees will be paid for authorized expenses.

The agency said applicants must be 18 years or older, eligible to work in Canada and able to commit to a “flexible work schedule,” including on evenings and weekends.

“As we prepare for the 2021 Census, we thank all Canadians who have trusted Statistics Canada to tell their unique stories and capture the diverse and changing portrait of our nation as it grows and evolves,” Arora said.

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Canada won't receive any Pfizer shots next week — here's what you need to know about the vaccination campaign – CBC.ca

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Canada’s vaccination campaign is off to a slow start — and news this week that deliveries of the Pfizer product will be reduced dramatically over the next month has further complicated the national rollout.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, has said Pfizer will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium to boost its capacity.

The announcement is already prompting some provinces to warn that they will have to curtail appointments in the weeks ahead as they direct the existing supply of the two-dose Pfizer product to patients who need their second shots.

Why is Canada getting less vaccine than anticipated?

Pfizer is grappling with unprecedented global demand for its vaccine as the world scrambles to inoculate patients against the deadly novel coronavirus.

While the company had projected it could manufacture up to 1.3 billion shots this year alone, it is now shifting gears to pump out even more.

The company is making upgrades to its Belgian plant so that it can manufacture up to 2 billion doses this year to meet the insatiable demand. In order to complete those upgrades, some production lines will have to be idled and Pfizer won’t have enough vials to go around in the short term to meet its previously promised delivery schedule.

“Pfizer and BioNTech are working relentlessly to support the further rollout of the vaccination campaigns worldwide by not only expanding their own manufacturing capacities but also by adding further suppliers as well as contract manufacturers to increase total manufacturing capacity,” the company said in a news release announcing the disruptions.

A driver pulls his truck out of the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. (Valentin Bianchi/AP Photo)

Fortin has said that, starting next week, Canada’s deliveries will be reduced by up to 50 per cent over a four-week period, punting as many as 400,000 doses to a later date.

While the company has another manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., the Belgian plant alone is supplying Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom. U.S. deliveries will continue uninterrupted.

Will Canada, the EU and the United Kingdom be equally affected by these disruptions?

No. Announcing the delays last week, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she expects Pfizer will treat all countries equally as it reduces shipments with an eye to restoring service in February.

But Pfizer isn’t treating every customer the same way. While Canada will receive zero doses next week, the company said it “will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the European Union beginning the week of January 25.”

Pfizer has promised the EU that it will then “increase delivery beginning week of February 15, resulting in our ability to deliver the fully committed quantity of vaccine doses in the first quarter and significantly more in the second quarter.”

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 7, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

When asked why Pfizer will not make the same commitment to Canada, Anand said that she expects the company to treat all countries equitably — but could not say why Canada has been singled out.

“This was very disappointing and I spent the weekend on the phone with Pfizer executives and my team. We reiterated firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said at a press conference Tuesday.

Pfizer did not respond to specific questions about why it is showing more favourable treatment to the EU. In an emailed statement, the company said the details of its agreements with governments are “confidential.”

“Multiple countries around the world will be impacted in the short term in order for us to quickly enable increased production volumes afterwards,” the spokesperson said. 

The U.K. delivery schedule is less clear. The government there has said it is “in close contact” with all suppliers so that it can achieve its target of immunizing all those over age 70 by February 15.

So how many doses will Canada receive over the next number of weeks?

It’s hard to say for sure. Fortin had said Canada would see a 75 per cent drop next week in deliveries — but then had to correct that forecast after learning Canada wouldn’t receive a single dose.

Just last week, Fortin had been expecting delivery of 208,650 doses to the provinces every week for the rest of this month. Fortin also said Canada is expected to receive 366,000 Pfizer doses per week in February.

Speaking to the press this week, Fortin conceded those numbers are no longer accurate.

“Those numbers remain to be confirmed by Pfizer Canada. In fact, we have regular conversations with them and we hope and we expect to have clarity on those numbers,” Fortin told reporters at a public health briefing.

Is Canada still on track to get 4 million doses of the Pfizer product by the end of March?

The government has said yes. While the deliveries may change, the government insists its medium-term targets are more certain.

By the end of the first quarter, Canada is expecting four million doses from Pfizer and another two million doses from Moderna — enough to vaccinate some 3 million Canadians with these two-dose products.

WATCH: Canada affected by Pfizer vaccine production delay in Europe

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand made the announcement to reporters in Ottawa on Friday. 2:38

But these delays mean that many people will be kept waiting much longer for shots than they originally anticipated. While deliveries might return to a more normal flow, it will be difficult for provinces to pump through hundreds of thousands of patients in a short timeframe to reach vaccination targets.

The delivery hiccup also could push off the vaccination campaign for the general population, which had a start date of April 1.

Pharmacies have said they could vaccinate as many 2.5 million people per week if all 11,500 community pharmacies in this country are mobilized, but the lack of supply has delayed their participation in the effort.

What is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doing about this?

While the prime minister of Israel has had more than a dozen calls with the CEO of Pfizer, and the president of the European Union has personally reached out to the company’s leadership, Trudeau has said that Anand is the lead on this file.

“I can assure you that Minister Anand is talking almost daily with Pfizer and the other vaccine companies to ensure that we get as many doses as possible, as quickly as possible, and that work will continue,” he said. “We will not rest, we will not slow down.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and his Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, second left, attend the arrival of plane with a shipment of Pfizer coronavirus vaccines at Ben Gurion Airport, near the city of Lod, Israel, on Jan. 10, 2021. (Motti Millrod/AP Photo)

When pressed by Vassy Kapelos, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, to state whether Trudeau has personally contacted Pfizer to ask for more doses, Anand would only say that she has been in “close communication” with the prime minister.

Some observers have said Trudeau should ask U.S. President Joe Biden to temporarily float Canada some vaccines from the Michigan plant as a sign of goodwill — especially after Biden rescinded the presidential permits for the Keystone XL pipeline.

So how are the provinces reacting to all this?

Not well. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said the delivery delays will be very disruptive. The province also has said the temporary stoppage could mean its goal of immunizing all long-term care residents in the province by Feb. 15 won’t be achieved.

“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives. “I would not stop until we get these vaccines.”

On Wednesday, Ford called Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow to discuss the situation.

“He reiterated the serious impact these cancelled shipments will have on Ontario and sought answers as to why Canada isn’t receiving vaccines as quickly as other countries,” Ford’s office said in a media statement after the call.

Ford also has suggested Biden should “help out its neighbour” by releasing some shots to Canada.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday the province is putting a temporary hold on the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure it has enough vaccine to provide a second dose to people who have already received their first shot.

“By pausing first appointments, we can ensure enough vaccine is allocated for committed second-dose appointments,” Kenney said.

How is Canada doing compared to the rest of the world?

Canada has administered some 700,000 shots – roughly 1.7 per cent of the population has received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna products. In Ontario, about 40,000 people have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

The United States has vaccinated three times more people per capita than Canada.

The U.K., too, has been a world leader in getting shots into the arms of patients. Nearly 7.5 per cent of the British and Northern Irish population has so far received at least one dose.

Canada’s vaccination effort has also been outpaced to date by those in Bahrain, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

But according to the latest data collated by the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada has administered more shots per capita than G7 partners like Germany and France, and middle-income countries like Argentina and Costa Rica.

“I had a lovely conversation with Angela Merkel yesterday morning in which she sort of complained to me that every day she gets it from the German media that they’re not doing as well as Canada,” Trudeau told reporters Tuesday.

“I think a lot of people are comparing stories from country to country and trying to figure out how we can all move quicker.”

The EU authorized the Moderna product for use two weeks after Health Canada regulators gave that vaccine the necessary approvals, which could account for the slower start to vaccination campaigns in countries like Germany.

What about the other promising vaccine candidates?

Health Canada regulators are still reviewing clinical trial data for both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson products. Canada has placed orders for doses from these companies but a delivery schedule is far from certain, given that the regulatory review is still underway.

The U.K. approved the AstraZeneca vaccine on Dec. 30.

The product from Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen, has not been approved for use anywhere in the world. Some countries are eager to secure doses of this vaccine because it only requires one shot.

The company has not yet presented publicly any final data on its effectiveness, although some early results, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, are promising.

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