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COVID-19: People in Canada should wear face masks indoors

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Federal health officials urged Canadians to wear face masks indoors and continue following other public health precautions during a COVID-19 update on Thursday morning.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said multiple layers of personal protection will be necessary in the coming weeks to reduce the impact of a fall surge of influenza, RSV and COVID-19 cases on hospitals and vulnerable people.

“Although no individual layer of protection is perfect, when used consistently and together, vaccine plus layers can provide excellent protection against COVID-19 as well as other infectious diseases we may encounter,” Tam said.

Dr. Tam called on Canadians to ensure they are up to date on their COVID-19 boosters and flu shots, to maintain good hand hygiene and wear well-fitting face masks indoors and in places with poor ventilation, where physical distancing is not possible.

As of Oct. 9, the Government of Canada reports only 49.6 per cent of Canadians have received one booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 14.3 per cent have received a second booster dose.

Tam said COVID-19 vaccine uptake among the youngest children is also relatively low, sitting at about 6.5 per cent.

“If it has been six months since your last COVID-19 vaccine dose or booster, get vaccinated with a bivalent Omicron-targeting booster,” she said.

“Keep up with the handwashing, wearing a good-quality, well-fitting face mask when indoors, especially if you can’t avoid being in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces.”

Amid a rise in respiratory infections across the country, a recent poll by Nanos Research found seven in 10 Canadians would support, or share some support, for the return of face mask mandates in indoor public spaces if recommended by officials.

A CONFLUENCE OF VIRUSES

Tam was joined by Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo, who provided an update on the latest positivity rates for the respiratory viruses circulating most widely in Canada right now.

Njoo warned that emerging Omicron variants BQ.1.1 and BF.7 are gaining ground as COVID-19 transmission continues across the country.

At the same time, he said, other respiratory viruses have surpassed seasonal levels as the respiratory virus season gets underway early in Canada.

“At the national level, RSV activity began to increase several weeks ago, with lab positivity above expected levels for this time of the year,” he said.

Njoo said influenza transmission has crossed the seasonal threshold of five per cent lab test positivity following a recent steep increase in infections. Children and teenagers account for half of those recent infections, he said.

All of this adds up to increased strain on emergency departments, particularly in children’s hospitals, which health-care professionals have warned are operating at or over 100 per cent occupancy.

“These surveillance indicators point to the need for stepped up precautions as SARS-CoV-2, influenza and other seasonal respiratory viruses could continue to co-circulate in the weeks ahead,” Njoo said.

ACCESS TO CHILDREN’S TYLENOL, ADVIL

Njoo said immunity to RSV and other respiratory viruses is low this year among children who weren’t exposed during the previous two years due to physical distancing and other public health precautions.

However, health-care professionals have identified the ongoing shortage of pain and fever medications such as children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen as another driver of emergency room visits and hospital admissions, since parents aren’t able to treat their children’s symptoms at home.

Tam suggested there might be some good news on that front, as Health Canada works to secure supplies of the over-the-counter medications.

“I do know that our Health Canada colleagues are working extremely hard with different partners, including manufacturers,” she said, “and that they’ve also enabled the importation of supplies, such as ibuprofen from the United States and acetaminophen from Australia.”

With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Melissa Lopez-Martinez

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Appeal denied: Frank Zampino, ex-aide at Montreal City Hall, to face corruption trial

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MONTREAL – The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal by a former chair of Montreal city council’s executive committee, who wanted to avoid facing trial on corruption charges.

The decision confirms Frank Zampino and his fellow accused will be tried on charges of fraud, breach of trust and municipal corruption, with a trial scheduled to begin in January 2025.

As per its usual practice, the high court did not publish its reasons for refusing to hear the case.

The charges against the former right-hand man to Gerald Tremblay, who was mayor from 2001 to 2012, allege that municipal contracts were awarded in exchange for political donations.

A judge stayed charges against Zampino in 2019, after finding that police wiretaps violated his constitutional rights.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal ruled last fall that violations occurred but weren’t serious enough to justify a stay of proceedings, and ordered the trial to take place.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan steps down from cabinet, successor to be named Friday

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OTTAWA – Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan is stepping down from cabinet and will not be seeking re-election in the next federal contest, he announced on Thursday.

A replacement for O’Regan will be sworn in at Rideau Hall on Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“The prime minister extends his sincere thanks to Minister O’Regan for his exceptional leadership and dedication to making life better for Canadians, including for unions, workers and organized labour,” the office said.

O’Regan said he would remain the MP representing the Newfoundland riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl until the next election, which is set to take place by fall 2025.

A source with knowledge of the matter, who would only speak under condition of anonymity, said a broader cabinet shuffle is not expected to take place.

In a statement on Thursday, O’Regan said his family comes first and he needs to be a better husband, son, uncle and friend.

“My friend Seamus has been a pragmatic voice and a relentless advocate around the cabinet table. But to do that work well, you have to sacrifice a lot, and ask so much of your family. I respect his decision whole-heartedly,” Trudeau said in a social-media post.

O’Regan had alluded to the need to spend more time with family in a speech last month in Toronto.

His father died during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he is a caregiver for his mother, who lives in St. John’s.

O’Regan told the Canadian Club Toronto crowd that he always has his phone volume turned up in case it rings and it’s his mom on the line.

“If, God forbid, something happens to mom right now in St. John’s, I’m the first one to get the call. I’m number one on her lifeline,” he said in his address.

O’Regan, 53, was elected as a member of Parliament in 2015 and has served as a minister since 2017, overseeing several portfolios including for seniors.

He took on his current portfolio in 2021 and was the federal point person on labour issues as several major strikes unfolded.

That included a national walk-out involving thousands of federal public servants last year, as well as a strike at Canada’s busiest port in Vancouver, where the movement of billions of dollars in trade stalled during an extended impasse.

As a cabinet minister, O’Regan introduced multiple government bills. Most recently, he shepherded legislation to ban replacement workers during strikes and lockouts, a New Democrat priority and the fulfilment of a decades-long push from unions.

While serving in the Indigenous services portfolio, he oversaw a bill that sought to give Indigenous groups and communities jurisdiction over child and family services.

“So much of my work in politics has been about dignity,” O’Regan said in a speech to the Canadian Club Toronto last month.

“Dignity for veterans, dignity for Indigenous Peoples, dignity for workers.”

When O’Regan was veterans affairs minister, Trudeau apologized on behalf of Canada for decades of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community — an occasion for the minister to open up about his own identity as a gay man.

O’Regan shared that it wasn’t until after he became an MP and went through rehabilitation for alcohol addiction in late 2015 that he realized his sexuality was connected to his substance abuse.

“There’s the battle that is fought on, ‘This is my identity, this is who I am,”‘ O’Regan told The Canadian Press in 2017.

“There is also the battle of, ‘Who the hell is the government to tell me who to love? Who the hell is the government to tell me who I can’t love?'”

O’Regan was previously known to many Canadians as a journalist and for his 10 years as co-host of CTV’s Canada AM.

Before entering politics, he was already a longtime friend of Trudeau’s, having been a member of the prime minister’s wedding party when he got married in 2005.

O’Regan and his husband Stelios Doussis also travelled with Trudeau on a family vacation to the Bahamas in 2016.

On Thursday, O’Regan said he will miss working with the prime minister, who he believes “will be regarded as one of the most consequential and important leaders in our country’s history.”

Reflecting on his nine years in office, O’Regan said it’s been “hectic times,” but worthwhile.

“This is a time to unite not divide, create not destroy and build rather than break this great country of Canada,” O’Regan said. “It is a treasure. It’s worth fighting for.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.



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RCMP to heighten presence in N.S. town after patrol car set alight late at night

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METEGHAN, N.S. – The Mounties say they are bringing in more officers to a southwestern Nova Scotia community where a patrol car was set on fire in a service station lot earlier this week.

Investigators say police responded to the blaze in Meteghan, N.S., after receiving a call around 1:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

Officers say that when they arrived, they found that the police car had been destroyed and two other non-police vehicles that were parked nearby were damaged by the fire.

Sgt. Jeff LeBlanc, the detachment commander, said in an interview that RCMP think the fire was set intentionally and that it is linked to other recent violent incidents in the area. He said that over the past six months the RCMP have investigated shots fired at residences, along with incidents of threatening behaviour and intimidation.

“Due to the influx of investigations, I’ve made the request for additional investigators and patrol members which has been answered and is on the ground as we speak,” he said, adding this has more than doubled the current staff level of about seven officers.

LeBlanc said the Mounties are planning to maintain the “amplified police presence” in the community over the next weeks and months, with the added staff including both patrol officers and specialized investigators with expertise in organized crime.

The detachment commander said there isn’t a link between the recent incidents and the dispute two years ago between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers over access to the lobster fishery in the area.

“This is a group of organized criminals within our community … and that’s what we’re investigating at this time,” the sergeant said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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