In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 20 …
COVID-19 in Canada …
The federal government is beefing up efforts to persuade businesses to rehire workers now that Canada’s economy is starting to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown.
It is expected today to unveil more details of its promised loan program for large corporations and commercial rent relief for small- and mid-sized businesses.
That includes more information on how businesses can apply for the programs and what conditions will apply.
Today’s focus follows last week’s extension of the 75 per cent wage subsidy for three months, to the end of August, and Tuesday’s announcement that the government is expanding the eligibility criteria for its small business loan program.
The latter program provides interest-free loans of $40,000 for eligible small businesses to cover costs like rent and utilities, with the possibility of forgiving one-quarter of the amount if it is paid off by the end of 2022.
Tuesday’s fix extended the program to companies that don’t have traditional payrolls, such as family-run businesses that pay themselves in dividends and companies that employ only contractors.
“This is about getting people back to work and giving businesses the confidence to reopen, rehire and even grow because the way our economy will recover and the way our country will remain resilient and successful is by getting Canadians back to work,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
In other Canadian news …
Statistics Canada is expected to report that the consumer price index decreased in April, the first full month the economy was gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Economists on average had expected a reading of negative 0.28 per cent for April, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
That’s a further decline from March when the annual pace of inflation in Canada was 0.9 per cent, marking the biggest one-month decrease in more than a decade.
It was down from 2.2 per cent in February as the price of oil collapsed and the economy then ground to a halt when governments ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Consumer Price Index measures price changes for a fixed basket of goods and services that are divided into eight major components.
These are food, shelter, household operations, furnishings and equipment, clothing and footwear, transportation, health and personal care, recreation, education and alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and recreational cannabis.
Also this …
As provinces take their cautious first steps to allow people back into local businesses, a new poll suggests most Canadians don’t think province-wide measures are the best way to reopen the economy.
The latest poll on the COVID-19 pandemic by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies suggests only 35 per cent of people thought restrictions should be loosened for entire provinces.
In contrast, 47 per cent thought those decisions should apply to specific regions within each province. Just 18 per cent said reopening measures should apply to all of Canada at once.
Still, just over half of those polled said they trust provinces to make the call about what businesses should reopen and when, whereas about one-third said that should be up to Ottawa and 14 per cent said local governments should decide.
That is essentially what happened in Quebec, where the provincial government delayed the planned reopening of schools, daycares and businesses in the Greater Montreal area for one week because of the particularly high COVID-19 infection rate in the area and a shortage of health-care workers.
The proportion of people who said they would like decisions to be made region by region were highest in that province at 73 per cent, followed by Alberta at 52 per cent.
COVID-19 in the U.S. …
President Donald Trump emphatically defended himself against criticism from medical experts that his announced use of a malaria drug against the coronavirus could spark wide misuse by Americans of the unproven treatment with potentially fatal side effects.
Trump’s revelation a day earlier that he was taking hydroxychloroquine caught many in his administration by surprise and set off an urgent effort by officials to justify his action. But their attempt to address the concerns of health professionals was undercut by the president himself.
He asserted without evidence that a study of veterans raising alarm about the drug was “false” and an “enemy statement,” even as his own government warned that the drug should be administered for COVID-19 only in a hospital or research setting.
“If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape,” Trump said. That was an apparent reference to a study of hundreds of patients treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs in which more of those in a group who were administered hydroxychloroquine died than among those who weren’t.
“They were very old. Almost dead,” Trump said. “It was a Trump enemy statement.” During a Cabinet meeting, he elicited a defense of his practice from other officials, including VA Secretary Robert Wilkie who noted that the study in question was not conducted by his agency.
But the drug has not been shown to combat the virus in a multitude of other studies as well. Two large observational studies, each involving around 1,400 patients in New York, recently found no COVID benefit from hydroxychloroquine. Two new ones published last week in the medical journal BMJ reached the same conclusion.
No large, rigorous studies have found the drug safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19.
COVID-19 around the world …
President Donald Trump’s declaration that he was taking a malaria drug of dubious effectiveness to help fend off the coronavirus will likely be welcomed in India.
Trump’s previous endorsement of hydroxychloroquine catalyzed a tremendous shift in the South Asian country, spurring the world’s largest producer of the drug to make much more of it, prescribe it for front-line health workers treating the virus and deploy it as a diplomatic tool, despite mounting evidence against using the drug for COVID-19.
Trump said Monday that he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a measure of protection against the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, has cautioned against using it outside of hospitals because of the risk of serious heart problems.
Suhhil Gupta, a pharmacist in New Delhi, said Tuesday that Trump’s announcement shouldn’t carry any weight in India.
“He’s not a pharmacist. His statements are not relevant to the field,” Gupta said.
Still, India’s policy on the decades-old drug, used to prevent malaria and treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, drastically changed after Trump tweeted in March that the drug, used together with an antibiotic, could be “game changers” in the fight against the pandemic. India’s health ministry quickly approved it as a prophylactic for health care workers and others at high risk of infection, and as a treatment for critically ill patients.
In non-COVID-19 entertainment news …
Alanis Morissette is among the special guests set to appear in next week’s finale of the new incarnation of “Fraggle Rock” on Apple TV Plus.
The Ottawa-born singer-songwriter will appear along with several other stars in the sixth instalment of “Fraggle Rock: Rock On!” next Tuesday.
She’ll sing the classic “Fraggle Rock” theme song, along with Common, Jason Mraz, Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish, and Ziggy Marley.
The original 1980s version of the children’s puppet series from the Jim Henson Company was filmed in Toronto.
The new U.S.-shot series features mini episodes that have appeared every Tuesday for free on the streaming service since last month.
COVID-19 in sports …
Alberta’s Jason Kenney is the latest premier to make a pitch for his province to host National Hockey League games should the league resume play.
The league suspended its season in February and is now eyeing a format to complete it with an improvised playoff scenario. One possibility is a tournament of 24 teams spread over two hub cities.
Kenney says he is working with the Edmonton Oilers on a proposal to be a host city and expects to be discussing the issue later this week with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
He says Edmonton would be a prime location, given it has low COVID numbers and a new downtown rink with a hotel attached to provide an isolation safe zone for players.
“I think we’ve got a tremendous pitch to make,” Kenney says.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2020
BlackburnNews.com – Six more COVID-19 recoveries in Lambton – BlackburnNews.com
Six more COVID-19 recoveries in Lambton
June 6, 2020 7:02am
Lambton Public Health is reporting six more COVID-19 recoveries.
The health unit reported Friday night that of 267 confirmed cases, 223 have now recovered.
The death toll remains unchanged since Tuesday at 24.
Lambton Public Health has now received the results from 7,861 tests, 96 per cent of which have been negative for COVID-19.
Bluewater Health reported Friday that 12 patients were in hospital confirmed to have the virus, and 26 were in hospital suspected of having it with tests pending.
Trucker brings in another case of COVID-19 as two new cases emerge Friday – Winnipeg Sun
Another case of COVID-19 in a truck driver, and one in a close household contact of that driver, were reported by public health officials on Friday.
The two new cases bring the province’s total to an even 300 since the outbreak began in early March. The cases are both from Winnipeg. One is in a man in his 30s and another in a man in his 20s.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the trucker who tested positive had travelled outside of the province.
Other details were sparse, including if the driver had self-isolated or not.
“I don’t have a lot of details on that as of yet, the public health investigation is ongoing,” Roussin said.
Last week, two cases in truck drivers that had travelled into the U.S. for work were also reported.
Roussin said no new measures are going to be implemented in terms of testing truck drivers or requiring them to self-isolate upon return from international or domestic travel.
Currently, all truck drivers can access asymptomatic testing, but Roussin said they cannot disrupt supply chains into the province.
The province’s active caseload jumped to nine with the two new cases as no new recoveries were announced. There have been 284 total recoveries thus far.
The death toll in Manitoba remains at seven, and no one is in hospital at the moment.
The Cadham Provincial Laboratory processed 671 tests on Thursday, bringing the running total since early February to 47,372.
Meanwhile, changes to the hours of operation at community testing sites in Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Steinbach and Winkler, as well as at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg, come into effect this weekend.
Due to low patient volumes, these sites are now closed on Sundays.
KNOWLEDGE, ROAD TESTS RESUME
Manitoba Public Insurance is resuming knowledge tests for all licence classes and road test bookings for Class 1 licences effective immediately, a release said on Friday.
Customers are encouraged to book Class 5 and 6 knowledge tests online. For those who cannot book online, MPI is allowing customers who phone their Autopac agent to perform certain critical transactions over the phone or by email.
For Class 1 road tests, drivers will be required to provide and wear their own mask, be screened prior to the test and sanitize all touchpoints in their vehicle.
Knowledge test customers will be asked to arrive on-site 15 minutes prior to their appointment.
Ripples from coronavirus research scandal rocks global scientific community – RFI English
Issued on: 06/06/2020 – 12:02Modified: 06/06/2020 – 12:02
The first research scandal of the coronavirus pandemic has created unnecessary distraction around the politically divisive drug hydroxychloroquine, scientists say.
This as questions swirl around the tiny health care company at the center of the affair.
On Thursday, most of the authors of major studies that appeared in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) retracted their work.
The issued apologies, saying they could no longer vouch for their data after the firm that supplied it — Chicago-based Surgisphere — refused to be audited.
At any other time the matter might have led to hang-wringing within academia, but it has taken on a new dimension as the world grapples with a virus that has claimed some 400,000 lives.
Of particular interest was the paper in The Lancet that claimed to have analyzed the records of 96,032 patients admitted to 671 hospitals across six continents, finding that hydroxychloroquine showed no benefit and even increased the risk of death.
Its withdrawal is seen as a boost to backers of the decades-old anti-malarial drug, who include US President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.
“It’s very politicized — there is a group, probably not particularly small, who have learned to mistrust science and scientists, and this just feeds into that narrative,” Gabe Kelen, a professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University, told French new agency AFP.
This is despite the fact that even without The Lancet paper, evidence has been building against hydroxychloroquine’s use against COVID-19.
On Friday, results from a fourth randomized controlled trial — carefully designed human experiments considered the most robust form of clinical investigation — showed it had no impact against the virus.
The Lancet, which first published in 1823, is one of the world’s most trusted medical journals.
As a result, the hydroxychloroquine paper had an outsized impact: the World Health Organization, Britain and France all suspended ongoing clinical trials.
But things soon began unravelling after researchers noticed numerous red flags, from the huge number of patients involved to the unusual level of detail about the doses they had received.
Both The Lancet and the equally prestigious NEJM, which had published a paper on whether blood thinners elevated the risk of COVID-19 that relied on the same company, issued expressions of concern — before the authors themselves pulled both papers.
Role of Surgisphere
Surgisphere, founded in 2007 by vascular surgeon Sapan Desai, had refused to share data with third-party reviewers, saying it would violate privacy agreements with hospitals.
However, when science news site The Scientist began reaching out to hospitals throughout the US to ask whether they had participated, it found none.
Surgisphere’s internet profile has also raised numerous questions. Only a handful of employees could be found on LinkedIn, and most have now deactivated their accounts.
According to the Guardian newspaper, its employees included an adult model and until last week the contact page on its website redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, leaving it unclear how hospitals could have reached out to them.
Meanwhile Desai, who according to court records has three outstanding medical malpractice suits against him, has written extensively in the past on research misconduct.
“The most serious cause of fraud in medical publishing is manufactured data that authors use to support high impact conclusions,” he said in a 2013 paper.
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