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Epidemiologist warns of 'serious situation' by fall if COVID infections aren't brought under control –



As Ontario officially enters a seventh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of Ottawa’s own health experts say the city is “running blind” right into it.

According to Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer, the BA.5 subvariant has been rising slowly since early June but really started to “take off” mid-month, becoming a dominant strain and now making up about 60 per cent of confirmed cases.

The levels of coronavirus in Ottawa’s wastewater are “high and increasing,” according to Ottawa Public Health (OPH). As of Sunday morning, there were 62 patients hospitalized with COVID — including patients initially admitted for other reasons. Six deaths were reported last week.

Despite possible immunity, the latest subvariants mean a higher chance of reinfection compared to previous variants from earlier this year, according to Raywat Deonandan, epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

Pair that with most pandemic restrictions being gone and the jump in COVID-19 infections is not surprising.

“I’m quite concerned that when the fall comes and the days get cooler, people go back inside and schools are open. If we haven’t got this under control by then, we may be looking at a bit more serious situation,” said Deonandan. 

No more widespread testing

If and when this current wave will peak is unclear, he said, because “we’re not testing enough.” 

Widespread testing ended about seven months ago, with OPH unable to keep up with demand, instead prioritizing vulnerable populations and essential workers. Even after case numbers fell, widespread testing never returned in Ottawa.

“We’re in kind of a new territory because we are running blind,” said Deonandan. “We haven’t got the same number of eyes on the situation as we did in the past, because public health has other priorities.”

Tyson Graber is the associate research scientist and co-lead investigator on Ottawa’s coronavirus wastewater monitoring program. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Tyson Graber, the associate research scientist and co-lead investigator on Ottawa’s coronavirus wastewater monitoring program, said Ottawa and the rest of the country will likely mirror Europe. The wastewater trends there show cases and hospitalizations are expected to peak within the next week “so hopefully we’ll see that occur here in Ottawa as well.”

While it’s expected to see hospitalization rates increase with higher infection rates, “it won’t be as bad as it has been in the past,” Graber said.

OPH should step up messaging

Deonandan said it’s also unlikely we’ll see a return of pandemic restrictions because public tolerance “is very low” but added “frankly, we don’t need to do that.”

What needs to happen, he said, is for individuals to take measures to protect themselves from infection, including wearing a mask in high-risk settings and staying up to date on vaccinations.

Deonandan also said he wants to see the city step up its COVID-19 messaging. OPH has reduced updating its COVID-19 dashboard to twice a week. Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches no longer does regular briefings.

“I am a bit disappointed that we seem to be embracing a narrative that all is fine when in fact there are many things we can and should be doing to make sure that transmission is low,” he said.

In a statement, Dr. Brent Moloughney, Ottawa’s deputy medical officer of health, said public health has been releasing a weekly COVID-19 “snapshot” on its website and over social media platforms to help residents understand the extent of infection in the community.

The snapshots are intended to “inform the assessment of their level of risk and how to apply various layers of protection.”

Moloughney wrote that people are encouraged to continue wearing masks indoors and to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.

“The pandemic is not over and even if we are tired of COVID-19, COVID-19 is not tired of us. We need to remain conscious of the level of risk of COVID-19 in our community and in our lives,” the statement read.

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Stable weather allows fire crews to focus on containment of B.C. wildfires



Crews battling the wildfire that has forced the evacuation of more than 500 properties in British Columbia’s southern Okanagan are taking advantage of calm winds and stable conditions to bolster fire lines.

The BC Wildfire Service says the the wildfire covers 68 square kilometres southwest of Penticton, with most of the recent growth due to planned ignitions needed to create the control lines.

An update from the wildfire service says newly created control lines are “holding well.”

It says a key objective is to continue mop-up work along Highway 3A in an effort to reopen the route connecting Keremeos and the evacuated community of Olalla with towns further north.

Crews are keeping a close eye on weather conditions as a storm approaches from Washington state, bringing showers later this week and possible lightning strikes on Wednesday.

The wildfire service has recorded 564 blazes since the season began, 58 of them in the last seven days, and lists the fire danger rating as high to extreme on Vancouver Island, the entire B.C. coast and across the southern quarter of the province.

Of the eight wildfires of note currently burning in the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres, only the blaze near Penticton continues to keep residents out of their homes.

None of the other seven have grown significantly in recent days and the wildfire service website says the roughly three-square-kilometre fire in grasslands northwest of Kamloops is now listed as “being held,” allowing crews to finish building control lines.

Wildfires of note are either highly visible or pose a threat to people or properties.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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Warrant issued for man in Amber Alert, Saskatchewan children believed to be in U.S.



REGINA — Saskatchewan RCMP say an arrest warrant has been issued for a convicted sex offender at the centre of an Amber Alert for two children.

Police say seven-year-old Luna Potts and eight-year-old Hunter Potts, along with their mother, are believed to be in South Dakota with 50-year-old Benjamin Martin Moore.

“We are very concerned about the well-being of those children,” RCMP Chief Supt. Tyler Bates said Tuesday.

“We feel they are in danger.”

Bates said Moore has a history of sexual offences against children and was previously convicted of sexual interference with a minor.

Moore now faces a charge of failing to report information within seven days of changing his address, which is required for convicted sex offenders.

RCMP said Moore was being investigated by social services when he left with the children and their mother.

Officers went last week to their home in Eastend, southwest of Regina, to question Moore but found it abandoned.

Police issued the Amber Alert on Monday evening for the girl and boy. Bates said RCMP enacted the alert after social services received an apprehension order for the children.

Bates did not say why police believe Moore crossed the border into the United States, but said RCMP were looking to extend the Amber Alert into South Dakota.

Moore is described as being five feet 10 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds with black hair.

Police also said Moore, the children and their mother may be travelling in a 2015 dark blue Chevrolet Equinox with the Alberta licence plate CGC 2492.

Police have received a slew of tips in the case.

Bates said officers have also been contacted by a person who is believed to be a victim and encouraged any others to come forward.

Court records show Moore was convicted in 2009 for sexual interference of a minor. He was sentenced in Regina provincial court to two years and two months in prison.

Records also say he served another three months in jail in 2011 after he was convicted of breaching a recognizance order.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.


Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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Senegalese diplomat arrested by Quebec police owed former landlord more than $45,000



MONTREAL — The detention and alleged beating of a Senegalese diplomat by Quebec police last week occurred while a bailiff was attempting to seize property at her residence in connection with a court judgment against her.

Quebec’s rental board in June ordered Oumou Kalsoum Sall to pay a former landlord more than $45,000 for damage to a furnished home she occupied from Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2020. The tribunal found that she caused flooding that led to structural damage and that her use of the property forced its owner, Michel Lemay, to replace most of his furniture.

“The pictures speak for themselves,” Anne A. Laverdure, an administrative judge, wrote in her ruling. “The furniture is full of cockroaches. Pieces of furniture are scratched and scuffed. Some are missing. Everything is dirty.”

Laverdure awarded Lemay almost $13,500 for structural damage to the home and $23,000 to replace furniture. The administrative judge awarded Lemay another several thousand dollars for other damages.

Court records show that the debt was not paid and that a bailiff went to Kalsoum Sall’s residence in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa, on Aug. 2 to seize property in connection with the debt.

Kalsoum Sall is a first counsellor at the embassy of the Republic of Senegal in Ottawa, according to a federal government database of foreign delegations. The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed that the diplomat had to be hospitalized after being handcuffed and beaten by police.

Quebec’s independent police watchdog said Monday it opened an investigation into the incident. Gatineau police have said that they were called to the residence to assist a bailiff and that they arrested a woman with diplomatic status after she allegedly hit a police officer in the face, adding that she was tackled to the ground after allegedly biting another officer.

Global Affairs Canada has described the incident as “unacceptable,” adding that the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — which Canada has signed — gives diplomats immunity from any form of detention or arrest.

Gilles Rivard, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and to Haiti, said that while he doesn’t know exactly what happened during the Aug. 2 incident, some diplomats can be aggressive because they believe there will be no consequences for their actions.

“They can be aggressive because they know that they have immunity, so they believe that they can do whatever they want,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

While police are not officially supposed to arrest a diplomat, Rivard said, it’s possible a police officer might handcuff an individual while they wait to confirm the person’s diplomatic status.

“But if after that, that person shows that she is a diplomat, or he is a diplomat, normally they have to be released,” he said.

In 2001, a Russian diplomat struck and killed a woman while driving in Ottawa. The Canadian government asked Russia to waive the diplomat’s immunity so he could be charged in Canada, but Russia refused, Rivard said, adding that Canada’s only option in that case was to expel the diplomat.

Rivard said he doesn’t think the Aug. 2 incident is serious enough to damage Canada’s very good relationship with Senegal.

The Senegalese Embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday afternoon. A call to the embassy was not answered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.


Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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