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Hundreds of Canadians are still dying of COVID-19 every week. Who are they?

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Even in her 80s, Josephine Moschitto still cheered on her beloved Toronto Blue Jays, went grocery shopping near her retirement home, and had recently discovered the joys of playing Wordle on her iPad.

The Mississauga, Ont., resident lost her husband of six decades in early 2021, and had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But she was healthy, mobile and still enjoyed time with family, including a lunch with her loved ones in September.

“And she looked perfectly fine,” her son Victor recalled. “We were all talking, laughing … then a week later, circumstances changed.”

That’s when Josephine started showing symptoms of COVID-19. And, despite her having received four vaccine doses, the virus took a serious toll.

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The 89-year-old went to a local hospital in late September, and spent a few days in a bed in the emergency department, waiting for a room. At first her illness seemed mild — with none of the telltale breathing problems that used to strike so many COVID patients — but she slowly began to decline.

COVID-19 deaths on the rise again in Canada

Data shows the number of Canadians dying from COVID-19 each week is rising once again, a stark reminder that for those most at risk the pandemic continues to be a real and legitimate threat.

Victor and his sister Laura visited their mother as much as possible, often playing her favourite oldies, until the hospital stopped allowing visitors during a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Then she just took a turn for the worse,” Laura said.

In her last few days at the hospital, Josephine was put on oxygen and developed pneumonia. She didn’t want to be intubated, so she was never transferred into intensive care.

She died on Oct. 9.

“I always thought to myself that my mom had a few good years left in her,” Victor said.

“You all of a sudden realize that the disease that has captured so many lives is actually affecting your family’s life.”

People such as Josephine — who are elderly, or medically frail for other reasons — are now the classic victims of COVID-19.

And hundreds of Canada’s most vulnerable are still dying, every single week, with countrywide deaths stuck at stubbornly high levels in recent months, federal data shows.

That means Canadian families continue to lose loved ones to this virus on a regular basis, all while hospitals are still admitting seriously ill COVID-19 patients in the midst of ongoing staff shortages, surgery backlogs and a busy respiratory virus season.

“We all have sort of moved into another phase of living with the virus,” said Dr. Kali Barrett, a critical care physician with the University Health Network in Toronto.

“But for those at risk, the pandemic continues to be a real and legitimate threat.”

‘Completely different patient population’

The weekly death rate from COVID-19 in Canada has skyrocketed, then dipped, in dramatic peaks and valleys since it began spreading in early 2020.

But while weekly deaths dropped into the double digits at several points in 2020 and 2021, the tally hasn’t dipped below 137 throughout all of 2022. (The numbers are provided to the federal government by the provinces and territories, and no longer include Nunavut or the Northwest Territories.)

That shift follows provinces lifting public health restrictions, all while the Omicron family of sub-variants kept evolving to better evade our immune systems.

For nearly four months straight, weekly Canadian COVID-19 deaths have remained above 200 — and the latest available data shows there were 305 lives lost during the week of Oct. 16.

CBC News spoke to multiple physicians to get a sense of what’s behind that trend, and who’s dying of COVID-19 in late 2022. Canadians who are elderly, already battling multiple pre-existing health conditions, or undergoing immune-suppressing treatments such as chemotherapy all remain at a higher risk of dying.

Some are winding up in critical care, while others are now being treated for their illnesses and eventually dying in other settings, including other hospital wards.

Laura Moschitto shares old mementos, including a photo of her mother Josephine in her younger years, inside the living room of her home, a house in Etobicoke where her parents used to live. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“It’s a completely different patient population than the earlier waves,” said Dr. Bram Rochwerg, a critical care physician with Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ont.

He recounted the horror stories of COVID’s early days: Young, healthy adults becoming incredibly sick and winding up in intensive care on mechanical ventilation, or even extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), the highest form of life support.

“We’re not seeing those young, previously healthy, super-sick folks that we saw at the peak of Delta,” he said.

Dr. Gabriel Fabreau, an internal medicine physician in Calgary and an assistant professor at the University of Calgary, credits effective vaccines and treatments for that shift.

Vaccinated individuals — meaning those who completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series and had at least one booster dose — were three times less likely to be hospitalized, and five times less likely to die from their illness, compared to unvaccinated Canadians, according to data from late August to late September 2022.

Fabreau said more recently, his seriously ill COVID-19 patients are typically medically frail, immunocompromised, or still unvaccinated.

Rochwerg, in Hamilton, agreed. “It’s older folks, it’s those with immune-compromised states on chemotherapy with advanced cancer, frail comorbidities, that are ending up getting sick with COVID-related illness,” he said.

“It’s extremely rare to see somebody that doesn’t have these comorbidities that ends up in the ICU sick with COVID.”

Canada’s hospital crunch leaves some waiting days for care

Waits for care in Canada’s emergency rooms are stretching on longer and longer. In Winnipeg, one woman says her uncle with end-stage cancer waited two days for care, while an ER physician says he’s pondered quitting over the ‘unacceptable’ situation.

Deaths among elderly, with comorbidities

The latest-available data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) suggests the trend persists across the country, with poorer outcomes observed for patients with more than one disease or condition. Those dying in hospital also skewed older than those who didn’t die, with a median age of 76 compared to 60.

Canadian COVID-19 patients with at least one comorbidity had an average hospital stay eight days longer than those without comorbidities, and a higher in-hospital death rate of 20 per cent compared to seven per cent.

South of the border, U.S. Centers for Disease Control data released in September also shows that while the overall mortality for patients hospitalized primarily for COVID-19 has dropped, seniors are still hardest hit.

The vast majority of 2022 deaths, at more than 80 per cent, were among those 65 and older, and three-quarters had three — or more — comorbidities.

But, to be clear, people juggling multiple health issues aren’t necessarily close to death.

Siblings Victor and Laura Moschitto stand on the front porch of the Toronto home where their mother Josephine used to live. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In Toronto, the majority of patients with COVID-19 who are ending up in Barrett’s intensive care unit are already frail from cancer treatment. Many, she said, might have had years left to live before developing COVID-19.

“These were patients who may have — if they got through their chemotherapy — were going to fully recover and go back to a normal life,” she said.

Several physicians also noted other patients are admitted to hospital for different ailments but also test positive, while some catch the virus during their stays.

“There are hospital-acquired outbreaks that are continuing to happen that do account for some of those numbers that we’re seeing,” said Dr. Neeja Bakshi, an internal medicine physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.

Those differences may muddy the data on why exactly people are dying, but Barrett stressed that any time a patient is battling both COVID-19 and another health issue, it heightens their risk of poor outcomes.

COVID hospitalizations rising

The high number of patients falling ill with this virus threatens to further strain Canadian health-care systems this winter.

“We simply cannot expand any further and we don’t have the resources to go into the season,” Bakshi warned. “And I can tell you that nobody in any level of hospital administration or clinical care is sleeping easy.”

Canada-wide, the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients increased from 3,875 to more than 4,100 between Oct. 17 and 24, federal data shows.

Even if just a small percentage of COVID-19 patients are still falling seriously ill, that’s capable of adding a huge amount of stress to health-care systems, Rochwerg said.

“Our capacity to deal with critically ill patients right now has never been lower than it is at this moment in time,” he said.

Doctors brace for busy flu season with hospitals already under pressure

Doctors are bracing for flu season to peak, with hospitals already feeling the strain of COVID-19 and RSV, and wait times ballooning. Their message: wear a mask, get your flu shot and get a COVID-19 booster.

The sickest COVID-19 patients are now being cared for across hospital wards more broadly, including emergency departments and inpatient wards that are also facing pressure from other respiratory illnesses, from influenza to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

That’s layering on top of efforts to catch up on a backlog of thousands of surgeries and procedures, all while more Canadians are expected to present to hospitals with more serious forms of cancer or lingering health impacts from prior COVID-19 infections — all ripple effects from this years-long pandemic.

“It’s led to truly a perfect storm,” Rochwerg said.

Seniors, loved ones urged to take precautions

As the temperature dips and Canadians spend more time indoors, inadvertently spreading viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza and RSV, physicians say it’s critical that vulnerable seniors and their families take precautions.

Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics for Sinai Health and the University Health Network in Toronto, recommended all Canadian seniors consider getting three different shots this fall season: An updated bivalent COVID-19 booster, annual flu shot and pneumonia vaccine if they’re eligible.

“You can actually get all three of those at the same time,” Sinha said.

Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto says the key concern in continuing care homes right now is staffing shortages (Ousama Farag/CBC)

Elderly Canadians living in long-term care facilities or retirement homes might have an easier time accessing these shots, Sinha said.

The bigger concern? Seniors living independently in communities, who may require help from family members or neighbours.

Loved ones should also consider taking extra care around any-at risk relatives, Sinha added. That could mean some combination of being vaccinated, wearing a quality mask, or taking a COVID-19 rapid test before family events this fall and winter.

The loneliness will just kill you alone,” Sinha said. “The idea is, try to live your life, but do so safely.”

‘A bigger risk than we realize’

As the Moschitto family continues mourning the recent loss of 89-year-old Josephine, her children take comfort knowing they tried to protect her, and that her retirement home was vigilant in maintaining COVID-19 precautions.

“You can’t stop it, at some point, from infiltrating you — it’s hard to deal with,” Victor said. “But you have to at some point come to accept what happened.”

Josephine Moschitto, shown in this family photographer with her late husband, passed away on Oct. 9 from COVID-19 at the age of 89. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Still, both siblings hoped Josephine had a few more years left to live.

A few more years filled with morning conversations about how long it took her to guess the day’s Wordle, or family dinners featuring her beloved recipe for spaghetti and meatballs, or moments spent with her three grandchildren.

“People want to return to normal, but you know, maybe there is a bigger risk than we realize with that return to normalcy,” Victor said.

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Show Employers You Can Hit the Ground Running

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Employers are increasingly stating: “We want someone who can hit the ground running.”

Essentially, the message is, “Don’t expect us to explain the basics. We expect you to know your sh*t.” Employers understand you’ll need time to learn their business, applications, software, infrastructure, etc. However, they expect that you’re proficient in Microsoft Office Suite software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), understand file management (creating, saving, and organizing files), and know how to troubleshoot common computer problems, and won’t be learning these basic computer skills as part of your learning curve on their dime.

Employers aren’t in the business of training people. You’re responsible for your career; therefore, you’re responsible for acquiring the skillset you need.

For an employee’s compensation to be justified, an ROI (return on investment) is required. When referring to employment, ROI refers to the value an employee brings to the company relative to their compensation. Employers pay their employees, and employees work for their wages. Employee work value is created when their work directly or indirectly results in profitably selling the company’s goods and services. Your best chance of job security (no guarantee) is to be an employee who undeniably contributes measurable value to your employer’s profitability.

(Employee’s measurable value to the company) – (Employer’s investment in compensation) = (ROI)

Understandably, employers are looking for candidates who can make an immediate impact, individuals who can jump right in, learn and adapt quickly, and start delivering results as soon as possible. Hence, you want to distinguish yourself as being capable and willing to “hit the ground running.”

Here are some tips to help you present yourself as a fast-starting, high-potential hire:

Emphasize relevant experience

Presenting irrelevant information will be perceived as lacking the ability to communicate succinctly, a highly valued skill in the business world. Only share experiences and quantified results (key), results that are pertinent to the position you’re applying for.

When crafting your resume and cover letter, identify the skills, knowledge, and previous responsibilities/quantified results that align with the job you’re aiming for. By demonstrating that you’ve “been there, done that” and brought measurable value to previous employers in a similar scenario, employers will feel confident that you can immediately deliver value.

Showcase transferable skills

Consider the universal soft skills that employers universally value.

  • Analytical
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal
  • Problem-solving
  • Project management
  • Time management

Tell STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) stories—describing a specific situation, the task you were assigned, the actions you took, and the results of your actions—that showcase your soft skills and explain how you can leverage them to succeed in the role you’re applying for. This’ll assure your interviewer you have the fundamental skills to achieve successful outcomes.

“While working at Norback, Jenkins, & St. Clair, I led a team of five architects to redesign a historic downtown Winnipeg landmark according to strict deadlines and complex stakeholder demands. I conducted Monday morning team meetings and used Slack to provide tailored updates to keep the team aligned. As a result of my communication skills, the project was completed on time and under the $7.5 million dollars budget.”

Discuss onboarding insights

A great way to position yourself as someone eager to hit the ground running is to show that you’ve considered what it’ll take to start delivering value.

“Based on my understanding of the typical onboarding timeline for this type of position, I anticipate completing all training and ramp-up activities within my first two weeks, enabling me to begin tackling projects by my first quarter.”

Assuming you’ve researched the company and studied current industry trends, which you should have done, mention the extra steps you’ve taken to prepare for the role. This’ll show your willingness to learn and will require minimal handholding.

Emphasize quick adaptability

Employers value the ability to adapt quickly to new situations and challenges. During your interviews, share examples of your flexibility and agility.

At some point in your career, you’ve likely had to learn something new (e.g., software, operating system) on the fly. Also likely, you’ve had to navigate a major change or disruption. Using STAR stories, explain how you approached these scenarios, your strategies, and the positive outcomes.

By showing resilience, resourcefulness, and adaptability, you demonstrate that you can thrive in ambiguous or rapidly evolving environments.

Propose a transition plan.

Presenting a transition plan is a strategy that wows employers, primarily because it is rare for a candidate to do this. This shows you’re ready to take ownership of your onboarding and deliver results.

Include specifics like:

  • Milestones you aim to accomplish in your first 30, 60, and 90 days.
  • Training activities or learning opportunities you’ll pursue.
  • Initial projects or tasks you’d tackle to demonstrate your capabilities.
  • Ways you’ll quickly build relationships with your new colleagues.

Showing this level of forethought and initiative shows you’re a strategic thinker, able to organize your thoughts, and, most importantly, eager to get started.

By touting your relevant experience, showcasing your transferable skills, discussing your onboarding insights, emphasizing your quick adaptability, and proposing a detailed transition plan, you’ll position yourself as a self-driven professional capable of driving results from the start, differentiating you from your competition.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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Karen Read back in court after murder case of Boston police officer boyfriend ended in mistrial

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BOSTON (AP) — Karen Read returns to court Monday for the first time since her murder case involving her Boston police officer boyfriend ended in a mistrial.

Read is accused of ramming into John O’Keefe with her SUV and leaving him for dead in a snowstorm in January 2022. Her two-month trial ended when jurors declared they were hopelessly deadlocked and a judge declared a mistrial on the fifth day of deliberations.

Jury deliberations during the trial are among the issues likely to be addressed.

In several motions, the defense contends four jurors have said the jury unanimously reached a not-guilty verdict on those two charges. The jurors reported being deadlocked only on the charge of manslaughter while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and trying her again for murder would be unconstitutional double jeopardy, they said.

The defense also argues Judge Beverly Cannone abruptly announced the mistrial without questioning the jurors about where they stood on each of the three charges Read faced and without giving lawyers for either side a chance to comment.

Prosecutors described the defense request to drop charges of second-degree murder and leaving the scene of a deadly accident an “unsubstantiated but sensational post-trial claim” based on “hearsay, conjecture and legally inappropriate reliance as to the substance of jury deliberations.”

As they push against a retrial, the defense also wants the judge to hold a “post-verdict inquiry” and question all 12 jurors if necessary to establish the record they say should have been created before the mistrial was declared, showing jurors “unanimously acquitted the defendant of two of the three charges against her.”

After the mistrial, Cannone ordered the names of the jurors to not be released for 10 days. She extended that order indefinitely Thursday after one of the jurors filed a motion saying they feared for their own and their family’s safety if the names are made public. The order does not preclude a juror from coming forward and identifying themselves, but so far none have done so.

Prosecutors argued the defense was given a chance to respond and, after one note from the jury indicating it was deadlocked, told the court there had been sufficient time and advocated for the jury to be declared deadlocked. Prosecutors wanted deliberations to continue, which they did before a mistrial was declared the following day.

“Contrary to the representation made in the defendant’s motion and supporting affidavits, the defendant advocated for and consented to a mistrial, as she had adequate opportunities to object and instead remained silent which removes any double jeopardy bar to retrial,” prosecutors wrote in their motion.

Read, a former adjunct professor at Bentley College, had been out drinking with O’Keefe, a 16-year member of the Boston police who was found outside the Canton home of another Boston police officer. An autopsy found O’Keefe died of hypothermia and blunt force trauma.

The defense contended O’Keefe was killed inside the home after Read dropped him off and that those involved chose to frame her because she was a “convenient outsider.”

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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From Mansion to Moat: Drake’s Million Dollar Home Gets Soaked

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Toronto residents woke up to a soggy Wednesday morning after the city was pummeled by record-breaking rainfall on Tuesday. The downpour caused widespread flooding across the city, and even the opulent mansion of rap superstar Drake wasn’t spared.

 

Drake’s “Embassy” Flooded

Drake shared a video on his Instagram story showing the extent of the water damage at his Toronto mansion, nicknamed “The Embassy.” The sprawling 50,000-square-foot estate boasts an NBA-regulation basketball court and an art-deco theme, but on Tuesday, it was battling ankle-deep murky water flooding its halls.

The video shows Drake himself, clad in shorts and holding a broom, wading through the water. Someone else can be seen desperately trying to hold a large glass door shut as water surges in, presumably from a flooded patio or balcony.  Drake captioned the video with a touch of humor: “This better be espresso martini.”

The extent of the damage to the mansion remains unclear at this time.

 

Historic Rainfall Causes Citywide Flooding

The flooding at Drake’s mansion was just one symptom of the unprecedented rainfall that lashed Toronto on Tuesday. The city saw over 100 millimeters of rain in a single day, easily surpassing the average rainfall for the entire month of July (71.6 mm). This deluge makes it the fifth-wettest day ever recorded in Toronto’s history.

The heavy downpour overwhelmed the city’s drainage systems, leading to widespread flooding across neighborhoods. Emergency services were inundated with over 700 calls reporting flooded basements.  A major artery, the Don Valley Parkway, became an impassable waterway, with cars submerged almost entirely and some drivers forced to wait for rescue on the roofs of their vehicles.

 

Toronto Cleans Up After the Storm

As of Wednesday morning, the city is in cleanup mode.  Emergency crews are working to clear debris and assess the damage caused by the floods.  The extent of the financial losses incurred by homeowners and businesses is still being determined.

While Drake’s mansion may have gotten an unwelcome soaking, the true story of this weather event lies in the impact it had on ordinary citizens across Toronto. The city is now focused on recovery efforts and ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents.

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