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Inflation climbs to 2.2%, Statistics Canada reports – CBC.ca

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The annual pace of inflation heated up in November as gasoline prices posted their first year-over-year increase since October 2018, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

The agency said the consumer price index rose 2.2 per cent compared with a year ago to end a three-month streak where the annual pace of inflation had held steady at 1.9 per cent.

The increase in the pace of inflation compared with October came as energy prices in November posted their first year-over-year increase since April. Energy prices climbed 1.5 per cent compared with a year ago compared with a decline of 2.9 per cent in October.

Gasoline prices were up 0.9 per cent year-over-year compared with a drop 6.7 per cent in October.

Royal Bank senior economist Josh Nye said oil prices were down in November last year.

“The fact that wasn’t repeated this November means energy price growth is back into positive territory,” he said, noting that inflation will likely remain above two per cent in the short term due to the lower gasoline prices a year ago.

Strongest pace in a decade

However, Nye said the underlying inflation trends appear to be firming with the average of the core measures of inflation at their strongest pace in a decade.

Excluding gasoline, which had been weighing on overall inflation in recent months, the consumer price index was up 2.3 per cent compared with a year ago, matching the increase in October.

And, the average of Canada’s three measures for core inflation, which are considered better gauges of underlying price pressures and are closely watched by the Bank of Canada, was 2.17 per cent compared with a revised figure of 2.10 per cent for October.

In the statement accompanying the Bank of Canada’s decision to keep its key interest rate on hold at 1.75 per cent earlier this month, the bank said it expected inflation to increase temporarily in the coming months due to year-over-year movements in gasoline prices.

However, the central bank said at the time that it “continues to expect inflation to track close to the two per cent target over the next two years.”

A women leaves a grocery store in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, August 15. Rising food prices have contributed to inflation, with meat an average of 5.2% higher than it was a year ago. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press )

Higher costs for food, auto insurance, mortgage interest

CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes said the Bank of Canada won’t be too concerned with headline inflation rising above two per cent for a few months, given that it’s largely the result of base effects.

“However, if the core measures accelerate further, monetary policy-makers could start to take more notice of consumer prices, something they haven’t had to do given that inflation has been so consistently around the central bank’s target recently,” Mendes wrote in a report.

The overall increase in prices of 2.2 per cent compared with a year ago was driven by increased mortgage interest costs, passenger vehicles and auto insurance premiums. The increases were partly offset by lower prices for telephone services, Internet access and traveller accommodation.

Canadians also saw the price for meat rise 5.2 per cent compared with a year ago, the fifth month of increases at or above 4.0 per cent. The cost of fresh or frozen beef was up 6.2 per cent, while ham and bacon prices rose 9.1 per cent. Fresh or frozen pork was up 0.7 per cent.

Regionally, prices on a year-over-year basis rose more in November in every province except British Columbia.

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Five big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19 – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press interviewed a group of leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology and asked them what should be done to reduce the harms the next time a germ with similar destructive potential emerges. Here are the five most important lessons they offered.

 

SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND HEALTH INEQUITIES HAVE MADE SOME PEOPLE MORE VULNERABLE

COVID-19 has exposed fault lines in the Canadian society by showing how long-standing inequities contributed to higher rates of infections and mortality, said Steffanie Strathdee, a Toronto-born epidemiologist at the University of California in San Diego.

“The people who are, by and large, getting COVID are people who are poor, or of-colour, or living in poor socio-economic conditions,” Strathdee said.

In an analysis of COVID-19 deaths between March and July, Statistics Canada found that death rates because of the virus were double in Canadian neighbourhoods where more than 25 per cent of the people are members of visible minorities compared to neighbourhoods where minorities are less than one per cent of the people.

Strathdee said people in many areas in Canada have limited health services.

“In my sister and mother’s region of Stouffville (a suburb of Toronto), it’s very, very difficult to get a doctor,” she said.

“What we need to do is invest in our public health and health care infrastructure, because this isn’t going to be the last pandemic we see.”

University of British Columbia professor Erica Frank, a doctor and population-health expert, said almost all those who have died because of COVID-19 had pre-existing risk factors, including age.

“Not paying enough attention to reduction of chronic-disease risk has greatly increased the cohort of susceptible people to COVID,” she said.

She said there is a need to spend money on public health systems and on social determinants of health, such as housing, to decrease sickness and death.

 

CANADA’S DIVISION OF HEALTH-CARE RESPONSIBILITIES IS INEFFICIENT

The disconnect between federal and provincial or territorial actions to fight the pandemic is getting in the way of an effective response, said Donald Sheppard. He’s the chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and a member of Canada’s COVID-19 therapeutics task force.

For instance, Sheppard said, after Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody treatment was approved by Health Canada, bought by the federal government and greenlit by the federal therapeutics task force, British Columbia health authorities decided to reject the federal approval of the medication.

He said there many more examples, including the handling of long-term care homes.

“Quebec is screaming they want money but they’re refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long-term care,” he said.

He said there have been poor communication and a lot of territorialism since the beginning of the pandemic.

“There should be a time when it’s all hands on deck and we don’t play games,” he said. “That didn’t happen. We saw these fragmentations between the provinces and the feds leading to, frankly, people dying.”

 

CENTRALIZED DECISION-MAKING IN HEALTH CARE STIFLES INNOVATION

Sheppard said the Canadian health care system can’t be nimble because federal and provincial governments have seized control of decisions on how to handle the pandemic.

“During a new disease like a pandemic, when we’re learning about things, the people on the ground actually are learning a lot faster than the people sitting in Ottawa, Quebec City or Toronto,” he said.

He said Canadian businesses and universities have been struggling to get approval for testing strategies that use rapid tests to reopen safely.

“The way that the ministries of health are set up, they actually make it incredibly difficult to set those type of things up, because they hold on to all the power with a stranglehold.”

Sheppard said there’s no process private entities can use to launch innovative testing programs.

“The dogma from the ministries of health are simple: What we’re doing is right. There is no other better way to do anything … therefore we will not help anybody do anything different than what we’re doing. And anything other than that is a threat to our authority,” he said. “That’s the mentality, and it’s just killed innovation in the health-care setting.”

 

LACK OF COORDINATION STYMIED RESEARCH

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crucial research is to inform health decisions, said Francois Lamontagne, a clinician-scientist at the University of Sherbrooke.

He said Canadian scientists have played prominent roles scientifically during the pandemic but recruiting patients to participate in clinical trials has been a challenge due to lack of coordination.

“There have been a lot of studies launched. A lot of those studies overlapped,” he said.

He said having too many studies at the same time has resulted in shortages of suitable patients who are willing to be subjects in clinical trials.

“This, essentially, dilutes all of the studies and you end up enrolling very few people in too many studies.”

Lamontagne said the United Kingdom has been the locomotive of the world in enrolling patients in clinical trials because research is an integral part of the country’s national health system.

“It’s not something that happens in a silo. It’s part of the (National Health Service),” he said. “This led them to build the infrastructure … And then there’s an effort to co-ordinate and prioritize studies so they do one study and they do it well and they get the answers very quickly.”

He said creating better research infrastructure and coordination should be a priority for Canada.

“This is a criticism directed at me as well. I am part of ‘us’ — researchers. We have to get our act together and there has to be an effort of coordination.”

Lamontagne said health research in Canada is largely funded by the federal government whereas health care is a provincial jurisdiction and both levels need to co-operate.

“The stakes are so important for not only how we respond to pandemics now and in the future, but also for the sustainability of a public health-care system,” he said.

 

GOOD MESSAGING AND COMMUNICATION MATTER

Strathdee said good science communication with the public is important to address misinformation regarding the novel coronaviruses and its vaccines.

“We need for people to understand that science and medicine don’t have all the answers all the time, that we’re learning just like everybody else,” she said.

Strathdee said guidelines will be updated as more data become available and that’s what happened when more data showed that face masks reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

She said government officials should be trained in health literacy.

John Brownstein, a Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist, said minority communities, including Indigenous communities, tend to have more mistrust in vaccines and for good historical reasons.

“We got to figure out how to improve communication and improve confidence,” he said.

Strathdee said it’s critical for politicians and public health officials to be honest with the public by “making people aware that, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, and that they need to stay the course.”

She also said people need to understand that if segments of the population are left behind in vaccination, like prisoners and homeless people, that will put everyone at risk.

She said Canada did a good job in detecting COVID-19 cases because it was hit hard by SARS.

“We have to make sure that we don’t unlearn those lessons going forward and that we build upon what we’ve learned from COVID and prepare for the next pandemic.”

——-

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Five big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19 – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press interviewed a group of leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology and asked them what should be done to reduce the harms the next time a germ with similar destructive potential emerges. Here are the five most important lessons they offered.

 

SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND HEALTH INEQUITIES HAVE MADE SOME PEOPLE MORE VULNERABLE

COVID-19 has exposed fault lines in the Canadian society by showing how long-standing inequities contributed to higher rates of infections and mortality, said Steffanie Strathdee, a Toronto-born epidemiologist at the University of California in San Diego.

“The people who are, by and large, getting COVID are people who are poor, or of-colour, or living in poor socio-economic conditions,” Strathdee said.

In an analysis of COVID-19 deaths between March and July, Statistics Canada found that death rates because of the virus were double in Canadian neighbourhoods where more than 25 per cent of the people are members of visible minorities compared to neighbourhoods where minorities are less than one per cent of the people.

Strathdee said people in many areas in Canada have limited health services.

“In my sister and mother’s region of Stouffville (a suburb of Toronto), it’s very, very difficult to get a doctor,” she said.

“What we need to do is invest in our public health and health care infrastructure, because this isn’t going to be the last pandemic we see.”

University of British Columbia professor Erica Frank, a doctor and population-health expert, said almost all those who have died because of COVID-19 had pre-existing risk factors, including age.

“Not paying enough attention to reduction of chronic-disease risk has greatly increased the cohort of susceptible people to COVID,” she said.

She said there is a need to spend money on public health systems and on social determinants of health, such as housing, to decrease sickness and death.

 

CANADA’S DIVISION OF HEALTH-CARE RESPONSIBILITIES IS INEFFICIENT

The disconnect between federal and provincial or territorial actions to fight the pandemic is getting in the way of an effective response, said Donald Sheppard. He’s the chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and a member of Canada’s COVID-19 therapeutics task force.

For instance, Sheppard said, after Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody treatment was approved by Health Canada, bought by the federal government and greenlit by the federal therapeutics task force, British Columbia health authorities decided to reject the federal approval of the medication.

He said there many more examples, including the handling of long-term care homes.

“Quebec is screaming they want money but they’re refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long-term care,” he said.

He said there have been poor communication and a lot of territorialism since the beginning of the pandemic.

“There should be a time when it’s all hands on deck and we don’t play games,” he said. “That didn’t happen. We saw these fragmentations between the provinces and the feds leading to, frankly, people dying.”

 

CENTRALIZED DECISION-MAKING IN HEALTH CARE STIFLES INNOVATION

Sheppard said the Canadian health care system can’t be nimble because federal and provincial governments have seized control of decisions on how to handle the pandemic.

“During a new disease like a pandemic, when we’re learning about things, the people on the ground actually are learning a lot faster than the people sitting in Ottawa, Quebec City or Toronto,” he said.

He said Canadian businesses and universities have been struggling to get approval for testing strategies that use rapid tests to reopen safely.

“The way that the ministries of health are set up, they actually make it incredibly difficult to set those type of things up, because they hold on to all the power with a stranglehold.”

Sheppard said there’s no process private entities can use to launch innovative testing programs.

“The dogma from the ministries of health are simple: What we’re doing is right. There is no other better way to do anything … therefore we will not help anybody do anything different than what we’re doing. And anything other than that is a threat to our authority,” he said. “That’s the mentality, and it’s just killed innovation in the health-care setting.”

 

LACK OF COORDINATION STYMIED RESEARCH

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crucial research is to inform health decisions, said Francois Lamontagne, a clinician-scientist at the University of Sherbrooke.

He said Canadian scientists have played prominent roles scientifically during the pandemic but recruiting patients to participate in clinical trials has been a challenge due to lack of coordination.

“There have been a lot of studies launched. A lot of those studies overlapped,” he said.

He said having too many studies at the same time has resulted in shortages of suitable patients who are willing to be subjects in clinical trials.

“This, essentially, dilutes all of the studies and you end up enrolling very few people in too many studies.”

Lamontagne said the United Kingdom has been the locomotive of the world in enrolling patients in clinical trials because research is an integral part of the country’s national health system.

“It’s not something that happens in a silo. It’s part of the (National Health Service),” he said. “This led them to build the infrastructure … And then there’s an effort to co-ordinate and prioritize studies so they do one study and they do it well and they get the answers very quickly.”

He said creating better research infrastructure and coordination should be a priority for Canada.

“This is a criticism directed at me as well. I am part of ‘us’ — researchers. We have to get our act together and there has to be an effort of coordination.”

Lamontagne said health research in Canada is largely funded by the federal government whereas health care is a provincial jurisdiction and both levels need to co-operate.

“The stakes are so important for not only how we respond to pandemics now and in the future, but also for the sustainability of a public health-care system,” he said.

 

GOOD MESSAGING AND COMMUNICATION MATTER

Strathdee said good science communication with the public is important to address misinformation regarding the novel coronaviruses and its vaccines.

“We need for people to understand that science and medicine don’t have all the answers all the time, that we’re learning just like everybody else,” she said.

Strathdee said guidelines will be updated as more data become available and that’s what happened when more data showed that face masks reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

She said government officials should be trained in health literacy.

John Brownstein, a Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist, said minority communities, including Indigenous communities, tend to have more mistrust in vaccines and for good historical reasons.

“We got to figure out how to improve communication and improve confidence,” he said.

Strathdee said it’s critical for politicians and public health officials to be honest with the public by “making people aware that, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, and that they need to stay the course.”

She also said people need to understand that if segments of the population are left behind in vaccination, like prisoners and homeless people, that will put everyone at risk.

She said Canada did a good job in detecting COVID-19 cases because it was hit hard by SARS.

“We have to make sure that we don’t unlearn those lessons going forward and that we build upon what we’ve learned from COVID and prepare for the next pandemic.”

——-

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Inside Canada's largest COVID-19 outbreak in a federal prison – CBC.ca

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During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex Doyle was doing his best to follow public health orders and keep himself and his young family free of infection.

But last November, Doyle ended up back in Manitoba’s Stony Mountain Institution north of Winnipeg after violating parole conditions for a drug trafficking and break and enter conviction. 

And that’s where he may have inadvertently become a superspreader in Canada’s worst outbreak so far in a federal penitentiary.

Doyle’s story, and the experiences of other Stony Mountain inmates who became infected, is part of the testimony being gathered in a class-action lawsuit against the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) on behalf of federal prisoners across the country.

“The whole range, everyone was mad at me like it’s my fault and it wasn’t my fault,” Doyle, 33, said recently in a series of telephone interviews with CBC News.

Alex Doyle, right, seen in an undated photo from inside Stony Mountain Institution. Doyle says he became infected with COVID-19 in prison and then may have inadvertently passed it on to other inmates because he was moved and wasn’t tested immediately after developing symptoms. (Supplied by Jade Doyle)

Doyle arrived at Stony Mountain on Nov. 6. He was segregated in an isolation cell known by inmates as the hole. 

He was tested for COVID-19 nearly a week later and when it came back negative, he was moved to another area of the prison where he said one of the inmates had already tested positive for COVID-19. 

The first inmate at Stony Mountain tested positive on Nov. 10. Four days later, public health officials declared an outbreak.

Inmates were locked down. They were allowed only 30 minutes out of their cells each day — just enough time for a quick shower and maybe a call home, if the lineups weren’t too long.

On Nov. 20, when his 14-day quarantine was up, Doyle said he was moved to yet another medium security unit. Despite having a cough, he wasn’t immediately tested for COVID-19, he said. It was a Friday and Doyle said he was told he would have to wait until Monday. 

During that weekend, Doyle said he socialized with other inmates during the 30 minutes they were allowed outside of their cells. They were all wearing masks, but in close quarters.

“I thought I was good because [penitentiary staff] cleared me to come here and, you know, I was talking to my friends and stuff. That’s probably how it got passed around,” he said.

Two days later, Doyle said his test came back positive. But by then, he said, he may have directly infected at least three people, and they, in turn, infected others.

Les Bisson says he believes COVID-19 spread in Stony Mountain Institution after an infected inmate was moved to his unit. He says the prison was negligent in its duty to care for prisoners. (Supplied by Acacia Bisson)

Les Bisson is one of the men who claimed to have developed symptoms within days. He started coughing up blood and had problems breathing, he said. His COVID-19 test on Dec. 2 came back positive.

“I literally thought I was going to die a month ago. I sat there, looking at pictures, thinking how I’ll never be able to be a father to my kids again,” Bisson, 40, said with a break in his voice. He is serving eight years for drug trafficking. 

“We thought that was just on our range. Now, I know that that’s happened on at least two of the ranges.… If it was once, it would be an accident. But to do something over and over and over again, you can’t say that’s an accident.”

‘I feel like they failed miserably’

At its worst, nearly half of the 744 inmates at Stony Mountain had COVID-19, making it the largest outbreak at any federally run correctional facility in Canada.

In December, an inmate died of COVID-19 complications, one of four deaths so far in prisons across the country.

CBC News spoke with eight inmates over the past several weeks who said they believe the outbreak may have been caused by Stony Mountain relaxing the 14-day quarantine rules for new inmates and not testing frequently enough.

“I feel like they failed miserably. Our range was green, which means no COVID, and they moved a COVID-positive inmate to our range,” said 30-year-old Grayson Wesley, who is serving an eight-year sentence for unlawful confinement.

Wesley said he was infected at the end of November and sent to hospital because he couldn’t breathe. He still has trouble with his memory and worries about getting sick again, he said.

“There’s a new COVID variant out there. If that comes into the jail, it’s going to spread like wildfire,” he said.

Mike Bourget also started feeling symptoms shortly after Doyle arrived on his unit, but said he wasn’t tested for three days. When the results came back, he was positive.

“My symptoms were not that bad, not compared to my fellow inmates here…. It is more of the mental aspect right now,” said Bourget, who is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. “My emotions and anxiety is like a roller-coaster.”

Inmates at Stony Mountain Institution say they were locked down for 23.5 hours a day to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the outbreak continued. (Justin Fraser/CBC News)

No officials at Stony Mountain were available for an interview, but a spokesperson for the CSC said inmates and staff are tested regularly, even those who are asymptomatic.

“All inmates at Stony Mountain Institution were tested as they left isolation cells and before they were moved to a different range,” Kelly Dae Dash wrote in an email to CBC News.

“All inmates that tested positive for COVID-19 were immediately moved to a separate area of the institution which operated under single cell movement and was specifically designated for COVID-19 cases.”

Throughout the outbreak, inmates have also had wellness checks by health services staff.

Oldest prison in Canada

Part of the challenge in containing the virus is the age and layout of the institution. Of the four federal prisons built in the 19th century, Stony Mountain is the only one still operating.

Unlike newer facilities where a door with a tiny window separates an inmate from the hallway, most cells at Stony Mountain have only bars opening into a long hallway. It makes physical distancing difficult and there is constant air flow between cells.

Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert is of the same vintage and layout, and has had similar problems with COVID-19. There have been 247 cases and one death, although there are currently only seven active cases. 

Bronson Gordon is currently serving time at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert. In a recent phone call shared with CBC News, he detailed how conditions at the federal facility worsened for inmates since a COVID-19 outbreak was declared in early December. (Supplied by Sherri Maier)

Inmates in SaskPen’s medium security units say they were putting blankets on the bars of their cells, but the correctional officers removed them.

“They’ve ripped down all of our curtains and everything that would protect us from the airborne virus from the guys out there … sick on the unit,” Bronson Gordon, 36, said in a phone call several weeks ago with prisoner advocate Sherri Maier, who shared a recording of the conversation with CBC News in Saskatchewan. Gordon is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

He said they asked the guard how long they’d have to live under such conditions, without access to mental health services or elders. 

“But he was just like, ‘All you guys are going to be locked down 23½ hours for a … long time, because until you guys have no COVID-19 on the unit, this unit is going to be run like this,'” Gordon told Maier.

Gordon was recently sent to a maximum security unit after a confrontation with a guard. He said conditions there are significantly better because it’s a newer part of the prison and cells have doors with windows instead of bars.

The CSC said it is looking into Gordon’s allegations.

Class-action lawsuit alleges negligence

Inmates at federal institutions including Stony Mountain and SaskPen are now preparing written statements for a class-action lawsuit launched initially on behalf of an inmate at Mission Institution east of Vancouver.

That lawsuit has since expanded to include the whole country except for Quebec, which operates under a different civil law system. A certification hearing is scheduled in Vancouver for January 2022.

“Prisoners who are known to have COVID are put with prisoners who don’t have COVID. That’s by definition negligent,” said Jeffrey Hartman, one of the lawyers involved in the suit.

Lawyer Jeffrey Hartman is part of a legal group launching a class-action lawsuit on behalf of federal prisoners in Canada. The suit alleges the federal government has failed in its duty to protect inmates from COVID-19. (Hartman Law)

Hartman says there is no question the federal government has failed in its duty to protect inmates despite having adequate time to prepare for the second wave.

Those systemic failures resulted in loss of life, widespread illness and unprecedented restrictions of inmates’ rights, he said.

A similar class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of inmates at Joliette Institution for Women north of Montreal. There are also two lawsuits launched by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society, alleging the federal government violated prisoners’ charter rights by locking them down for so long as part of COVID-19 restrictions.

None of the allegations in any of the lawsuits has been proven in court.  

Lockdown lifted

Meanwhile, range representatives from Stony Mountain’s inmate welfare committee said they were called to a meeting last week with senior prison management.

They were told that with no active COVID-19 cases right now, some of the lockdown restrictions are being lifted.

“The point of the meeting wasn’t to apologize,” said Mulata Ibrahim, 35, a unit rep who is serving a seven-year sentence for drug trafficking. “It was that they’re trying to move forward and saying, ‘What can we do now to make it easier for you guys?'”

After the meeting, inmates started receiving food three times a day instead of just two, and many were able to go outside for the first time in months, Ibrahim said.

In a statement, the CSC said it has put in place extensive infection prevention and control measures in its 43 institutions.

They include:

  • Mandatory mask-wearing for inmates and staff. 
  • Physical distancing measures. 
  • Active health screening of anyone entering institutions. 
  • Increased and enhanced cleaning and disinfection at sites. 
  • Training 250 employees to conduct contact tracing.
  • Carrying out significant testing among inmates and staff, including asymptomatic individuals.

The CSC has also completed its first phase of 600 COVID-19 vaccinations, which includes an unknown number of older, medically vulnerable inmates at Stony Mountain.

The department had no comment on the class-action lawsuits.

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