Renaldo Agostino has gotten used to the roller coaster ride that is the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Windsor entrepreneur, owner of Turbo Espresso Bar and events company Element Entertainment, is familiar with the negative impacts lockdowns have on his businesses, and the benefits loosened restrictions bring.
But with the Omicron variant spreading in Canada, and with some jurisdictions moving to impose restrictions to limit its impact, Agostino is readying to ride another wave.
“When the highs are high, we’re going to be out there having fun, making money. When the lows are low, we’re going to watch our spending (and) shut everything down. … It’s been so long now that it’s no longer a question of, ‘What if?’” he told Global News.
“I already know what’s going to happen. … It’s not like I’m inexperienced in shutting down. … It’s so ingrained in how we do business these days, it’s almost the new normal.”
Cases of Omicron in Canada are rising, which has public health officials questioning whether to impose restrictions to limit community spread.
In Windsor, where Agostino’s businesses are, the public health unit re-introduced gathering restrictions last week and has ordered restaurants and bars to bring indoor capacity limits down again to 50 per cent.
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In New Brunswick, officials are ordering entertainment venues like movie theatres and casinos to operate at 50 per cent capacity starting Friday. In Nova Scotia, also as of Friday, food and liquor-licensed businesses must have physical distancing between tables and a limit of 20 people per table.
Back in Ontario, Kingston officials have introduced a number of measures intended to last until Dec. 20. They include personal gathering limits of up to five people indoors and outdoors, and restaurants not being able to offer indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Take-out is still permitted.
Chad Comfort, co-owner of Mermaid Avenue Sandwich Factory in Kingston, told Global News it has already seen dine-in business drop since Omicron’s arrival.
The business will be mostly relying on takeout now, he said, acknowledging the experience of going in and out of restrictions has prepared the shop for moments like these.
“We used to buy quite a bit of stock and supplies and always had a healthy amount on hand, (but now) we’re buying more often and a lot less because we don’t want anything to go bad on us in case there is a lockdown,” Comfort said.
“We want to keep everything going on a small scale.”
Are new restrictions coming to Canada?
On Monday, Canada’s chief public health officer warned that community spread of Omicron could ramp up in the coming days, potentially outpacing the Delta variant for the dominant strain of the virus in the country.
Dr. Theresa Tam said if infections keep rising and if Omicron takes hold, new cases could be up to 26,600 a day nationally by mid-January.
With those numbers in play, Dr. Isaac Bogoch feels more jurisdictions will impose restrictions.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if across the country you start to see more and more of that as we see greater community transmission and case numbers rise,” the infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital told Global News.
“I think the writing’s on the wall that the public health teams are thinking about that.”
However, with 76 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, Canadian regions might not see full-scale lockdowns unless hospital systems overflow with patients, said Matthew Miller, associate professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster University.
While lockdowns are effective at reducing community transmission, governments should focus on getting booster shots into high-risk populations quickly, such as the immunocompromised and seniors, he said.
“We’re in a very different place now than we were a year ago in the sense that last year at this point, almost no one had been vaccinated,” Miller said.
“The question will really be: How do we protect our hospital capacity? Certainly, third doses in the highest-risk populations are going to be very helpful for that. We really need to make sure we’re ramping up and getting those doses into everyone 50-plus as quickly as possible.”
Governments across Canada have been doing just that. In Ontario, adults 50 and older can now get booster shots and starting Jan. 4, all those 18 and older will be able to get an extra dose.
Alberta has also announced a wide-expansion of booster doses, where Albertans 18 and older can get extra shots in the new year.
In addition to booster shots, governments should be making COVID-19 rapid testing more available to the public, said Nitin Mohan, assistant professor in the global health systems program at Western University.
“Rapid testing needs to be affordable, and in some cases just made free because I think our main focus should be protecting our health systems and communities right now,” he said.
Rapid COVID-19 testing in Manitoba sees increased demand
Bogoch agrees, adding rapid testing can be used for indoor functions as an extra layer of protection in addition to vaccination and improved ventilation, for example.
“‘If everyone tests negative before they come, that will add an additional level of safety,” he said. “They’re not perfect, but they’re really good.”
In Nova Scotia, the province recently made rapid testing kits available for pick up at libraries. In Ontario, school children are receiving rapid test kids to take home over the holiday break.
Only time will tell what will happen over the holidays, but protecting hospitals must be a priority, Mohan said.
“Our hospital systems have been stretched beyond their capacities for over a year and a half now,” he said.
“Asking them to prepare for another wave would have negative impacts on our society as a whole.”
‘We have to learn how to pivot’
Back in Windsor and Kingston, both Agostino and Comfort are adjusting to business under restrictions once again.
“We have to learn how to pivot,” Agostino said.
“I’m a career nightclub owner who shifted into the coffee business because of COVID. It’s either you shift or you find something else to do with your life.”
Money experts offer their tips to combat inflation
As for Comfort, he worries about how the rising cost of food will impact his sandwich shop this time around.
“We’ve been through this before, but it’s the inflation that’s really scaring me because the price jump … it’s really cutting into your bottom dollar,” Comfort said.
“Inflation is sending some of these prices sky-high, (and) you’re not going to maybe be offering a full menu as you were before because you’re not going to be buying roast beef if it’s costing an arm and a leg.”
— with files from Jamie Mauracher
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Global jobs recovery delayed by pandemic uncertainty, Omicron, ILO says
The global job market will take longer to recover than previously thought, with unemployment set to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023 due to uncertainty about the pandemic’s course and duration, the International Labour Organization said in a report on Monday.
The U.N. agency estimates the equivalent of around 52 million fewer jobs in 2022 versus pre-COVID levels, which amounts to about double its previous estimate from June 2021.
Disruptions are set to continue into 2023 when there will still be around 27 million fewer jobs, it said, warning of a “slow and uncertain” recovery in its World Employment and Social Outlook report for 2022.
“The global labour market outlook has deteriorated since the ILO’s last projections; a return to pre-pandemic performance is likely to remain elusive for much of the world over the coming years,” the report said.
Director-General Guy Ryder told journalists that there were numerous factors behind its revision, saying the “primary one is the continuing pandemic and its variants, notably Omicron.”
The speed of recovery varies across regions, with the European and North American regions showing the most encouraging signs and Southeast Asia and South America lagging behind, according to the report.
Still, the projected deficit in working hours this year represents an improvement over the past two years. In 2021, the ILO estimates there were some 125 million fewer jobs than pre-pandemic levels and in 2020, 258 million fewer.
Overall, around 207 million people are estimated to be unemployed in 2022. However, the report said that the impact would be significantly greater since many people have left the labour force and have yet to return.
Among those are a high number of women https://www.reuters.com/markets/funds/gender-equality-takes-one-step-forward-three-back-during-covid-2021-12-02, often because they have been drawn into unpaid work at home such as teaching children during school closures or caring for sick family members.
The report predicted that the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women’s employment would narrow in the coming years but that a “sizeable gap” would remain.
“There are some anecdotal indications that they are not coming back in the same numbers and in the same portions as men are doing which would lead to concerns that a ‘Long COVID’ effect on gender at work would be a negative one,” said Ryder.
Others who have left the workforce have done so voluntarily as part of a phenomenon some economists call “the great resignation”. Ryder said this appeared to be more prominent in areas of the economy such as health and care giving.
“We do need to look again and to invest further in those areas of economic activity,” he said.
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Chizu Nomiyama)
Black and Racialized Artists, Musicians and Producers Join Forces For THE FREEDOM MARCHING PROJECT
January 2022/Toronto, ON — Rufus John, award-winning Black Caribbean-Canadian R&B/ Soul singer & songwriter is gearing up to release the single, Freedom Marching (Part I). The song will be available for pre-order on January 10th, 2022 and will be featured on the 3-song EP, The Freedom Marching Project, which is slated to be released on February 4th, 2022.
In support of the release of the EP, the project will also consist of; two official music videos, one in-studio performance video, a Call-To-Action Commercial, a Behind the Scenes Docuseries and a website that will feature resources and information for those who are willing to watch, listen and learn to then #JoinTheMarch.
The Freedom Marching Project founded by John, was inspired by the thousands of people who had the courage to use their voice to take action by marching through streets all over the world shouting, “Black Lives Matter!” in what is hailed as the most significant civil rights movement of our generation. The goals of the Project are to use the creative power of Art, Education and Activism to; honor the community leaders who are fighting daily on the frontlines for equity, access, diversity, participation, and rights for Black, Indigenous, racialized communities, to shed light on the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous & Racialized communities and to provide resources and information to those who want to Stay Informed, Get Connected and Take Action.
John’s own music tells life stories of his past. A certified youth worker and mentor, John’s goal is to bring to the fore-front, deeply embedded issues experienced by the youth he helps and to inspire those who want to do more, to listen, to learn and join the movement. John’s mandate has always been to not just connect but to engage. John’s patience & commitment comes from his own experiences & mistakes and the people that helped him. Walking alongside the youth he mentors is not only necessary for their journey but for his. Being in for the long term is important. Showing up is key.
John used his connections within the music industry to bring together some Juno & Grammy award winners & nominees to lend their voices and talents to this special project. Collectively the talented group is called, United Artists 4 change and the ensemble features over 40 Black and Racialized Artists, Musicians and Producers from around Canada. The EP was produced by Da-Rell Clifton, vocally produced by Gary McAuley, Rufus John & Darren Hamilton, and mixed/mastered by Dan Brodbeck. Some of the artists involved are: JRDN, Carlos Morgan, D.O, Chad Price, Dan-e-o, Owen “O Sound” Lee, Dwayne Morgan, Quisha Wint, Jason Simmons (Vocal Paint), The McAuley Boys, Nefe, Clair Davis, Aphrose, D/Shon and The Waterloo Region Mass Choir.
The Freedom Marching Project has partnered with Community leader Selam Debs & the initiative Parents of Black Children. A Go Fund Me page has been set up where people can donate for the month of February and all the proceeds raised via Go Fund Me will be evenly distributed between The Freedom Marching Project and our partners who are combating racism, oppression and discrimination within the current systems and communities.
Jan 10th: Pre save/order Freedom Marching (Part I)
Jan 17th: Docuseries Ep.1
Jan 21st: Docuseries Ep. 2
Jan 26th: Docuseries Ep. 3
Jan 28th: Freedom Marching (Part I) Release
Feb 1st: In Studio Music Video Release
Feb 4th: Full EP Release
Feb 11th & 12th: Music Videos Release
Connect with The Freedom Marching Project:
Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@freedommarchingproject
** Talent available for interviews
Sasha Stoltz Publicity & Management:Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804
National Gaming on Capital Hill
This past January 13th, The US Supreme Court issued two rulings blocking an Occupational Safety and Health Administrations COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for employers who have 100 or more employees, while allowing a separate rule which applies to healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funds.
The 6-3 decision blocked OSHA and other organizations from imposing any such rule. While the OSHA made every effort to enforce temporary emergency standards in its massive organization, it seems the influence and legal pressure applied by both Labor and Corporations to end this attempt to have 84 million workers get COVID-19 vaccinations was too much for the administration.
The Supreme court directed organizations and corporations with more than 100 employees to develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with exceptions for employees that instead are required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face mask at work.
While many corporations and manufacturers did enforce OSHA rules and carry out the needed mass vaccinations, the problem arose that such an organization such as OSHA had never issued such a mandate, and Congress had declined to enact any measure similar to OSHA’s. What do we have here folks? A governmental organization trying to carry out what the Biden Administration has asked to be done in America. The vaccines are available, but a large portion of America remains unvaccinated.
Instead of issuing a Presidential Executive Order declaring an emergency, the Administration has directed a few organizations to do so that they can wait and see if such a mandate will be accepted and approved by the population, labor, and business sectors. Perhaps it is the way this is being done that is the problem for The Supreme court, or the Republican friendly conservative of the court simply outnumber the liberal members. Politics as usual. Ineffectual, unworkable politics where no matter the issue, the Republicans will block any Democratic Administration’s attempt to protect America.
A nation divided, even when the lives of many are at stake. American media makes the storming of the Capital on Jan 6th seem like an emergency, an insurrection of serious substance while the Republicans on the Capital, block in every way possible any attempt to save lives through public safety and health mandates. Remember how the Republican strategy to make Obama Administration seem ineffectual by blocking all legislative efforts? The same Republicans are repeating this strategy with the Biden Administration. A sports analogy whereby one blocks constantly until your opponent makes a mistake and fumbles. While the lives of millions are threatened by COVID-19 these Republicans play games with the nation. Americans are feeling stressed, hopeless, and fearful of their future and yet their elected officials cannot work together to accomplish anything, except perhaps giving themselves a wage increase. Have those on Capital Hill forgotten who they represent?
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