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Ontario sees 1,371 new COVID-19 cases, another record day for vaccinations –



Ontario reported another 1,371 cases of COVID-19 on Friday as a pilot project to offer vaccines at pharmacies expands.

With the exception of March 8, when a data issue caused the case count to be artificially inflated by about 300, this morning’s number is the highest on a single day since February 7.

It comes one day after Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table revealed that virus variants of concern now account for about 42 per cent of all new infections in the province.  

The additional cases reported today include 371 in Toronto, 225 in Peel Region, 111 in York Region and 109 in Hamilton, according to Minister of Health Christine Elliott. 

These public health units saw double-digit increases:

  • Ottawa: 83
  • Thunder Bay: 52
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 43
  • Windsor-Essex: 39
  • Sudbury: 37
  • Waterloo Region: 36
  • Durham Region: 35
  • Halton Region: 34
  • Middlesex-London: 31
  • Lambton: 27
  • Niagara Region: 22
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 19
  • Northwestern: 13
  • Eastern Ontario: 12
  • Brant County: 11
  • Chatham-Kent: 10
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District: 10

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.)

They come as labs completed 64,611 tests for SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 2.4 per cent.

Labs also confirmed 49 more cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, bringing the total to 1,005. A single additional case of the variant found in South Africa was identified, while six more instances of the variant identified in Brazil were confirmed.

Identifying a specific variant of concern requires whole genomic sequencing, an intensive process that leads to significant reporting lags, sometimes up to several weeks.

That means those figures don’t represent the actual number of cases linked to variants of concern. A total of 6,859 samples that tested positive for COVID-19 also screened positive for a tell-tale mutation that points to the presence of a variant of concern.

An updated analysis from the science advisory table this morning suggests that the reproduction value — an estimate of how many people each positive case will go on to infect — for variants of concern is about 1.26. Any value above one suggests that the rate of new cases is growing. 

The seven-day average of daily total cases, which climbed to 1,269 today, has been trending steadily upward for the last week.

The Ministry of Education reported another 137 school-related infections: 99 students and 38 staff members. There are currently 34 schools due to the illness, or about 0.7 per cent of all publicly-funded schools in Ontario.

Public health units recorded the deaths of 18 more people with the illness, pushing the official toll to 7,127.

Meanwhile, it was a second consecutive day of record-high vaccinations, with 43,503 doses administered yesterday. A total of 282,748 people in Ontario have been given both shots of a vaccine.

Today, more pharmacies were expected to begin offering appointments for a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 60 to 64.

WATCH | Toronto pharmacist Victor Wong discusses Ontario’s vaccine rollout:

Some Ontario pharmacies have begun offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to residents 60 to 64 this week 4:58

The pilot project is running in three public health units: Toronto, Windsor-Essex and Kingston, Frontenac and Lennon & Addington (KFLA).

Of the initial shipment of 194,500 doses, pharmacies are set to administer about 165,000, while the remaining 29,500 will go to primary care providers.

Primary care physicians in six public health units are expected to begin offering shots as soon as this weekend.

Furthermore, Toronto announced this morning that residents aged 80 and over will have opportunity to book one of 133,000 spots for an immunization at three mass vaccination clinics opening next week.

4 regions tightening restrictions

On Monday, four public health units will be moving to new colour-coded levels in the provincial COVID-19 framework, tightening restrictions in all four regions. 

The following changes take effect Monday, March 15, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.

  • Lambton Public Health will move into Grey-Lockdown from Red-Control.
  • Northwestern Health Unit will move into Red-Control from Yellow-Protect.
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit will move into Yellow-Protect from Green-Prevent.

The province moved Public Health Sudbury and Districts region into the Grey-Lockdown level as of 12:01 a.m. Friday from Red-Control.

Capacity limits increasing for weddings, funerals

The province also announced a change for capacity limits at weddings, funerals and religious ceremonies for regions in the Grey-Lockdown level. Starting Monday, these events will be allowed to have up to 15 per cent capacity indoors and up to 50 people outdoors. That’s a change from previous rules, which allowed just 10 people to gather both indoors and outdoors.

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3 Ways to Incorporate CBD Into Your Spring Wellness Plan



Canada’s cannabis market has grown significantly since it first became legal in 2018 — when the federal government legalized the plant for recreational use. Since that time, the market has developed into a variety of avenues. From edibles to beverages and beyond, the number of legal products available continues to grow.

As spring weather takes over from the cold winter months, there is an opportunity for novice and experienced CBD users to incorporate this newly legal plant into their diets and wellness routines. Let’s take a look at three popular ways to incorporate CBD into your spring diet.

1.   Food & Drink

The food and beverages we consume have a significant impact on our overall health and wellness. The incorporation of edibles is one of the fastest-growing avenues of legal CBD production in Canada. Consumers are gravitating towards the discretionary and efficiency functions of edibles.

As more licenced businesses begin to set up shop across the country, the variety of products available shows genuine promise — whether it’s with gummies or a sweet chamomile herbal tea, this is where Canada’s entrepreneurs are shining.

The CBD properties in edibles are becoming a go-to for many consumers looking to regulate their appetites, improve muscle function, and treat mood irregularities. Incorporating CBD into your spring diet may be a gradual process, particularly if you’re new to the experience. The easiest way to experiment is with the smallest dosage recommended and gauge your body’s reaction — as time goes on, you may be able to incorporate a higher dosage into your food or drink.

2.   Improving Sleep

Developing a healthy sleep pattern is a crucial part of your mental and physical health. The conversation around CBD and improved sleep is ongoing, though it shows promise. Since CBD is a non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, it could offer therapeutic benefits without the attached high that comes with the same plant’s THC compounds.

Oils are one of the most popular ways to incorporate CBD into a sleeping ritual — consumers can choose to add the oil directly to their skin or add a few droplets to their diffusers while they sleep. The way the CBD compound reacts to the body’s serotonin receptors and the brain’s receptors is continuously studied. Consumers can use the available research and reports to decide whether adding CBD to their nighttime routine is the right choice for their lifestyle.

3.   Fitness Routine

Incorporating CBD has been a growing fundamental practice for anyone looking to improve their physical fitness. We know CBD is one of the many chemical compounds found in cannabinoids. Still, Cannabinoids actually exist in our bodies via our endocannabinoid system — which is known to regulate various functions in our body from appetite and mood to sleep and memory.

For those looking to add a therapeutic remedy to their active lifestyle, topical CBD products could be the answer. Massage oil or body cream has the potential to improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and aid in the recovery of soft tissue injuries.

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Rogers Communications revenue boosted by cable power



(Reuters) -Canadian telecoms operator Rogers Communications Inc trumped first-quarter revenue estimates on Wednesday, buoyed by strong demand in its cable unit that provides internet and cloud-based services.

Total revenue rose 2% to C$3.49 billion ($2.77 billion) in the quarter, compared with analysts’ average estimate of C$3.35 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Telecom providers have benefited from a surge in demand for high-speed internet from the COVID-19 pandemic caused shift to remote working and entertainment.

Revenue from the media segment, which includes television, radio broadcasting and digital media, rose 7% to C$440 million, boosted by the return of live professional sports broadcasting.

Cable service revenue increased 5% during the quarter.

Rogers, which is looking to expand its 5G infrastructure, said in March it was buying Canadian telecom services provider Shaw Communications Inc for about C$20 billion ($16.02 billion).

However, the company’s wireless service reported a 6% drop in revenue, hit by lower roaming revenue from fresh pandemic-induced travel curbs.

Net income rose to C$361 million, or 70 Canadian cents per share, from C$352 million, or 68 Canadian cents, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 77 Canadian cents per share, while analysts had expected 66 Canadian cents.

U.S.-listed shares of Rogers, which did not provide second-quarter forecast due to pandemic-led uncertainty, rose nearly 1% in low pre-market trading volumes.

($1 = 1.2596 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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Canadian National challenges Canadian Pacific with $33.7 billion Kansas City bid



By Shreyasee Raj

(Reuters) -Canadian National said on Tuesday it had offered to buy Kansas City Southern railroad for about $33.7 billion, and shares of U.S. company soared as investors anticipated a potential bidding war with Canadian Pacific.

Canadian Pacific had agreed a deal to acquire Kansas City Southern for about $25 billion last month. Either combination would create a North American railway spanning the United States, Mexico and Canada as supply chains recover from being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The acquisition interest in Kansas City Southern also follows the ratification of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement last year, that removed the threat of trade tensions which had escalated under former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kansas City said it would evaluate Canadian National’s offer. If it found it could lead to a better deal, Canadian Pacific will be given the opportunity to raise its bid.

Canadian National’s cash-and-stock offer, worth $325 per share, is at a 26.8% premium to Kansas City Southern’s offer as of Monday’s trading close.

“We are surprised by this move given the healthy valuation Canadian Pacific had already offered to Kansas City Southern shareholders,” Stephens analyst Justin Long wrote in a note to clients.

Kansas City Southern shares rose 15.8% to $297.12, indicating most investors deemed it unlikely the company would stick with Canadian Pacific’s offer.

One investor that took a different view is Chilton Investment Co, which has a less than 1% stake in Kansas City Southern. Citing regulatory hurdles, it said it preferred a deal with Canadian Pacific.

“There’s more overlap with Canadian National deal which makes it harder to get (regulatory) approval. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) doesn’t like overlap,” Chilton CEO Richard Chilton said.

Canadian National CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest said his network and that of Kansas City Southern are “highly complementary networks with limited overlap.” They only run parallel for 65 miles, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Kansas City Southern has domestic and international rail operations in North America, focused on the north-south freight corridor connecting commercial and industrial markets in the central United States with industrial cities in Mexico. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific is Canada’s No. 2 railroad operator, behind Canadian National.

The STB updated its merger regulations in 2001 to introduce a requirement that Class I railways have to show a deal is in the public interest. Yet it provided an exemption to Kansas City Southern given its small size, potentially limiting the scrutiny that its acquisition will be subjected to.

Canadian Pacific agreed in its negotiations with Kansas City Southern to bear most of the risk of the deal not going through. It will buy Kansas City Southern shares and place them in an independent voting trust, insulating the acquisition target from its control until the STBLatest clears the deal. Were the STB to reject the combination, Canadian Pacific would have to sell the shares of Kansas City Southern, but the current Kansas City Southern shareholders would keep their proceeds.

Canadian National said it was willing to match these terms. It said its offer does not require approval from its own shareholders because of how much cash it has, eliminating a condition in Canadian Pacific’s offer.

Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, which is Canadian National’s biggest investor with a 14.25% stake, said it fully supports the combination.

A private equity consortium led by Blackstone Group Inc and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) made an unsuccessful offer last year to acquire Kansas City Southern. But it was Canadian Pacific’s announcement of a deal with Kansas City Southern that spurred Canadian National into action, as it raised the prospect of losing out to its rival, according to people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Shreyasee Raj and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Anil D’Silva and David Gregorio)

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