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OTTAWA to replace CERB with new benefit, simplified EI program at cost of $37B

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Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Published Thursday, August 20, 2020 2:44PM EDT


Last Updated Thursday, August 20, 2020 8:05PM EDT

OTTAWA – The federal Liberals are rolling out a $37-billion income-support plan for workers whose earnings have crashed during the pandemic, providing a hint of future changes to the social safety net – and igniting a debate about what should stay.

The details released Thursday outline what the Liberals intend for some four million workers receiving the $500-a-week Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is set to wind down starting next month.

The CERB will be extended another four weeks, and a new benefit that pays $400 a week for up to 26 weeks will replace it for those ineligible for employment insurance, such as contract, self-employed and “gig” economy workers.

Anyone eligible for EI will get the same minimum for at least 26 weeks and will need to have worked 120 hours to qualify, well below current EI requirements, since many Canadians have been unable to work to the pandemic.

There will also be $500-a-week sickness benefit and caregiving benefit for anyone who has to stay home because they’re ill, or because school or daycare is closed.

Changes are also coming to people to keep more of their benefits even while they’re working, eliminating the earnings cliff created under CERB that acted as a disincentive to work.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the changes were designed to give Canadians a longer-term view of the support they could receive, while also acknowledging the outlook beyond 2021 is uncertain.

She said the government’s upcoming throne speech will outline plans to close the gaps in the decades-old EI system, and redesign it to reflect how Canadians work now and into the future.

“If there’s anything this pandemic has shown us, it is that our EI system hasn’t kept up with the way work has evolved and we now have a chance to fix that for the better,” Qualtrough said.

The three new benefits are expected to cost $22 billion and will be brought in through legislation once the House of Commons returns after being prorogued this week.

The extension to the $80-billion CERB is expected to cost a further $8 billion, and $7 billion more to the EI system, and can be done through powers that Qualtrough already has to create temporary EI measures.

The costs are for one year, but are dependent on the course of the pandemic and how the labour market rebounds from historic job losses.

“It is all about keeping things smooth,” TD senior economist Brian DePratto wrote in a note. “The last thing the Canadian economy needs right now is for a large group of people to experience a sudden drop in incomes (and by extension, spending) that could disrupt the recovery process.”

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Unifor national president Jerry Dias, said this will provide relief to worried workers, but emphasized the need for more permanent changes.

Ricardo Tranjan, a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said the changes address problems identified in the safety net: “There’s actually no good reason for not making them permanent right now,” he said in an interview.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business voiced concerns about how any permanent changes could increase costs for small businesses in the long run, which could also slow an economic recovery.

“EI changes that may make sense during a worldwide pandemic may have massive unintended consequences in ordinary times,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a statement.

EI premiums for employers and workers will be frozen for the next two years, which newly minted Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said is intended to ease costs on employers to prod them to rehire workers.

Parliament is to resume Sept. 23 with a speech from the throne, leaving only a few days for legislative debate before the CERB expires. NDP employment critic Daniel Blaikie said that means the people who need these benefits won’t know for weeks if these changes will pass.

“If job No. 1 was to give Canadians some meaningful certainty about their financial future, I’m not sure they achieved that,” he said in an interview.

Conservative employment critic Dan Albas said shuffling Canadians between programs wasn’t a viable plan, and criticized the Liberals for being too slow to act.

“This includes the Liberals’ refusal to fix the EI system for new and expecting parents, which they could have made months ago,” Albas said in a statement. “Canadians are rightly concerned about falling through the cracks during this transition.”

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said in a statement the proposed changes seem to meet his party’s demands, but they should have been passed before Parliament was prorogued. He warned Trudeau against “holding workers and businesses hostage” to the throne speech being adopted.

The government estimates about one million people will need the new workers’ benefit that replaces the CERB. A further three million will go on the simplified EI program, which one federal official said is a number more typical to what would be seen over one year or two.

Officials spoke at a media briefing Thursday provided on the condition they not be identified. They also noted that 400,000 people will receive benefits who otherwise wouldn’t have qualified for EI.

Since mid-March, the CERB has paid almost $69.4 billion in benefits to 8.61 million people, of which 4.1 million have since returned to the labour market.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2020.

– With files from Mia Rabson

Source: – CP24 Toronto’s Breaking News

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Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine candidate begins phase 3 trial – Global News

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Johnson & Johnson is beginning a huge final study to try to prove if a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine can protect against the virus.

The study starting Wednesday will be one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine studies so far, testing the shot in 60,000 volunteers in the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

A handful of other vaccines in the U.S. — including shots made by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. — and others in other countries are already in final-stage testing. Hopes are high that answers about at least one candidate being tested in the U.S. could come by year’s end, maybe sooner.

U.S. health officials insist the race for a vaccine isn’t cutting corners.

Read more:
9 drugmaker executives testing coronavirus vaccines pledge safety, high standards

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“We want to do everything we can without sacrificing safety or efficacy — we’re not going to do that — to make sure that we end up with vaccines that are going to save lives,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told reporters.

But many vaccine specialists question whether the Food and Drug Administration will stick to that goal under intense pressure from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has consistently presented a faster timeline for a new vaccine than experts say is adequate to fully test the candidates.

Meanwhile, testing of still another experimental vaccine, made by AstraZeneca, remains on hold in the U.S. as officials examine a safety question, even though studies have resumed in other countries.

Earlier this week, Vice-President Mike Pence urged state governors to “do your part to build public confidence that it will be a safe and effective vaccine.”






5:37
Coronavirus: Trump says his administration expects vaccines for every American by April


Coronavirus: Trump says his administration expects vaccines for every American by April

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, added in the call to governors that he is confident in “a tried and true process” that has checks and balances built in, including an independent board evaluating the progress of each vaccine trial, as well as “the integrity of the FDA.”

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A recording of the call was provided to The Associated Press.

Senators were scheduled to question FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Fauci and other administration officials later Wednesday about the pandemic response.

Even if the FDA were to allow emergency use of a vaccine by year’s end, supplies would be limited and given first to vulnerable groups such as health workers. Most Americans aren’t likely to receive a vaccine until sometime next year.

Read more:
Canada to join global coronavirus vaccine procurement program

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants states to get ready now to roll out vaccinations, which will present enormous logistical challenges. On Wednesday the CDC was set to announce distribution of $200 million in congressionally approved funds to help begin setting up operations.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the COVID-19 vaccine campaign will build on longstanding co-operation between the federal government and the states on immunizations.

J&J’s vaccine is made with slightly different technology than others in late-stage testing, modeled on an Ebola vaccine the company created. Unlike the other three vaccines that started late-stage testing in the U.S., it requires only one shot, not two. Despite a later start to testing than some of its competitors, Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, told reporters that the study was large enough to yield answers possibly by early next year.

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Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Johnson & Johnson begins giant trial testing one-dose COVID shot – BNN

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Johnson & Johnson has begun dosing up to 60,000 volunteers in a study of its COVID-19 vaccine, marking the first big U.S. trial of an inoculation that may work after just one shot.

J&J became the fourth vaccine maker to move its candidate into late-stage human studies in the U.S. If enrollment goes as expected, the trial could yield results as soon as year-end, allowing the company to seek emergency authorization early next year, should it prove effective, according to Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels.

“A single dose could be a very efficient tool to combat the pandemic as it is faster acting,” he said Wednesday in an interview. Animal models and early human studies showed that one shot of its vaccine generated a strong immune response in just 15 days, he said.

The final-stage study will pit the vaccine against a placebo injection, with a goal of showing whether it reduces cases of moderate to severe COVID-19, “the most important part of the disease to prevent,” Stoffels said. J&J is also looking at whether the shot curbs the virus’s spread.

The company’s shares rose as much as 2.3 per cent in New York.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company published detailed trial plans on Wednesday. Frontrunners Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc have already done the same in a broader transparency push.

“It is likely that multiple COVID-19 vaccine regimens will be required to meet the global need,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a statement. J&J’s vaccine “may be especially useful in controlling the pandemic if shown to be protective after a single dose.”

The study is nearly two months behind those of Moderna, working with NIAID, and Pfizer, partnered with BioNTech SE, whose final-stage trials started in late July. Pfizer has said it could get efficacy results by the end of October. Those vaccines use two-dose regimens.

J&J’s vaccine could offer an advantage in distribution over those inoculations, which require vaccination sites to ensure recipients return for their second dose. The company also said its vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for three months, far longer than the Pfizer vaccine that requires deep freezing for long-term storage.

“In countries where there is less health-care infrastructure, it can be much better used at a very large scale,” Stoffels told Bloomberg. “Single dose, easy to use in the field are the main characteristics that make it different.”

Years in the Making

The J&J product is made from a cold virus, called an adenovirus, that’s modified to make copies of the coronavirus’s spike protein, which the pathogen uses to enter cells. The altered virus can’t replicate in humans, but it induces an immune response that prepares the body for an actual COVID-19 infection. The vaccine was developed with researchers at Harvard University who have spent years working on the adenovirus vaccine platform, which is also used in J&J’s Ebola vaccine.

The health-care behemoth is running the study in conjunction with NIAID and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at sites in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and other countries. It will include significant representation among those over the age of 60, as well as minorities at disproportionate risk of becoming infected, including Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples, according to a statement.

J&J has also agreed to collaborate with the U.K. on a separate phase 3 clinical trial that will test a two-dose regimen of the vaccine in multiple countries, with two months between each dose, according to Stoffels. That booster could be critical to providing long-term protection, he said.

Trial Protocol

The decision to begin the final-stage trial was based on data from an earlier human study that showed a single shot was safe and stimulated a strong immune response, Stoffels said.

Like other final-stage vaccine trials, J&J’s study is monitored by an independent board of doctors and statisticians who wait for a certain number of coronavirus cases to accumulate before looking at the data.

The trial aims to accumulate 154 cases for a final analysis. If the vaccine turns out to be more than 90% effective, the study could produce results after just 20 cases, Stoffels said. He said that scenario is unlikely, though.

J&J’s trial appears to have stringent criteria for declaring early success that prevent a readout based on very short-term results in patients with relatively moderate symptoms. Based on discussions with U.S. regulators, the data won’t undergo its first analysis until at least half of participants have been vaccinated for two months or more.

The study will also have to accrue at least 5 severe cases for an early readout. And to be considered a success, the absolute number of severe cases needs to be half of that in the placebo group, along with other benchmarks, according to documents posted on J&J’s website.

Still, the study will take less time to complete than it would with two doses. Scientists will start counting cases just 15 days after patients get their inoculations or placebo shots.

Despite accelerated timelines, Operation Warp Speed won’t cut corners in confirming vaccine safety or efficacy, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said on the Tuesday media call. “That absolutely will not be allowed to happen,” he said.

Stoffels said J&J will continue to clinch new manufacturing partnerships to meet its 1 billion dose production goal for 2021. The company has already kick-started at-risk manufacturing in hopes the shot will prove successful in the clinic.

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The 6 Big Takeaways From Tesla’s Battery Day – CleanTechnica

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The overall content of the Tesla Battery Day presentation might have been overwhelming for those who do not have a technical background in battery development. The level of abstraction that Elon Musk and Drew Baglino presented relative to Tesla’s battery tech was surprisingly low, even though I’m sure they thought their presentation was just an overview.

Elon Musk talks batteries (Source: Tesla)

Given that, it might be a good idea to “pull the lens back” just a bit and discuss the major takeaways:

1. The holy grail of battery tech — a cost of less than $100 per kWh — will be achieved and production-ready in less three years. That means a significant reduction in vehicle cost and the real likelihood that a mass-market, $25,000 Tesla will be available in three years.

2. The technical breakthroughs and improvements presented during the battery day presentation mean that a transition away from fossil fuels for most, if not all, energy needs is no longer a pipe dream. If Tesla can achieve (and it’s likely that it will) a 3 TWh battery production capability within the next decade, the entire face of the energy and power delivery system will be transformed.

3. The new paradigm that Tesla uses for building the “machine that builds the machine” is groundbreaking, representing substantial improvement that will increase production capacity and lower production costs. Tesla used vertical integration, avoids sub-optimization, and makes the entire production process more efficient. This paradigm will bode well for Tesla’s ability to produce cars and trucks in great volume. The capital investment (CapEx) in production facilities will be less costly than originally assumed, making the company more profitable.

4. Tesla is building an increasingly bigger “moat” that will enable it to keep even the most able competitors at bay. Batteries are the pivotal element for long range, high performance and low cost EVs. From what we’ve seen, there’s no other company that’s even close to the battery tech that was previewed during Battery Day.

5. Tesla and Musk care more about the stuff that really matters — the underlying tech infrastructure for building EVs — than they do about the “bling” of new vehicle designs every years. It’s the tech infrastructure that really matters for long-term success.

6. Tesla is not resting on its laurels. It appears that they’re working to jettison existing methods and approaches to EV design and production, replacing them with new and better ideas.

And finally … it’s hard to imagine any other CEO at a major auto company that can drive technical effort in the manner that Elon Musk has accomplished to date. Much like SpaceX, this rate of progress could accelerate in the coming years. As Musk says, Tesla is a “hardcore engineering” company … and it shows in their relentless pursuit of improvement.

 

 

 

 

Source: – Alberni Valley News

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