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Provinces counter rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations with new measures – Global News

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Provinces are putting new measures in place to deal with an Omicron-fuelled rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, including delaying in-person schooling in Ontario by two weeks and bringing in the military to help Quebec speed up its third-dose vaccination program.

Ontario joined a number of jurisdictions that already announced a postponed return to in-person learning, declaring the delay Monday along with a slew of new restrictions that puts the province back into a “modified Step 2” of pandemic recovery as of Wednesday.

Read more:

Ontario moves schools to online learning, bans indoor dining and issues new COVID capacity restrictions

Premier Doug Ford said in a news conference that virtual learning will replace in-person classes until Jan. 17. The news backtracked on an announcement made last week that in-person classes would resume this Wednesday.

“With the new variant, the ground is shifting every single day,” Ford said. “The level of absenteeism we’re seeing in other sectors tells us with absolute certainty that operating schools and ensuring teachers are on the job and not home sick will be a challenge we cannot overcome in the short term.”


Click to play video: 'Ontario implementing new COVID restrictions as Omicron cases surge'



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Ontario implementing new COVID restrictions as Omicron cases surge


Ontario implementing new COVID restrictions as Omicron cases surge

Ontario said 1,232 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, including 248 patients in intensive care units.

The province reported 13,578 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, though experts have said the restricted eligibility for PCR testing Ontario announced last week means that number is likely much higher.

Read more:

A list of the new COVID-19 measures that will take effect on Wednesday in Ontario

Newfoundland and Labrador also announced new restrictions Monday, placing the province in “Alert Level 4” as chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald urged residents to keep non-essential contacts low.

The province’s new plan, which includes further capacity restrictions at gyms and restaurants, will be re-assessed on Jan. 17.


Click to play video: 'Some Atlantic Canada provinces ramp up restrictions to protect hospitals'



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Some Atlantic Canada provinces ramp up restrictions to protect hospitals


Some Atlantic Canada provinces ramp up restrictions to protect hospitals

Fitzgerald noted that active cases in Newfoundland have increased from 30 to nearly 3,000 in the last two weeks, adding that anyone with symptoms after close contact with a known case should forego a PCR test and assume they have the virus.

Newfoundland reported 519 new COVID-19 cases on Monday.

“At this point, the sheer number of cases is overwhelming public health capacity for case investigation,” Fitzgerald said. “This means we do not have the epidemiological data to show where the spread is or is not occurring.”


Click to play video: 'Canadian army rolls in Quebec to hasten COVID-19 vaccination'



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Canadian army rolls in Quebec to hasten COVID-19 vaccination


Canadian army rolls in Quebec to hasten COVID-19 vaccination

Meanwhile, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said on Twitter Monday that members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to Quebec to speed up the province’s vaccination efforts. Quebec’s booster program is set to expand Tuesday to those 18 and older.

Up to 200 personnel are being deployed at vaccination centres in Montreal, the Defence Department said in a statement.

In-person classes are already delayed until Jan. 17 in Quebec, where a curfew came into effect on New Year’s Eve to help ease record-high cases.

The province reported 15,293 new cases on Monday. It also logged 1,396 hospitalizations, including 181 patients in intensive care, and 15 additional deaths.

Alberta, Nova Scotia and British Columbia all previously announced delays for the return of in-person learning, with a targeted Jan. 10 start date. Manitoba, which expected students to return on Jan. 6 following the holiday break, later extended that to the 10th.

Read more:

Ontario reports 13,578 new COVID cases, more people in hospital and ICUs

But calls to delay that further have already begun.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society issued a statement Dec. 31 urging the province to move schools to “Code Red” status for the month of January, putting remote learning back into effect amid Omicron’s rapid spread.

Manitoba health officials said Monday that case counts surged by thousands since the last update on Dec. 31.

The province said there are now 15,318 active cases in the province, up from 9,924 reported on Friday. That figure includes 1,721 new infections logged on Sunday.

Ontario’s lengthy list of what Ford called “targetted and time-limited” restrictions include reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 outdoors, closing indoor dining at restaurants and bars and shuttering indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas and gyms.


Click to play video: 'No new COVID-19 restrictions in N.S. but ‘things can change very quickly’ says premier'



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No new COVID-19 restrictions in N.S. but ‘things can change very quickly’ says premier


No new COVID-19 restrictions in N.S. but ‘things can change very quickly’ says premier

Health minister Christine Elliott said the measures would be in place for at least 21 days, adding that the rapid rise of Omicron cases combined with a hospital staff shortage due to infection and exposure, could threaten hospital capacity “if further action isn’t taken to curb transmission.”

“As the evidence on Omicron continues to evolve, our pandemic response must evolve with it,” she said.

Health officials in Nova Scotia reported 1,020 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, including 36 people in hospital. The province also expanded booster eligibility for those over the age of 30.

Top doctor Robert Strang said he was cautiously encouraged by the province’s low hospitalization rate, but warned things could change quickly.

“Right now we can’t justify a stricter lockdown, but nor can we justify throwing the doors wide open,” Strang said, adding Nova Scotians could “accept a fair degree of spread” in order to continue seeing small groups of family and friends and attend school.

“However, we also have to work together to slow the spread of the Omicron variant to protect the vulnerable people in the health-care system.”

Read more:

COVID-19: Quebec updates curfew exemptions to include dog walking

COVID-19 activity has also been surging in Yukon, with the territory reporting 158 new cases since Friday and a 32 per cent test positivity rate.

Meanwhile, Supreme and provincial courts said they are postponing in-person trials in British Columbia this week as they work with public health officials to update their COVID-19 safety policies.

In Alberta, new, shortened isolation measures began Monday. People with at least two doses of vaccine who test positive for COVID-19 only need to isolate for five days instead of 10.

The five-day isolation period is similar to recommendations recently announced in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and B.C. Symptoms must be fully resolved by the end of the five-day period, otherwise people must continue to isolate.

Read more:

Quebec reports 15,293 COVID-19 cases as major hospital postpones half of surgeries

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau tweeted Monday she had tested positive for COVID-19 despite spending the holiday season quietly at home.

Bibeau said she is following public health guidance and continuing to work virtually through her isolation.

“My symptoms are mild,” she said. “I want to emphasize how important it is to get vaccinated and thank the health workers working hard to get us through this wave.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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Change your Perspective (Plastic use)

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Ditch the Disposables (Plastic use).
Since 1950, the world has produced 9.2 tonnes of plastic, of which only 10% has been recycled. Did you know? that a single-use bag is used for only 12 minutes? Here are some small actions we can do that could add up to huge results.
There are many ways to reduce the use of disposable items:
Bring your own reusable mugs( many coffee shops offer discounts when you bring in your own mug).
Bring your own bags shopping.
Refuse single-use plastics like straws and utensils.
Use reusable alternatives like beeswax wraps and containers for food storage.

Swap, Share, and Repair

In today’s society products are short-lived and disposable. Sharing and repairing are some of the best ways to reduce household waste and money.
There are many actions we can take to extend a product’s lifespan.
Shop at thrift stores.
Borrow or rent instead of buying new, especially for a tool or appliance that you can only use occasionally.
Use the library system to borrow or download your next read.
Sell or give away items you no longer use.
Learn how to make basic repairs. Local repair groups are a great resource.
Get to know your local repair shops. Always go local.

Food-Just Eat In.

Did you know that 1/4 of the food the average household buys is thrown out, and half of that food is edible? The average Canadian household spends $1,766.00 on food that is wasted over a year and that costs the Canadian economy$49 billion annually.
What to do?
Make a meal plan.
Make a grocery list and stick to it.
Practice first in, first out positioning new products behind older ones.
Get creative with leftovers.
Understand best before dates and store food properly.
Participate in The Circular Economy.
A circular economy means moving towards a system of production and consumption that involves reusing, sharing, leasing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling materials and products as long as possible.
Above all else, put pressure upon corporations that make your favorite products and products that you consume daily. You must demand better, longer-lasting, and longer-lasting products. Better ways to package items, and always buy locally, as it guarantees freshness and accountability. If you are not satisfied with a product, it is easier to communicate with a local firm other than one a world away.
Buying Locally is a democratic process we can all enjoy.
Saving our world, increasing local employment, and saving money all lie within our personal preview.
I know the holidays are upon us, but there is a point when we will need to stand firm against the wasteful economic system we live within. Waste not – Want not. Buy what you need, and not what corporate Canada tells you to buy.
We are the sum total of the choices we have made. it was true in Eleanor’s time and also in ours. We get the society we have made. Do you want your children to have a bright future? Make changes today.
Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca
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Coronavirus: Canada Post employees punished for N95 masks – CTV News

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Canada Post workers risk being sent home from work if they wear masks other than ones issued by the corporation, even if their masks are an upgrade in safety.

Employees who buy their own N95 masks and bring them to work are being told to switch to company issued cloth masks or risk being sent home.

“The mask requirements, like our vaccine mandate, are mandatory and necessary under direction from the (Employment and Social Development Canada [ESDC]),” a spokesperson for Canada Post said in an emailed statement. “Therefore anyone at work must comply.”

“If they don’t have the masks we’ve provided, we have additional masks and disposable medical masks on hand. If an employee still does not wish to comply, they are asked to leave the workplace.”

Canada Post said Public Health Agency of Canada supports the use of cloth masks and that the company following directives from the ESDC that require employees to wear company supplied masks to ensure their quality.

“The company fully supports these guidelines and therefore requires all employees to wear a Canada Post-supplied face covering, which is either a reusable cloth face covering or a disposable medical mask,” Canada Post said.

“Canada Post continues to monitor best practices and recommendations with respect to face coverings, and will update our requirements accordingly.”

In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) National President Jan Simpson said the union is “concerned” that Canada Post is refusing to allow its members to wear N95 masks.

“Research on the new Omicron variant has established it is more transmissible through shared air than earlier variants,” he said in the statement.

“The union has asked Canada Post to provide N95 masks or suitable alternatives to all postal workers, and at the very least, allow those who’ve purchased their own N95 or KN95 masks to wear them. As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, Canada Post Corporation should be doing everything in its power to protect postal workers, who continue to help people stay home and stay safe.”

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From howitzers to heli-bombs: Canadian province fights rising avalanche risk

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British Columbia is rolling out the big guns – literally – to control avalanches that are forcing closures on some major roads for the first time in decades as the Western Canadian province grapples with a snowier-than-usual winter.

B.C. was rocked in 2021 by extreme weather events, including a record-breaking heatwave, wildfires and unprecedented rains that washed out highways and cut off Vancouver, its main city and home to Canada’s busiest port, from the rest of the country.

The province, Canada’s third-largest by population, uses bombs thrown from helicopters, remote-triggered explosives, and a howitzer gun manned by Canada’s military to keep roads safe. But frequent closures for avalanche control are disrupting critical routes to Vancouver.

At the start of this month, B.C.’s alpine snowpack was 15% higher than average, according to the Weather Network channel.

Extreme winter weather, including November’s torrential precipitation, a deep freeze in late December and an early January thaw, has created weak layers in the snowpack, making steep mountain slopes more prone to avalanches that can release without warning onto valleys below.

“It’s been such a volatile fall and winter season so far, we have had rare ‘extreme’ avalanche warnings go out for parts of (B.C.’s) south coast in December and the risk is still considerable in the interior,” said Tyler Hamilton, a Weather Network meteorologist.

Avalanche control missions involve closing sections of highways while teams use explosives to pre-emptively trigger smaller slides, preventing the snowpack from becoming too deep and unstable.

This winter a section of Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, 150 km (93 miles) northeast of Vancouver, needed avalanche control for the first time in 25 years, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said.

Along Highway 99 north of Vancouver, avalanche control and risk-reduction activities are three times the seasonal average, with some slide paths producing avalanches big enough to hit the highway for the first time in more than a decade.

Avalanche control in Allison Pass further south on Highway 3, another key route connecting Vancouver to the rest of Canada, has also been above average, the ministry said.

‘BALANCING ACT’

All three highways were damaged by the November floods, and a busy avalanche control season is putting further strain on provincial resources. The Coquihalla Highway near Hope only reopened to regular traffic on Wednesday, and provincial authorities said record snow and avalanche risk had delayed repairs to Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon.

Further east in the province, avalanche teams in Rogers Pass, a rugged 40-km section of Highway 1 running beneath 135 slide paths in Glacier National Park, are dealing with nearly 30% more snowfall than usual and control missions are also above average.

Highway 1 is Canada’s main east-west artery and approximately 3,000 vehicles traverse Rogers Pass every day in winter. A major Canadian Pacific rail line runs parallel to the highway.

Avalanche control missions involve soldiers from the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, which is stationed in Rogers Pass in winter. They use a howitzer to fire shells packed with 4 kg (8.8 lbs) of explosives in the direction of loaded avalanche paths at 17 different locations along the highway.

“Our goal is to bring down as much snow as we can and bring the hazard down to a point where it’s safe to open the highway,” said Jim Phillips, acting avalanche operations coordinator for Parks Canada, which runs avalanche control in the national parks.

The Rogers Pass program has been running since the highway opened in 1961. Before that, CP trains crossing the Selkirk Mountains in winter ran a higher risk of deadly snow slides, including one that killed 62 railway workers in 1910.

So far this winter the team has fired 333 howitzer rounds, produced 197 controlled avalanches and closed the highway for 43 hours over seven separate days.

Phillips said his team also uses heli-bombing and remote-trigger systems to set off detonations, and spends C$600,000 ($480,346) a year on explosives alone.

“It’s a balancing act. You want to keep traffic moving and minimize closures, but also minimize risk to people using the transportation corridor,” he added.

And winter weather in Canada is far from over.

Avalanche control is typically needed until late April or early May, depending on the snowpack, and the Weather Network forecasts above average winter storm systems returning to B.C. in February and March.

“We’re still in a La Niña situation,” said the Weather Network’s Hamilton, referring to a weather pattern that tends to result in above-average precipitation and cold temperatures in B.C.

($1 = 1.2491 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Paul Simao)

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