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Variants of concern cause more than 40% of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario, experts say – CBC.ca

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Variants of concern are currently responsible for about 42 per cent of new daily cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, the province’s science advisory table said Thursday.

The group, made up of health experts and professionals, launched a new online dashboard focused on the variants of concern (VOCs). It shows that the variants continue to spread. The data is more or less right on track with what was predicted in models released by the table in late February.

Critically, the reproduction value — an estimate of how many people each positive case will go on to infect — for VOCs is about 1.24, the table said. Any value above one suggests that the rate of new cases is growing. 

Meanwhile, for the “old” variants — those that were present before the current VOCs were circulating — the reproduction value is 0.9.

So far in Ontario, labs have definitively linked 956 cases to the variant first found in the United Kingdom; 41 to the variant identified in South Africa and 28 to the variant found in Brazil.

But those figures are a drastic undercount of the real situation. Specific variants can only be confirmed once the samples have undergone whole genomic sequencing, an intensive process that can lead to reporting lags in the data of up to three weeks.

As of yesterday, however, 6,513 test samples had screened positive for the tell-tale mutation that indicates the presence of a VOC. Labs are still trying to pinpoint specific variants in the vast majority of those samples.

Speaking to CBC News on Thursday afternoon, Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the province’s Science Table, said the province is facing a “race against time” between the variants and vaccines.

Ontario will need to tighten restrictions “very soon,” he said.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news here but looking at these numbers, unless a miracle is happening, and typically miracles don’t happen that fast, this will continue,” Juni said.

“There is no way that this growth all of a sudden will stop spontaneously. This will continue, and we need to pull the emergency brake.”

WATCH | Doctor explains problem with virus variants:

Aggressive COVID-19 variants have the upper hand in Ontario, which is why the province needs to vaccinate as quickly as possible, said Dr. Peter Jüni of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. 3:15

Seeing as some variants are thought to be around 40 per cent more transmissible, how the province previously handled things will not be enough to keep things under control, Juni added.

“So what we now need to do is put all our efforts once more into controlling this thing, better than before if possible … and really vaccinate as fast as we can.”

According to new provincial modelling released Thursday afternoon, the reproduction value for the B117 variant needs to be below 0.7.

Its current value is between 0.8 and 0.9, and it has only approached 0.7 once, the modelling documents say.

Provincial health officials say this “highly transmissible” variant will “soon dominate.”

The science table report also says that aggressive vaccination and sticking with stay-at-home orders would “help avoid a third wave and third lockdown.”

The report also notes that public health measures have helped with cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations.

Focusing vaccination on long-term care homes has helped drive down deaths, it says.

3 possibilities for daily infection rates presented

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said vaccinating in long-term care has been a “clear success.” Now, the province is focusing its attention on the larger community. 

“If we use the tools we have to reduce risk as much as we can, as fast as we can, we will end up protecting all Ontarians,” Brown said.

Provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Thursday that Ontarians have another four to five months “of clear, hard work ahead of us to keep the numbers down.”

Brown provided three scenarios for the next three weeks from the province’s modelling, though he noted there is “a lot of uncertainty” around what will happen in the coming weeks in Ontario.

In the most optimistic scenario, there would be relatively small but continued growth, he said, topping out around 2,000 cases a day. In a medium scenario, cases “increase substantially” up to 6,000 cases a day, he said. A worst case scenario would be even more than that.

“Our behaviour over the next few weeks is critical in determining the quality of our summer,” Brown added.

1,092 new cases as Sudbury set for lockdown

Ontario reported another 1,092 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, while public health units administered a record-high number of vaccine doses.

The 40,610 shots given out yesterday are the most on a single day so far and come as a pilot project to give 194,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to some adults through pharmacies and primary care providers begins in earnest this week.

A total of 281,714 people in Ontario have now had both shots of a vaccine, according to the province’s health ministry.

The new cases reported today include 293 in Toronto, 199 in Peel Region, 79 in York Region and 48 in Thunder Bay — the health unit with the highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita.

An additional 11 cases were also confirmed in Sudbury. This morning, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the province would implement its so-called “emergency brake” to move Sudbury to the grey-lockdown zone of the restrictions framework starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

 WATCH| Torontonians reflect on the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic:

One year ago, the World Health Organization declared the spread of the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic. In response, Justin Trudeau designated March 11 a national day of observance. Greg Ross spoke with some Torontonians to reflect on the toll of the pandemic. 2:24

In a news release, health officials said the decision was made “due to the concerning trends in public health indicators and in consultation with the local medical officer of health.

“From March 3 to 9, 2021, the region’s case rate increased by 54.1 per cent to 75.9 cases per 100,000 people,” the release said. The health unit is currently in the red “control” tier of the colour-coded system.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Ottawa: 64
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 43
  • Windsor-Essex: 39
  • Hamilton: 38
  • Waterloo Region: 37
  • Durham Region: 36
  • Halton Region: 33
  • Lambton: 33
  • Middlesex-London: 26
  • Niagara Region: 26
  • Eastern Ontario: 18
  • Chatham-Kent: 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.)

The seven-day average of new daily cases climbed to 1,252, its highest point in about a month (though it is important to note that, due to a data error, the daily case count on March 8 was artificially inflated by a few hundred infections that should have been reported the previous Saturday).

Meanwhile, labs completed 60,619 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 2.4 per cent.

Labs confirmed another 35 cases of the virus variant first found in the United Kingdom, bringing the total number so far 956. They also reported 11 and two more cases caused by the variants first identified in Brazil and South Africa.

Public health units also recorded the deaths of 10 more people with the illness, pushing Ontario’s official toll to 7,109.

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AIB agrees to life and pensions joint-venture with Canada Life

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Allied Irish Banks on Wednesday said it would form a joint venture with Canada life as it seeks to plug gaps in its life, savings and wealth products.

The joint venture will be equally owned by Canada Life, a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc.

“The move to create this joint venture is aligned with AIB’s stated ambition to complete its customerproduct suite and diversify income,” AIB said in a statement.

“Through this strategic initiative AIB intends to offer customers a range of life protection, pensions, savings and investment options enhanced by integrated digital solutions withcontinued access to our qualified financial advisors.”

The Irish lender highlighted Canada Life’s “deep experience” of the Irish bancassurance market through Irish Life Assurance, which is also a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco.

AIB currently operates under a tied agency distribution agreement with Irish Life, and will enter into a new distribution agreement with the new joint venture company.

Chief Executive Colin Hunt highlighted the need to plug gaps in AIB’s life, savings and wealth products when he set out the bank’s medium-term targets last December.

AIB expects its equity investment in the joint venture will be around 90 million euros ($107.51 million), equating to around 10bps of CET1.($1 = 0.8372 euros)

(Reporting by Graham Fahy;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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Interac: Canada’s Latest Payment Solution Phenomenon

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Few can argue that digital payment methods aren’t central to modern-day society. In recent times, increasing numbers of payment solutions have come to the forefront, offering consumers more choice regarding their transaction preferences. Canada, in particular, has embraced a wide-ranging selection of secure, forward-thinking options. Of those available throughout the country, Interac has piqued the interests of local consumers the most. So, let’s look at why this payment solution is an especially popular option throughout Canada. 

Usable Across Various Markets 

It speaks volumes about Interac’s versatility in that it’s usable across a variety of different industries. Since being founded in 1984, the Canadian interbank network has become integral to numerous markets, including local air travel. Air Canada, which has been operating since 1937, has expanded their accepted payment methods, and now passengers can pay for their flights using Interac. According to the airline’s official website, the Interac Online service lets consumers pay for their tickets via the internet directly from their bank account. 

Not only that, but Interac is also available at Walmart. In November 2020, the two organizations partnered together to expand in-store and online payment options. Walmart has adapted well to the digital trend, with American Banker reporting that they’ve opened Interac Flash sale points throughout their stores. 


Source: Unsplash

Aside from the above, Interac has also taken the digital world by storm. Following its rapid rise to prominence, the solution has also altered the online casino industry, with platforms like Genesis Casino now accepting the transaction type. The provider, which features Interac Canadian casino options, uses the popular payment method to enhance transaction speeds of deposits and withdrawals, as well as security. Players can use Interac Online and Interac e-Transfer to make deposits or withdrawals from their desktops or mobiles as the platform is fully optimized. 

A Reflection of Modern-Day Society 

In recent times, Interac recorded a 55 percent increase in transactions between April and August 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, as per BNN Bloomberg. These figures somewhat reflect the current state of e-Commerce and modern consumerism. Following the rise of Interac and other payment methods, it’s now less troublesome for consumers to complete in-store and online purchases. 


Source: PxHere

There’s an ever-growing perception that land-based businesses need to adapt within the digital era and accept forward-thinking payment methods. According to Cision, Interac is of utmost importance to the Canadian economy, and a year-on-year increase in Interac Debit payments of 333 percent reflects that. Not only that, but Interac e-Transfer payments are growing at 52 percent each year. This Interac-oriented trend appears unlikely to fade over the coming years, with the network being selected as the country’s provider for a new real-time payment system, as per Lexology. 

Consumer Habits are Changing 

There can be no doubt that consumerism has changed drastically over the past decade. The popularity of Interac suggests that a cashless future may be on the horizon, with increasing numbers of shoppers enjoying the security of online payment methods. While it’s currently unclear if that will happen, Interac appears to be prevalent for the long run.

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Your Education and Certificates Need to Align the Job Requirements

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After your professional experience, your education/certifications (verified skills) will be the next section on your resume the reader will use to judge whether you go into the “to be interviewed” pile. 

Many job seekers apply to job postings knowing they don’t have the education/certification requirements. They believe their “experience” will compensate. With so many highly qualified job seekers now on the job market this is rarely the case. If your education/certifications align with the job requirements, the education section of your resume will play a critical part in setting you apart from all the “spray and pray” job seekers.

Suppose a job posting for a Director of Finance lists as a qualification “Canadian Accounting Designation (CPA).” You have a university degree and 15 years of experience managing a mid-size company’s finances, but no CPA—don’t bother applying. Job postings generate an influx of applicants. Undoubtedly there’ll be many applicants who possess a CPA applying. There’s also the employer’s ATS to consider, which likely has been programmed to scan for “CPA.”  

Education background information you should provide:

  • Degree/certification obtained 
  • School’s name
  • Location of school
  • Period of attendance
  • Relevant coursework
  • Honors, academic recognition, extracurricular activities, or organizations participation worth mentioning

When it comes to presenting your educational background keep your ego in check. You may have impressive education background; however, it may not be impressive for the job you’re vying for. Prioritize relevancy over perceived prestige.

Here’s my suggestion how to present your education/certificates (there’s no hard formatting rule):

BS Biomedical Science

University of Calgary, Calgary, AB — 09/1992 – 06/1996

Courses:

  • Principles of Human Genetics
  • Organismal Biology
  • Principles and Mechanisms of Pharmacology
  • Advanced Bioinformatics

PMP® Certification

Ryerson University Continuing Education, Toronto, ON — 10/2001 – 04/2003

Courses:

  • Planning and Scheduling
  • Leadership in Project Management
  • Project Cost and Procurement Management
  • Project Risk and Quality Management

As I’ve pointed out in previous columns— there’s no universal hiring methodology. No two hiring managers assess candidates the same way. Depending on the job requirements respective employers search for different things when it comes to a candidate’s education. Read the qualifications in the job posting carefully. Then present your education/credentials accordingly. Don’t hesitate to add/remove courses to better tie in your education towards the job. It’s for this reason I suggest you list courses, not just your degree/certification. Listing of courses is rarely done, doing so will give your resume a competitive advantage.

You’ll have noticed my examples indicated start and end dates. Many “career experts” advise against this. The thinking being dates, even just the graduation year, will give employer’s a sense of your age, which if your over 45 can hinder and prolong your job search. This advice is supposed to be a workaround to ageism. However, these same “career experts” unanimously agree employment dates (month/year) need to be indicated. To me, this is a mixed message.    

I believe in complete transparency from both sides of the hiring process. Full transparency ensures the likelihood of there being a solid fit for both parties. At some point, whether when the employer checks your digital footprint or interviews you, your interviewer will have a good indication of your age. Besides, not mentioning dates, which I call “obvious” information, is a red flag. 

If your age is a deal-breaker with an employer, they aren’t the employer for you. The job search advice I give most often: Seek employers who’ll most likely accept you, where you’ll feel you belong—look for your tribe.

Some professions, such as finance or healthcare, require specific certifications or degrees. In such cases, show you have the necessary “must-have” (a deal-breaker if you don’t) credentials by placing your education at the top of the page just below your contact information before your professional experience.

One last note: Often overlooked is education in progress. If relevant, this should be included in your resume. In this case, list pertinent courses and the month/year you intend to graduate.

Using suggestions in this and previous columns you are now able to create a resume that “WOWs.” Next week, I’m going to begin discussing cover letters. Yes, many hiring managers, like myself, do read cover letters, which have one purpose—to give the reader a reason to read your resume.

______________________________________________________________

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send him your questions at artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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