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Yellowknife pub acquitted of breaking COVID-19 rules



YELLOWKNIFE — The owners of a Yellowknife pub who were accused of violating COVID-19 public health orders say they’re relieved they won’t have to pay a $5,175 ticket.

The Monkey Tree Pub was acquitted in territorial court Friday of operating a dance floor on Nov. 14, 2020, which was against requirements for restaurants and bars staying open at the time.

Pub co-owners Jennifer Vornbrock and Steve Dinham said they were relieved with the outcome and that the case is over. They said they felt public health concerns could have been dealt with through better communication and education rather than through court.

“I don’t think it was necessary for it to come to this. This was a lot of government money that was wasted,” Vornbrock told reporters outside the courthouse.

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“We firmly believe that everything we’ve done navigating this pandemic, we’ve done our best.”

Deputy Judge Bernadette Schmaltz said she accepted the evidence of two liquor inspectors, who testified that the dance floor was open and they saw roughly 15 people dancing when they conducted a routine inspection after midnight. She said their testimony was “thoughtful and thorough.”

But the judge said the Crown provided “absolutely no evidence” that the pub or the wider public was given notice of the public health order.

Prosecutor Roger Shepard said the order “attracted quite a bit” of media attention and commentary online. He argued the judge could take judicial notice, a rule in law that relieves parties from having to provide formal evidence if a fact is not controversial or cannot be reasonably disputed.

Schmaltz, however, said taking judicial notice of the specific contents of the order would be going too far. She said she could not convict the pub of contravening that order.

Upon hearing the decision, Vornbrock breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Oh my God.” She was shaking and crying as she left the courtroom.

The owners said they are grateful to an online crowdfunding effort that helps Canadians fight fines for violating COVID-19 public health orders.

“Small businesses have a tough enough time financially as it is,” Dinham said.

“Most of these places can’t afford lawyers in any capacity, but especially this coming at the tail end of two years of sporadic closures, it definitely wasn’t a cost that we could incur.”

The pub was one of two businesses in the Northwest Territories that was charged with violating public health orders, and the only one to head to court. A charge against a grocery store in Hay River was stayed by the Crown in May.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2022.


The Canadian Press


Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries



A children’s hospital in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries and appointments starting Monday.

Health officials say it’s due to a high level of respiratory illness.

It is unclear how many surgeries and appointments at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John‘s will be affected.

Residents who are not experiencing a medical emergency are being asked to avoid visiting an emergency department.

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Older adults amongst the most susceptible to RSV



TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The risk of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, typically flies under the radar when it comes to older adults.

With 10 times the amount of older adults being hospitalized for RSV than in previous years, understanding the risk is important for those who are more susceptible.

“RSV in older adults starts out with the same symptoms as younger adults. With common cold-like symptoms- nasal congestion, sniffles, low-grade temperature, sore throat, dry cough, tiredness. These symptoms will last for a few days,” Mary Derby, Nurse Manager at Pima County Health Department explained.

“However, an older adult or an adult with chronic medical conditions such as heart and lung disease- they can experience more serious symptoms, such as getting a high fever, dehydration, and real difficulty breathing.”

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Derby says if these symptoms lead to extreme chest pain, loss of color in the face, or struggle to breathe- seek medical attention immediately.

It is also important for those assisting an older adult to be aware of the risk imposed on those more susceptible.

“If you’re caring for older adults, please wash your hands frequently. Watch for your own symptoms and stay away if you’re experiencing symptoms. Consider wearing a mask to protect that older adult, because these older adults do need that protection… Take it seriously,” Derby emphasized.

Upward 6,000 to 10,000 older adults die each year from RSV.

As we make our way through the holidays, be sure to stay up to date with COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines, stay home if you are not feeling well, wash your hands often and for those at higher risk, wear a fitted mask around others.

Breanna Isbell is a reporter for KGUN 9. She joined the KGUN 9 team in July of 2022 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in sports journalism from Arizona State University in May. Share your story ideas with Breanna by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, or Twitter.

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AIDS day walk in North Battleford aims to `banish that stigma’



 By Julia Peterson

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On World AIDS Day, advocates in the Battlefords gathered to raise awareness about how the virus affects people in their community, and how people can get help and treatment, if they need it.

“HIV is completely preventable in today’s society, with all the advances in medication,” said Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre’s HIV project coordinator, Cymric Leask. “But due to a lot of intersecting factors, especially due to COVID  in the past couple of years, our HIV numbers have skyrocketed.”

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In 2021, more than 200 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the province, even while testing, treatment and outreach were reduced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of new HIV infections in Canada, and has had the highest annual rate in the country for more than a decade.

The proportion of new HIV cases in rural areas is rising, too.

“Here up north, there are such large barriers to access to care,” said Leask. “We do have some great resources here in North Battleford  but it’s still very hard to access the proper care for HIV.”

For example, getting started on HIV medication requires a visit with a communicable disease doctor, but there is no communicable disease doctor based in the Battlefords. Instead, that doctor visits the community only once every four months.

Another barrier Leask has found is that many people still have an outdated  understanding of what HIV is, who is at risk and how treatment works.

“Especially here in rural areas, it’s stigmatized as something that only affects gay or bisexual men, men who have sex with men,” Leask said.

Today in Saskatchewan, men and women are diagnosed with HIV at almost equal rates, and two thirds of new cases are passed through injection drug use.

Treatments are much easier to manage than they used to be; some only involve taking one pill a day.

But the enduring stigma around HIV makes it harder for people to find community and support.

“People don’t talk about it,” said Jackie Kennedy, executive director of the Battlefords Indian and Metis Friendship Centre. “I think they’re afraid to. A lot of people don’t disclose that information (about their HIV status) because they are afraid to be judged.”

As more people continue to be diagnosed with HIV in Saskatchewan every year, groups and organizations in the Battlefords are working hard to make it easier for people to get testing, treatment, information and harm reduction supplies.

“We want to banish that stigma of how it used to be,” said Leask. “It’s not like that anymore.”

  Julia Peterson is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE STARPHOENIX

The LJI program is federally funded.

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