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China delays pandemic warning and ‘Canada Together: In Concert’; In The News for April 16

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 16th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 16 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today more financial help for small businesses struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought much of Canada’s economy to a standstill.

It’s likely to involve some changes to the eligibility rules for the Canada Emergency Business Account program that banks and credit unions began delivering last week.

Under the program, the federal government is backing interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for businesses with annual payrolls between $50,000 and $1 million.

One-quarter of each loan will be forgivable if the remainder is paid off by the end of 2022.

Some small and medium-sized businesses with payrolls just under or just over the threshold have complained that they’re not eligible for the loans.

In a motion passed Saturday during an emergency sitting of the House of Commons, the federal government effectively promised to expand the loan program.

It promised to implement additional measures that would be partially refundable and have “the primary objective of maintaining jobs and reducing debt related to fixed costs, while maintaining access to liquidity in the form of loans.”

Also this …

The Royal Canadian Air Force is hoping to address a critical shortage of experienced pilots by scooping up some of the hundreds of commercial pilots whose jobs have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Commercial carriers across Canada furloughed hundreds of pilots, technicians and other staff last month as the airline industry struggled with plummeting demand due to travel restrictions and other fallout from the global pandemic.

Airlines such as Air Canada and WestJet have since been able to rehire the majority of their employees with help from federal wage subsidies, but there remains great uncertainty around when staff will actually return to work as most flights remain grounded.

That is where the military wants to make the most of a bad situation.

Even before COVID-19, the Air Force had been reaching out to former military pilots who had left for commercial gigs in recent years in the hopes of enticing them back into uniform as it faced a shortage of more than 200 experienced aviators.

The shortfall, which saw Air Force commanders walking a delicate line between keeping enough seasoned aviators available to train new recruits and lead missions in the air, coincided with significant growth in the global commercial airline sector.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

Citing the coronavirus, Donald Trump is threatening unprecedented action — adjourning both houses of Congress — to entice the Senate to approve more of his nominees.

In recent years, Congress has refused to fully adjourn during most breaks precisely to prevent the president from making recess appointments. Little or no business is conducted in such “pro-forma sessions,” but they give members of both chambers of Congress the chance to go back home without going into recess.

It’s a process lawmakers also employed to thwart President Barack Obama’s nominees.

Trump says he’s had enough and warns that he will seek to adjourn both chambers of Congress if lawmakers don’t formally declare a proper recess. That way, he could appoint some nominees without the Senate’s approval. Trump said, “Perhaps it’s never been done before, nobody’s even sure if it has, but we’re going to do it.”

The Constitution does not spell out a unilateral power for the president to adjourn Congress. It states only that he can decide on adjournment if there is a dispute over it between the House and Senate. Such a disagreement does not now exist, nor is it likely to arise.

Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley said on Twitter the Constitution gives a president authority in “extraordinary occasions” to convene or adjourn Congress. However, he said, “This power has never been used and should not be used now.”

COVID-19 around the world …

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began travelling through for Lunar New Year celebrations.

President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20. But by then, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press and estimates based on retrospective infection data.

The delay from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 was neither the first mistake made by Chinese officials at all levels in confronting the outbreak, nor the longest lag, as governments around the world have dragged their feet for weeks and even months in addressing the virus.

But the delay by the first country to face the new coronavirus came at a critical time — the beginning of the outbreak. China’s attempt to walk a line between alerting the public and avoiding panic set the stage for a pandemic that has infected almost 2 million people and taken more than 126,000 lives.

“This is tremendous,” said Zuo-Feng Zhang, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If they took action six days earlier, there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient.”

However, another epidemiologist, Benjamin Cowley at the University of Hong Kong, noted that it may have been a tricky call. If health officials raise the alarm prematurely, it can damage their credibility — “like crying wolf” — and may cripple their ability to mobilize the public, he said.

COVID-19 in entertainment…

Shania Twain, Lady Antebellum, and Luke Combs are among the headliners set to perform from their homes for a five-night broadcast event next week in support of Canada’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

ET Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Country Music Association and the CCMA Foundation, will present “Canada Together: In Concert.”

The series premieres Monday and will air weeknights on “ET Canada” on Global, turning the entertainment news show into mostly performance-based episodes for the week.

The event will also air simultaneously on Corus country radio stations Country 105, CISN Country 103.9 and Country 104.

All proceeds raised will be donated equally between Food Banks Canada and the Unison Benevolent Fund to support Canadians during the pandemic.

Monday’s episode includes remote performances from Twain with Dallas Smith, Lindsay Ell, and High Valley.

A total of 20 acts are participating through the rest of the week, with others including Brett Kissel, Dean Brody, Gord Bamford, James Barker Band, and MacKenzie Porter.

COVID-19 in sports…

Some golf courses in British Columbia are open or about to open and Alberta golf clubs want to do the same despite the reluctance of provincial health officials to give the green light.

Winter loosening its grip on Alberta has the province’s golf industry lobbying to let courses open with protocols and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We for sure realize golf is not the most important thing in the world, but we want to be part of the solution,” says Calgary’s Barry Ehlert, owner of six courses in the Windmill Golf Group.

“We do think there are other things coming down the pipe at us like mental health, economic drivers, the forty-two thousand jobs that golf represents.”

The Alberta chapter of National Allied Golf Associations said in a recent letter to its members that “NAGA Alberta will be working closely with the Alberta Government in seeking an exception like the courses in B.C.”

An online petition on change.org calling for Alberta golf courses to be exempt.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health wasn’t ready to give the all-clear to golf, however.

“I would say to golfers the same thing I would say to other Albertans, which is to trust we are looking very closely at our numbers, and that as we get to a point where we can think about easing restrictions, outdoor recreation is certainly on that list of things to be considered,” says Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“But at this time, we’re not yet at that point yet where we can start easing off.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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