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BC proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in effect, Toronto workplaces with similar mandates

JAIME PULFER, MICHELLE MORTON | posted Monday, Sep 13th, 2021

To stop the spread of COVID-19 during the fourth wave of the pandemic, more workplaces are stepping up in Toronto.

The Toronto Police Service is now policing the vaccination status of all employees, including in uniform and civilian, who now have to show proof of COVID vaccination as of Monday. The force announced the mandatory vaccination policy for officers and staff last month.

It’s the same for City of Toronto employees, all staff are required to be fully vaccinated by October 30th, but are required to tell the City if they’ve been vaccinated by September 13th.

Those municipal employees who choose not to disclose their vaccination status, or are not vaccinated by Monday, will be required to attend mandatory education on vaccines.

On September 20th, this will be the reality for all TTC employees.

All TTC employees must report their vaccination status a week Monday, and must have their first dose by September 30th, and be fully vaccinated by October 30th.

But, the City and TTC said employees who can provide proof of a medical reason for not being immunized would be exempt from the vaccine policy.

Starting Monday the 13th in B.C., you have to show proof you’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to get into any non-essential business. Premier John Horgan says double doses will be mandatory starting October 24th.

This move is something that is gaining traction across the country.

Next Wednesday, Ontario’s proof of vaccination program takes effect, which is already happening in Quebec and Manitoba.

Health-care workers face ‘moral injury’ from work stress, protests, says expert

CAMILLE BAINS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 10th, 2021

Emergency room nurse Jaime Gallaher recalls the emotional toll of a verbal attack she recently faced from a woman at a grocery store after another gruelling workday.

“I was still red-eyed from crying from the past two hours and she just swore at me,” Gallaher said following protests outside Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, B.C. “I just broke down in tears, put my carton of milk down and left the grocery store.”

Experts are raising concern over “moral injury” among health-care workers suddenly targeted after several provinces brought in vaccine passports.

Gallaher said she had spent two extra hours at work to avoid protesters on the same day last week when other hospitals in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada were grappling with rallies.

“We were making some life-and-death decisions around bed allocations. On that specific day, of all days, we had two young patients in our department who were waiting for ICU beds for two days, but they couldn’t get them because the ICU was full of unvaccinated COVID patients,” said.

“One of our patients actually passed away in emerge, behind a curtain with his family, which was gut-wrenching because that should never, ever happen. They had no privacy to mourn.”

Gallaher said while protesters are entitled to their opinions, the demonstration could be heard in the ER and was a “slap in the face.” They could have protested at a park or other public place, she added.

Staff at the hospital were already reeling from treating a seriously ill unvaccinated mother in her 30s with two young children before she was transferred to intensive care.

“She deteriorated quite rapidly in our department over the course of a couple of hours. And the fear in her eyes and the questions about ‘What will happen to my kids?’ The fear was like nothing I’ve ever seen,” she said, adding that the woman expressed remorse about not getting vaccinated.

Gallaher said nurses who try and care for themselves by booking massage or physiotherapy appointments have been turned away because they have been in contact with COVID-19 patients. They have had to rely on support from each other as many are leaving the profession, she said.

Elizabeth Peter, a nursing professor at the University of Toronto, said nurses on the front lines of the pandemic are suffering from “moral injury,” a term also used by the Ontario Hospital Association after several protests outside hospitals in the province.

The military term describes the plight of soldiers experiencing an extreme violation of their moral values, but Peter said it’s fitting for exhausted health-care workers who are trying to save lives against the backdrop of protesters opposed to scientifically proven COVID-19 vaccines.

The anger of many health-care professionals has turned to moral outrage at this point in the pandemic, Peter said.

“Virtually everyone in health care would want to help other people,” she said. “But when they get the protesters actually telling them they’re harmful, horrible humans, that’s deeply distressing.”

Peter is writing two studies on the moral impact of the pandemic, one on registered nurses and the other on licensed practical nurses working in long-term care homes based on interviews that were finished last spring. A separate study is needed on later effects on the front-line workers to include the anti-vaccination protests and yet another wave of sickness, Peter added.

Earlier this week, the Alberta government withdrew a proposed three per cent salary cut for nurses in the province. The nurses union has said the province still wants concessions like ending lump-sum payments, which amount to a two per cent reduction in their take-home pay.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said the “new proposal acknowledges the hard work and dedication of Alberta’s nurses while respecting the tough fiscal situation the province is in.”

Dr. Rod Lim, a pediatric emergency room physician in London, Ont., said health-care workers around the country already feel “under siege” but Alberta’s contract proposal and the negativity of the protest indicate health workers are unvalued 18 months into the pandemic.

“The protests are demoralizing,” he said. “There’s a lack of common decency, to protest in front of a hospital, to delay people who are trying to get the care that they deserve. They have nothing to do with the protests, nothing to do with government policy, and they’re being adversely affected. This is absolutely maddening and brings out all kinds of emotions.”

Lim, who chairs the wellness committee of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, said a shortage of nurses and other staff in emergency departments has led to parts of some emergency rooms being closed when the number of COVID-19 patients is rising.

He said there needs to be a national mental health strategy for doctors dealing with the emotional fallout of the pandemic, in co-ordination with the provinces.

“Never before has the mental health of a workforce, especially among physicians, especially among emergency and ICU physicians across Canada, been really at the forefront that it is now.”

Advance polls start Friday and continue until Monday for federal election

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Sep 10th, 2021

The federal election is on Sept. 20, but if you’ve already made up your mind, you can vote early starting Friday.

Advance polls will open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (local time) and stretch over four days, until Monday.

Elections Canada says if you are registered to vote, you should receive a voter information card in the mail by Friday. The card has the location of your polling station.

“If the name and address on your card are correct and you meet the eligibility criteria stated on the card, you’re ready to vote. Bring this card with you, along with accepted ID, to make the voting process easier when you go to vote,” Elections Canada states on its website.

Click here for a list of acceptable ID.

If you didn’t get a voter card, or the information on the voter card is incorrect, use the Online Voter Registration Service to check your registration, register or update your address information, or call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 or 1-800-361-8935 (TTY) for assistance.

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Click here for FAQs about the voter information card

Click here for FAQs about the voting process

Fake calls alleging school shootings in the U.S. traced to Manitoba home

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Sep 9th, 2021

WINNIPEG ─ A Manitoba teen has been arrested after an investigation into multiple threats of school shootings in the United States.

Mounties say police departments in Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, requested their help to investigate four 911 calls.

RCMP say the American police agencies received the calls on separate days from a person saying he was inside a school with a firearm and was going to start shooting.

The U.S. police tracked the fake calls to a number in Manitoba.

RCMP say they determined the calls came from a home on the Fisher River Cree Nation, about 190 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

An 18-year-old man from the home was taken into custody last month and is to appear in court in December.

Mounties say two of the “swatting” incidents were in Tennessee and two others in North Carolina. Swatting is when someone makes a phone call to describe a life-threatening situation in order to provoke an armed police response.

RCMP say the schools were placed in lockdown as a large number of officers searched for a culprit. But all the calls were found to be false.

“These situations created dangerous circumstances for the public and responding emergency response personnel,” RCMP said Wednesday in a news release.

Report says $50K cost for COVID-19 patients but expert says factor in other costs

CAMILLE BAINS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Sep 9th, 2021

The average cost of treating a COVID-19 patient who needs intensive care in Canada is estimated at over $50,000 compared with $8,400 for someone who’s had a heart attack, a new report says.

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show the average cost for patients being treated for the virus is more than $23,000, which is four times higher than a patient with influenza.

Ann Chapman, interim director of health spending and primary care at the agency, said the report reinforces the economic consequences of a serious illness, though it does not include the cost for doctors.

The report released Thursday says those with COVID-19 remain in hospital for about 15 days, twice as long as the typical pneumonia patient whose treatment cost is about $8,000, and that more of those sick with the virus are admitted to ICU and ventilated. One out of every five of them dies in intensive care.

The agency estimated the cost of COVID-19-related hospitalization in Canada, excluding Quebec, at nearly $1 billion between January 2020 and March 2021, the period covered by the report. It says the cost tripled between November 2020 and March.

Chapman said data on costs from the fourth wave of the pandemic, up to September, is expected to be released in December.

She said the average COVID-19 patient who spends time in the ICU stays in hospital for 21 days and is much sicker than most other patients.

Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine, said costs spiral quickly for any patient receiving intensive care.

“The one major distinction about COVID patients in the ICU is they stay a long time. They take a long time to recover, if they recover at all,” he said.

It’s not unusual for patients who’ve contracted the virus to remain in ICU on a ventilator for over a month as they’re treated by multiple personnel including physiotherapists and respiratory therapists, he said.

Indirect costs are another economic consequence of the pandemic because some patients are reluctant to seek care in emergency rooms and others, including cancer patients, have had their treatment delayed due to backlogs, noted Redelmeier, who is also a staff doctor at Sunnybrook Hospital.

Walter Wodchis, a health economist at the University of Toronto’s Dana Lana School of Public Health, said treating COVID-19 patients is just one aspect of the pandemic’s overall cost to society.

“There are more hospitalizations among youth for mental health-related reasons than in prior years. And we’ve lost a lot of life years from people who’ve ended up on opioids. I don’t think the increase in opioids was independent of the COVID crisis.”

In British Columbia alone, 1,011 people died of suspected illicit overdoses between January and June, the highest-ever death toll in the province for the first six months of a year.

Wodchis said isolation during the pandemic has caused others to leave the workforce, and layers of costs are associated with those decisions.

Hospital costs for those with COVID-19 who later recover may be lower in the end compared with perhaps $80,000 over a decade of care for patients with cardiovascular diseases based on years of poor eating habits, for example, he said.

Wodchis also noted the report was based on data up until March 2021 when vaccines were less readily available.

“I think we need to have a more generic, general discussion about how do we allocate the scarce health-care resources, as opposed to singling out one population.”

Shang-Chi’s box office success a win for representation, diversity

GREG BOWMAN AND LISA STEACY | posted Wednesday, Sep 8th, 2021

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Like millions of others, Raugi Yu went to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings over the weekend. Watching his daughter see faces that look like hers on the big screen was a powerful experience for the Taiwanese-Canadian actor, who knows first hand why representation matters.

The film smashed the record for Labour Day openings with an estimated $94.4 million in ticket sales. It was also the first Marvel film featuring an Asian lead, and a primarily Asian cast.

“I took my daughter with me, and I was watching them watch the movie, and watching them see their, their face, you know on this 50-foot screen. When I was younger, I didn’t see that, ever. Unless my parents brought me to a Chinese movie theatre in Chinatown,” he says.

“I think it’s a really great step forward in representation. I think it breaks all those old tropes and stereotypes.”

As an actor who has been working in film, theatre, and TV since 1994, he says he’s experienced discrimination first-hand. Too often, his options were limited because so many roles were reserved for white actors.

“I can say I’ve been discriminated against a lot. At the beginning of my career I don’t even know I was, I was really just literally trying to be a white actor, because that’s how I was trained. We were getting going out for parts that were white characters, so we were expected to conform to those characters,” he says.

“The funny thing about discrimination or racism, on the surface, if it’s subtle enough, nobody else can tell what’s happening, but to the person being discriminated against — it’s very clear.”

‘We belong here, we have been here this whole time — and you should see us’

Other times, when the casting call was for someone of Asian descent, Yu says he was asked to deliver the lines in a particularly offensive way.

“They would say, ‘Can you do an accent?’ I was so naive. I was like, ‘What do you mean you mean, like German, or something?’ And they’d be like ‘No, no, an Asian accent.’”

“I would just kind of try one. And then they would laugh. They’ll go oh that’s great, that’s great, really funny. And then sometimes I would book that role and then I would feel really bad about it. But I was young and I had no guidance, so I didn’t know until later.”

Yu says things shifted for him about a decade into his career.

“I started going, ‘Wait a second, it doesn’t make any sense. I’m not a white person, I’m Taiwanese, I’m Asian. I should start to really focus on who I am, like for real, and bring myself to these parts,’” he explains.

The industry also started to change, with casting calls touting equal opportunity.

“They used to be really brutal. They would literally say ‘No Asian actors, please. No Black actors, please. This plays in middle America, we only want to see Caucasian actors,” he says, adding that early claims of diversity felt like little more than lip service.

“But you know we got into the rooms eventually and then I started to book parts that maybe traditionally would go to a white actor.”

RELATED: Simu Liu’s ‘craziest dream’ a reality with groundbreaking Marvel role, Shang-Chi

With Shang Chi, Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, is breaking a major barrier by playing the superhero main character.

“He is doing a really great job representing staying true to his philosophies and continuing to push, in his own way whenever he can, the idea that we belong here, we have been here this whole time, and you should see us, you should endow us with all the things that you endow white actors,” Yu says.

Liu has been outspoken against the surge in anti-Asian racism amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and spoken about the power of diversity and representation.

“I think the decision, to lean into who I was culturally, came from me doing the opposite thing when I was younger,” Liu said soon after his casting was announced.

“For whatever reason I thought being Asian was something to be ashamed of. I thought it was something that made me different and something that made me looked down upon in some ways, in part because of the way that we were portrayed in media in the past and in part because just like on the playground — you’re bullied for anything that makes you different. So I spent a good part of my life trying to run away from my Asianness, and so a big part of what I do now is trying to get people to embrace it and to stand tall and to feel like they do belong — because they do. We do.”

With files from The Candian Press

How does each party plan to address the crisis in elder care?

THE BIG STORY | posted Wednesday, Sep 8th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, it’s no secret that our elders were the people hit hardest by COVID-19, but all the pandemic did was shine a deadly light on a system that has been broken for years. Canada’s population is aging. Our long-term care facilities are passable at best, and we don’t have enough of them. And we’re staring down a critical labour shortage among caregivers. So does any party have a plan for this? And are any of them realistic?

GUEST: André Picard, Health Reporter, The Globe and Mail

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

How your donated clothes end up burning in landfills a world away

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Sep 7th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, you thought you were helping someone when you put that bag of old clothes in a donation bin. But you probably didn’t. A striking number of clothes donated in Canada and other wealthy countries end up clogging landfills in African nations. While a good suit or jacket might make a real difference to someone who needs one, the vast majority of donated clothes are cheap, fast fashion — and often totally unwearable. And the rise of disposable clothes has swamped the system, turning a process once intended to help into one fraught with inequality and pollution.

GUEST: Linton Besser, Australian Broadcast Corporation

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Party leaders in Central Canada as election campaign enters fourth week

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Sep 7th, 2021

OTTAWA — The main federal party leaders are in Central Canada as the election campaign enters its fourth week.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau starts the day on home turf, making an announcement in Montreal.

Later in the day, he’s due to travel to Ottawa, where he’ll participate in a virtual town hall with volunteers.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is spending a second day at his Ottawa home base, a ballroom in the Westin Hotel.

He’s scheduled to make an announcement in the morning, and hold a virtual telephone town hall with Ontario residents in the evening.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, is campaigning in Toronto, where he’s set to make an announcement on climate action this morning.

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