New COVID-19 concerns after pair of B.C. school outbreaks, rising child case numbers

B.C. COVID Modeller Jens von Bergmann talks about what the latest data reveals about kids and COVID-19.

Safety in B.C.’s classrooms is back in the spotlight after two COVID-19 outbreaks were declared in Lower Mainland schools this week.

Chilliwack’s Promontory Elementary moved to remote learning on Wednesday after at least 20 cases were detected in staff and students, and on Friday, Fraser Health declared an outbreak at Maple Ridge Christian School, where 32 cases cropped up.

The outbreaks have parents like Claude Martins, a member of the Safe Schools Coalition BC, concerned.

Martins has two children in elementary school in Vancouver and says he’s worried a similar situation could happen in their school.

He’s particularly worried one of his girls could pick up COVID-19 at school, and bring it home to his immunocompromised wife.

“It is the biggest percentage of our population that can’t get the vaccine until they’re approved for that age group. I feel like school children and schools in general need to be treated the same way we’re treating long-term care facilities, where we have vaccine mandates for staff,” he said.

“We need to look at those same kinds of protocols for our education environments, as well as looking at a mask mandate for all of our staff and all of the students who go to schools.”

Read more:
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Maple Ridge Christian School

With more than 80 per cent of eligible people now fully vaccinated in B.C., the province’s cases are increasingly being diagnosed in younger children.

Children under the age of nine have doubled from nine per cent of cases at the start of September to 18 per cent of cases this week. In each of the last three reporting days, more than 100 new cases have involved kids nine or younger.

While the occurrence of serious illness from COVID-19 is lower in children than in adults, Martins said at a certain point that ceases to matter.

“The seriousness in that age group may be low, but if the percentages go up then you have more and more kids who actually do have serious complications from it,” he said. “For those families, those platitudes won’t actually be helpful.”

The provincial government maintains that the risk to children is low, and has persisted with its near-normal back-to-school plan, which does not involve class cohorts or masks for kids in Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Read more:
After outbreak closes B.C. school, new calls for safety protocols and online learning plans

The province only announced this week that it would resume notifying schools and parents about COVID-19 exposures.

“Unless there is some sort of extra mitigation added to schools, we will continue to see those numbers rise,” Vancouver physician Dr. Anna Wolak told Global News.

She pointed to the latest data from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Infection, which showed schools without a K-12 mask mandate had a 3.5 times higher rate of COVID-19 cases.

“We’re already seeing clusters. We did not see clusters, we did not see clusters this early on in the school year when we went back last year. Whether it has to do with Delta and its increased transmissibility or the lower protocols, it’s hard to say,” she said.

The union representing B.C. teachers wants to see masks made mandatory for younger children, along with more improvement to ventilation and a clear protocol for switching rapidly to online learning.

Martins wants all of those measures implemented, along with more transparency about the COVID-19 situation in his kids’ school.

“I don’t feel like they’ve been taking it seriously,” he said.

“My biggest fear is that we’ll just be reactive, that we’ll just continue to put in measures two weeks too late… we’re looking to our leadership to actually provide information and to provide safety precautions, rather than having to rely on parents in the community to crowdsource this.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ousted Liberal Kevin Vuong says he will continue as independent MP amid calls to resign

Elected but rejected: ex-Liberal Kevin Vuong wins seat, will sit as independent, angering some voters

An ousted Liberal candidate says he’s going to continue as an independent Member of Parliament (MP) for his Toronto riding despite numerous calls for him to step down.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Kevin Vuong confirmed that he is going to stay on as the MP for Spadina-Fort York in Toronto.

Read more:
‘It’s taken away our voice’: Calls grow for ousted Liberal Kevin Vuong to resign

“After taking time to reflect on recent events, I want to apologize for the lack of disclosure. I have decided to continue as an independent Member of Parliament for Spadina-Fort York and will work hard to serve the community,” read the statement.

Vuong was dropped by the Liberals just two days prior to the election after it was revealed that he’d been charged with sexual assault in 2019 and that a $1.5 million lawsuit was filed against him over his mask-making business.

The sexual assault charge has since been dropped.

However, Vuong’s name was still on the ballot under the Liberals as there wasn’t enough time to reprint the ticket.

Earlier on Wednesday while ballots were still being counted, Vuong released a statement saying that he would “work hard” to earn the trust of those that doubt him as he looked to take the seat as an independent.

“I appreciate that not everyone is happy with my election, and I very much understand why it is different in my case,” he wrote.

“Allegations of sexual assault are a serious matter, deserving of more discussion than this statement can provide. For these reasons, I intend to address them at a later date more wholly in a dedicated forum.”

Many of the votes cast for Vuong were also sent as mail-in ballots prior to him being ousted, leading to several constituents — and politicians — issuing calls for him to step down and for a by-election to be called.

One such politician is former Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, who held Vuong’s seat before deciding not to run for re-election in the 2021 federal election.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Vaughan said that he has “worked hard” to try and convince him to resign, though Vuong would announce his intention to continue as an independent in his earlier statement.

“His decision to take his seat and from that position seek to clear his name is another serious breach. MPs cannot use public office to advance private interests,” wrote Vaughan.

“The residents of Spadina Fort York deserve an MP with a clear mandate and an MP focused on their needs and who is focussed on being the community’s advocate. A by-election is the only option. If Vuong wishes to represent the best interest of the riding, he should resign.”

— With files from Daina Goldfinger

More to come…

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Leafs top Habs in pre-season play in front of fans

TORONTO – Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe joked his focus early Saturday wasn’t on the ice.

It’s easy to understand why.

Toronto played in front of its home fans for the first time in more than 18 months, John Tavares scored in his return from a scary injury, and the Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in the opener of the NHL’s pre-season schedule.

The game at Scotiabank Arena played before 10,000 mask-wearing fans was the first event at the venue with paying spectators since March 2020 after the Ontario government relaxed COVID-19 restrictions Friday, allowing for 50 per cent of normal capacity.

“Really nice to be back playing in front of fans,” Keefe said. “It was pretty special. It’s been so long. You get comfortable playing in front of no fans and all of that, but you quickly realized even in a pre-season game and even with just 10,000 fans it was just different — way different.

“Early in the game I might have watched the fans a little more than I watched the game.”

Jake Muzzin, Michael Bunting and Kurtis Gabriel had the other goals for the Leafs, while William Nylander and T.J. Brodie chipped in with two assists each.

“It was nice to see all the people back in the building,” Muzzin said. “Man … you don’t know how much you miss it until it’s gone.

“It was beautiful.”

Michael Hutchinson stopped 13 shots to get the win. Ian Scott started the third period in place of Hutchinson and made three saves before leaving with a groin injury to send Toronto’s starter back in the crease.

Tyler Toffoli replied for the Canadiens, who stormed back from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Leafs in the first round of last season’s playoffs on the way to making the Stanley Cup final. Cayden Primeau allowed three goals on 21 shots before giving way to Michael McNiven. He finished with 10 saves.

“It looked like we flew in this afternoon and played our first pre-season game,” Montreal centre Nick Suzuki said. “I thought our third period was really good, we put a lot of pressure on them.”

The NHL kicked off its exhibition schedule ahead of the full 82-game season on the heels of a 2020-21 campaign shortened to 56 contests because of the pandemic.

Toronto opened the scoring at 10:28 of the first when Nylander found a late-arriving Muzzin to fire past Primeau.

Tavares, who suited up in game action for the first time since being stretchered off the Scotiabank Arena ice following a scary collision in the Leafs’ post-season opener against Montreal on May 20, made it 2-0 at 1:55 of the second when he tipped home Nylander’s shot on a power play.

“I’d be lying to say it was just the normal pre-season game,” Tavares said. “Things overall didn’t end on a great note (in the playoffs), and obviously, personally, I don’t ever want to go through something like that, but it happened.”

Toronto’s captain spent the night of the injury in hospital, and while he slowly worked to physically get back on the ice for a night like Saturday, Tavares also focused on the mental side of his recovery.

“It was important for me to recognize I went through something significant and traumatic,” he said. “Even though I don’t have any memory of it, clearly it was something that impacted me and my family very significantly. It was important to address that and to manage those emotions and process that.

“I’ve had great people helping me.”

Looking to earn a spot with his hometown team after signing in free agency, Bunting pushed Toronto’s advantage to three at 7:25 when he redirected a Brodie feed in front.

“I’ve just got to keep working,” said Bunting, who played on a line with Tavares and Josh Ho-Sang. “This is just the beginning.”

The Canadiens registered five shots in the first, but were stuck on that number for most of the second — Cole Caufield missed the net on a breakaway and then again on a 3-on-0 rush — before Montreal finally tested Hutchinson late in the second with two pucks directed on target.

Another local product looking for a job with Toronto, Ho-Sang nearly made it 4-0 midway through the third, but McNiven turned aside his breakaway effort.

Gabriel and Toffoli traded late goals to round out the scoring.

The Leafs last played in front of their home fans March 10, 2020, when they beat the Tampa Bay Lighting 2-1 before a crowd of 19,124.

The pandemic brought the sports world to a screeching later that week.

The Canadiens — Cup finalists after coming out of the pandemic-necessitated, one-time-only North Division — played the majority of their playoff games in front of fans both at home and on the road in the U.S., including Game 6 at the Bell Centre against the Leafs in the first round.

Toronto welcomed 550 fully vaccinated health-care workers for Game 7 of that matchup in late May, which the Canadiens won 3-1 to complete that stunning 3-1 series comeback against their Original Six rival.

All spectators in attendance Saturday were required to provide proof of full vaccination along with government-issued identification. Guests with a verified medical exemption and proof of a negative COVID-19 test were also allowed into the building.

Children under 12 years of age are exempt from those rules, and all fans are required to wear masks except when eating or drinking.

“It was fantastic,” Tavares said. “Great energy in the building, great having our fans back.

“Great night.”

The Leafs’ hope is to have Scotiabank Arena at full capacity when they open the regular season Oct. 13 at home against the Canadiens.

“It was just really nice to have them back,” said Keefe, who like Montreal counterpart Dominique Ducharme dressed about half his NHL roster. “Thanks to everybody across the province that have done the right things … taking care of themselves for us to get to this point.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2021.


Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

© 2021 The Canadian Press

COVID-19's 4th wave fatigue becoming a factor for Alberta's STARS Air Ambulance crews

WATCH: Federal government offers military aid to help combat Alberta's brutal COVID-19 surge - Sept. 24

As COVID-19‘s fourth wave continues to weigh heavy on Alberta’s health-care system, STARS Air Ambulance is also seeing a spike in the transfer of patients to and from hospitals facing issues with ICU capacity.

From Sept. 1 to Sept. 22, STARS said it transported 255 patients, 51 of whom were confirmed to have COVID-19 or were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. It accounts for 20 per cent of STARS’ mission volume — a huge leap from the 11 COVID-19-positive patients transferred in the same period of time last year.

READ MORE: Emergency doctor says some health triage has begun in Alberta: ‘People will suffer and will die’ 

The increase has added complexity for crews on board. They wear masks, goggles and a gown when transferring COVID-19 patients, and the helicopter undergoes a thorough disinfecting process post-mission. Many of the patients also need intensive care.

“The longer this goes on, we’re starting to see symptoms of fatigue,” said chief operating officer for STARS Air Ambulance Mike Lamacchia. “This is a tiring job, and the patients that we’re transporting right now are really sick, so it takes a lot of mental and physical energy to look after these patients.”

Read more:
Alberta announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths, sets new high for number of people in ICU with disease

Front-line managers are checking in with crew members daily to make sure they’re OK.

“If they’re not OK, we give them a timeout and make sure they have the proper rest period to take on the next patient,” said Lamacchia.

The health authority directs STARS where to transfer patients. With ICU capacity constantly changing, STARS has been flying a lot more missions to hospitals that aren’t typically in their circuit.

“Traditionally, we leave the city and we come back to the city,” said Lamacchia. “We won’t transport necessarily to Calgary because of the ICU bed capacity. We might be going to Lethbridge, we might be going to Red Deer, we might be going to other centres where there’s room.

Read more:
Albertan thanks STARS Air Ambulance for saving her life a decade after rural crash

“ICU bed capacity changes on a daily basis, so we need to be responsive to that.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Canadian radio host reveals inspiration behind new children’s book, 'The Science of Song'

“The Science of Song” delves into the history of how we have enjoyed music throughout time and explores the often hidden impact music has in our lives. Radio legend and author Alan Cross joins Global News Calgary with details.

For years, Toronto-based radio host Alan Cross has been chronicling music history on his podcast.

Now, he’s reaching a new generation with a different medium — a children’s book called The Science of Song.

Read more:
Alan Cross: Sorry Gen X, but the music of your youth is now the new classic rock

“I was part of something called The Science of Rock N’ Roll, which was a touring museum exhibit that went to science centres across North America… And after that whole thing ended, I had all this information, all this research that I had done and I wanted to do something with it,” he told Global News Morning Calgary on Saturday.

“I approached the publishers, Kids Can Press, who specialize in children’s books, and I said, ‘Hey, I want to try something different. Could I repurpose all this research that I had come up with for a children’s book?'”

Read more:
Rewind and slow forward: The history of the music cassette and why it refuses to die

With the green light from Kids Can Press, The Science of Song — a book for eight- to 14-year-olds, written by Alan Cross, Emme Cross and Nicole Mortillaro — was released three years later, on Sept. 7, 2021.

“It helps them a lot with why we make music, how we make music. There’s a lot of science. There’s a lot of technology,” said Alan Cross, a commentator for Global News.

“It took a real team effort to get this done. You can see that I’m maybe the lead author, but I had help from a number of people, including my wife, to make this thing happen.”

Read more:
What technology comes after music streaming?

The book touches on how sound works, the science of how we experience music and the evolution of headphones.

“Headphones are something that go back to the early 1900s when the navy commissioned some sort of things to listen to when they were on submarines. We also had telephone operators using headphones,” Cross said.

“But it wasn’t really until the 1950s that somebody decided that that technology could be adapted for consumer use.”

Read more:
Alan Cross: 40 years ago the Sony Walkman appeared, and music hasn’t been the same since

The book explores something youngins might not know about: Walkmans.

“One of the interesting things about that first Walkman is that it came with two headphone jacks because the head of Sony couldn’t imagine people sealing themselves off from society and not wanting to share music with somebody else,” Cross said.

“That lasted exactly one model of the Walkman before it all went to just the one headphone jack. But if kids want to know why everybody is walking around with headphones with their personal music devices, it all started with that device in 1979.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Golf in Saskatchewan enjoys another strong season on the links

WATCH: The golf courses in Saskatchewan were once again as busy this year as they were in any other year.

For golf, it was another year, as an industry, where they hit it right down the middle.

The courses were once again as busy this year as they were in any other year. Last season they had huge success because it was one of the only sporting activities you could take part in, and this year it carried forward.

“Most golf courses have 85 per cent of their times taken up, or more,” said Golf Saskatchewan Executive Director and CEO Brian Lee.

Read more:
Saskatchewan Roughriders, Cody Fajardo poised to become CFL road warriors

A big measuring stick as to how popular your sport is is how many youth are taking it up. For golf, it was another big year for young players hitting the links, and also first-timers hitting the links, as well.

“If they come out and play three rounds, they usually get hooked for a lifetime,” says Lee. “That’s something that our sport can always maintain or hopefully maintain, is that young people continue to play and that becomes almost like a family legacy to play.”

Read more:
‘We’ve got that grown man strength to go play’: Huskies defensive line retooled for 2021

With popularity comes revenue. Even though there aren’t any new course “builds” being announced yet, the courses are taking that revenue and investing it back into their business to enhance the experience on the course and the clubhouse.

“The golf courses are investing back. Like Rosthern. You have the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club,” says Scott Allan from “A beautiful new restaurant inside. A patio. You go to pretty much any facility, Dakota Dunes included, there is going to be something that the golfers will be like, ‘ok this wasn’t here last year!’ So the golf course is at least making it more fun more engaging.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Calgary police warn about attempted child-luring incidents

Calgary police warned Saturday that four incidents of possible child abduction or luring have been reported since Wednesday.

In each of the “suspicious incidents,” which happened in Windsor Park, Wildwood, Forest Lawn and Copperfield, police said the victim was alone when approached by a suspect.

Read more:
Calgary police release picture of vehicle reportedly involved in attempted kidnapping

Officers are reviewing CCTV from each area.

“While we continue to investigate the details surrounding these incidents, given the seriousness of the allegations and out of an abundance of caution, this information is being shared with the public,” police said.

“Our officers have also increased patrols in these areas following the incidents.”

Police reminded parents to teach their children about who is a safe adult, the buddy system, safe places in the community and staying safe online.

Read more:
Calgary police investigating attempted abduction of 13-year-old girl

Incidents are not connected

Police said there are no similarities in suspect descriptions and no additional evidence to believe that the reports are connected.

Officers noted that two suspects in the Wildwood incident have been identified, adding that they are working to identify possible suspects in the Windsor Park, Forest Lawn and Copperfield incidents.

If you have information, call police at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'My daughter wasn't important': Amid Gabby Petito case, Indigenous women seek justice

Gabby Petito case: Brian Laundrie search continues following arrest warrant for using her bank card

Pepita Redhair, a 27-year-old Navajo woman who dreamt of becoming an engineer and loved skateboarding, was last seen in March 2020 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Redhair’s disappearance was not reported in local media. Detectives said they had no leads, according to her mother Anita King.

Now King, 62, is organizing an Oct. 3 rally in Albuquerque to seek justice for her daughter after the disappearance of another young American woman, Gabby Petito, gained global attention.

Read more:
As world watches Gabby Petito case, Indigenous women ignored: advocates

“I felt like my voice wasn’t important, my daughter wasn’t important because she was Native American,” King said on Friday from her home in Crownpoint, New Mexico.

She is being helped by Native American activists who note how much more media coverage was given to Petito, a 22-year-old white woman, compared with missing and murdered women of color.

“It’s systemic racism, it’s the historical and inter-generational trauma that continues to perpetuate these stigmas that black and brown people are not as important as white people,” said Jolene Holgate, a director for the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women in Albuquerque.

“I want to extend our love and prayers to the (Petito) family and I’m very happy they could get that closure and I hope that they get justice,” Holgate said after Petito’s body was found on Sunday in Wyoming. “We really feel like our stories are not being as amplified.”

State studies show Native people, especially women and girls, represent a disproportionately large number of missing and murdered cases but do not get equal attention from media or law enforcement.

“Deep-rooted racism and stereotypes of Indigenous women are primary causes of the unequal response in Minnesota when an Indigenous woman, girl, or two spirit person goes missing or is murdered,” said a December state report.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American U.S. cabinet secretary, said on Thursday that the extensive media coverage of Petito was a reminder of the hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Read more:
Gabby Petito: Arrest warrant issued for Brian Laundrie after using her bank card

“Hopefully, the folks who are writing the news, and broadcasting the news will understand that these women are also friends, neighbors, classmates and work colleagues,” Haaland, who has set up a Native missing and murdered task force, told reporters.

Not every case goes unreported in the media.

The disappearance of 20-year-old Ashley Loring Heavy Runner in 2017 has been the subject of hundreds of newspaper and television stories, 14 documentaries and currently the podcast “Up and Vanished.”

“We really had to force it to be known,” said her sister Kimberly Loring, 27, who took to social media and lobbied policymakers to get attention. “We are not being seen as important.”

Redhair’s mother, King, said she was finding some solace in support from Native American groups and media attention to her daughter’s case, more than 18 months after she disappeared.

“It makes me feel like I’m not alone,” King said. (Reporting By Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Donna Bryson and Daniel Wallis)

© 2021 Reuters

Saskatchewan winter cereal crops expected to thrive after many producers planted early

WATCH: After a severe drought this summer devastated Saskatchewan farmers, they are finding a silver lining. This years' crops came off early, which means winter cereal crops were able to be planted sooner.

After a severe drought this summer devastated Saskatchewan farmers, they are finding a silver lining.

This year’s crops came early, which means winter cereal crops were able to be planted sooner.

Barley, rye, oats and wheat are usually planted at the end of August in the Saskatoon area.

Read more:
Statistics Canada: Saskatchewan crop yields expected to be very low compared to 2020

Many producers had to harvest summer crops nearly a month sooner than usual due to drought conditions and poor levels of moisture.

However, it provided an opportunity to see winter cereals sooner than expected.

With almost 40 mm of rain in August, any crops planted early are already off to a good start.

Read more:
Severe drought in Alberta brings on early harvest

“If you did have winter wheat sewn, it’s got off to a great start and you know we’re sure hoping for significant rainfall and moisture in October and so on,” said Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.

Moisture is not the biggest concern for winter crops this year.

The province has struggled in recent years with a lack of snow cover, according to Lewis.

“Good snow cover insulates the crop against the cold weather that comes in January or February, so we’re sure hoping to see some snow cover that will insulate these well-established crops here.”

Read more:
Saskatchewan farmer concerned about agriculture labour shortage

Saskatchewan producers generally plant between 110,000 to 140,000 acres of fall rye annually, but the amount of winter wheat planted has dropped significantly over the last several years.

Lewis added that farming is far from a sure thing since there is no certainty in weather and crop growth.

However, he hopes for moisture to help drive next years’ farming season and, in turn, the economy of Saskatchewan.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

WATCH: Global National - Sept. 25

Watch the full broadcast of Global National with Robin Gill for Saturday, September 25, 2021.

View more Global National videos here, or submit a photo for our Your Canada segment here.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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