COVID-19: Saskatchewan sets new ICU record for second day in a row

WATCH: Saskatchewan officials provided a number of updates during a technical briefing on Friday, including the delivery of millions of rapid antigen tests and how the health care system has redeployed staff to dealing with an overwhelming amount of COVID-19 patients. Kimberley Fowler has more.

One day after breaking the record for ICU patients with COVID-19, Saskatchewan has set another one with 84 patients admitted.

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There are an additional 249 people in hospital with COVID-19 receiving in-patient care.

Of the 333 total COVID-19 patients in hospital, 251 or 75.4 per cent were not fully vaccinated.

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Five more residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have since died, the province also reported Sunday.

The province’s COVID-19 death toll is now 781.

Officials also reported 320 new cases in Saskatchewan on Sunday.

The seven-day average of daily new cases is 340 or 28.2 per 100,000 people.

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Across Saskatchewan, there are 3,967 active cases. As of Sunday, Saskatoon has the most active cases with 937, followed by the north west zone with 588 active cases.

A total of 3,798 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered since the province’s last update on Saturday.

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

'This is a big step': Okanagan communities move to around-the-clock ambulance staffing

The B.C. government is shaking up BC Emergency Health Services after growing concerns over response times following a historic heat wave in the province. Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced a new position as B.C.'s chief ambulance officer. The province is also funding 85 new full-time paramedic positions.

What’s been described as the largest hiring push in B.C.’s history in rural and remote areas will see several Okanagan ambulance stations move to 24/7 full-time staffing.

Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, CUPE Local 873, which represents 4,500 paramedics and dispatchers, said part-time stations will move to full-time, around-the-clock staffing in cities such as West Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland, Vernon, Summerland, Osoyoos, Oliver, Princeton, Keremeos, Grand Forks, Armstrong, Enderby, Sicamous and Salmon Arm.

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“That’s a number of significant increases to full-time resources,” Clifford said.

“It addresses some of our shortages in our capacity to respond. We know that there have been delays, so these are growing areas, the Okanagan is a fast-growing demographic and now it’s going to allow us better patient care.”

Clifford said the staffing improvements should result in quicker emergency response times.

“I’ve been in 33 years and I’ve never seen this volume of commitment to full-time resources that we’ve seen in my whole career,” he said.

“It exposed how far behind we got that even that is not enough right now to address some of the challenges that we are seeing, so we have more to do.”

Clifford added that the controversial $2-per-hour on-call model in very small B.C. communities is still a compensation issue that needs to be changed.

“The secondary ambulances and the part-time employees that supplement the system for full-time still are working that precarious work. It is a model used in the smaller communities like Lumby and Midway,” he said.

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“All these changes are really good, they are an improvement from part-time to full-time, but we are not getting enough paramedics coming into the profession because of that precarious pay scheme. It is not sustainable and it is hurting our ability to recruit.”

The B.C. government announced on July 14 that it is overhauling the ambulance service to reduce wait times for the most serious 911 calls after complaints about long delays during medical emergencies.

Twenty-two rural ambulance stations across B.C. would be converted to the full-time model, while 85 new full-time paramedics would be hired, in addition to 30 full-time dispatchers and 22 new ambulances.

“When we call for help, we need to know help is on the way, and that it will arrive quickly,” said Adrian Dix, minister of health.

Stronger leadership at BC Emergency Health Services announced in July included the appointment of former Vancouver police chief Jim Chu as chair of a board focused on the ambulance service and Leanne Heppell as the new chief ambulance officer.

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Heppell is a clinical nurse specialist with 20 years of experience in senior leadership at Vancouver Coastal Health and the BC Ambulance Service.

Dix said the move to more permanent full-time and part-time jobs to replace casual positions will set a new standard.

“The idea is to create, in smaller communities, jobs where people do other work in health care and serve as ambulance paramedics,” he said.

“That’s the direction that we’ve been going now for three years and we’ve seen some transformation, and we’re going to have to see more.”

Calls for ambulance service spiked during the heatwave starting in late June, and B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe has said 486 sudden or unexplained deaths were recorded, a 195 per cent jump in the average normally seen during a five-day period.

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Dix said the province has increased the budget for BC Emergency Health Services from over $424 million to $559 million since 2017, hired more paramedics and negotiated the first collective agreement in years with the union representing emergency health service workers.

Clifford said problems with the system were inevitable and should not have surprised the government during unprecedented high temperatures that further exposed vulnerabilities.

It resulted in mounting complaints from the public calling 911 due to heat-related health problems, especially among elderly people without air conditioning.

“There was incredible pressure on paramedics, and dispatchers were looking at the screen not being able to tell people when they could get an ambulance, knowing that there were hundreds of calls waiting that they needed to dispatch,” Clifford said, adding that the long queues of people on hold took a mental health toll on employees.

— with files from The Canadian Press 

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

Liz Murray to speak at Mission Services of London banquet in November

A woman whose journey from childhood homelessness to studying at Harvard University will be the keynote speaker at a virtual banquet event in London, Ont.

Liz Murray will join Mission Services of London, a non-profit that offers support for those experiencing homelessness, at its Hope Banquet & Silent Auction on Thursday, Nov. 25.

Speaking with 980 CFPL’s Devon Peacock, Murray shared her experience of experiencing homelessness while growing up in Bronx, New York.

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Born to poor and drug-addicted parents, Murray became homeless at the age of 15 after her mother died of AIDS and her father moved to an emergency shelter.

“I felt like I wasn’t going to make it,” she said. “When I thought about my life in front of me, how I’m going to rise up to anything … it was so overwhelming.”

With the support of the community, Murray began attending high school and graduated in two years despite her late start and lack of a stable home.

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Murray says it was during these difficult times that she found herself wanting to help others.

“I went to high school while I was homeless, (I) received dental care, hot meals, counselling … I was helped so much in my journey that at some point, it clicked for me,” she explained. “I quickly came to realize that a lot of people were also struggling.”

Murray was awarded a scholarship and was accepted into Harvard University.

“Eventually, as I was able to change my circumstances with that help, I went on to start a non-profit (and) began volunteering (so) that I could help (others),” she said.

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Proceeds from the 2021 Hope Banquet & Silent Auction will help fund clothing, hygiene and household items to adults and children in need.

According to a release by Mission Services of London, its “Emergency Voucher” program offered $74,000 worth of goods to 1,886 people in 2020-2021.

Murray is encouraging people to help out whenever they can.

“You don’t have to ‘wait until.’ You have something right now of value,” she said.

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“I like to ask people to think about the courage it takes for someone experiencing homelessness to knock on the door, asking for service,” Murray continued. “It’s very hard. It’s very vulnerable.

“The problem may be huge, but your job is not to fix the entire problem. It’s to do what you can with what you have.”

Tickets for the 2021 Hope Banquet & Silent Auction is available online. The event will be held virtually.

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

COVID-19: Hong Kong bans Air Canada flights from Vancouver for 2 weeks

The Hong Kong Department of Health has put a two-week ban on direct flights from Vancouver to Hong Kong operated by Air Canada.

Officials in Hong Kong took the action Friday after detecting nearly 60 imported cases over a two-week period.

One of those cases was on an Oct. 13 Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong, officials said in a media release.

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One passenger on the flight also “failed to comply with the requirements specified under the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation,” it said.

As a result, Hong Kong is prohibiting the landing of Air Canada passenger flights from Vancouver until Oct. 29, it said.

Air Canada said it was cancelling flights schedule don Oct. 16, 23, 26 and 29 as a result, but noted its Toronto-Hong Kong flights were unaffected.

“Affected customers from the four flights are being rebooked and offered travel options where available and suitable for the customer,” the airline said.

“Customers are also eligible for a refund of the remaining value of their tickets if we are unable to rebook them on a new flight departing within three hours of their original departure time.”

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

Canadian among 17 missionaries abducted in Haiti, religious group says

A Canadian citizen is among 17 Christian Aid Ministries missionaries were abducted in Haiti as they were leaving an orphanage, the religious organization said on Sunday.

The group of missionaries, which also includes 16 U.S. citizens, consists of five men, seven women, and five children, Christian Aid Ministries confirmed in a statement online.

The religious organization said the missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage when they were kidnapped.

Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press that the 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the group — which also included some elderly people — in Ganthier, a commune located east of the capital of Port-au-Prince.

On its website, the Christian Aid Ministries refers to itself as a “a trustworthy and efficient channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals to minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world.”

More to come. 

— with files from the Associated Press

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

Mayor wanted: some Quebec towns struggle to find municipal candidates

WATCH: Top Montreal mayoral candidates and where they stand on mandatory vaccinations

There’s nobody running for mayor in St-Eloi, a small Quebec municipality that offers panoramic views of the St. Lawrence River.

The 300-person community about 210 kilometres northeast of Quebec City will have to launch a second appeal for candidates after nobody threw their hat in the ring ahead of the Nov. 7 municipal election — and it isn’t alone.

While cities such as Montreal are fielding up to 10 candidates for mayor, many smaller communities in the province are hunting for takers.

As the nomination period closed across the province, 11 towns were still looking for a mayoral candidate, while 109 councillor positions were unfilled. A further 608 mayors and 4,291 councillors have already been declared elected due to a lack of opposition. In 2017, when the last municipal elections were held, five towns had no mayor and 77 councillor positions were vacant.

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The number of vacancies is higher this year, but two experts who spoke to The Canadian Press say they remain within the historical averages. Still, they acknowledge recruiting mayors in some communities is a challenge due to small populations and low salaries, as well as the increasing complexity of the job and scrutiny from the public.

Mario St-Louis, the outgoing mayor of St-Eloi, says he’s been doing a job that requires “seven days a week, 24 hours a day” — all for about $6,000 dollars a year. “It’s practically volunteer work,” he said in a phone interview.

While he’s enjoyed the work, he’s now 72 and wants to retire. He’s not entirely surprised there’s nobody to replace him. He said young people in town usually have families and full-time jobs, and most of the local retirees have already taken a turn and are ready to move on.

“People don’t want to work for $2 an hour any more,” he said.

St-Cyrille-de-Lessard, a municipality about 85 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, is also looking for a new leader after current Mayor Denise Deschenes announced she wouldn’t seek a second term due to health reasons.

Deschenes said in a recent phone interview that while she was surprised nobody stepped forward, she understands why some hesitate. The job involves evening meetings and can be hard for work-life balance, especially for someone like her with a family and children.

Mayors also have to contend with criticism from the public, which she said sometimes crosses the line into bullying or harassment. “We have to denounce it,” she said, “because that’s how we’ll get things back on track and make our jobs easier.”

Laurence Behrer, a political science professor at the Universite de Montreal, says small towns will always have a harder time filling positions at city hall because they have a much smaller pool of potential candidates. Candidates also may run unopposed more often because residents know each other.

“They might hesitate to run because they know (their opponent) or their family, so the idea of competition becomes more difficult,” she said in a phone interview.

Behrer says the job of being a small-town mayor has become increasingly complex as provinces have off-loaded more responsibilities on municipalities. They also have to contend with new challenges, such as climate change.

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Daniel Cote, the president of the Union des Municipalites du Quebec, says a mayor’s job now goes far beyond “garbage pickup and snow removal” and into the realms of economic development, infrastructure management and family policies.

“We have to be aware that, as of today, the responsibility of municipal politicians in general is much larger than what it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago,” he said.

Furthermore, he said the advent of social media now means mayors are expected to answer to citizens around the clock instead of once a month at council meetings.

Cote, who is also the mayor of Gaspe, says his organization has had some success in recruiting more young people and women to run and is offering resources to help elected officials deal with issues such as online harassment and work-life balance.

However, he said it’s crucial for some municipalities to raise mayoral salaries, which are often below $10,000 a year, to reflect the new realities of the role.

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Increased salaries remain a “taboo subject” and a difficult one to broach, since many small towns also have small tax bases. However, Cote maintains it can be done. He said a number of smaller cities, including Gaspe, have chosen in past years to raise the salaries to allow elected officials to serve full-time.

“If we want talented people, we have to compensate them,” he said.

If small towns don’t manage to attract a candidate after a second nomination period, a candidate can be appointed. However, Cote says that rarely happens.

Despite the challenges of the job, St-Louis, Deschenes and Cote all say it comes with significant rewards, such as a chance to make positive impacts on their communities.

Deschenes says that now that her health is improving, she might stay on for a second term if nobody else comes forward. St-Louis is still hoping to retire but says he, too, would rather stay on than see an outsider named to the job.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

RCMP seek missing man after rental truck found on B.C. interior logging road

RCMP in the British Columbia interior are asking for the public’s help to find a missing man whose truck was found abandoned on a forestry road.

Clearwater RCMP says Daniel Ritchie, 35, was last heard from on Oct. 13.

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Ritchie’s usual vehicle was in for repairs, and the rental truck he was using as a replacement was found about 14 kilometres up the 1130 Forest Service Rd. near Dunn Lake Road in East Blackpool.

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Police say the rental was due to be returned this weekend. Ritchie did have some scheduled time off, but was due back at work on Monday, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact their local police or Crime Stoppers if they wish to remain anonymous.

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

Man charged, 17-year-old sought in connection with 2020 Brampton Christmas Eve shooting

An 18-year-old man has been charged and a 17-year-old boy is being sought after in connection with a shooting in Brampton on Christmas Eve 2020, Peel Regional Police say.

Emergency services were called to a home on Hubbell Road at 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2020 for reports of a shooting.

Investigators said officers found a 24-year-old man suffering from a gunshot wound after a fight with two other men. Police said the victim was taken to a trauma centre. The suspects involved fled.

In an update on Sunday, investigators said they have arrested Mississauga resident Eliazar Henry.

He was charged with numerous offences including attempted murder, robbery and possession of property obtained by crime.

Henry appeared for a bail hearing on Oct. 16.

Furthermore, a warrant is out for a 17-year-old Brampton boy, also wanted for several offences, including attempted murder.

Anyone with any information is asked to call police at 905-453–2121, ext. 2233 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

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

A 'horticultural anomaly': Lone cherry tree blossoms out of season in Burnaby

A cherry tree near Metrotown in Burnaby is in full bloom this October and experts say it could be the last flowering.

Amid the gloomy weather and falling leaves, one lone cherry tree is defying the season and adding a bright spot to the otherwise dreary fall.

The lone Accolade cherry is in blossom, showing bright pink flowers that should normally appear in the late winter or early spring.

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“The flowers look fantastic, but this is probably its dying breath,” Douglas Justice, associate director of the UBC Botanical Garden, told Global News.

“Normally, this is going to flower in March, and typically it would flower without any leaves on it. So flowering now, we know it’s unusual and we know it’s a stress response.”

The “horticultural anomaly” is likely a stress response to the unusually hot summer and the historic heat dome that baked B.C.’s south coast in June and July, Justice said.

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While some cherry trees are known to bloom in October or November, they are of other varietals, and don’t do so with their leaves on, he said.

Metro Vancouverites who want a touch of colour can spot the tree on a raised walkway at Nelson Avenue and Kingsway near Metrotown.

Otherwise, Justice said, they’ll have to wait for next spring when they can use a map from the annual Cherry Blossom festival to help find the best displays of blossoms in the region.

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

Restaurant workers dealing with anger, abuse and racism as they try to enforce vaccine mandates

When a proof-of-vaccine policy was announced, Juliana Murphy knew it would be another burden she’d face at work.

“I’ve had grown men yell and raise a fist at me just because of contact tracing,” says the waitress at a Halifax breakfast restaurant. “I knew asking them to show me proof of their COVID-19 shots would be worse.”

Vaccine passports are emerging as the latest challenge for restaurant workers in Canada, as many face verbal abuse, sexual harassment and racism from customers.

Restaurant staff across the country say while most customers are respectful of the new vaccine requirements, others are argumentative and angry.

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They describe a work environment where they are routinely grilled about COVID-19 vaccine certification policies, with a small number of customers becoming belligerent and intimidating.

They describe the added work of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions as exhausting and stressful.

In response, some restaurant operators have hired security guards to review vaccination records and identification before allowing customers to sit at a table.

But in most cases, the responsibility falls to front-of-house staff — a largely young, part-time and low-wage workforce that’s already under strain from an industry-wide labour shortage.

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“A lot of the hosts working at downtown restaurants are young women and it’s kind of scary for them to be essentially bouncing at the front door,” says Sean Bridge, a part-time server, bartender and host in Toronto. (The restaurants where Bridge and Murphy work are not being named to prevent them from being targeted by anti-vaccination efforts.)

“You can get a really … arrogant crowd around here,” Bridge says.

“I hate that the onus of enforcing these rules has come down to restaurant staff.”

For an industry slammed by pandemic public health measures, the vaccine passport rules have been another blow for bars and restaurants.

While they’re scrambling to stay open and doing their best to enforce the vaccine mandates, the restrictions have further increased the workload for staff and hurt sales, according to an industry group.

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Restaurants Canada found in a recent survey that more than half of restaurant operators say their employees have experienced hostile confrontations from people opposed to the new rules.

The survey also found that 20 per cent of restaurants have lost staff and more than 60 per cent say they need to hire more workers.

“It’s restrictions on top of restrictions,” says Todd Barclay, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada. “It’s very labour intensive and time consuming to implement ? restaurants are losing money.”

The industry group says restaurants should be compensated for the cost of enforcing vaccine mandates, which would help them hire more workers. It is also calling for capacity and distancing restrictions to be lifted now that vaccine requirements are being enforced.

Still, front-line restaurant workers suggest some customers may be forging vaccine records.

“I had one table that I overheard later in the evening say that they had forged their documents,” says Bridge. “I had looked at their forgeries, and there’s zero way to tell they were fake.”

On the flip side, he says he almost didn’t allow someone who had the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine into the restaurant because he didn’t realize it only required one dose to be fully vaccinated.

“We’re trying to enforce these rules but we’ve had zero training,” Bridge says. “It’s a really uncomfortable situation to be in.”

In Halifax, Murphy says her restaurant provided no training but left a pamphlet on the front desk about the proof-of-vaccine policy for staff to use as a guideline.

“The hard thing is, the vaccine records are different for every province,” she says. “It takes time to verify and some customers get upset. They really do believe it’s the restaurant imposing this.”

The waitress says while younger people, seniors and women generally tend to be understanding, she’s had multiple hostile interactions with middle-aged men.

“Some of them seem to take this as an opportunity to be racist,” she says. “I’ve repeatedly noticed that some customers give our Syrian and Indian employees a much harder time. They get really angry when they ask for their proof of vaccines.”

Murphy says she does her best to help de-escalate these situations, but that the amount of money she makes has dropped.

“By the time they get through the front door to my table, they’re already in this horrible mood and complaining about things that have nothing to do with our actual restaurant service or quality. They’ve already made the decision that they’re going to tip less.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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