Morning Update: Hospitals risk being overwhelmed because of holiday COVID-19 rule-breakers

Good morning,

As COVID-19 cases rise – with an increase of patients linked to holiday gatherings – and hospitals nearing capacity, intensive-care doctors in Quebec and Ontario are bracing for the worst.

In Quebec, at the current pace of transmission, Montreal hospitals could be overwhelmed within three weeks, according to the institute that monitors the performance of the health care system for the provincial government.

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In Ontario, capacity for adults in acute-care hospitals is at 85 per cent, ICU beds are at 78 per cent and baseline ventilator beds are already at or more than 100 per cent, according to the Ontario Hospital Association. But capacity varies greatly across the province. For instance, cities such as Thunder Bay, Ottawa and Kingston may have vacancies – but the area to the west and north of Toronto is already at 90-per-cent ICU capacity.

Paramedics transfer a person from an ambulance into a hospital in Montreal, Tuesday, December 29, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. The new more contagious variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Quebec.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

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Inmate risk-assessment tool still in use 16 years after report raises concerns about bias against women

A report commissioned by Correctional Service Canada, dated September, 2004, found serious flaws with its most important risk-assessment tool, an internal document obtained by The Globe and Mail reveals.

The report makes a single recommendation: that CSC update its security-classification tool. It could do that either by looking at tools used in other jurisdictions, or by developing a new scale from scratch, researchers wrote. But, sixteen years on, the tool remains unchanged.

Trump presses Georgia official to ‘find’ votes to hand him victory

President Donald Trump badgered Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, suggesting in a telephone call on Saturday that the official “find” enough votes to hand Trump the victory. The renewed intervention as well as the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud came nearly two weeks before Trump is due to leave office and two days before the crucial twin runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.

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The saga of travelling politicians continues: Two federal Liberal MPs — Quebec MP Sameer Zuberi and Ontario MP Kamal Khera — stepped aside from their extra parliamentary duties on Sunday as a scandal grows involving politicians travelling abroad despite repeated requests from provincial and federal health officials for Canadians to stay at home.

Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine supplies dwindle: Moderna has disclosed that it doesn’t plan to distribute its COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa, the most badly hit country on the African continent. The company’s decision is another indication of the severe difficulties African countries face, as some have complained of “vaccine apartheid.”

Caregivers facing extra pressures during pandemic: Even with home-care support, many family caregivers in Canada live teetering on the edge of burnout. The pressures and fears of the COVID-19 pandemic have made things even worse.

Scientists call on Canada to refocus efforts on addressing airborne spread of COVID-19:

Canada needs to step up its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 through shared indoor air, a group of scientists and health care professionals is urging, as case counts soar across the country amid the emergence of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus.

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Rhinos brought back from near oblivion: Thousands of rhinoceros have been illegally killed in recent years, but campaigns to reduce demand abroad and police habitats in South Africa have worked dramatically. Poaching has also been reduced in several other key countries, including Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

A Rhino is seen at a game reserve adjacent to the world-renowned Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga province, South Africa, April 11, 2019. Picture taken April 11, 2019.



World stock markets hit record highs on Monday, the first trading day of the new year, as investors hoped the roll out of vaccines would ultimately lift a global economy decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chinese yuan surged nearly 1% against the dollar, while the greenback plumbed its lowest levels against a basket of peer currencies since April 2018. Bitcoin hovered above $32,000 on the back of a blistering 800% rally since mid-March.

European stocks opened higher, with Britain’s FTSE 100 gaining 1.75%, Germany’s DAX up 1.1%, Spain’s IBEX up 1.3% and Italy’s FTSE MIB rising 0.7%.

Looking for investing ideas? Check out The Globe’s weekly digest of the latest insights and analysis from the pros, stock tips, portfolio strategies and what investors need to know for the week ahead. This week’s edition includes three skyrocketing TSX stocks, an EV-driven ETF and the outlook for renewables.


Governments should work with Facebook rather than attack it

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Sid Mohasseb: “We need to reassess the relationship between the state and business. Now is the perfect time, because COVID-19 has blurred traditional political lines. The choice should not be between pumping bailouts into the economy versus breaking large companies into less efficient pieces. The solution is collaboration.”

The Site C dam has been a disaster in the making for decades. Should B.C. pull the plug?

Editorial board: “For B.C., there is still time to turn back at Site C, as difficult and financially gutting a choice as that may be. Killing the project now means $6-billion-plus spent for zero power. But it may make sense, if pushing forward means a final bill at upwards of $15-billion.”

Don’t call this NFL season a success. It was a series of close calls and near misses

Cathal Kelly: “The NFL’s COVID-19 solution amounted to, “What COVID?” You wouldn’t call the regular season that ended Sunday a success. You’d call it a steady series of close calls and near misses made possible by a Herculean amount of apathy.”


David Parkins/The Globe and Mail


First Person: Could I really play 70 different sports the year I turned 70?

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Garry Moir: “The goal was not to master any of these sports, but just to give them a whirl. Athleticism, after all, does not end at some arbitrary age. In every one of these activities, there are people much older who can play the game at a level I could never hope to achieve.”


Harry McLorinan/The Globe and Mail

For more than 100 years, photographers have preserved an extraordinary collection of 20th-century news photography for The Globe and Mail. Every Monday, The Globe features one of these images. This month, we’re looking at vaccines.

Fever, headache, vomiting, mouth sores, a rash of blisters: Smallpox came to our shores with French settlers in 1616. For the next 330 years, it spread to every corner of the country through the fur trade, decimating Indigenous communities from coast to coast. Globe and Mail photographer Harry McLorinan captured this tidy queue of travellers getting vaccination stamps in Toronto in 1966. By comparison, earlier inoculation attempts were disorganized at best, and some even led to riots – such as in Montreal in 1885. The disease, which often left its survivors blind, plagued our forbearers until 1946, when vaccination campaigns eliminated it in Canada. Canadian scientists played a key role in the global eradication of smallpox, which came in 1979. Even after the disease disappeared, Ontario’s Connaught Laboratories kept smallpox samples in case they were ever needed again, and after the 9/11 attacks and a related bioterrorism scare, Canada created a new vaccine stockpile. Dianne Nice

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