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New study finds B.C. residents are spending less while doing so online, early and local

Shop local, early and online

A new study from Insights West has found a significant number of B.C. residents will spend less this holiday season compared to previous years.

While the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more people are pushing to shop local, shop early and shop online this year. 

Out of the 78 per cent of British Columbians who are holiday shopping, 42 per cent are planning to spend less than they normally would. This includes 25 per cent who will spend a little less and 17 per cent who will spend a lot less.

Amid this shift in spending, more people are doing their shopping online. The number of shoppers in B.C. planning to do more online shopping has nearly doubled from last year - 61 per cent compared to 33 per cent. 

Last year, 45 per cent of residents planned to do the majority of their holiday shopping online. This year, the number has increased to 64 per cent. 

More people are shopping local with 34 per cent planning to spend more at Canadian-owned businesses and 39 per cent planning to spend more with B.C. owned businesses. 

Due to concerns with shipping and inventory, 42 per cent of shoppers in B.C. have finished their holiday shopping already. 

For charities it has been a challenging year as many fundraising events have been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Although there is some good news as 26 per cent of British Columbians plan to donate more to charities this year. 

“The pandemic has been devastating to small and medium-sized businesses across the province, and despite hopes for some pent-up demand to materialize, our poll suggests the holiday shopping season will provide little relief to businesses already under the strain of a challenging 2020,” president of Insights West Steve Mossop.

“In a given year of normal economic expansion, the proportion of shoppers who intend to spend more always outweighs the number spending less, whereas this year the proportion spending less is more than double the percentage spending more. If there is any consolation, it is that consumers are going out of their way to support the local economy, and they are shopping earlier.”



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Top doc says rural COVID-19 rising, but Kenney says cities focus of any new rules

New rules to focus on cities

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says tougher health restrictions likely aimed at Calgary and Edmonton are coming if the current round of rules don’t bend the curve on COVID-19.

Kenney, taking questions on a Facebook town hall meeting, said it makes sense to target the novel coronavirus where it’s having the most impact.

“If you’re in a remote community with a negligible number of COVID cases, where there are no cases in the local hospitals, that is not the issue right now,” Kenney said Thursday night.

“The issue is the hot zones in Calgary and Edmonton — and that’s what we’ll be addressing with increasing focus in the days to come.”

His comments came just hours after Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical health officer, announced a concerning rise in rates in rural areas. She stressed that even one case can move like wildfire and COVID-19 doesn’t respect geographical boundaries.

“COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem,” Hinshaw said

“Our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn't care where you live or what your postal code is."

As of Thursday, Alberta had 17,743 active cases. Of those, about 16 per cent were in areas outside the Edmonton and Calgary medical zones.

Alberta Health says 29 per cent of all active cases are outside the four largest cities of Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge.

The local geographic area around the resort area of Banff was last reported at 1,140 active cases per 100,000 people. The Municipal District of Acadia, in southern Alberta, is the third highest in the province, with 1,086 active cases per 100,000. Smoky Lake County, northeast of Edmonton, is the fifth highest with 891 cases per 100,000.

Kenney has been both lauded and criticized for taking a geographically based, nuanced approach to prevent the spread of the pandemic while trying to keep open as many businesses and community centres as possible.

The pandemic control situation is not going well.

Alberta has registered well over 1,000 new cases a day for two weeks and, on some days, has more new cases than large provinces such as Ontario.

Health officials are reassigning staff, space, and patients to free up more intensive care beds while dealing with outbreaks at 22 hospitals and health facilities. The government is also exploring bringing in medical field tents from the Red Cross if necessary.

Last week, Kenney introduced a series of provincewide health restrictions, such as a ban on indoor gatherings.

But there are reduced health restrictions for geographically defined areas with low infection rates, mainly in parts of central, southern and northern Alberta, which comprise five per cent of Alberta’s population.

They don’t have to abide by rules such as the 25 per cent maximum occupancy in retail stores and businesses and the limit of six people, all from the same household, per table in restaurants. They also don’t have to abide by the maximum one-third capacity for worship services.

Most municipalities have made it mandatory to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

But Kenney has, unlike all other premiers, refused to implement a provincewide mask mandate, saying it’s unnecessary for remote areas and that some rural folk would refuse to wear a mask if it was an order.

Cold Lake, Alta., a city of almost 15,000 in the province's northeast, has twice voted down a mandatory mask bylaw.

Mayor Craig Copeland said Friday masks don't need to be mandatory, because people in his community are following guidelines from Hinshaw.

"Ninety per cent of the people in Cold Lake now are wearing masks," Copeland said. "Do they really need to be told by a mayor and council to wear a mask?"

Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said Kenney’s striated welter of public-health directives cater to his rural political base and the anti-mask fringe he wants to keep happily ensconced in his United Conservative Party.

“Instead of inspiring and bringing together folks in rural Alberta to do what we know they can do, (Kenney) is more interested in protecting his political fortunes with a small minority of folks who are going to resist."

In Smoky Lake County northeast of Edmonton, restaurant owner Hong Hu said her Maple Gardens Restaurant is one of the few in the area that is doing take out only.

"If it gets worse, of course I (will) worry about it," Hu said, adding she's more worried about the mounting cases in Alberta than the cases in her region.

She said the county has a mask bylaw and has put notes on businesses reminding people to wear them and sanitize regularly.

Back in Cold Lake, resident Cathy Olliffe-Webster, 60, said she is disappointed in the premier and her mayor for not making masks mandatory.

Cold Lake is still holding indoor events such as Christmas craft sales, despite the area's first COVID-related death this week and active cases rising to more than 70, she said.

"I understand that Alberta's economy has been hit harder than most, but I'm really sick of people putting money before people's lives," Olliffe-Webster said.

She said she was moved by an emotional speech Thursday by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who begged people to follow COVID-19 rules.

"I just wish Jason Kenney was a little like him."



Van attack killer shows some empathy, psychiatrist concedes in trial

Van attack killer's empathy?

A psychiatrist retained by the defence concedes that the man who killed 10 people in Toronto's van attack has shown empathy in some rare instances since his arrest.

Dr. Alexander Westphal has said Minassian lacks empathy and does not understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but says criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one.

The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder.

His lawyer had said Westphal would be the only expert to say Minassian should be found not criminally responsible for his actions due to autism spectrum disorder, but the psychiatrist has stopped short of making that conclusion.

Westphal says Minassian was incapable of rational decisions on April 23, 2018 - the day of the attack.

Minassian has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack, leaving his state of mind at the time the sole issue at trial.

Under cross examination from the prosecution, Westphal said Minassian showed a touch of empathy for his father in his police interview.

About nine hours after the attack, Det. Rob Thomas had a long interviewed with Minassian.

At one point, Thomas confronts Minassian after catching him in a lie.

Minassian initially told the detective he had taken the bus to the Ryder rental agency to pick up the van.

But his father actually dropped him off at a coffee shop and then Minassian walked four kilometres to the rental agency, court has heard.

Minassian told the detective he lied in order to protect his father, worried he'd be charged as an accessory to murder.

His father, Vahe Minassian, did not know about his son's plans for the attack, court has heard.

"Do you agree Mr. Minassian lying to protect his father shows his ability to take perspective and have empathy for his father?" Crown attorney Joe Callaghan asked.

"That statement is too general for me — to some degree it does, but I don't think that requires much sophistication in this context, but I will grant you it does require reference to his father's needs as opposed to his own needs, which is unusual for him," Westphal said.

In that police interview, Minassian also refuses to name or discuss anyone else, including the names of his parents or family members.

"He didn’t want to involve others, I suggest," Callaghan said.

"That's right," Westphal said.

"And that demonstrated his ability to have empathy and take the perspective of others and respect their privacy, do you agree or disagree?" Callaghan said.

"I agree with that," Westphal said.

The psychiatrist, who specializes in autism, maintains that despite some examples of empathy, Minassian does not understand that other people have feelings.

Westphal has previously testified that Minassian views people as objects and does not comprehend the devastation of his actions.

He has also said Minassian does not understand what he did was wrong, despite the young man telling the doctor repeatedly he did.

He has concluded that Minassian was incapable of rational decision making at the time of the attack based on his irrational thoughts due to autism spectrum disorder.





Trudeau affirms farmers' right to demonstrate after India criticizes his remarks

PM backs right to protest

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada's envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers.

Trudeau was asked Friday about media reports in India that said Canada's high commissioner had been called on the carpet by the foreign ministry in New Delhi over remarks the prime minister offered in support of Indian farmers.

Trudeau said previously that he was concerned about the protests in India and that Canada would always support the right of farmers to be heard — remarks the Indian government now says amount to interference in its affairs and potentially damaging to its relations with Canada.

Asked Friday whether he thought his remarks were harmful to Canada-India relations, Trudeau doubled down and said Canada will always stand up for human rights and peaceful protests everywhere.

Indian farmers have been met with tear gas and water cannons while protesting new laws enacted by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that they say will subject them to corporate exploitation by driving down prices for their products.

Many of the farmers are Sikhs, and Indian media reports say Trudeau is playing to Canadians of Sikh origin by wading into the matter.

"Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest anywhere around the world. And we're pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue," Trudeau said Friday when asked about India's criticism of his remarks.

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no immediate comment when contacted Friday.



Three charged, including spouse, with supplying ammunition to N.S. mass shooter

Ammo was given to killer

Three people have been charged with supplying ammunition to the gunman who killed 22 people in the April 18-19 mass shooting in Nova Scotia.

RCMP say 64-year-old James Blair Banfield, 52-year-old Lisa Banfield and 60-year-old Brian Brewster are charged with unlawfully transferring ammunition, specifically .223 calibre Remington cartridges and .40 calibre Smith and Wesson cartridges.

Lisa Banfield is listed on court probate documents as the common law spouse of the killer, Gabriel Wortman, who was killed by police on April 19.

Police say the offences occurred between March 17 and 18 but those charged "had no prior knowledge of the gunman's actions."

Investigators also say they determined the ammunition was purchased and trafficked in Nova Scotia.

The news release says the people charged co-operated with police in the investigation.

A spokeswoman for the RCMP declined to comment on what connection Wortman had to the individuals charged.

"We respectfully refrain from further commenting on these matters outside of the (public) inquiry," the news release says.

The provincial and federal governments have called a joint public inquiry that will probe, among other things, the RCMP response to the shootings.



Alberta set to retire coal power by 2023, ahead of 2030 goal

Alberta to end coal early

An environmental think-tank says Alberta will meet its goal to eliminate coal-fired electricity production years earlier than expected thanks to recent conversion announcements by utility companies.

The Pembina Institute welcomed news from Capital Power Corp. of Edmonton on Thursday that it will spend nearly $1 billion to switch two coal-fired power units to gas at its Genesee generating facility west of the city as part of a plan to stop using coal entirely by 2023.

Capital Power says direct carbon dioxide emissions at Genesee will be about 3.4 million tonnes per year lower than 2019 emission levels when the project is complete.

In November, Calgary-based TransAlta Corp. said it will end operations at its Highvale thermal coal mine west of Edmonton by the end of 2021 as it switches to natural gas at all of its operated coal-fired plants in Canada four years earlier than previously planned.

The Alberta government announced in 2015 it would eliminate emissions from coal power generation by 2030. In 2014, 55 per cent of Alberta’s electricity was produced from 18 coal-fired generators.

Binnu Jeyakumar, director of clean energy for Pembina, says the moves by the two utilities and rival Atco Ltd. mean significant emissions reduction and better health for Albertans.

She says the growing cost-competitiveness of renewable energy makes coal plant retirements possible, applauding Capital Power’s plans to increase its investments in solar power.

“Alberta’s early coal phaseout is also a great lesson in good policy-making done in collaboration with industry and civil society," she said.

“As we continue with this transformation of our electricity sector, it is paramount that efforts to support impacted workers and communities are undertaken."



Moderna vaccine still provides immunity after three months

Vaccine's long-lasting effect

U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19 and that it will have as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March.

Moderna's messenger RNA vaccine is one of the first two Health Canada expects to approve, with at least 20 million doses guaranteed for Canadians.

Currently only two million doses are supposed to arrive in the first three months of 2021, but the company says it should have 15 to 25 million doses available for non-U. S. deliveries before the end of March.

Moderna has said Canada — the first country to sign a deal to buy its vaccine — will be getting doses from the company's first batches, but it's not yet clear whether Canada will receive more than two million doses in its first deliveries.

Moderna also says new data from its first small clinical trial shows patients still showed signs of good immunity three months after receiving their second dose of the vaccine.

Moderna is among several vaccine makers whose initial clinical results show their vaccines are safe and effective at creating antibodies, but since the vaccines are so new there has not been enough time to know how long those antibodies will last.



U.S. Department of Justice: 'No comment' on reports of plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

No comment on Meng deal

The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to comment on media reports that its lawyers are seeking a plea deal of sorts with Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou.

The Wall Street Journal says Justice Department lawyers have approached Huawei's chief financial officer about the possibility of a so-called deferred prosecution agreement.

The newspaper says in exchange for admitting wrongdoing, Meng would be allowed to leave Canada, where she has been awaiting extradition to the U.S. for the last two years.

Meng was detained in Vancouver in December 2018 at the behest of the Justice Department, which has accused Huawei of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Her arrest, which sparked a diplomatic standoff, has been widely linked to China's decision days later to detain Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who face charges of espionage.

Neither the Prime Minister's Office nor the International Crisis Group, where Kovrig worked, would comment on the Journal report.

Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman, also refused to comment on the reports Friday.



Teen told police he was warned not to 'snitch' after sex assault at St. Mike's school

Teen warned not to 'snitch'

A teen boy told police he was warned not to "snitch" after being sexually assaulted by a group of fellow students at a renowned Toronto high school, and feared for his safety if he reported what happened, court heard Thursday.

In a video played in court, the teen tells a police investigator that two of the students involved in the October 2018 incident at St. Michael's College School approached him in the weeks that followed and urged him not to tell anyone about it.

There was chatter throughout the school about the incident, and the teen says he may have eventually confirmed to a friend that it had occurred without divulging any of the details. But he didn't tell his parents or any staff at the school, he says in the video.

At one point in the recording, the lead investigator in the case asks the teen whether he had heard about this kind of behaviour before joining the school's football team.

The boy replies that he hadn't, nor had he seen or experienced anything similar in his many years of playing sports elsewhere.

"It's just a different culture at this school and on that team," he tells the investigator, Det. Const. Daniel Sunghing of the Toronto police sex crimes unit.

The evidence is being presented at the trial of another teen, who is accused in that incident and another one that also took place in the school's locker room in November 2018.

The accused has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon in connection with the two incidents.

The teenage complainant described the October incident - in which he was sexually assaulted with a broom handle in the school's locker room after football practice - in a portion of the same video that was viewed earlier this week.

His account of that incident does not mention the accused, a former student of the school.

However, a second video played in court Thursday shows him telling police about the November incident, in which he says the accused played a role.

The teen says in that video that he witnessed a similar sex assault on another student in the school's locker room after a football game. That incident also saw a group swarm a student and sexually assault him with a broom handle, the boy recalls.

He tells police the accused at one point held down the victim's arms in that incident. Later, after the sex assault was over, the accused was also among those looking at a phone and laughing, the teen says in the video.

The teen recalls going over to the victim in the minutes after the incident, only to have that student threaten to assault him in the same manner.

He acknowledges to the investigator that he probably should have intervened to stop the attack on the other student, but says he was scared the group would turn on him instead.

Fear also held him back from reporting the November attack, he tells the officer in the video. The teen says he thought he would then be forced to disclose his own experiences and would be blamed for the expulsion of the perpetrators.

"They have a lot of friends around the school ... and I thought somebody would know it was me and come after me," he says.

The teen was initially among those charged in the November incident, though the charges were later dropped.

Three other teens have already pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon for their roles in the incidents and have been sentenced to two years of probation.

One of them also pleaded guilty to making child pornography for recording one of the sex assaults in a video that was then shared within the school and beyond.

Another student received a two-year probationary sentence with no jail time after pleading guilty. The charges against one other student were also dropped.



Pace of job gains slows to 62,000 in November: Statistics Canada

Job gains begin to slow

The rate of job growth continued to slow in November with the economy adding 62,000 jobs, down from 84,000 in October.

The gains were mostly focused in full-time work with a gain of 99,000 jobs, offset somewhat by a decline in part-time work of 37,000 positions, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

The average economist estimate had been for a gain of 20,000 jobs and an unchanged unemployment rate, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

The gains in November left the country 574,000 jobs short of recouping the approximately three million jobs lost from lockdowns in March and April that sent the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 13.7 per cent in May.

The unemployment rate fell to 8.5 per cent compared with 8.9 per cent in October.

The unemployment rate would have been 10.9 per cent in November, StatCan said, had it included in calculations Canadians who wanted to work last month but didn't search for a job.

In British Columbia, the unemployment rate was pegged at 7.1 per cent, down from 8.0 per cent in October.

In Kelowna, it was 4.7 per cent, down from 6.2 per cent.

The agency said 1.5 million people searched for jobs in November, a small drop of 39,000 from October, but still more than 448,000 or so who were looking for work in February, pre-pandemic.

The report noted that job searchers made up an increasing share of the total number of unemployed.

The youth unemployment rate fell 1.4 per cent to 17.4 per cent with a gain of about 20,000 jobs for the age group, mostly concentrated among young men with little change to the employment situation for women age 15 to 24.

Similarly, employment among women 25 to 54 years old didn’t change much in November after six straight months of seeing their numbers rise.

Positions in the hard-hit accommodation and food services sector declined for the second consecutive month, shedding 24,000 jobs in November.

That figure doesn’t take into account renewed restrictions in areas like Toronto that kicked in later in the month.

"As a result, it's likely that COVID will catch up with the Canadian economy in the December data, with a decline expected in both employment and overall economic activity," notes CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes.

Overall, the pace of job gains has slowed, with employment rising by 0.3 per cent in November compared to an average of 2.7 per cent per month between May and September.



The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Friday, Dec. 4

COVID-19: latest numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Friday Dec. 4, 2020.

Canada: 396,270 confirmed cases (69,255 active, 314,608 resolved, 12,407 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 6,495 new cases Thursday from 86,875 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43,173 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,168.

There were 82 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 608 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 87. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.01 per 100,000 people.

There have been 11,739,689 tests completed.

Newfoundland and Labrador: 340 confirmed cases (29 active, 307 resolved, four deaths).

There were zero new cases Thursday from 420 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 63,583 tests completed.

Prince Edward Island: 73 confirmed cases (five active, 68 resolved, zero deaths).

There was one new case Thursday from 584 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.17 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been three new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 61,621 tests completed.

Nova Scotia: 1,343 confirmed cases (119 active, 1,159 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were 11 new cases Thursday from 1,300 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.85 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 86 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 12.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 150,559 tests completed.

New Brunswick: 520 confirmed cases (111 active, 402 resolved, seven deaths).

There were six new cases Thursday from 1,179 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.51 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 55 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is eight.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people.

There have been 103,791 tests completed.

Quebec: 146,532 confirmed cases (13,198 active, 126,179 resolved, 7,155 deaths).

There were 1,470 new cases Thursday from 11,594 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,638 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,377.

There were 30 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 208 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 30. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 84.33 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,215,810 tests completed.

Ontario: 121,746 confirmed cases (14,795 active, 103,239 resolved, 3,712 deaths).

There were 1,824 new cases Thursday from 51,144 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,385 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,769.

There were 14 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 137 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.48 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,197,157 tests completed.

Manitoba: 17,751 confirmed cases (9,130 active, 8,268 resolved, 353 deaths).

There were 367 new cases Thursday from 2,804 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,463 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 352.

There were 11 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 87 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.91 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.78 per 100,000 people.

There have been 354,449 tests completed.

Saskatchewan: 9,244 confirmed cases (4,017 active, 5,173 resolved, 54 deaths).

There were 262 new cases Thursday from 1,696 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 15 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,882 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 269.

There was one new reported death Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 4.6 per 100,000 people.

There have been 265,300 tests completed.

Alberta: 63,023 confirmed cases (17,743 active, 44,705 resolved, 575 deaths).

There were 1,854 new cases Thursday from 8,049 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 23 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,145 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,592.

There were 14 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 13.15 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,495,622 tests completed.

British Columbia: 35,422 confirmed cases (10,013 active, 24,928 resolved, 481 deaths).

There were 694 new cases Thursday from 7,929 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.8 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,449 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 778.

There were 12 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 97 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.48 per 100,000 people.

There have been 815,367 tests completed.

Yukon: 50 confirmed cases (20 active, 29 resolved, one deaths).

There was one new case Thursday from 89 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,488 tests completed.

Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Thursday from 48 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,482 tests completed.

Nunavut: 198 confirmed cases (75 active, 123 resolved, zero deaths).

There were five new cases Thursday from 39 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is six.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 4,384 tests completed.



COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Vaccine approval days away

Senior Health Canada officials said Thursday they could be just days away from approving a COVID-19 vaccine as many provinces reported increasing hospitalizations and Quebec cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the Christmas holidays.

Chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said final documents from the American drugmaker Pfizer are expected Friday. They are to include which production lots of the vaccine will be shipped to Canada and when.

Sharma wouldn't put an exact date on approval or delivery, but said once the "key information" is delivered from Pfizer, she will be able to tell Canadians the news they have been longing to hear.

Moderna's vaccine is expected to receive approval soon after.

The supply will initially be limited to about three million people. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Thursday they are targeting priority groups that will most benefit from an earlier vaccine while reducing the spread of the virus.

“In a country as geographically large and diverse as ours, we are facing some logistical complexities,” he said, including reaching remote communities and co-ordinating between various levels of government.

The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to start planning for the distribution of COVID-19 in the most ambitious and complex vaccine rollout in the country’s history. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country's distribution effort, said the speed, scope and scale of this plan makes it unique.

A planning directive for Operation Vector includes preparations on vaccine-storage facilities and notes the possibility of flying doses on short notice from Spain, Germany and the U.S.

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals and front-line workers during the second wave of the pandemicas they prepare for upcoming distribution of the vaccine.

Premier Francois Legault announced Quebec will no longer go forward with a plan to permit multi-household gatherings of up to 10 people over four days during the holidays.

Hospitalizations declined slightly in that province to 737, but the number of people in the intensive care unit remained unchanged at 99 on Thursday.

Legault said it was not realistic to think the numbers will go down sufficiently by Christmas.

Ontario reported 666 people were in hospital Thursday with COVID-19, with 195 in intensive care — a 34 per cent increase from the week before.There were 1,824 new cases and 14 more deaths due to the virus.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases nationally is 6,044.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, announced 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 12 additional deaths as she outlined the early details of the province's plan for immunization.

Seniors in long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized, she said, but more details on the plan won't come out until next week.

Henry said health-care workers are tired from the pandemic and it's important to get through the next few months before vaccines are available.

"We know that our long-term care homes, in particular, are most vulnerable, and we know right now it's the biggest challenge that we are facing," she said.



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