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Around Red Deer May 17th…..

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12:25 pm – Property Assessment Inspections are now underway in Red Deer County. Read More.

11:36 am – RCMP have recovered a van that was stolen during an assault and car-jacking in Red Deer on May 14th. Read More.

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9:56 am – A Blackfalds man wanted on several outstanding warrants is now facing additional firearms related charges after being arrested in a field east of Red Deer on May 15th. RCMP were responding to complaints of an erratic driver. Read More.

9:41 am – On Tuesday, autopsies of a 39 year old man and 6 year old girl found deceased in a Lancaster residence on May 14th were conducted at the office of the Medical Examiner in Calgary. Determination of the cause and manner of death are pending further test results. Investigators have completed the examination of the scene and it is no longer being contained. RCMP are continuing to work with the medical examiner and an update will be provided when the tests have been completed.

9:11 am – Boys Semi-Final Rugby action takes place at Ecole Secondaire Notre Dame High School today starting at 4:30 pm. The Girls Rugby Semi-Finals are at the Olds High School starting at 5:00 pm.

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9:04 am – Track and Field students from Ecole Secondaire Notre Dame High School are taking part in the Area’s Competition today.

8:48 am – Social Media Breakfast Red Deer will host its 50th event at the Scott Block Theatre in downtown Red Deer tomorrow, Thursday, May 18th starting at 8:00 am. The guest speaker of this event will feature Mike Morrison, founder of SocialWest, the largest social media conference on the prairies. Details Here.

8:39 am – As part of Crime Prevention Week this week, Innisfail RCMP will host an Open House and Free BBQ lunch today from 11:30 am – 2:00 p.m. in support of Crime prevention week. Members will be on hand to provide short tours and discuss any crime prevention related topics. This is being provided in support of Innisfail Restorative Justice Society, and Innisfail Victim Services unit. On hand will be members from the Innisfail Police Dog training centre and RCMP Safety bear. All Innisfail and area residents including children are welcome to attend. 

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8:24 am – The City of Red Deer will have representation at a Senior’s Information Fair taking place at the Golden Circle on Thursday, May 18th. Find out more.

8:14 am – Red Deer College and seven School Divisions in central Alberta will sign the Learning Pathways in Central Alberta Memorandum of Understanding today at 4:00 pm. This signing is a renewal of the original Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in 2013. The renewed MOU will provide an on-going framework for the partnership, which will continue to benefit learners in the region by enhancing opportunities for high school completion and the transition to post-secondary education. Also, the 2017 Community Awards will be held at the College tonight. Community members, alumni and distinguished guests will celebrate and honour two deserving individuals and one community partner that will receive awards.

7:59 am – A water service disruption will take place along Tamarac Blvd in the Town of Springbrook today starting at 1:00 pm. Details Here.

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Experts call on Canada to use COVAX doses of AstraZeneca or give them back

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OTTAWA — Some health experts are questioning Canada’s decision to accept thousands of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from a global vaccine-sharing alliance, only to have them sit in freezers in an Ontario warehouse.

More than 655,000 doses of AstraZeneca arrived in Canada through the COVAX initiative Thursday even as most provinces have temporarily paused their use for first doses amid supply issues and the potential risk of rare blood clots.

It is the first time vaccines have been delivered to Canada without immediately being distributed to provinces and territories, because Ottawa isn’t yet clear who wants them.

“Depending on how and when the provinces want to use them, they can either have them all now, have them on a scheduled delivery, we can hold (them) for a couple of weeks,” said Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin at a vaccine briefing Thursday.

As of May 8, 2.16 million Canadians had been given one dose of AstraZeneca. With enough Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coming to vaccinate everyone who hasn’t yet been given a first dose, the main use of AstraZeneca in Canada going forward would be for second doses.

But even that is in doubt, as a United Kingdom study looking at mixing and matching vaccines might indicate the second dose should be Pfizer or Moderna. Preliminary data this week showed doing so was safe, but how effective it was to mix them won’t be known until June.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu defended accepting the doses even though they were going to be stored for now, saying there’s no indication yet provinces won’t use them for second doses.

“Obviously, we’re monitoring this very closely, and my expectation is that doses of vaccine, regardless of the variety and type, don’t go to waste,” she said.

Fortin said he is preparing advice to cabinet on what to do with the doses that aren’t immediately wanted but wouldn’t go into detail.

“There are a range of options that we continue to investigate, the contingencies and a number of things to include what we would do with future doses,” he said.

Dr. Irfan Dhalla, an internal medicine specialist in Toronto, said Canada needs to make those decisions immediately.

“We should definitely not be keeping doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in freezers while thousands of people are dying every day in India, and other countries around the world and are desperate to receive a highly effective vaccine,” he said.

Canada has been criticized before for being the only G7 country taking doses from COVAX, which was designed as a vehicle for wealthier nations to help low and middle-income nations get access to COVID-19 vaccines. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended the practice, saying COVAX was designed as a way to both buy and share doses and Canada is doing nothing wrong.

Dhalla said in an ideal world vaccinations would happen equally everywhere, but he said practically that was never going to happen.

“We know that high-income countries are going to vaccinate more quickly than low-income countries,” he said. “But it is unconscionable to then not use the vaccine that we have. Either we use it, or we send it to places where it can be used and we need to do that now.”

NDP health critic Don Davies said Canada needs to return the COVAX doses immediately.

“When they first decided to do it there was an immediate reaction from all sorts of sources,” he said. “It didn’t make sense then and it’s case closed now.”

Dr. Alan Bernstein, the president of the global research organization CIFAR and a member of Canada’s national vaccine task force, said it might make practical sense to wait until the second-dose question is answered by the U.K. study.

“I think that we wouldn’t want to be caught with having given away doses (if) we ultimately will regret that literally two or three weeks later,” he said.

But Bernstein said as soon as that data comes in, the decision must be made, and then if we aren’t using the doses, they need to be given back to COVAX immediately.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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Canadians divided on sending Team Canada athletes to the Tokyo Olympic Games: poll

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OTTAWA — A new poll by Leger and the Association of Canadian Studies suggests the country is divided over plans to send athletes from Canada to the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo as Japan grapples with climbing COVID-19 cases.

Forty-two per cent of those surveyed said they don’t think Canadian athletes should compete in the Tokyo Games — delayed by a year due to the pandemic — while 39 per cent said Team Canada should attend.

When asked if they think competing in the games will be safe, 46 per cent of people said no, 35 per cent said yes and 19 per cent were not sure.

This torn perspective of Canadians could help give government officials, who will make the final call on whether athletes indeed take part in the Games, a way out, says Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.

“Canadians are so divided, certainly not convinced it’s safe for athletes, so it’s as if they’re saying, ‘If we decided to go, OK, and if we decide not to go, fine,'” Bourque said.

He added that he was surprised by these results.

“Usually it’s something that Canadians like to celebrate, whether it’s Summer or Winter Olympics, just to see the Maple Leaf out there competing, it always gets huge ratings on TV, so I would have assumed that there would be more of a willingness to say, ‘Let’s start enjoying ourselves again, including the Olympics,'” he said.

“But it seems again Canadians are prudent, careful, measured in how they answered the survey.”

The survey questioned 1,529 Canadians and 1,003 Americans online between May 7 and May 9. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

If governments are concerned about Canadians being upset about athletes jumping the queue for their COVID-19 vaccines, they need not be.

More than six in 10 respondents said they believe Canadian athletes should be prioritized for vaccines in Canada.

Athletes aren’t required to be vaccinated to participate in the Games, however Pfizer and BioNTech announced earlier this month they would be donating COVID-19 doses to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee has said it believes it will have access to these donated vaccine doses as part of an International Olympic Committee initiative.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault was not available for an interview Friday, but his spokeswoman, Camille Gagne-Raynauld, said federal officials are closely monitoring the status of the pandemic and its effect on the Tokyo Games.

The government is working closely with its sport partners and with the support of the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Gagne-Raynauld said.

“The priority remains the health and safety of our athletes, coaches and support staff.”

The results from the poll of U.S. residents suggest our neighbours to the south are far more comfortable with the idea of sending their athletes to Japan for the Games, which open July 23.

A 55 per cent majority indicated they want American athletes to attend the games compared to only 20 per cent who said they should not, and more than half of U.S. respondents said they think it will be safe to compete.

Bourque said this isn’t surprising, because Americans overall have been far less favourable toward imposed public health closures and restrictions over the last year according to his firm’s polling.

“They’ve always had very much more of a laissez-faire attitude toward everything pandemic-related, compared to Canadians. In their case, a majority are saying, ‘Yes, we should go and yes, it’s safe.'”

A state of emergency in Tokyo and Osaka was extended earlier this week to more parts of the country as sports and health officials around the world continue to monitor the evolving situation on the ground.

Anti-Games sentiments have been gaining ground in Japan, where only about two per cent of the population has been vaccinated.

On Friday, a petition calling for the Olympics to be cancelled “to protect our lives” with more than 350,000 signatures was submitted to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike. The petition says money spent on the Games would be better used on people in financial need because of the pandemic.

On Thursday, Japan reported 6,800 new coronavirus cases, increasing its total to 665,547 with 11,255 deaths.

Meanwhile, the Leger and Association for Canadian Studies survey also looked at Canadians’ travel plans for the summer and for the remainder of the year. The results suggest a majority of Canadians plan to stay put and are not ready to get back on airplanes or travel to the U.S. any time soon.

These results mirror those from surveys of Canadians’ travel plans conducted last year, Bourque said — which he equated to a kind of “Groundhog Day.”

“I think Canadians will remain very careful of what plans they’re making,” he said.

“A lot of people too don’t fully trust they will get refunded if they reserve now and cancel later, so this is probably not helping Canadians say, ‘Let’s plan for the fall, let’s gamble on (the pandemic) being fine by then.’ So there’s a bit of a wait and see.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021.

— With files from The Associated Press and Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

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