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Mask, vaccine mandates for travel defended as government eases border restrictions

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OTTAWA — The government signalled it is aspiring to a “more sustainable” approach to COVID-19 restrictions at the border with several small changes Friday, but public health officials say vaccine and mask mandates remain important.

Unvaccinated children aged five to 11 travelling with a fully vaccinated adult will no longer need a COVID-19 test to enter Canada as of Monday.

Pre-entry tests will still be needed for partially vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers over the age of 12 who are eligible to travel to Canada.

Children under five don’t currently require a COVID-19 test.

Airports will still conduct random mandatory COVID-19 tests on travellers as they arrive, but they will be refocused to four major Canadian airports: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

In a news release Friday, government officials announced several other small changes to ease restrictions for international travellers that will take effect after the weekend, “as of part of the Government of Canada’s plans to move toward a more sustainable approach to COVID-19 travel requirements.”

Fully vaccinated travellers, and any kids under 12 with them, will no longer need to provide their quarantine plans when they enter the country.

And when vaccinated people arrive in Canada, they won’t need to wear a mask for 14 days, keep a list of contacts or report COVID-19 symptoms.

The government will also do away with the need for fully vaccinated travellers to quarantine if someone in their group develops COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive.

It’s a good time to ease restrictions at the border, deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said at a briefing in French Friday.

“If people are fully vaccinated, measures can be relaxed,” Njoo said in French.

The minor changes come as particularly good news for people travelling as a family this season, said National Airlines Council of Canada president Suzanne Acton-Gervais.

While Njoo and his chief, Dr. Theresa Tam, said restrictions should be constantly reviewed they also expressed support for the vaccine and mask mandates that are in place.

“I’m not saying anything about it from a policy perspective, but yes, the higher our vaccination rate is, the higher the uptake is of vaccines, the better overall,” Njoo said.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos did not appear at the press briefing, but said in a statement that the government would continue to consider further easing of border measures based on science as vaccination levels and health-care system capacity improve.

Airlines in the United States dropped their mask mandates after a Florida judge ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its authority in enacting the mandate on public transportation in the first place.

Combined with the fact that many provinces have announced plans to scrap their own mandates, that has prompted some to question whether Canadians should have to mask up on planes and trains.

Tam said if a mandate will encourage people to wear a mask and reduce transmission, why not have one?

“I mean, it has a certain amount of inconvenience perhaps, but it does not essentially restrict travel as such. So I think it’s one of the least intrusive measures, but adds definitely another layer of protection,” Tam said.

Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra says federal and provincial COVID-19 mandates are not out of step with each other at all.

“I actually think the federal rules and provincial rules are almost in sync,” he said at a separate press conference Friday.

“We’ve dropped testing requirements, we’ve dropped quarantine requirements, pre-departure tests. So we’ve really adjusted many of our measures.”

Ontario announced Friday it will extend its mask requirement in high-risk settings until June 11 while it weathers this latest wave of infections.

Tam said COVID-19 is still widespread throughout Canada, and the current wave appeared to be reaching a peak in some parts of the country before the Easter long weekend. It’s too soon to tell if gatherings over that long weekend will result in another bump in cases, she said.

Generally, the number of hospitalizations appears to be manageable during this wave, though some hospitals are suffering as health workers take time off because of COVID-19 infections, she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2022.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta premier defends new rules on in-person learning, no mask mandates in schools

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By Dean Bennett and Colette Derworiz

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is defending new rules ordering schools to provide in-person learning during the current wave of viral illnesses, saying a clear, measured response is crucial for students and parents.

“We need a normal school environment for our children, and we need to make sure that the classrooms stay open to be able to support our parents,” Smith said at a news conference in Medicine Hat on Friday.

“That’s why we made the decision that we did — to give that clear direction.”

Her comments came a day after she announced regulatory changes saying school boards must provide in-person learning. Schools also can’t require students to wear masks in school or be forced to take classes online.

The changes take effect immediately.

“Anyone is welcome to wear a mask if they feel that that is the right choice for them, but we should not be forcing parents to mask their kids, and we shouldn’t be denying education to kids who turn up without a mask,” Smith said.

She has said mask rules and toggling from online to in-person learning adversely affected the mental health, development and education of students during the COVID-19 pandemic and strained parents scrambling to make child-care arrangements when schools shut down.

That’s over, Smith said.

“We’re just not going to normalize these kind of extreme measures every single respiratory virus season,” she said.

School boards have been asking for more direction as a slew of seasonal respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, along with some COVID-19 cases, have led to high classroom absentee rates and have jammed children’s hospitals.

In Edmonton, Trisha Estabrooks, board chair for Edmonton Public Schools, said the decision provided the clarity that the board was seeking.

“All Albertans now understand that it’s not within the jurisdiction, and nor should it ever have been within the jurisdiction of individual school boards, to make decisions that belong to health officials,” said Estabrooks.

She said the province has made it clear that any future public health order would supersede the new rules.

The in-person learning change applies to grades 1-12 in all school settings, including public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent schools.

The masking change applies to those same grades and schools, but also to early childhood services.

The Opposition NDP criticized the new rules, saying it’s unrealistic to force schools to be all things to all students while also handling a wave of viral illnesses and not providing additional supports to do it.

Jason Schilling, head of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the government needs to work with school boards to figure out how to make this work.

“You have schools that are struggling to staff the building, (they) can’t get substitute teachers, teachers are sick, they’re covering each other’s classes, principals are covering the classes,” Schilling said in an interview.

“And then to say if you go online, you are to still offer the same programming in person — we just don’t have the people to do that.”

Wing Li, communications director for public education advocacy organization, Support our Students, said it will be difficult for schools to offer hybrid learning without any additional resources.

“There are no teachers,” Li said in an interview. “Pivoting online was mostly due to staffing shortages, which is worse now three years in.”

Li said online learning is challenging for students but, when temporary and supported, can keep schools and communities safe from spreading illness.

“This is a quite aggressive use of the Education Act to enshrine an ideology,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022

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Brownstone Institute

Three Medical Policies that Need Immediate Changing

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Pierre KoryPIERRE KORY

You can’t make this up: The same cast of characters who erred so badly on COVID-19 want a do-over. A head-turning essay in The Atlanticwent so far as to plead for “pandemic amnesty.” For many in the medical community who have been derided by the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci and his fanatics, these words ring hollow. Talk, as they say, is cheap, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Before a COVID-19 mulligan can be considered, here are three policies that must change.

First, “vaccine or bust” proponents must admit their approach overpromised and underdelivered. President Biden has repeatedly declared COVID-19 a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” despite the science indicating otherwise. His claim that the vaccinated “do not spread the disease to anyone else” was rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact. Simply lowering the goalposts about less severe symptoms is insufficient. This is not what we were promised.

Making matters worse was the weaponization of this misinformation to influence public policy. It wasn’t just a smug Rachel Maddow telling her audience in March 2021 that the “virus stops with every vaccinated person.” This so-called science was used to pit Americans against one another, keep children out of school and force personnel out of critically important positions in the military, schools and first responders. Last fall, 5% of unvaccinated adults reported leaving their jobs.

I should know. I’ve been on the receiving end of threats to my livelihood.

This brings us to point two: The new California law empowering the punishment of doctors deemed guilty of spreading “misinformation” must be repealed before it can inflict further damage. Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Assembly Bill 2098 enables the state to strip the medical licenses of professionals who veer from the preferred political party line.

It’s a disturbing trend taking hold across the country. The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) recently voted to remove Dr. Peter McCullough, one of the nation’s leading cardiologists, from his certifications in cardiovascular disease. Mr. McCullough’s sin had nothing to do with his performance in caring for patients, but rather with questioning the necessity of the COVID-19 vaccine for younger populations. With their far-reaching certification authority, the ABIM has the power to make any doctor’s life a living hell. Mr. McCullough’s fate now hangs in the balance until his Nov. 18 appeal date. This dangerous precedent must be nipped in the bud in the nation’s most populous state (governed by an oft-mentioned future presidential candidate) before it can take hold elsewhere.

Third, the District of Columbia must scrap its vaccine mandate for children in schools once and for all. Last week’s vote to delay compliance until January 3, 2023, is not enough. DC is one of the only school districts in the country with this type of requirement, going further than their counterparts in New York City or Los Angeles.

Last month, nearly half (44.7%) of DC school students fell short of COVID-19 compliance, according to Axios. In a city where 60% of the school-age population is Black, this mandate is not only unnecessary but is perpetuating further inequity. The pandemic has already taken an incredible toll on our children’s education, with math and reading scores falling to astonishing new lows. It is beyond misguided to bar children from attending school unless they receive a vaccine for an illness that poses a far smaller hazard to their health than the soaring crime rates in our cities.

From masks to breakthrough cases to alternative treatments, the so-called experts have amassed a track record of incorrect judgments that make political pollsters look good by comparison. Even in the fog of a once-in-a-century pandemic, these decisions were not just borne of inexpert and incorrect scientific knowledge but rather driven by a rush to push a medical agenda.

Our organization, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) practices what we preach. As data evolved over time, we updated our recommendations and approaches accordingly. It wasn’t luck. We were following the science. Sadly, government agencies stuck with their unceasing policy recommendations that were increasingly divorced from the science.

One thing most people can agree on: COVID-19 won’t be the last public health emergency. There are already concerning headlines about an early spike of RSV impacting children. The leaders of captured health agencies must learn from their mistake of allowing the pharmaceutical industry unimpeded control of pandemic health policy. Americans are incredibly forgiving people willing to show grace, but step one in that process is a willingness for those in charge to admit their mistakes.

Republished from Washington Times

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  • Pierre Kory

    Pierre Kory is a Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist, Teacher/Researcher. He is also the President and Chief Medical Officer of the non-profit organization Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance whose mission is to develop the most effective, evidence/expertise-based COVID-19 treatment protocols.

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