Drug busts net $148K in fentanyl, 5 facing charges: London police

Five London, Ont., residents are facing drug trafficking-related charges after police say they seized nearly $150,000 worth of fentanyl during a series of drug busts in the city on Thursday.

Officers raided three addresses on Belmont Drive, Commissioners Road West and King Street on Thursday, seizing 743 grams of fentanyl valued at $148,600, police said.

Police say they also seized 26.5 grams of crack cocaine valued at $2,650, along with $8,000 in cash.

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Four people, aged 18, 29, 36 and 39, have been jointly charged with one count of possession of a Schedule I substance for the purpose of trafficking in relation to the fentanyl.

Police say the 29-year-old, the 39-year-old and another person, aged 60, are also jointly charged with a separate count of possession of a Schedule I substance for the purpose of trafficking, also in relation to the fentanyl.

The 29-year-old faces an additional charge of failure to comply with a release order, while the 60-year-old is additionally charged with one count of possession of a Schedule I substance.

Police say the 29-year-old accused and the 39-year-old accused have been remanded into custody, while the 36-year-old accused is set to appear in court on Feb. 25. The 18-year-old and 60-year-old charged in the case are due back in court April 22, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

One suspect still at large in fatal 2021 shooting, Winnipeg police say

Winnipeg police have only one suspect left at large in connection with the Nov. 29, 2021 shooting death of Tyler Yarema.

Members of the police homicide unit arrested Jake Steven Ducharme — who is now in custody facing second-degree murder charges — on Thursday, leaving 23-year-old Bryce Alexander Keating the only outstanding suspect.

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One suspect in custody, two still at large in 2021 St. Vital shooting death

Keating is the subject of a warrant for second-degree murder, and police are advising Winnipeggers not to approach him if he’s spotted, as he may be armed and dangerous.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call the homicide unit at 204-986-6508, Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477) or 911.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

COVID-19: MLHU reports 2 deaths, LHSC caring for 153 inpatients

Jump to: HospitalizationsCases and testingOutbreaksVaccinationsOntarioElgin and OxfordHuron and PerthSarnia and Lambton


The Middlesex-London Health Unit reported two deaths and 224 COVID-19 cases on Friday, a day after reporting six deaths.

The two deaths reported Friday both involve men in their 80s. One was associated with a retirement home and the other was not associated with any long-term care or retirement residence.

Based on a graph of the vaccination status of all deaths in the previous six weeks, the two were fully vaccinated.

The London Health Sciences Centre, meanwhile, reported 153 COVID-19 inpatients in its care. Last Friday, LHSC was caring for 132 COVID-19 inpatients.

Hospitalizations

As noted, LHSC is caring for 153 inpatients with COVID-19, up from 132 a week ago.

Of those, 22 are in adult critical care, compared to 21 a week ago.

Six of the 153 are in Children’s Hospital, with zero in pediatric critical care. Last Friday, six were in Children’s Hospital with five or fewer in pediatric critical care.

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Of the 153 patients, 91 are being treated for COVID-19 while 62 others in hospital have incidental COVID-19 infections (meaning they were admitted for another reason). Last Friday, those figures were 78 and 54, respectively. LHSC has been reporting those figures since Jan. 10.

“We’ve certainly confirmed and found every single day that the majority of people that are here that are positive (for) COVID would not be in hospital if they didn’t have COVID,” chief medical officer Dr. Adam Dukelow told Global News on Friday.

“But because the prevalence of the disease is so high in the community and there’s so many people with it that we’re also seeing a large, large number of people that have it just incidentally and are here for another reason.”

Dukelow added that regardless of whether someone attends hospital due to COVID-19 or if they attend for another reason and are found to have COVID-19 after being tested during admission, hospitals have to use more resources in terms of infection control measures.

Among staff, there are 297 cases, down from 511 a week ago.

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There are several outbreaks at LHSC at St. Joseph’s Health Care London. Further information can be found in the Outbreaks section, below.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London reported 16 cases among patients or residents in its care as of Thursday and 99 health-care workers with COVID-19, compared to 77 patient/resident cases and 132 staff cases a week ago.

Among the 16 patient/resident cases, seven are at Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care and nine are at Parkwood Institute Main Building.

Cases and testing

As mentioned, the MLHU reported two deaths on Friday involving men in their 80s. Both were fully vaccinated and one was associated with a retirement home.

The MLHU reported 224 cases Friday, compared to 253 a week ago. Due to changes in eligibility for PCR testing, daily case counts are no longer considered a fully reliable reflection of COVID-19 activity in the region.

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The Middlesex-London Health Unit says individuals who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should consider themselves to be positive for COVID-19 and self-isolate.

The health unit has provided information on what to do if you develop symptoms, test positive on a rapid test or PCR test or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

In total, there have been 27,257 confirmed cases since the onset of the pandemic, including 2,524 active cases (a decrease of 65), 24,451 resolved cases (an increase of 294) and 282 deaths (an increase of two).

The test positivity rate for the week of Jan. 9 was 22.4 per cent, down from 24 per cent the week of Jan. 2 and 28.3 per cent the week of Dec. 26, 2021.

Outbreaks

The Salvation Army Centre of Hope said the MLHU had declared an outbreak at the shelter on Wednesday. As of Thursday evening, nine clients had tested positive for COVID-19 and another nine were identified as close contacts.

Read more:

28 in isolation amid COVID-19 outbreak at The Salvation Army Centre of Hope in London, Ont.

LHSC is reporting the following outbreaks:

  • University Hospital
    • U10 Subacute Medicine and Palliative Care, declared Jan. 16, involving five or fewer patient cases
    • U6 200/300 Cardiac Surgery Inpatients, declared Jan. 16, involving five or fewer patients and five or fewer staff cases
    • U5 100/300 Cardiology Inpatients, declared Jan. 16, involving five or fewer patient cases and five or fewer staff cases
    • A8 Surgery Inpatient, declared Jan. 14, involving 11 patient cases and five or fewer staff cases
    • A9 Inpatients 100 and 200 Corridors, declared Jan. 11, involving 19 patient cases
    • 7IP Clinical Neurosciences, declared Jan. 1, involving 17 patient cases and five or fewer staff cases
  • Victoria Hospital
    • B72 – Adult Mental Health Inpatients, declared Jan. 17, involving five or fewer patients

A previously reported outbreak at Victoria Hospital’s B7-200 Adult Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, declared Dec. 31, involving seven patient cases and five or fewer staff cases, is no longer listed as active by LHSC.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London is reporting the following outbreaks:

  • Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care: SM2
  • Parkwood Institute Main Building: 3KE, 4BE and 2Perth

Outbreaks at Parkwood Institute Main Building’s 4AE and 4AN units have ended.

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The MLHU is reporting the following institutional outbreaks:

  • Arbor Trace Alzheimer’s Special Care Centre, facility-wide, declared Jan. 4
  • Babcock Community Care Centre, facility-wide, declared Dec. 31
  • Chartwell Parkhill, Countryside Unit, declared Jan. 1
  • Chelsey Park, third floor-A Wing, declared Jan. 18
  • Country Terrace, Nottinghill Unit, declared Dec. 28
  • Dearness Home, Oakdale, declared Dec. 29
  • Earls Court Village, second and third floor, declared Jan. 2
  • Elmwood Place, facility-wide, declared Dec. 27
  • Extendicare, first floor, declared Dec. 24
  • Henley Place LTC Residence, facility-wide, declared Dec. 29
  • Highview Residence – Chapin House, facility-wide, declared Jan. 7
  • Manor Village at London, 4 West and 4 Centre, declared Jan. 10
  • McCormick Home, Evergreen unit, declared Dec. 14
  • Meadow Park Care Centre, Blue Unit, declared Jan. 1
  • Strathmere Lodge, Bear Creek, declared Jan. 6
  • Village of Glendale Crossing, facility-wide, declared Dec. 25

A previously reported outbreak at Westmount Gardens, Daisy Unit, declared Jan. 3, was listed as resolved as of Jan. 20.

Vaccinations

The MLHU announced Thursday that the mass vaccination clinic at Earl Nichols Recreation Centre is now accepting walk-ins.

As of the end of day Jan. 15, 89.1 per cent of residents aged five and older in the region have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 83.2 per cent have had two doses.

The percentage of people who’ve received third doses climbed to 38.5 per cent from 31.8 per cent. Note that those under 18 are not currently eligible for a third dose.

First dose coverage for those aged five to 11 stands at 54.1 per cent.

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Health unit data shows that since Dec. 10, 34.48 per cent of hospitalized cases have involved people who were unvaccinated. Note that unvaccinated residents make up only 10.9 per cent of the region’s five-and-older population as of Jan. 15.

Of the 24 deaths reported in the past six weeks, 18 involved fully vaccinated individuals and eight involved unvaccinated individuals.

On the health unit’s website, residents can find information on pop-up clinics, mass vaccination clinics and pharmacies, as well as guidance for anyone vaccinated outside of the province or country, transportation support for those in need and more.

Ontario

Ontario reported 4,114 people in hospital with COVID on Friday (54 per cent admitted because of the virus) with 590 in intensive care units (82 per cent admitted because of the virus).

Read more:

4,114 people in Ontario hospitals with COVID, 590 in intensive care

Last Friday, hospitalizations were at 3,814, with the number of people in ICUs at 527.

The province also reported 7,165 new infections Friday, though that is an underestimate due to recent testing restrictions. Another 62 deaths were also recorded.

Elgin and Oxford

Southwestern Public Health will hold two pop-up clinics specifically for staff in school, school support or child-care settings, as well as children aged five-to-11 and their parents, and staff in long-term care or retirement homes.

One clinic will be held at the Ontario Police College on Jan. 21 and the other at the Tillsonburg Community Centre on Jan. 25. Both run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments can be booked online through the “targeted populations” priority designation or over the phone at 1-800-922-0096 x 9 on weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Southwestern Public Health reported 52 hospitalizations on Friday, compared to 27 a week ago. Ten are in the ICU, up from seven a week ago.

The test positivity rate for the week of Jan. 9 was 16.5 per cent, down from 19.5 per cent the week of Jan. 2.

As for cases, SWPH is reporting:

  • 9,533 cases (an increase of 93 with one case removed due to data cleanup)
  • 860 active cases (a decrease of 14)
  • 8,543 resolved cases (an increase of 77; note that SWPH clears all cases after 10 days regardless of outcome)
  • 130 total deaths (an increase of one)

The death reported Friday involved a woman in her 70s and was tied to the Woodingford Lodge Outbreak in Woodstock.

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There are active outbreaks at the following long-term homes, retirement homes and hospitals:

  • Valleyview Nursing Home, St. Thomas, declared Dec. 23 and involving 17 resident cases, 32 staff cases and one death
  • Woodingford Lodge, Woodstock, declared Dec. 28 and involving 14 resident cases, 19 staff cases and two deaths
  • Tillsonburg Retirement Residence – Tillsonburg, declared Dec. 29 and involving three resident cases and one staff case
  • Chartwell Oxford Gardens, Woodstock, declared Dec. 30 and involving 12 resident cases and four staff cases
  • Caressant Care Bonnie Place Retirement Home, St. Thomas, declared Dec. 30 and involving 17 resident cases, 11 staff cases, one death and two cases under investigation
  • Caressant Care Bonnie Place Nursing Home, St. Thomas, declared Dec. 30 and involving 27 resident cases, 20 staff cases and one case under investigation
  • Elgin Manor, St. Thomas, declared Dec. 31 and involving nine resident cases and 13 staff cases
  • Beattie Manor Retirement Residence, Wardsville, declared Jan. 17 and involving five resident cases
  • Extendicare, Port Stanley, declared Jan. 2 and involving nine resident cases and 12 staff cases
  • Maple Manor Nursing Home, Tillsonburg, declared Jan. 18 and involving three resident cases and 10 staff cases
  • Terrace Lodge, Aylmer, declared Jan. 2 and involving 18 resident cases, five staff cases and one death
  • Secord Trails, Ingersoll, declared Jan. 2 and involving 41 resident cases, 24 staff cases and two deaths
  • Chartwell Aylmer, Aylmer, declared Jan. 2 and involving six resident cases and seven staff cases
  • Alexandra Hospital, Ingersoll, declared Jan. 3 and involving nine patient cases and three staff cases
  • Caressant Care Nursing Home – Woodstock, declared Jan. 3 and involving one resident case and 16 staff cases
  • Maples Nursing Home – Tavistock, declared Jan. 7, involving three resident cases, 14 staff cases and one case under investigation
  • Arches Transitional Bed Program, Woodstock, declared Jan. 10 and involving 16 resident cases, 14 staff cases and one case under investigation
  • Woodingford Lodge, Ingersoll, declared Jan. 12 and involving three staff cases
  • Cedarview Living Retirement, Woodstock, declared Jan. 13 and involving eight resident cases and one staff case
  • Metcalfe Gardens Retirement Home, St. Thomas, declared Jan. 13 and involving 13 resident cases and six staff cases
  • Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital, Tillsonburg, declared Jan. 18 and involving three resident cases

A previous outbreak at Woodingford Lodge, Tillsonburg, declared Jan. 11 and involving six staff cases, is no longer listed as active.

As of Jan. 19, 77.2 per cent of those aged five and older in the region had received two doses of the vaccine, while 82.4 per cent have had at least one dose.

Further information on where and how to get vaccinated can be found on the health unit’s website.

The health unit encouraged people to join its Same-Day Vaccination List, which offers any leftover doses due to cancellations or no-shows.

Huron and Perth

Global News is awaiting Friday’s data from Huron Perth Public Health.

On Thursday, Huron Perth Public Health reported eight people were in hospital with COVID-19, compared to nine a week ago.

Of those, four are considered to be active cases.

Data on the number of health-care workers with active COVID-19 infections was not available but it was reported at 130 on Wednesday. Last Thursday, HPPH reported 95 health-care workers with active cases of COVID-19.

For the week of Jan. 9, the test positivity rate was 10 per cent, down from 11 per cent the week of Jan. 2.

In total, HPPH reported:

  • 4,670 total cases (an increase of 49)
  • 78 deaths to date (unchanged)

The number of active cases and the number of recoveries were not available but as of Wednesday, the figures were 1,294 and 3,248, respectively.

The most recent deaths were reported on Jan. 11 when two deaths were added to the tally, no further details were provided.

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There are 14 active outbreaks reported by HPPH, including nine at long-term care or retirement homes:

  • Braemar Nursing Home, North Huron, declared Jan. 12 and involving nine residents and nine staff cases
  • Hillside Manor, Perth East, declared Dec. 31 and involving six staff cases
  • Kingsway Lodge, St. Marys, declared Jan. 3 and involving 12 resident cases and 14 staff cases
  • Knollcrest Lodge, Perth East, declared Jan. 12 and one resident case and involving five staff cases
  • Caressant Care Retirement Home, North Perth, declared Jan. 2 and involving five resident cases
  • Exeter Villa, South Huron, declared Jan. 2 and involving 10 resident cases and 3 staff cases
  • Goderich Place, Goderich, declared Jan. 8 and involving two resident cases and two staff cases
  • Maplewood Manor Retirement Home, Huron East, declared Dec. 30 and involving two resident cases and two staff cases
  • Seaforth Manor Retirement Home, Huron East, declared Jan. 2 and involving seven resident cases and three staff cases

HPPH is reporting five outbreaks at congregate living settings but no further details were provided.

A previously reported outbreak at Stratford General Hospital, declared Jan. 7, involving three patients and eight staff members, is no longer listed as active.

As of Jan. 17, 83.9 per cent of residents aged five and older have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose while 79.1 per cent are fully vaccinated. Third-dose coverage stands at 45.4 per cent of those five and older, though those under the age of 18 are not eligible for a third dose.

Information on how and where to get a vaccine can be found on the health unit’s website.

Sarnia and Lambton

Bluewater Health reported 53 patients in hospital with confirmed COVID-19, compared to 41 a week ago. Of those 53, nine are in the ICU.

Lambton Public Health is reporting the average ICU occupancy was at 78 per cent for the week of Jan. 9, down from 95 per cent for the week of Jan. 2.

The test positivity rate for the week of Jan. 9 was 31.8 per cent, up from 28.5 per cent the week prior.

On Friday, Lambton Public Health reported:

  • 8,202 total cases (an increase of 89)
  • 624 active cases (an increase of 18)
  • 7,477 resolved cases (an increase of 71)
  • 101 deaths to date (unchanged)

The most recent deaths were reported on Jan. 19, no details were provided.

Read more:

First shipment of Paxlovid, antiviral COVID-19 drug, arrives in Ontario

LPH reported 17 active outbreaks as of Friday, including at the following congregate living facilities:

  • Lambton County Developmental Services in Oil Spring, declared Jan. 19 and involving fewer than five residents and fewer than five staff cases
  • Lambton County Developmental Services in Wyoming, declared Jan. 9 and involving fewer than five resident cases and fewer than five staff/caregiver cases
  • Huron House Boys Home in Brights Grove, declared Jan. 8 and involving fewer than five residents and five staff/caregivers
  • Community Living Sarnia-Lambton in Sarnia, declared Jan. 7 and involving fewer than five residents and fewer than five staff/caregivers

A previous outbreak at St. Francis Advocates in Petrolia, declared Jan. 7 and involving fewer than five residents and fewer than five staff/caregivers, was declared over Jan. 20.

There are outbreaks at the following long-term care and retirement homes:

  • Country Manor Estates in Lambton Shores, declared Jan. 17 and involving fewer than five residents and fewer than five staff
  • Fairwinds Lodge in Sarnia, declared Jan. 10 and involving fewer than five residents and fewer than five staff
  • Watford Quality Care in Watford, declared Jan. 5 and involving 10 resident cases and six staff cases
  • Trillium Villa in Sarnia, declared Jan. 3 and involving 41 residents and 35 staff/caregivers
  • Marshall Gowland Manor in Sarnia, declared Jan. 1 and involving fewer than five residents and 16 staff/caregivers
  • Afton Park Place in Sarnia, declared Dec. 31 and involving fewer than five residents and 15 staff/caregivers
  • Sumac Lodge in Sarnia, declared Dec. 31 and involving 36 resident cases and 30 cases among staff/caregivers
  • Fiddick’s Nursing Home in Petrolia, declared Dec. 30 and involving 14 residents and 26 staff/caregivers

There are two hospital outbreaks and a jail outbreak. The outbreak at Sarnia Jail in Sarnia was declared Jan. 8 and involves 32 inmates and fewer than five staff members.

One outbreak at Bluewater Health in Sarnia declared Jan. 7 involves 15 patients and 10 staff members. A second outbreak at Bluewater Health was declared Jan. 14 and involves seven patients and 12 staff members.

There are two outbreaks in unidentified workplaces, one declared Jan. 17 and involving three cases and one declared Jan. 11 involving six cases.

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Among area residents aged five and older, 82 per cent have had at least one dose of vaccine, 77 per cent have had two doses and 41 per cent have had a third dose. Note that those under 18 are not currently eligible for a third dose.

Residents can book and re-book COVID-19 vaccine appointments or find information on vaccine availability at pharmacies using the health unit’s registration page. People can also contact the vaccine call centre at 226-254-8222.

Those who are able to get vaccinated on short notice are encouraged to sign up for Lambton Public Health’s daily Vaccine Standby List.

— with files from Gabby Rodrigues

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Former Belleville, Ont. CAS worker will wait to be sentenced

A former Children’s Aid worker from Belleville, Ont., won’t be sentenced for at least another week after defence and the Crown made their submissions during a sentencing hearing on Friday.

In October 2021, Sandra Forcier was convicted of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation in relation to one victim, who was not in her care while she was a supervisor at a Highland Shores Children’s Aid group home. She was found guilty of another count of sexual exploitation in relation to a youth whom she met as a ward of the group home.

The incidents Forcier is convicted of took place during 2012 and 2013 inside the group home and eventually at Forcier’s home.

The Crown attorney pointed to several other court cases in which the accused was convicted of similar offences to come up with his request for four and a half years for each of the two victims for a total of nine years. However, the defence is seeking a sentence in the range of five to six years.

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The Crown also took into account that the 119 days already served in prison, for this and other unrelated offences, could be counted against her penitentiary term and would amount to a total of six months time served.

The Crown also did not submit any victim impact statements, but did note one of the victims, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, turned down their request because he says he was emotionally spent from the process of being a witness during the trial.

However, during the Friday sentencing hearing, it was made aware to the courts that Forcier has been battling mental health issues since 2014, a year after the offences she was convicted of. She’s even had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, although it’s one her lawyer says she disputes.

While it’s not been documented, her defence lawyer, Jason Easton, suggested she could have been battling mental health problems during the time of the incidents, as one of the victims pointed out that Forcier at one point believed she was being followed by the CIA. However, the victim said he believed that behaviour had more to do with drug use than mental health issues.

Forcier is currently receiving psychiatric treatment at Providence Continuing Care, and Judge Patrick Hurley is worried that his sentence, which he admits will certainly be a penitentiary sentence, would interfere with the care he says she obviously needs.

Forcier has been remanded into custody and will be back before the courts on Jan. 28 at 10 a.m.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

6 new COVID-19 deaths reported in Waterloo, raising January death toll to 21

Canada’s COVID-19 hospitalizations still sharply rising amid Omicron-driven wave: Dr. Tam

Waterloo Public Health reported six more COVID-19-related deaths on Friday morning, raising the death toll in the area to 334, including 21 victims in January.

“Today we are reporting six deaths in our community related to COVID-19: two females in their 90s, 3 females in their 80s, and one male in his 80s,” Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, medical officer of health, stated.

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“I wish to express my deep sympathy to the families of these individuals.”

The six victims were all connected to outbreaks at long-term care homes in the area, including two who were residents of Pinehaven Nursing Home, where an outbreak was declared on Jan. 5 and has grown to include 23 staff members and 12 residents.

The others involved residents of Chartwell Clair Hills in Waterloo, Cambridge Country Manor, Riverbend Place in Cambridge and the Sunnyside Home in Kitchener.

There are also now 145 people in local hospitals who are suffering from COVID-19, including 27 who need intensive care.

On Thursday, Kitchener’s Grand River Hospital issued a plea for area residents to get vaccinated, as it was running out of beds and said those who are unvaccinated are more likely to need treatment.

Waterloo Public Health reported another 371 new positive tests for the coronavirus on Friday, lifting the total number of cases in the area to 36,508.

This drops the rolling seven-day average number of new daily cases down to 382. That said, the agency has warned that due to testing availability, case counts on its dashboard are likely lower than the actual number of cases in Waterloo Region.

Another 527 people were also cleared of the virus, lifting the total number of resolved cases in the area to 32,393.

This leaves the area with 3,407 active COVID-19 cases, which is down from the 3,603 reported on Thursday.

Waterloo Public Health says there have now been 1,202,563 COVID-19 vaccinations done in the region, which is 3,644 more than it reported 24 hours earlier.

Another 3,039 area residents have received a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, raising the total to 249,254.

The agency says 469,123 residents have had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which is up 434 from Thursday and also means that 77.51 per cent of all area residents are now vaccinated.

Read more:

4,114 people in Ontario hospitals with COVID, 590 in intensive care

Elsewhere, Ontario reported 4,114 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Friday, with 590 in intensive care units.

The province also reported 7,165 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, though that is an underestimate of the true widespread transmission of the virus due to recent testing restrictions. The provincial case total now stands at 984359.

The death toll in the province has risen to 10,865 as 62 more virus-related deaths were added from over the past month.

— with files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues

 

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Tonga turns back aid flight from Australia over positive COVID-19 case

Footage by a Tongan politician posted on Thursday showed some of the widespread damage left by a tsunami that hit the island nation in the wake of a massive undersea eruption on Saturday, as a state of emergency was declared and repair efforts underway.

An Australian plane delivering aid supplies to the Pacific nation of Tonga was turned away after a positive COVID-19 case was discovered on board.

According to The Guardian, the flight left Brisbane on Thursday afternoon but was turned around halfway through its flight when it was notified that someone on board had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Many of the country’s 170 islands were devastated after a volcano eruption and subsequent tsunami struck last weekend. A thick blanket of ash has covered the main island of Tongatapu, polluting drinking water and making it dangerous for some residents to be outside and exposed to the soot.

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Aid to Tonga after volcanic eruption, tsunami delayed by thick ash on airport runway

Despite desperately needing the help, Tongan officials have expressed concern about aid agencies coming to the islands and bringing the coronavirus with them.

So far, the country has managed to avoid any outbreaks, mostly by implementing strict restrictions that keep outsiders away.

An Australian defence spokeswoman told Reuters all members of the flight crew tested negative via rapid antigen tests before they boarded. However, the results from additional PCR tests came in mid-flight, showing that one person had tested positive for COVID-19, and the plane was ordered to turn back. The supplies were moved to another aircraft that left Brisbane on Friday.

There is some respite, however: other aid vessels have made contact with Tonga in that time, and more are on the way.

A New Zealand naval ship carrying 250,000 litres of water and desalination equipment arrived Friday, and several other flights from Australia and New Zealand also landed, carrying communication equipment and generators.

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“We are cleaning the ash and have been since Monday,” Branko Sugar, a 61-year-old who runs a bottle shop and fishing charter business from the capital Nuku’alofa, said.

“Everything is so dusty, and we are running out of water,” he told Reuters over a patchy telephone line.

Drag the button to see homes covered in ash and soot from the volcano.


Dr. Abhishek Rimal with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told the Telegraph that drinking water is the “major priority issue” at this time, because drinking from contaminated rainwater harvest systems right now would result in severe gastric problems and acute diarrhea.

He also added that longer-term environmental damage could result in acid rain, impacting staple crops as well as the local fish population, which is “a key part” of Tongan diets.

Read more:

New Tonga photos reveal widespread devastation from volcano, tsunami

United Nations spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said assessment teams have now reached most parts of the country, including the most remote and isolated islands.

“We remain seriously concerned about access to safe water for 50,000 people throughout the country. Water quality testing continues, and most people are relying on bottled water,” he said.

Drag the button to see before-and-after photos of the impact on the northern part of Tonga’s main island


Hundreds of homes in Tonga’s smaller outer islands have been destroyed, and at least three people were killed after Saturday’s huge eruption triggered tsunami waves, which rolled over the islands, causing what the government has called an unprecedented disaster.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted with a blast heard 2,300 kilometres away in New Zealand and sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean.

James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said the force of the eruption was estimated to be equivalent to five to 10 megatons of TNT, an explosive force more than 500 times the nuclear bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of the Second World War.

— With a file from Reuters

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Kripps, Appiah, de Bruin have eyes on bobsled medal podium in Beijing

After piloting his two-man sled to glory at the Pyeongchang Olympics, Justin Kripps turned his attention to perfecting his four-man driving.

Kripps headlines Canada’s 18-member bobsled team for the Beijing Olympic Games, and the defending two-man champion is hoping to climb the medal podium twice this time around.

“I’ve traditionally had more success in the two-man, and so I wanted to get the four-man up to speed and we’ve definitely done that and had a lot of success over the last four years. I’m really excited about the four-man in Beijing,” Kripps said from Konigssee, Germany, where the Canadian team is in a holding camp before travelling to Beijing.

Read more:

B.C.’s Kripps clinches second in two-man bobsled standings; Toronto’s Appiah third in monobob

Cynthia Appiah and Christine de Bruin headline the talented women’s bobsled team, announced Thursday. Olympic veterans Jane Channell of Calgary and Mirela Rahneva of Ottawa and rookie Blake Enzie of Calgary are Canada’s three skeleton athletes.

Kripps, a 35-year-old from Summerland, B.C., drove to second-place overall in both the two- and four-man on the World Cup season that recently ended.

The team was hit hard by a COVID-19 outbreak in December that saw 11 athletes in isolation. Kripps wasn’t one of them — “I managed to avoid the outbreak, thus far anyway, knock on wood,” he said.

The two years of the global pandemic, Kripps said, however, has strengthened the team in some ways heading into the Games.

“We’ve certainly, as a team, had to figure things out and get things done, even if it’s not what we’re normally used to. That ranges from having to train in garages and using resistance bands sometimes instead of weights, running in fields instead of on tracks, and just being super flexible on the road,” Kripps said.

“Sometimes last minute, we didn’t go to races, and then we were able to go to races, have to get COVID tested all the time.

“Just going with the flow and adapting to adversity under pressure definitely prepares us for the Games, because that, in my feel, is what happens in the Games. Things always come up, each Games is different, but it’s all about rolling with the punches and being able to perform at your best no matter what’s happening.”

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De Bruin said success requires elite athletes to be able to adapt, but the pandemic demanded a whole other level.

“Because it was always at the front ends of our mind, we always had to be thinking about it, and it’s really just going with the flow, and so I’m always reminding myself that I just need to keep on going with the flow,” she said. “It’s not worth stressing over the little things.

“If we missed a race or whatever, it’s not the end of the world, it will be fine. That’s what I can bring into Beijing, that there are going to be mishaps and whatever else, but we’re going to be OK.”

The 32-year-old from Stony Plain, Alta., will race in both the monobob and two-woman event. She recently finished fourth in both in World Cup standings.

Appiah, who will make her Olympic debut after being an alternate four years ago, has had an excellent rookie season in monobob, finishing third overall in the World Cup standings.

She’ll race in both women’s events in Beijing as well. Melissa Lotholz from Barrhead, Alta., is Canada’s third women’s pilot for the Games.

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Chris Spring of Vancouver, who will make his fourth trip to the Olympics, and Calgary’s Taylor Austin were also named to the team as pilots.

The team will look smart in Beijing, racing in sleds that feature a Royal Canadian Navy paint scheme, honouring Canadian sailors in the Second World War and the Battle of the Atlantic.

“Whether on the ice or at sea, the distinction of putting on a Canadian uniform drives commitment to the training, preparation, perseverance and teamwork required to perform under immense pressure while representing your country,” Sarah Storey, president of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, said of the new blue-white-and-red paint palette.

Canada has an excellent Olympic record in sliding sports, winning nine bobsled medals and four skeleton medals.

Bobsled is Feb. 13-20, while skeleton is Feb. 10-12 at the Yanqing Sliding Centre.

The crew members for Canada’s bobsled team are:

Women: Kristen Bujnowski, Mount Brydges, Ont.; Dawn Richardson Wilson, Edmonton; Sara Villani, Norval, Ont.

Men: Ben Coakwell, Saskatoon; Ryan Sommer, White Rock, B.C.; Cam Stones, Whitby, Ont.; Mike Evelyn, Ottawa; Sam Giguere, Sherbrooke, Que.; Cody Sorensen, Ottawa; Jay Dearborn, Yaker, Ont.; Chris Patrician, Toronto; Daniel Sunderland, Calgary.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Man taken to hospital after a single-vehicle crash in Hamilton

A man in his 20s was sent to hospital Friday after a crash that closed a portion of Main Street in Hamilton.

The incident occurred just before 10 a.m. when it appears a man driving down Main struck a pole just west of Wellington Street.

Hamilton police say he was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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Investigators say no one else was in the vehicle at the time of the crash, and no one else seems to be involved.

Police tell CHML News that they continue to investigate and haven’t ruled out any factors that may have contributed to the crash.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Rocket Report: COVID-19 catches up with Kelowna, team activities paused

Team activities for Kelowna Rockets have been paused, the Western Hockey League announced on Wednesday, with multiple players and staff having being added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list for having tested positive or exhibiting symptoms.

As a result, Friday’s game in Everett against the Silvertips has been rescheduled to Feb. 6, while Saturday’s road match with the Vancouver Giants has been postponed.

“The health and safety of our players is always our first priority,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison told Global News.

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COVID-19: WHL pauses team activities for Kelowna, Brandon

The WHL has struggled this season with COVID-19, and several teams have been forced to pause activities.

The league’s policy is that if there are two or more positive tests, the team immediately gets a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and is on pause.

According to Robison, Kelowna’s had a very low number of positive tests so far this season. And because of that, the league was anticipating that COVID would force a pause at some time.

“Omicron is highly contagious. Obviously, it’s affecting society and we are not immune from that,” Robison admitted.

“As much as we have our players and the staff fully vaccinated, we are going to have cases.”

If all goes well, Kelowna (18-10-1-3) could be back practicing on Sunday, then head to Victoria on Tuesday, Jan. 25, to play the Royals (12-18-4-0).

“They are having their second PCR tests today, and those results are going to be sent to a private lab,” Robison said.

“Once we have those results, either late tomorrow night or early Sunday morning, we will allow the team to resume activities provided there are no additional positive cases.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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