Tuesday January 26, 2021


Q & A

One year of COVID-19 in Canada

One year ago yesterday, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Canada. UW asked public health expert Professor Zahid Butt (photo) to take us through what we’ve learned about COVID-19 in the year that has passed, and what we still need to learn to beat the virus. What do we know now about COVID-19 that we didn’t know one year ago? A few things: the first is that COVID-19 affects all segments of the society and all ages, although the severity of the disease is worse in the elderly and less in children. It also affects marginalized and racialized populations disproportionately, which may be the result of socio-economic disparities and the fact that most of these vulnerable populations work in jobs that make them more likely to contract the virus. Second, we know that there could be several variants of the virus, some of which are more transmissible from person to person than others. Third, mounting scientific evidence suggests that the SARS-Cov-2 virus does have airborne transmission via aerosols. more ...

Milestone #1

Waterloo Region completes first-round vaccination of all long-term care and retirement home residents

Waterloo Region has completed the first-round vaccination of all eligible local long-term care and retirement home residents. This milestone was achieved by re-directing as much of the region’s limited vaccine supply as possible to vaccinate residents as quickly as possible. With today’s announcement of further reductions in vaccine supply, vaccinations will continue to focus on second doses as well as patients in hospital waiting for transfer to hospital or retirement home settings. Vaccinating these patients will improve health system flow by ensuring patients are vaccinated before their transfer and can receive their second dose alongside other residents in the home. “I am incredibly proud of the work of our partners in vaccinating residents as quickly as possible,” said Shirley Hilton (photo), Deputy Chief for Waterloo Region Police Service and lead for the Waterloo Region Vaccine Distribution Task Force. “With information changing daily we are pivoting as quickly as we can and making the best decisions possible with the information we have at the time. We are grateful to our partners at the provincial and federal governments who are working to secure vaccines for our communities.” more ...


As Canadians flee cities, rural living gets its mojo back

Starbucks will close 300 restaurants in Canada by March. Other chains will likely follow suit. But have no fear, chains will surely open other stores but certainly not in city centres - By Sylvain Charlebois

It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many Canadians to move from cities to the suburbs and even the countryside. According to Statistics Canada, the phenomenon led to a record loss of population in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in 2020. Vacancy rates are skyrocketing in many urban centres across the country. The same phenomenon is happening in most parts of the Western world. Some recent real estate reports suggest that 2021 will be more of the same. Toronto recorded a record loss of 50,375 people between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2020. The number for Montreal was around 35,000. The loss in Vancouver was measured at around 15,000. It’s far from new to see city dwellers leaving cities. But they’re often replaced by new immigrants. But the pandemic has accelerated the flow of people leaving cities, especially among young people. Almost a third of the increase in outflows of people were between 15 and 29 years old, and 82 per cent were under 45 years old. These people represent younger generations who are slowly and quietly abandoning city life. more ...

Two Ways

Limiting news intake while staying engaged online

When we can’t be physically close to anyone, social media helps keep us connected. But during these difficult and busy times, social media can also be a mentally exhausting place. Too Smuch news intake can trigger feelings of anxiety and depression. UW asked Professor Shana Macdonald, an expert in social media, to remind us of how to limit our news intake while staying engaged and connected virtually. How can you stay engaged on social media but at the same time limit your news intake? Take the time to review who you are following and why. If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you encounter in your social media newsfeeds you can either “mute” accounts that post too much and dominate your feed or unfollow Alongside this, you can add some trusted news sites that adhere to journalistic ethics and standards so that you ensure you are getting the most factual and up-to-date information from verifiable sources. Is there a “safe” amount of time to spend online reading news and on social media when it comes to your mental health? more ...


Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation grants $240,000 to local charities advancing gender equality

Yesterday, Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) announced grants totaling $240,000 to 9 organizations in Waterloo Region working to support women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse individuals working towards a future grounded in equality, inclusion and justice. The Fund for Gender Equality is part of a partnership with Community Foundations of Canada, funded through the Government of Canada. KWCF is one of 21 community foundations across Canada that are taking part. In total, these community foundations are granting $3.4M towards the women’s movement. “We are thrilled to support these 9 organizations who are working on the ground to advance gender equality in our community,” said Elizabeth Heald (photo), President & CEO, Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation. “Our investment in their work is key to supporting women who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. We can work towards a just recovery by tackling systemic issues like racism, wage inequality, and gender-based violence. Along with the other 20 participating community foundations, we are committed to lasting systems-change in philanthropy, and will further incorporate gender equality in our investment practices and organizational policies." more ...

Chinese Leader

President Xi Jinping’s Speech at Davos Agenda

World Economic Forum calls it a "Historic Opportunity for Collaboration", others may see it lack a transparency that American and European nations call strategic misrepresentation

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for both greater global efforts in the fight against an unprecedented public health crisis and a renewed commitment to multilateral cooperation, in a special address on Monday to business, government and civil society leaders taking part in the World Economic Forum’s virtual event, The Davos Agenda. “The pandemic is far from over and the recent resurgence in COVID cases reminds us that we must carry on the fight,” Xi said. “There is no doubt that humanity will prevail over the virus and emerge even stronger from this disaster.” "We should stay committed to keeping up with the times instead of rejecting change. Now is the time for major development and major transformation." Xi outlined several objectives required for a better future. They include the need to work together to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, to close the gap between developing and developed countries as a prerequisite for global prosperity, and to strengthen global cooperation in addressing the big common challenges, namely COVID-19 and climate change. more ...


Satellite breakthroughs will change internet delivery

Emerging systems will shake up the traditional satellite industry and challenge terrestrial fibre-optic communications, and could put an end to the digital divide - By Roland Renner

Elon Musk’s Starlink low Earth orbit (LEO) network has been awarded US$885 million over 10 years to build out rural internet access in the U.S. This was the fourth largest amount awarded under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Testing of preliminary Starlink service recently began. This is a billion-dollar (almost) vote of confidence in a service that is at the preliminary consumer testing stage. For rural and remote Canadians, does this mean that competitively-priced high-speed broadband access will finally be available anywhere? For others, new technologies will compete against today’s cable Telco, and independent internet service providers. But the new LEO services are still a year, two years or more away from full-scale commercial operation, depending on who you ask in the satellite industry. more ...


Majority Optimistic About Tech in 2021, But Health, Jobs and Environment Top Personal Risk List

A 28-country World Economic Forum/Ipsos survey found a majority of adults think accessing digital tools, training or technology will improve in the year ahead; Now more than ever, public and private institutions must come together, rebuild trust and address the changes needed following the COVID-19 pandemic

A new World Economic Forum/Ipsos survey found most adults are optimistic about accessing technology, digital tools and training in the next 12 months, but have serious concerns about the state of the climate, job market and global health. These findings ahead of the Davos Agenda week highlight the importance of leaders across the public and private sectors coming together to address the changes needed in a crucial year ahead. According to the survey, the percentage of those expecting the availability of digital tools and technology to improve in 2021 exceeds the percentage of those who think it will get worse across geographies. This is most of all the case in Saudi Arabia (by 57 points), Peru (55 points), and India (48 points). Italy is the only country where, while the proportion of optimists is greater than that of pessimists by 3 points, the difference is not statistically significant. more ...


Chris White appointed GRCA Chair, Sue Foxton appointed Vice-Chair

The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) has a new chair and vice-chair. Chris White (right), Mayor of Guelph-Eramosa Township and Councillor in Wellington County, has been appointed Chair and Sue Foxton (lower left), mayor of North Dumfries Township, has been appointed Vice-Chair.

Both White and Foxton were appointed by the GRCA Board of Directors at the General Membership Meeting on Friday, January 22, 2021. Elections are held for both positions at the first board meeting each year. The 26-member GRCA Board is comprised of representatives appointed by the municipalities within the Grand River watershed. “The role of conservation authorities in Ontario has never been more important. As a leading watershed management agency, we remain focused on the health, wellness and sustainability of our communities,” says Chris White. “I look forward to leading our board, working with all levels of government and supporting GRCA staff as we continue to work on the recent updates to the Conservation Authorities Act.” more ...


More Canadian Consumers Willing to Share Lifestyle Data for Behaviour-Based Insurance Premiums, but Trust in Data Security Falls, Report Finds

The number of consumers willing to share significant data on their health and other lifestyle-related habits with their insurer to reduce premiums has grown over the past two years, but their trust in insurers to look after that data has fallen, according to a new report from Accenture. Based on a survey of more than 47,000 consumers globally, Accenture's latest Global Insurance Consumer Study provides a view of consumer preferences and trends in insurance, building on similar reports from 2019 and 2017. At a time when insurers are launching tech-driven partnerships to improve customer wellness, approximately seven out of ten consumers (67%) say they would share significant data on their health, exercise and driving habits in exchange for lower prices from their insurers, compared with 59% two years ago. In addition, six in ten (59%) of consumers say they would also share significant data for personalized services to prevent injury and loss — up from 48% in the 2019 report. But while consumers are more willing to share personal data, their concerns about intrusiveness and its impact on premiums has grown and their confidence in their insurers' ability to look after their data has diminished. For instance, just under 37% of consumers say they significantly trust insurers to look after their data, down from 45% in the 2019 report. more ...


Researchers say cluster randomized trials could inform policy around sending kids back to class

How and when should schoolchildren return to in-person learning? Are kids in schools driving community transmission of COVID-19, or is it the other way around? These questions are difficult to answer and researchers at Western University say policy makers are lacking rigorous data to inform their decisions. This uncertainty could be clarified by conducting cluster randomized trials when students return to class, according to a new publication from an international team of experts co-led by Dr. Charles Weijer (right), Professor at Western University. Cluster randomized trials, which would mean randomly keeping some schools closed and opening others to in-person learning, could create a body of evidence to help policymakers make the right decisions in future, the researchers said in a paper published in the journal Clinical Trials. “Our paper highlights the importance of doing this study, and that the ethical challenges to doing such a trial are not insurmountable," said Weijer, Professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities who is an expert on the ethics of randomized trials. "We've seen a huge shift in clinical medicine whereby most treatments that patients are prescribed are supported by high-quality evidence. When we're dealing with public policies around public health or education, there isn't that same robust evaluation of these policies." more ...

Future Casting

Canada needs to stand on guard in the post-Covid-19 world

The world is becoming increasingly unstable and military force may be required to ensure our security and prosperity - By Richard Shimooka

In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant dislocations to Canadian economy and society. However, as we look to the international sphere, the pandemic has accelerated a number of long-standing trends, while introducing several new challenges. Over the past decade, we have witnessed the fragmentation of political, economic and military arrangements that underpinned the rules-based international order that emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War. In its final iteration, this order was defined by the promotion of such liberal political values as freedom of expression, poverty reduction and democracy promotion. That impulse seems to have run its course, however. The post-Cold War consensus has broken down, driven in part by the growing assertiveness of national actors in international relations. Several powers, such as Russia, China and Iran, have rejected or worked to usurp this U.S.-led international order. more ...



Get creative for 31 minutes a day each day this January

Challenge your creativity this winter with Create 31. Get creative for 31 minutes a day for 31 days this January with prompts on Create Waterloo’s social media. Starting earlier this month, the City of Waterloo’s arts and culture team (Create Waterloo) launched a creativity campaign to get people creative for 31 minutes a day throughout January. At a time when most people are stuck at home and are limited on gathering, Create 31 aims to motivate and inspire around the home. People participating in Create 31 can do so with any skill level. The challenge encourages people to flex their creative muscles and challenge themselves to practice creative habits all month long. Simply spend 31 minutes per day engaging in a prompt delivered by local artists, influencers, businesses, political representatives, and more. Create 31 will give you ways to stay creative and active as we continue to stay home due to Covid-19. Creative challengers thus far have included Mayor Jaworsky and Amit from Good Co Productions, with more to come from locals like Ajoa from Four All Ice Cream and the band Onion Honey. more ...


City servicing three more trails for winter use

In recognition of reduced recreational opportunities due to COVID-19 this winter, the City of Waterloo is increasing services levels in an effort to provide three additional walking/hiking opportunities. Residents can use the trails and roadway networks at Mount Hope Cemetery, Parkview Cemetery and Bechtel Park Woodlot, and Clair Creek Trail (located between Sundew Drive and Columbia Forest Blvd at Erbsville Rd). Washroom facilities will be open at the Parkview Cemetery and Bechtel Park Woodlot location and will be accessible at the Manulife Centre daily from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.). Walkers/hikers are reminded to please maintain two metre physical distance when using trails and walkways throughout the city unless with members of the same household. Wearing a mask, even outdoors, is recommended. The cemetery locations both have relatively flat asphalt surfaces and benches to sit and rest when needed. The Clair Creek Trail is a longer (approximately 2 km), and more natural trail experience. more ...

Moving Forward

Grand River Film Festival to Celebrate Digitally

The festival will deliver its 14th season of programming as a virtual, at-home experience

Waterloo Region’s longest running film festival will celebrate its 14th season as a newly formatted at-home virtual experience. The Grand River Film Festival (GRFF) is introducing the virtual festival experience, GRFF@Home, in May 2021 as a continuation of its annual film festival programming. “For GRFF, a virtual festival is a brave new world. But it has become the reality for festivals across the country and around the world, and the options available to us are quite impressive,” says Michael Clarke, Programming Chair. The virtual festival, GRFF@Home, will include an expanded selection of films available for online streaming. Viewers can expect interactive activities, such as live events and Q&As, allowing patrons to enjoy a variety of festival content from the comfort of their home. “Despite the challenges COVID-19 has erected, GRFF sees opportunities for more varied engagements with the film loving community,” says GRFF Chair, Paul Tortolo. more ...


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