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More provinces to start shots and hunt for virus origins: In The News for Dec. 16

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 16 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 16 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

More provinces are planning to administer their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine today.

Manitoba says high-priority health workers will be getting the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are also gearing up to start immunizations.

Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia began giving shots Tuesday, after the first ones in Canada were given in Ontario and Quebec on Monday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said Canada is to get up to 168,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine by the end of December, ahead of schedule.

It has not yet been approved by Health Canada, but Trudeau said deliveries could begin within 48 hours of getting the green light.


Also this ...

One of the six missing scallop fishers was found dead late Tuesday evening as teams search the shores near a Nova Scotia village for the remaining five.

Rev. Bob Elliott, the pastor of the Hillsburn United Baptist Church, says the community will remain hopeful until they're told not to be. 

Near the scene along the Bay of Fundy, earlier on Tuesday, two empty life-rafts from the dragger washed ashore near his church in the village of about 250 people. 

Jacob Jacquard, a fisherman, says high tides and wicked winds can rapidly transform the Bay of Fundy into a dangerous place to work. 

Kent Molyneaux, search director for the Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue Association, confirmed searchers had found objects "that indicate there was a boat in distress," but he declined to be more specific. 

Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens of the search and rescue co-ordination centre in Halifax says the search will continue as long as needed to find the missing people.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

The Honduran woman walked alone through the dark brush of the South Texas borderlands after being pushed across a nearby river in a tire.

Her labour pains were getting worse. From the other side of the river, the smugglers yelled at her to keep moving.

Finally, she fell to the ground and screamed for help.

Merin gave birth to her daughter next to the Rio Grande, attended to by two Border Patrol agents, showing how lives routinely end up at risk at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Increasing numbers of parents and children are crossing the border, driven by violence and poverty in Central America and growing desperation in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday that it made roughly 4,500 apprehensions of unaccompanied immigrant children in November, more than six times the figure in April. In South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, children and their parents are usually taken to a small station where some young people report having to use old masks and being detained in cramped quarters.

Merin and her daughter are safe after she gave birth on Nov. 22.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

A German scientist who is part of a small team of experts assembled by the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the coronavirus says they plan to sift through samples and medical data from China to help determine where the bug first jumped from animals to humans and which species it came from.

The search for the source of the new coronavirus has sparked claims of coverups and fueled political tensions,, particularly between the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump and Beijing. Most researchers think that the virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, originated in animals in China, probably bats, and the WHO has put together a 10-person team to examine the science.

Mission member Fabian Leendertz, a biologist at Germany's Robert Koch Institute who specialized in emerging diseases, said that the goal is to gather data to be better prepared for possible future outbreaks.

“It’s really not about finding a guilty country,” Leendertz said. “It’s about trying to understand what happened and then see if based on those data, we can try to reduce the risk in the future.”

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Leendertz said the team has already begun discussions with scientists in China and expects to travel to the country next month. They will likely start in Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported, though a precise itinerary hasn't yet been set.

Leendertz, who was part of a previous mission to track down the origins of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, said that while he “would love that to be an Indiana Jones mission” with scientists conducting groundbreaking field work, "it’s more (...) a team effort with Chinese colleagues to help identify the necessary next steps and how to continue,” he said.


On this day in 1994 ...

Via Rail's Atlantic train rolled into Saint John, N.B., for the last time as service to inland cities in southern Quebec and New Brunswick was cut.


In entertainment ...

Canadian actor Ben Lewis admits he wasn't that familiar with the holiday TV-movie genre before signing on to "The Christmas Setup."

In fact, he and his co-star — and husband in real life, Blake Lee — had never even seen a holiday Hallmark Channel or Lifetime movie all the way through.

As such, they didn't realize the cultural significance of "The Christmas Setup," Lifetime’s first-ever LGBTQ holiday film, until reaction poured in from the cast announcement.

"So many people came out of the woodwork — friends, peers of ours, a lot of queer people — saying how they had grown up watching these movies and loving these movies, and how much the representation meant to them," Lewis said in a recent interview.

"So seeing it through their eyes, it began to sink in. Then I think doing the rounds of press for the movie now and having the discussion has really made us, in retrospect, feel even more grateful to have been given the opportunity."

Debuting Friday on CTV Drama Channel, the Ottawa-shot film stars Lewis as a New York lawyer who returns home to Milwaukee with his best friend, played by Ellen Wong.



It was the slogan of another COVID-19 ad that inspired Kurt Beaudoin to create a funny yet villainous character who has already become a household name in Alberta.

"Covid loves to mingle," the 45-year-old recalled reading on a government billboard. The creative storyteller at Edmonton's ZGM Modern Marketing Partners and his colleagues later came up with a series of public service ads for a campaign launched by the province last week.

Mr. Covid, or Creepy Uncle Covid, and his grey, oversized head with protruding red spikes and a wide twisted smile, is the main character in the $2-million campaign called "Covid Loves."

Beaudoin says the anti-hero, like the novel coronavirus, can blend seamlessly into any environment and spread an infection that has killed thousands of Canadians.

In one ad, Mr. Covid is an uncle who breathes on the faces of his relatives as he reaches for mashed potatoes at the dinner table. In the second ad, the social-distance violator is a frat boy doing the chicken dance at a crowded house party.

More than 400,000 people have watched the ads, Beaudoin says.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2020

The Canadian Press