A muted St. Patrick’s Day and an ‘offensive’ Bigfoot movie: In The News for March 17 News Staff

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 March 17 …

What we are watching in Canada …

TORONTO — Public health officials are urging St. Patrick’s Day revellers to follow physical distancing and other anti-pandemic guidelines today.

The main concern is that gatherings and celebrations could turn into COVID-19 super-spreader events.

Some provinces and cities have put new restrictions in place; others will rely on existing measures.

The Irish embassy in Ottawa is holding a virtual event instead of a traditional reception.

British Columbia has ordered bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 8 p.m., while pubs in Atlantic Canada will be closed or have limited seating,

Niagara Falls will be lit green for 15 minutes on the hour tonight.

Also this …

Moderna says upcoming clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine will include Canadian children.

The company announced details of its Phase 2/3 study of COVID-19 earlier this week. It’s expected to involve 6,750 healthy pediatric participants aged six months to 12 years.

Moderna says initial participants are based in the United States but that Canadian sites will be added as the trial progresses.

The biotech company says it hasn’t yet chosen the Canadian sites, nor Canadian participants.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel says it’s an important age group to study.

The trial will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of two doses given 28 days apart. Participants will be followed for one year after the second vaccination.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

ATLANTA — Authorities say a 21-year-old man has been captured hours after eight people were killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlours. 

Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker said Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock, Ga., was taken into custody in Crisp County on Tuesday night. Crisp County is about 150 miles south of Atlanta. 

Four people were killed at a massage parlour in Acworth. 

Shortly after, three people were killed at a spa in northeast Atlanta, while a fourth person was killed at another spa across the street. 

The killings came amid a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s drug regulator insisted Tuesday that there is “no indication” the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots as governments around the world faced the grimmest of dilemmas: push on with a vaccine known to save lives or suspend its use over reports of clotting in some recipients. 

The European Medicines Agency urged governments not to halt use of the vaccine at a time when the pandemic is still taking thousands of lives each day. And already there are concerns that even brief suspensions could have disastrous effects on confidence in inoculation campaigns the world over, many of which are already struggling to overcome logistical hurdles and widespread hesitancy about vaccines.  

“We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 with its associated risk of hospitalization and death outweigh the risk of the side effects,” said Emer Cooke, the head of the agency.  

Many scientists have argued that even the loss of a few days in vaccinating vulnerable people could be far costlier than the impact of any rare phenomenon.  

But a cascading number of countries have taken a different view and locked away shots from the Anglo-Swedish company, awaiting the results of an EMA review, which is expected to come out today.

On this day in 1982 …

A 15-day bell-ringing filibuster in the Commons ended with an agreement to split the Liberal government’s energy bill.

In entertainment …

OTTAWA — Organizers of an Ottawa concert are hoping that rapid COVID-19 testing will set the stage for live performances to make a comeback, but one expert warns that it may be a while before musicians can safely play for a stadium of screaming fans.

The Ontario Festival Industry Taskforce is billing The Long Road Back the first event of its kind in Canada, saying screening the audience provides an added layer of precaution that could help usher in the return of concert season.

Both a ticket and a negative COVID-19 test are required to attend the outdoor show featuring soul band the Commotions in Lansdowne Park on March 27.

The audience will be capped at 100 people, who will be required to wear masks and physically distance, say organizers.

The concertgoers will be asked to undergo rapid COVID-19 antigen screening at some Shoppers Drug Mart locations within 48 hours of showtime.

Dr. Barry Pakes, an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said he worries that rapid COVID-19 testing may give concertgoers a “false sense of confidence.”

“Right from the beginning of this pandemic, there was this idea that we can test our way out of it,” said Pakes, “and I think now, a year later, (we’ve) seen many failures of that strategy.”

No test is 100 per cent accurate, he said, and as the size of a crowd increases, so too does the likelihood that a positive case could slip through screening.

All it takes is one inaccurate result to force a swath of the audience into quarantine, Pakes noted.

ICYMI …

EDMONTON — Alberta’s energy minister is defending her government’s attack on a children’s movie about Bigfoot that she says is “quite offensive” and carries an inaccurate anti-oil message.

Sonya Savage also says it’s critical the government push back constantly against what it sees as false narratives that cast Alberta’s wellspring industry in a negative light.

“Not everybody is going to agree with every single tactic of the Canadian Energy Centre. I don’t either,” Savage told a committee examining the Energy Department’s budget on Tuesday.

“But I did find that the comments that I’ve heard in that cartoon were quite offensive. And the comments have to be countered somewhere.

“And there’s no question whatsoever that we have to find a way to counter the kinds of campaigns and the kind of narrative and the significant misinformation that is targeted at our energy sector.”

Savage was referring to a petition campaign recently launched by the energy centre, informally called the war room, against the animated movie “Bigfoot Family,” which can be viewed on the streaming giant Netflix.

The film features talking animals and a domesticated Bigfoot character battling an oil magnate who is seeking to blow up an Alaskan wildlife preserve to gain easier access to petroleum.

The war room is urging followers to send Netflix messages that say the movie is “brainwashing our kids with anti-oil and gas propaganda.”

The energy centre was started in late 2019 to fulfil a campaign promise by Premier Jason Kenney to challenge what he called misleading and inaccurate statements designed to put the energy sector in a critical light and thereby buttress public support against megaprojects such as pipelines.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2021

The Canadian Press

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