Coronavirus sets single-day record 1,013 cases

0331 - Vancouver Island reported 47 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, part of the record one-day total of 1,013 cases across the province over the past 24 hours. That sent the B.C. total to 100,048 cases since the pandemic began. Officials have now recorded 3,324 cases in the island region since the pandemic began. The region has 404 active cases. Of 364 active cases in the island region Wednesday, 181 in the South Island, 156 Central Island and 27 North Island.

Wednesday, March 31

JUST SO YOU KNOW – Tomorrow is April Fool’s day, but we’ve got an early one for you and it’s no joke. On April 1, Members of Parliament get an automatic raise of around 1.8 per cent based on similar average raises negotiated with major corporate unions. MPs now get a base salary of $182,000 annually, while cabinet ministers take in $269,800. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will get an estimated raise of $6,400 added to his current salary of $365,200, plus whatever falls off the back of the turnip truck.

COVID SHOTS AT PHARMACIES - British Columbians 55 to 65 years old can book appointments to get their Coronavirus vaccine at pharmacies, starting today. Drop-in service may be an option at more than 150 participating pharmacies and people must bring their personal health number with them. British Columbia is bumping up its age-based vaccination plan by offering Oxford-AstraZeneca shots to Lower Mainland residents between 55 and 65 after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a pause on use of the vaccine for anyone under 55 amid concerns about rare blood clots. Dr. Henry says the vaccine is highly effective and the benefits to those over age 55 far outweigh the very real risks of getting COVID-19. The news comes amid a COVID-19 surge, with 840 new daily cases Tuesday but no new deaths.

NO NOTICE OF SHUTDOWNS – We’ve seen a number of posts from restaurants that have been forced to shut down due to the renewed pandemic restrictions. It’s not so much the shutdown but the lack of sufficient notice so they could use up food already in stock. They have a good point, what do you think? editor@nanaimonet.com

LONGLAKE OUTBREAK LIKE MODERATE COLD - An COIVD outbreak at Longlake Chateau was blunted by vaccine, says Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health. The most severe symptoms noted at the independent living facility are similar to a moderate cold and totally tolerable. He recalled that before seniors in long-term care facilities were immunized, the virus fatality rate was 20 per cent in those populations. “So compare a mild cold to probably one or two of those people dying, had they not had the vaccine. That speaks to how effective that single dose is,” Dr. Stanwick said. 

CONTACT TRACING NETS FOUR FOR EVERY CASE - Contact tracing has led to more than four people sent into self-isolation when they’ve been in contact with someone who has the virus. Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick said that’s a significant increase likely due to the more contagious variants and more social interaction. It’s becoming more common for low-risk contacts to test positive at their day-seven asymptomatic test, indicating that the variants of concern really are more contagious than the dominant strain. 

TAXI DRIVER BEAR SPRAYED - A man was arrested after a taxi driver was assaulted with bear spray. RCMP said the incident happened early Tuesday after a passenger left a cab without paying and was followed by the taxi driver. Const. Gary O’Brien said the passenger was picked up at Fifth Street at about 4 a.m. and driven to Bowen Road. The suspect started to walk away and the taxi driver followed on foot. The taxi driver was threatened and at one point he was hit in the face with bear spray, O’Brien said, adding that the suspect fled. The 33-year-old suspect was later arrested and has been released to appear at future date.

CITY SEEKS $2.5 MILLION FROM FUND - City council has approved going after $2.5 million through the Strengthening Communities’ Services program, which is offered by the federal government and administrated by the Union of BC Municipalities. City staff drafted 11 projects which would equal roughly $2.5 million. It includes two temporary housing structures, an outreach team, additional funding for Nanaimo’s rent bank and further security throughout the downtown and Old City Quarter. Dale Lindsay, general manager of development services, said the City envisions two temporary modular units housing up to 10 people that could cost $475,000 for the structures and staffing.

LANTZVILLE LEGION CLOSED - Branch 257 Royal Canadian Legion is closed until April 20, to comply with the orders from BC Health. President Frank Mezzatesta announced the office will also be closed as well, but phones will be monitored daily or you can e-mail secretary257@shaw.ca. If you know a member who doesn't have an e-mail please pass on important information.

SURPRISE REAL ESTATE LISTING - Imagine your house being put on the market without your knowledge. Oak Bay Police are investigating the unusual incident where a house was listed for sale without the owner’s knowledge. Police found that an unknown person claiming to be the owner had contacted a property management company and convinced the company that he had changed his e-mail address and provided a new phone number while signing the contact e-mail with the name of the true property owner. It gets complicated. See the whole story.

CASH INFUSION FOR AIRPORT - Nanaimo Airport has been thrown a $720,000 lifeline from the B.C. government. Passenger numbers have dropped significantly during the pandemic. Airport president and CEO Dave Devana said the money will ensure business continues at YCD. Losses have been mounting for a year and the money will provide some relief, enabling people to remain employed, he said.

WILL COUNCIL CHICKEN OUT? - Qualicum Beach council has voted to end a pilot project allowing residents to have up to six chickens in their backyard. They voted unanimously against continuing the program, saying that the chickens attract rats and raccoons. However, that’s not sitting well with Mayor Brain Wiese who said he will bring it back for reconsideration at a future council meeting.

NEVER TOO EARLY – Norm Smith is not letting any grass grow under his feet, he has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2022 municipal election. He made the announcement on social media saying he had come close last time and looks to build on that in the next year and a half. He had 5,824 votes in the 2018 election, finishing tenth. Smith retired from the RCMP just before the last election.

Geselbracht goes off the beaten track

Tuesday, March 30

HERE WE GO AGAIN - A majority of city council went on another of its virtue signalling side trips on Monday, voting 5-4 to become enmeshed in the old growth forest debate. This is not an issue of whether old growth logging is good or bad, it’s an area that is not in the city’s jurisdiction. Simply, it’s none of their business, it’s up to the province. Coun. Geselbracht's personal politics is his business, what he does on his own time is up to him, but when he’s on the taxpayers’ dime he and fellow councillors should focus on issues within the city’s realm. That's what we elected them to do, not become saviours of the universe. What do you think? Comment HERE

COMMENTS

Allan Holder
 - Anything to avoid dealing with Nanaimo’s specific problems.


Jen Ross - Everyone should stand up to stop old growth logging and the provincial and federal government need to hear it from all levels.

New restrictions, midnight March 29 to April 19

  • Restaurants, bars and pubs: All food and liquor-serving premises must only provide take-out or delivery service. Dine-inservice is prohibited, except for outdoor patios. People dining on patios should do so with their immediate household or core bubble only.

  • Group Fitness: Indoor. adult group fitness activities of any kind are also paused. Gyms and fitness centres are restricted to Individual or one-on-one activities only i.e. one-on-one personal training.

  • Worship services: The previously announced class variance for limited Indoor worship services has been suspended. Outdoor worship services under the current variance may continue.

  • Travel: Travel continues to be limited to essential travel, work or medical reasons only. For those who have travelled outside their health region, if you or anyone in your family develops any signs of illness, you must stay home from work, school or daycare, and arrange to get tested immediately.

  • Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort is closed through to April 19, 2021, to address and prevent community spread related to non-essential travel.

  • Workplaces: All workers are strongly encouraged to work from home, where possible.

  • Schools: Public health guidance for schools has also been amended to support and encourage students down to Grade 4 to wear masks while at school.

Tuesday, March 30

CREWS PUT QUICK END TO FIRE - A blaze in a store in Harewood may have been deliberately set. Fire Rescue attended the Dollarama on Fifth Street Monday evening and found the store filled with smoke and a fire in the retail area. Fire Chief Tim Doyle said his crews did a great job getting it under control quickly and said no one was hurt in the fire. He said RCMP was called and a fire investigator was en route. “The reports we’re getting from the scene, it looks like it was set,” the chief said.

THREE ARRESTED AFTER GUARD ASSAULTED - Police arrested three men on the weekend after a mall security guard was assaulted. Nanaimo RCMP were called to University Village Mall in Harewood after a security guard tried to escort a man out of the Shoppers Drug Mart store Sunday evening. When they arrived, RCMP saw the security guard being surrounded by several men. Const. Gary O’Brien said members arrested all three and found a knife near one of the them. He said the suspects range in age from 25 to 27.

ASTRA-ZENECA VACCINE SUSPENDED - Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has shelved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for at least a few days. She said the province will stop using the vaccine for 55 and under following rare reports of blood clotting in European patients. She said a signal was detected in younger people in Europe using the AstraZeneca vaccine. While the instances are rare, she said she is suspending the use of this vaccine for the next few days. She said while there have been less than 30 cases of blood clots worldwide after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, none in B.C., it is still a serious condition that needs to be examined further.

THREE ARRESTED, DRUGS SEIZED - Three men were arrested after one of them drove a car directly toward RCMP officers. RCMP were notified shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday about three people who appeared to be slumped over in a parked car on a logging road near Nanaimo Lakes Road and South Forks Road. As officers approached the vehicle and got within about 25 metres, the driver suddenly sped up at a high speed directly toward the officers. A third officer used his vehicle to block the car, forcing the suspect vehicle into a ditch. “The officers observed a significant amount of suspected crystal methamphetamine in the vehicle and drug paraphernalia,” said Cont. Gary O’Brien, adding cash and knives were also seized.

Spike in Coronavirus cases leads to new restrictions

The recent spike in positive Coronavirus tests has led health officials to invoke new measures to slow the spread of the disease. The new rules are effective at midnight tonight until April 19.

All food and liquor-serving premises must only provide take-out or delivery service. Dine-in service is prohibited. 

The variance for limited indoor worship services has been suspended – churches will no longer be able to hold indoor events for Easter.

“We know that the idea of more restrictions is not welcome news, but we are asking people to rise to the challenge with the confidence that vaccines mean better days are ahead", said Premier John Horgan. "We are not out of the woods yet, but the provincial health officer’s orders, combined with our vaccines give us the tools we need to move out of this pandemic together.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said contact tracing has shown that these settings amplify the spread and as a result, activities indoors in these locations need to be on hold for now."  

More details on affected events and restrictions, see HERE

Coronavirus test numbers soared over weekend

Island Health had 142 positive coronavirus tests over the three-day weekend while the province reported 2,518 new cases and six deaths since their last update on Friday. Friday to Saturday saw 936 new cases, the highest total ever in a single day since last November with 911cases.

Fraser health had the highest rate with 1,280 cases and 816 in Vancouver Coastal Health. Interior Health had 156 while Northern Health has 121.

There are 299 people in hospital, 79 in intensive care. Variant cases are a big concern with 329 cases reported over the weekend, bringing the total number of those cases to 2,233 since variants were first recorded.

Monday, March 29

LONGLAKE RESIDENTS HAD BEEN VACCINATED  – We have received a number of queries this morning about the Longlake Chateau coronavirus outbreak, questioning whether staff and residents had been vaccinated prior to the outbreak. VIHA chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick told the News Bulletin that there was 100-per-cent uptake of the vaccine at Longlake Chateau, and explained how an outbreak could have happened there. He said somebody introduced it early on when these people had not developed a full immune response, or somebody might have even been incubating the virus at the time that they received the vaccine.

WHAT ARE OUTBREAKS? – I’ve been getting a number of calls this morning about the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s website which lists outbreaks in hospitals and senior extended care facilities. Longlake Chateau, which had an outbreak last week, is not included because is an independent living facility. In other words, a seniors apartment block.

POWER OUT FOR THOUSANDS – Hydro crews are busy restoring power today to thousands of Vancouver Island residents after Monday’s wind storm knocked out electricity. By this morning, more than 5,000 island customers had their power impacted by nearly 50 outages. Hundreds of Gabriola homes were affected.

CHILDREN IN HOSPITAL AFTER CRASH - A vehicle accident on the Nanaimo Parkway on Sunday sent two children to hospital when the minivan they were in was hit by a semi-truck. Cst. Gary O’Brien said the mother driving her four children southbound on the Parkway had to hit the brakes when two cars in front of her pulled off to the left due to mechanical issues. She hit the brakes hard to avoid the collision and was rear-ended by the semi,” O’Brien said. One of the victims was taken to Nanaimo hospital and the other to Victoria, with significant but not life-threatening injuries. RCMP are asking anyone with dashcam footage to assist the investigation.

TOURISM BOOST FOR ISLAND - Mid-island communities are in line to get provincial funding to help them through the pandemic. The province has set nearly $4.6 million for tourism-related projects in Ladysmith, North Cowichan, Parksville, Port Alice, Port Hardy, Tofino, Ucluelet and Qualicum Beach. The projects will help fund jobs during the pandemic to create tourism assets for communities once travel restrictions are eased. Tofino plans to use $800,000 to improve its active transportation infrastructure, including a multi-use pathway. Qualicum Beach plans use $700,000 grant to improve waterfront amenities, including the addition of mobile vendors, covered seating. 

CLASSROOM INFECTIONS EXPECTED TO RISE - Coronavirus exposures are likely to rise significantly in classrooms in coming weeks. The island’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Team issued the warning in a letter to school districts on Sunday, saying, “the Vancouver Island region has been experiencing a higher number of coronavirus cases in the past few weeks, and many of these cases have reported higher numbers of social contacts and events while infectious.”

YOUNGER AGE GROUP AFFECTED - - Island Health reports that 47 per cent of Coronavirus cases on Vancouver Island last week were in those between 20-39 years of age — a 60 per cent increase compared to the week before. The sudden rise led Island Health to plead with young people to follow public health warnings. It is crucial right now that we all follow public health orders, which means no indoor gatherings and sticking to the same group when outdoors, Island Health said.

MORE COVID FLIGHTS - The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has added two more Nanaimo flights to its list of COVID-19 exposures since Wednesday.
March 18: Seair Airplanes flight 352 from Vancouver to Nanaimo.
March 19: Harbour Air flight 1127 from Vancouver to Nanaimo.

CHECK OUT WEST COAST IN PHOTOS - Douglas Fisk got a number of marvelous albums of whale photos when the sea animals put on a display near shore in Nanaimo. His website features some of his fabulous photos of West Coast subjects. Take a look HERE

High winds cancel ferry sailings

Sunday, March 28
The following sailings have been cancelled by BC Ferries due to high winds:  

Departure-Horseshoe Bay
3:20 pm departing Departure Bay
3:45 pm departing Horseshoe Bay
5:30 pm departing Horseshoe Bay
5:55 pm departing Departure Bay
10:10 pm departing  Horseshoe Bay

Duke Point-Tsawwassen 
3:15 pm departing Tsawwassen
3:15 pm departing Duke Point
5:45 pm departing Tsawwassen
5:45 pm departing Duke Point
8:15 pm departing Tsawwassen
8:15 pm departing Duke Point
10:45 pm departing Tsawwassen
10:45 pm departing Duke Point

March 27

MORE COVID FLIGHTS - The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has added two more Nanaimo flights to its list of COVID-19 exposures since Wednesday.
March 18: Seair Airplanes flight 352 from Vancouver to Nanaimo.
March 19: Harbour Air flight 1127 from Vancouver to Nanaimo.

ICBC REFUND CHEQUES COMING - ICBC is mailing COVID-19 rebate cheques in small batches, after a delay caused by a cyberattack. The rebates, which will be sent to customers who had insured vehicles between April 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2020, come thanks to a major decrease in crashes and costs as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Your comment.

LONGLAKE COVID OUTBREAK NOW AT EIGHT –  Island Health’s outbreak response has identified three additional cases of COVID-19 related to the outbreak declared at Longlake Chateau independent living facility in Nanaimo. Three additional residents have tested positive. The three new cases were detected through testing performed yesterday. Since the outbreak was declared, more than 106 COVID-19 tests have been performed on residents and staff at Longlake Chateau. In total, eight residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Communication with residents, families and staff is ongoing.

WHALES PUT ON A SHOW - If you're a shutterbug, Douglas Fisk got a marvelous album of whale photos while the sea animals put on a display near shore in Nanaimo on Tuesday. He has a website where you can see some of his fabulous photos on various subjects. Check them out HERE

WEST COAST TRAIL REOPENS IN JUNE - Parks Canada is reopening the West Coast Trail for for overnight hiking between June 4 and September 30. The opening is a collaboration of Parks Canada and local First Nations. Reservations will be required for all hikers for the 75-kilometre trail and there will be standbys. Reservations begin April 30 by calling 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783). Your comment

ISLAND CORONA CASES HIT RECORD HIGH - the Vancouver Island region identified 55 new cases of COVID-19 in Friday, an all-time high for a single day. The new cases were among 908 found across the province over the past 24 hours, bringing B.C.’s total to 95,677 cases since the pandemic began. To date, 3,094 cases have been confirmed in the island region since the pandemic began. Three people in B.C died, bringing B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,449. A total of 637,856 doses of vaccines have been given in B.C., including 87,233 secondary doses. What say you?

ISLAND SHOWS 100,000 VACCINES GIVEN - More than 100,000 residents in the Island Health region have received a first dose of the Corona vaccine. The milestone means about 13 per cent of the population is immunized against COVID-19. As we move into Phases 3 and 4 of the Immunization Plan, everyone who is eligible will be able to receive a first dose before July 1. Island Health will also begin administering second doses to people about 16 weeks after they got their first dose. People will be contacted when it is time to schedule their second dose.

WESTJET ADDING MORE FLIGHTS - Five new domestic flights are coming to Vancouver Island airports as WestJet tries to rebound from the pandemic. The new routes include flights between Edmonton-Nanaimo, Ottawa-Victoria, Saskatoon-Victoria, Winnipeg-Victoria, and Toronto-Comox. They’re five of 11 flights announced Friday that will offer non-stop service for 15 communities. 

National News

BLOOD IS SAFE - Blood donated by anyone who has had coronavirus or who has been vaccinated is safe, assures Canadian Blood Services. Corona is a respiratory virus, there’s no impact to the blood as far as transmission to a patient. There is no concern, said Chantale Pambrun, director of the Canadian Blood Services Centre for Innovation in Ottawa. The blood donation agency has added some pre-screening questions about whether a potential donor has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past two weeks or contracted the novel coronavirus in the past 28 days. Pambrun said individuals who are not feeling well after receiving the vaccine or long-haul COVID-19 patients still under the care of a physician are not eligible to donate.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS DETERRED - Ottawa’s pandemic regulations have seen many international students postpone or cancel their plans to study in Canada since Ottawa decided last month to limit entry options to to just four airports and require international travellers to pay for a mandatory hotel quarantine. Denise Amyot, the chief executive officer of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said a $2,000 hotel bill is the cost of half of a semester for many students. If a group of international students are heading to New Brunswick, for example, Amyot said they might arrive in Toronto, where they would go to a hotel for three days as part of a 14-day quarantine. Then they will have to quarantine again for 14 days when they arrive in New Brunswick. "This is nonsense. It just doesn't make sense," she said.

WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT - If you spend a lot of time on social media, Health Canada wants to hire you to share the department’s policies and recommendations to their audiences. In a tender notice posted online, Health Canada says the goal of their marketing activities will be to provide the public with “timely, relevant, comprehensive and accessible information to assist them in making informed decisions to protect their health.” Digital influencers are defined as people make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views.

Friday, March 26, 2021

A GREAT DAY FOR WORSHIPPERS – Churches and other places of worship can hold indoor services in a one-time variance announced Thursday. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it’s a first step in the gradual reopening. Organizations can conduct in-person services for four days anytime between March 28 to May 13. Each faith will identify the days that are most appropriate for them, such as Easter Sunday. The maximum capacity will be set at 50 people or 10 per cent of the allowable space, whichever is less. There will not be a time limit on each service, but Dr. Henry said each faith will be able to hold multiple services in one day but must space them out so there’s no mixing of people. If there is no spike in transmissions traced back to indoor services, she said the province will consider extending the order. We want to hear from you at editor@nanaimonet.com

CARE HOME VISITS RELAXED - The province has relaxed visitor restrictions at long-term care homes around the province. Beginning April 1, up to two visitors plus a child will be able to visit loved ones in long-term care homes for a minimum of 60 minutes. Family and friends will now be able to visit loved ones in their own rooms without staff monitoring. Families will also be able to physically touch loved ones with appropriate protective measures like hand hygiene and masks. Physical distancing requirements between residents are removed and some communal dining and small-group social activities are allowed. And the 14-day isolation upon admission is eliminated for those who are vaccinated. Comment at editor@nanaimonet.com

HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU - The Linley Valley Trail is about to get a $60,000 infusion of cash for upgrades. The popular park, between the Departure Bay-Hammond Bay and Linley Valley, Cottle Lake Park area has a large trail network. Hundreds of people use the trails for daily hiking, biking and wildlife viewing and the forestry enhancement program money will be spent on trail upgrades that include resurfacing, enhanced drainage and improved stream flow.

FOREVER IS ABOUT TO END – Nanaimo is moving to speed up the building permit process that has been the bane of anyone trying to build in Nanaimo. Councillors went over a building permit function review, a draft report from a study of the permit approval process presented by Allan Neilson, principal of consulting firm Neilson Strategies, with recommendations to streamline and speed up building permit approvals. Applications and values fluctuate yearly, but have effectively doubled over the past 10 years becoming more complex with changing building codes and bylaws, the consultant said. Among the bottlenecks were software inefficiencies and too few building inspectors. Nanaimo currently has 14 building officials, two of whom are supervisors.

TOFINO BUS RESTARTING - John Wilson of Wilson Transportation, says buses will be back on the road on Vancouver Island in the near future. The provincial government earlier this month kicked in $27 million for rural bus services after Wilson’s Transportation shut down the Vancouver Island Connector and the Tofino Bus “until further notice” due to lost revenue as a result of the pandemic. On its website, the Vancouver Island Connector says it hopes to resume service by the first week of April.

IS IT REALLY WORTH IT? – If you party in spite of the health orders, it will now cost more than double the penalty for people who promote or attend banned gatherings. Effective immediately, the fine rises to $575 from $230. Meanwhile, the fine for people who organize or host a banned event remains at $2,300. Public Saftey Minister and and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said it is clear that for some, the risk of a $230 ticket isn’t enough to deter attendance at events that violate the PHO order. “This selfish behaviour needs to stop, and police and provincial enforcement authorities will be able to issue these new fines immediately,” he said.

CRUISE SHIPS REMAIN DOCKED - The U.S. Center for Disease Control has tied up Alaska cruise industry until at least November. The Cruise Lines International Association had called on the U.S. to lift the CDC’s no-sail order for cruise ships which was issued in March 2020. The association sought to have the CDC to lift the order by early July. Alaska had been seeking to bypass regulations which require all ships to make a Canadian port of call. The Alaska initiative could have dealt a blow to B.C.’s $2.7-billion cruise ship industry if passed, because ships would’ve been able to skip ports like Victoria and Nanaimo due to the pandemic.

COMMENTARY - See our readers' views on our Commentary Page. We welcome your thoughts as well.

 

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the federal government's carbon tax is constitutional. That is a very sad decision which will impact Canada's division of powers forever.

Thursday, March 25

TALK ABOUT A HOT REAL ESTATE MARKET - A detached strata home in a gated community in Langley recently sold for a half-million dollars more than the asking price. Realtor Suki Bahi listed the two-bedroom, two-bathroom rancher, which was built around 1995, for $820,000. A home in the complex sold for $770,000 last year. There were 110 showings in five days and 20 offers. The accepted offer came in at $500,000 over the asking price. The interest came mostly from local seniors who are selling their two- and three-storey homes, but still want to live independently. “Nobody wants to go to a care facility, and they said this is it,” Bahi said. YOUR VIEW editor@nanaimonet.com

TOURISM WORKERS TO HELP - The province plans to hire 1,400 out-of-work tourism and hospitality workers to assist work at mass-vaccination clinics. Premier John Horgan said the government will backstop some salaries. Some of the employees will be paid by their employers, with financial support from the province. The tourism and hospitality businesses are reaching out to, and training, workers who have been laid off due to the pandemic. What do you think? – editor@nanaimonet.com

PAID TIME OFF TO GET VACCINE - British Columbia may soon get paid if they miss work to receive Coronavirus vaccinations. Saskatchewan amended its labour codes to allow the program. Premier John Horgan said the province will certainly move to amend the Employment Standards Act. Horgan said. Saskatchewan amended health and safety regulations so employees who want to get a vaccine can leave work for up to three consecutive hours without losing pay or benefits. B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains is looking at whether British Columbia can make the changes through amending regulations. Comment at editor@nanaimonet.com

21 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES ON ISLAND - The Island Health Region reported 21 new positive virus tests on Wednesday while health officials reported 716 new cases province-wide. There were 71 variant cases, and three deaths in the previous 24 hours. There are 5,573 active cases in the province, with 303 people in hospital and 85 in intensive care. Meanwile, 582,634 doses of vaccine have been administered province-wide.

CHAMBERS HOST EVENT WITH O’TOOLE - Federal Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole will be the feature guest in a Vancouver Island Fireside Chat on April 7 from 12 – 1 p.m. in a virtual event sponsored by the  Nanaimo and Victoria Chambers of Conference. The event is offered free to members of Chambers of Conference on Vancouver Island. Those with their eyes on Ottawa predict a late spring election, so the political play of every leader should be drawing attention now. Register on the Nanaimo Chamber website for this one hour webinar now - www.nanaimochamber.bc.ca - $20 for non-members, free to Chamber members. Send your questions for O’Toole in advance toinfo@nanaimochamber.bc.ca Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO, Bruce Williams will moderate the event, sponsored by MNP.

PANDEMIC ELEVATES CRISIS CALLS - The past year has seen a record-setting pace of calls to the Crisis line phones at the Vancouver Island Crisis Society.  Crisis phones rang more than 40,000 times during this pandemic year and the society projects that by the end of its fiscal year March 31, the final tally will be a nine-per cent increase over last year. The society reported 1,600 crisis chat and crisis text interactions, with 60 per cent of those interactions supporting children and teens under 18 years old.

LOAVES AND FISHES LOOKING FORWARD TO MOVE - Executive director Peter Sinclair told the News Bulletin the food bank is working to have conditions removed on April 9 and take possession of a property May 7, on East Wellington Road, near the Canada Post office. The Food bank has simply outgrown its warehouse on Fry Street. There are no buildings on the site but Saywell Contracting Ltd. Is helpibg with design and construction for a new warehouse. The project is in a very early stage, with the red tape of the development process, a building permit and a number of other steps.

A SPECIAL BRAND OF LEADERSHIP - The large Welcome to Victoria flower sign in Victoria’s inner harbour was in danger of not being planted – for the first time since 1954 – due to a lack of funding caused by the drop in tourism. Enter Levi Sampson of employee-owned CHEK TV and Horizon Nurseries who have teamed up to ensure that the tradition remains alive. We know it has been a long year for everyone in the community and this is just a small way CHEK is able to give back. This year, the sign will read "Welcome Back Victoria!" Sampson said. Your comment.

Nanaimo real estate sales continue at a record clip

0324 - Nanaimo and the surrounding areas are seeing record high sale prices with multiple competing offers and over-listing prices. Nanaimo saw 145 single family home sales in February with an average price of $638,651, up 13 per cent year to date. 

John Cooper Real Estate Group reports single family unit sales volume was up 26 per cent and the average days on market decreased by nine per cent to 31 days. 

The average condo sold for $375,333. Sales are up 18 per cent, 12 months to date. However, condos sales have slowed, with an average 62 days on the market. Lot sales have doubled as prices increased by seven per cent. The average lot sale price was $344,550.

Island-wide, 414 single family homes sold for an average price of $601,329, up 12 per cent from 12 months to date. Single-family unit sales volume is up 22 per cent. FULL REPORT HERE.

Police release age-enhanced photo of Michel Dunahee

How Michael could look now.

0324 - Police have created a new forensic sketch of Michael Dunahee, who went missing in Victoria at the age of four 30 years ago. Victoria police revealed a new age-enhanced sketch of Michael, portraying how he may look now at the age of 34. Police have created a webpage where people can submit tips on his disappearance. He was last seen on March 24, 1991, near the Blanshard School playground around 12:30 p.m. He was close to his family and many others who were in the park watching a touch football game at the time.

Wednesday, March 24

DRUG DEATH TOLL RISES - The latest count from the provincial coroner shows 155 people died in February from suspected drug toxicity. That’s the second month in a row with an average number of daily deaths above five. The latest data also showed an age-based trend officials have noted in recent years. While fatal overdoses still tend to impact a younger population, 40 per cent of the deaths in 2021 so far were people 50 and older. And 15 per cent of the total deaths were people aged 60 and older. Most deaths are occurring in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria, the coroner's report says.

LIMITED CHURCH SERVICES - You can go to church again, but only outdoors. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has amended her health order to allow in-person religious services for the first time since November. Services can include up to 50 people, as well as people in 50 vehicles. Those attending in a vehicle must stay in their car. Health screenings and masks are required with few exceptions and those attending must keep two metres apart from each other, unless they live together. Those organizing the gatherings must pre-register everyone who attends and collect their contact information. Choirs aren't permitted and worship groups can't have more than five musicians. The new rules include funerals, but not weddings or baptisms. 

ISLAND HAS LOWEST NEW CASES - British Columbia health officials report 19 new COVID-10 cases in Vancouver Island Health region since their last update on Monday the lowest of any region. 229 in Vancouver Coastal Health had 229, Fraser Health 333, Interior Health 76, and 23 in Northern Health. There are 5,409 active cases in the province, 314 people in hospital, 83 of whom are in intensive care. In Island Health, there are 273 active cases. There have been 2,975 cases in total in the region since the pandemic began.

SUSPECT ARRESTED AT FIRE SCENE - Nanaimo RCMP arrested a suspect in an arson incident in Harewood early Tuesday. It is believed the fire was set in a garage and workshop behind a home on Eighth Street. Firefighters and police were called at about 4:30 a.m. by the homeowners who reported a man had been on the back porch of their home and was still on their property. The 27-year-old was arrested at the scene without incident, said Const Gary O’Brien said. It is suspected that there are significant mental health issues. The loss from the fire is estimated at more than $100,000, which included a rare edition 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle car.

HERE WE GO, RAISE YOUR VOICES - The City wants its 100,000 citizens to raise their voices to build community and pride of place. Council gave the go-ahead on Monday for staff to  develop a civic pride campaign. A staff report suggested the campaign be called “100,000 Voices,” noting that the city’s population recently reached six digits. A concept logo includes a colour wheel, which the report said represents an inclusive Nanaimo, the doughnut model, and the continuation of the findings from ReImagine Nanaimo, an engagement campaign linked to city planning. 

NEW FERRY NAMED SALISH HERON - The new BC Ferries vessel that will join the fleet in the Southern Gulf Islands in 2022 has a name – the Salish Heron. It joins the three other Salish-class vessels, the Salish Orca, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven, which joined the fleet in 2017. The vessels are fuelled with liquefied natural gas. Now, Ferries is looking to work with Indigenous artists, particularly Coast Salish artists, to help design the artwork for the new Salish Hero. 

NEW GABRIOLA FERRIES SCHEDULES - BC Ferries is seeking input from communities on the new Gabriola – Nanaimo Harbour route on how to optimize sailing schedules for the  new Island Class vessels destined for the route. The proposed schedules double the frequency of sailings during peak travel times and increase total capacity on the routes. The schedules will also reduce wait times on each route and help to mitigate congestion on local roads during peak times.

ISLAND HOCKEY STARTS APRIL 2 - The BCHL reigning Island Division champion Nanaimo Clippers will begin defence of their title when they open the season against their Victoria Grizzlies on Apr. 3. The Port Alberni pod will feature the Victoria Grizzlies, Nanaimo Clippers, Alberni Valley Bulldogs, and the Cowichan Capitals. All games for the Island teams will be played in Port Alberni at Weyerhaeuser Arena. See the Full Schedule

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED - There are times when we all need to step up, and this is one of them. Josh Vickers, 19, died Sunday when his car collided with a tree on Yellow Point Road. Josh was one of five children left to fend for themselves after their father died last summer. Delaine Rangno, has organized a Facebook fundraiser page to help pay for bills and funeral expenses. She has been helping the boys since their father died. By Monday afternoon, half of the $10,000 target had been reached. Let's all get together and bring this over the top. Donate here.

Monday, March 22

GOOD MORNING NANAIMO – Mondays always have a light menu for news. So, what's to talk about? TODAY'S WEATHER

WHEN YOU DRIVE A MASERATI – First rule, don’t speed just because your car and go that fast. Second, when a cop tries to stop you, don’t try to run him down when he’s clocking you at 110 km in a 80 km zone. And lastly, don’t possess a large quantity of illegal narcotics and evidence of drug trafficking. A south Island driver doesn’t own a Maserati any more. Victoria police seized the car in June as “offence-related property” for the allegations of dangerous driving. Then a financial institution repossessed the car.

RDN TO VOTE ON HOSPITAL EXPANSION - The Regional District of Nanaimo will vote tomorrow on whether to support a major expansion of health-care services at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. RDN directors were introudced to a plan that includes a new patient tower and diagnostic treatment centre in the next five to eight years to include cardiac service and a comprehensive cancer service centre. Dr. David Coupland, NRGH medical staff president, said funding and facilities have not matched medical need and population growth in the central and north Island over the past 20 years. The emergency department at NRGH is the busiest on the Island, he said. 

YOUTH DIES IN CRASH – A 19-year-old man died in a single-vehicle collision on Yellow Point Road on Sunday. Police, EHS, Cedar Volunteer Fire Department, and the BC Coroner’s Service attended. Investigators were unable to find any witnesses to the crash, and it is unknown exactly when the incident occurred. The investigation is continuing. Read the FULL RCMP REPORT.

PARKSVILLE EV-TRUCK MAKER GETS FUNDING - Canadian Electric Vehicles of Parksville has been granted nearly $300,000 to develop its next generation of electric work trucks. CanEV builds the Might-E truck, a low-speed work truck for municipalities, malls, resorts, airports and campuses. CanEV has been manufacturing electric vehicles since 1995. The company is expected to hire two or three more employees with the new funding before bringing on more staff once manufacturing of the new medium-duty truck begins, according to the province. 

SHELTER IN PLACE LIFTED FOR COWICHAN TRIBES - Cowichan Tribes First Nation has lifted a shelter-in-place order that had been in effect since January. Residents can gather outdoors in consistent groups of up to 10 people, get haircuts and visit restaurants with their immediate households. Provincial public health orders banning indoor gatherings still apply. As of Thursday, there had been 268 cases of the coronavirus among Cowichan Tribes members since Dec. 31.  The Cowichan Tribes First Nation has been hard hit by the pandemic, with four community members dying as a result of COVID-19. 

 

Tuesday, March 23

GROPING INVESTIGATION CONTINUES - RCMP are investigating a report of a female being groped in the parking lot of the Woodgrove Centre at approximately 4:45 pm February 20. Investigators have recently obtained a photo of a person of interest who may have information that can further the investigation.

VIU ACCESSIBILITY BOOSTED - Accessibility has improved greatly at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus, thanks to support from the Rick Hansen Foundation. Power door openers, wayfinding signage, grab bars in washrooms and plus-size chairs are showing up for students and employees at the campus. The foundation recently granted the VIU Foundation $240,000 for accessibility projects in 12 of the least-accessible buildings at VIU. The money, which comes from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, will help the institution become more user-friendly for all, said Linda Derksen, universal access committee chairman.

ISLAND REGION HAS 89 NEW VIRUS CASES - Island Health reported 89 new positive Coronavirus tests over the three-day weekend as health officials reported 1,785 new cases and 16 deaths. There are 5,290 active cases in the province, 303 people in hospital, 80 of whom are in intensive care. Virus variants are causing concern with 166 cases over the weekend. 538,409 doses of vaccine have been administered. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she is concerned about the rise in hospitalizations among younger people. 

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED - There are times when we all need to step up. Josh Vickers, 19, died Sunday when his car collided with a tree on Yellow Point Road. Josh was one of four brothers left to fend for themselves after their father died last summer. Delaine Rangno, has organized a Facebook fundraiser page to help pay for bills and funeral expenses. She has been helping the boys since their father died. Donate here.

SUPPORT FOR SUSPECTED VIGILANTES - There appears to be a lot of community support for four Campbell River men who took the law into their own hands trying to recover stolen property. Many comments on social media praised the four men who were arrested following a 911 call on March 3. Police found four men leaving the home with items they said belonged to them. Police found a badly beaten 40-year-old man inside the residence. He was taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Many of the online comments praised the men, one person even inquiring if a fundraising campaign had been started to assist with their legal fees.

LIMITED HOURS ON TOFINO HIGHWAY - The only road access to and from Tofino and Ucluelet is closed until 6 p.m. today at Kennedy Hill. Beginning Wednesday, closures will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. The blast work being done during the closure is “one of the most complex” in the lengthy project to widen the road.

Sunday, March 21

LOOKING BACK INTO SPACE - If outer space is your gig, you’ll want to be at the Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s next meeting on Thursday. Chris Willott, a senior research officer at the National Research Council’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, will be the featured speaker. Willott is a project scientist with the James Webb Space Telescope. He’ll discuss what the telescope might reveal by looking back at the universe’s first light-emitting objects and how the telescope’s Canadian technology can help scan for signs of life on planets in far-off solar systems. The Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s next meeting happens 7-8:15 p.m. on March 25.Meetings are online. To learn more about how to take part in meetings, costs to become a society member to take part in meetings and other information, visit the NAS website.www.nanaimoastronomy.com.

CARBON TAX VERDICT COMING  - The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule Thursday on the fate of the of the national carbon tax. Ottawa imposed a price on pollution on provinces without one of their own in 2019. Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta all went to court to argue the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was unconstitutional because Ottawa was stepping into provincial jurisdiction. In 2019, appeals courts in Saskatchewan and Ontario determined the policy was constitutional, while in February 2020 the Alberta Court of Appeal said it was not. The cases were all appealed to the Supreme Court. LETTER TO THE EDITOR

CRIME OF OPPORTUNITY – The Coronavirus pandemic has brought out some unsavory business practises and some homeowners are losing thousands of dollars to contractors in home improvement scams. Karla Laird of The Better Business Bureau warns about a surge in home improvement scams in the province. Karla told CTV News that British Columbians reported more than $120,000 in losses related to home improvement scams in 2020. Your thoughts at LETTER TO THE EDITOR

BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK - A global campaign is encouraging Nanaimo residents to pay attention to their brain health during Brain Awareness Week. While the causes of and cure for dementia are still being researched, we know there are things we can do to reduce our risk of developing the disease. This includes being physically active. People who exercise regularly are less likely to develop heart disease, stroke and diabetes – all risks associated with dementia. In support of Brain Awareness Week, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. is encouraging residents to register in the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s. The online fundraiser takes place throughout May. 

Strong earrthquake rattles northern Japan
A strong earthquake struck Saturday off northern Japan, shaking buildings even in Tokyo and triggering a tsunami advisory for a part of the northern coast. No major damage was reported, but several people had minor injuries. The U.S. Geological Survey put the strength of the quake at magnitude 7.0 and depth at 54 kilometres (33.5 miles). The shaking started just before 6:10 p.m.

Man dies in Comox house fire
0321 - A man has died after a house fire in Comox Friday evening. Firefighters were called to the home on Rodello Street at 8:14 p.m. after neighbours spotted the blaze and called 911. They were able to get the man out of the building, but he died later in hospital.

More flights added to virus exposure list
0321 - Ten more flights have been added to the list of recent COVID-19 exposures over the last two days. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control added four flights with confirmed cases of the coronavirus to its list. Then, it added six more flights to the list on Friday. See the full list.

500 protest in Kelowna over restriction
0321 - More than 500 people in Kelowna Saturday protested the province’s ongoing pandemic restrictions and health orders. One of the event organizers, David Lindsay, said now is the time is now to stand up for what he says is an infringement of Canadian rights. Lindsay is facing four fines for hosting previous rallies, but says he’s challenging those tickets in court.

Second hammer attack reported in Courtenay
0320 - There has been a second hammer attack in Courtenay after a victim was  struck while walking in the city on Saturday. Const. Monika Terragni of the Comox Valley RCMP, said the victim was walking in an alley on Ryan Road when he was struck by someone with a small hammer, resulting in minor injuries to his face and leg. The attacker was clean shaven, in his mid-20s, with a slim build. He was over 6 feet tall and had brown, shoulder-length hair.

Your Daily Buzz, March 20, 2021

WELCOME TO THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING - officially at 2:37 a.m. today.

HAVE YOU GOT $620 TO SPARE? – that’s what it will cost you to jabber away on your cell phone while driving. Nanaimo RCMP nabbed 11 distracted drivers in one hour Thursday on Terminal Avenue at Rosehill Street. And several others got away because the cops were busy with other violators. Check out what else they found.

PLAYING CATCH-UP WITH SURGERIES - Almost all of the surgeries postponed during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have been completed, partly through a more efficient use of resources. Health Minister Adrian Dix said 95 per cent of those surgeries have been completed. He said 15,373 surgeries would be cancelled, and the focus has been on urgent cases as well as patients who had waited twice the amount of time that was recommended for their surgery. The province opened new and unused operating rooms, added hours on weekdays and weekends, and also hired more staff including surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists as part of its plan to catch up on procedures. Just over 84,000 patients are waiting for surgery, a decrease of 10 per cent compared with last February. You can tell us your thoughts on this at editor@nanaimonet.com

O’TOOLE TO CHAT WITH CHAMBER MEMBERS - Federal Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole will join a virtual fireside chat with Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce April 7, 12 noon to 1 p.m. It will be moderated by Bruce Williams CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. O’Toole will discuss the Opposition’s perspective on federal government, response to the pandemic, the federal budget, and the future. Particpants can submit questions in advance to respond to additional topics. The event is sponsored by MNP. Register Here

HORSESHOE BAY TERMINAL UPGRADE - BC Ferries is conducting construction work at the Horseshoe Bay Terminal to maintain aging infrastructure. The contractor will begin preliminary work March 24 with construction beginning March 30 and anticipated completion in July. The project includes concrete restoration work on the terminal’s elevated vehicle transfer deck, which is necessary to maintain the infrastructure. Work will be done overnight to minimize the impact to sailings. Earplugs will be available, upon request, for customers queuing or waiting near the areas of work. 

DR. BONNIE PRAISES COURT DECISION - Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says in a statement on Friday she is thankful for Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson’s “thoughtful decision upholding public health orders in regard to religious gatherings.”  Health officials have regularly engaged with faith leaders throughout the pandemic and they’re working together to develop plans for a safe and gradual return to in-person religious services, she added. Comment at editor@nanaimonet.com

MANY LEFT OFF ESSENTIAL VACCINE LIST - More than 300,000 front-line workers became eligible for vaccinations beginning next month – teachers, first-responders and grocery store staff. All are expected to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. But many groups – such as bus drivers, lawyers and BC Ferries workers are not listed in that priority group and they feel they are being left behind. The executive director of the BC Ferries workers union says members are deeply disappointed not to be included in the province's plan to provide COVID-19 vaccines to front-line workers. What's your view? editor@nanaimonet.com

CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS SOAR TO 737 CASES - Island Health region reported 32 new positive coronavirus tests on Friday, but province-wide numbers soared to 737 new cases and two deaths. It’s the second-highest daily case count this year, closely behind January 7, when there were 761 cases reported in a 24-hour period. More than half of the cases, 426, were in Fraser Health. The province’s death toll is1,421. There are 5,207 active cases in the province, 292 people in hospital, 85 in intensive care, and 9,412 under active public health monitoring. Since the start of the vaccination rollout plan, 490,022 have been given a vaccine shot, and 87,139 have received their second doses.

VACCINE APPOINTMENTS START FOR 75 AND OVER - Seniors over age 75 can start making their vaccine appointments today. Phone lines will begin accepting appointments for peopled aged 75-79 between today and March 27. The call centres will open for people in one-year cohorts at noon daily, starting from older to younger. If you are 79 you can call for an appointment beginning today (Saturday). It’s Monday for age 78, Tuesday if you are 77. It’s March 25 if you are 76, March 27 for those 75 or older. You can call the health authority at 1-833-348-4787 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to book an appointment.

PHARMACIES TO ADMINISTER VACCINES - Pharmacies in our province are getting ready to dispense coronavirus vaccines as distribution increases across the province. Health officials announced Thursday that pharmacies are being added to the list of locations delivering vaccine doses as supply increases. Earlier this month, Health Minister Adrian Dix said pharmacies weren't involved in distribution due to a limited supply of fridge-stable vaccines. With shipments of AstraZeneca arriving in the province and Johnson and Johnson doses expected, those storage requirements are shifting. The B.C. Pharmacy Association said Thursday it's ready to help with distribution immediately.

TELL US what you think about any of the topics here. Editor@nanaimonet.com

 

A traditional feast on our shorelines

Photo by Janine Sedola

The annual spawn of herring has left tons of fresh roe on our shores. Janine Sedola, a friend of Nanaimonet, provided photos of roe that washed ashore at Neck Point. And it turns out as a delectible treat. See Janine's slide presentation.

Booking vaccination appointment is easy, but it takes time

03/19

I’m in, i got my appointment this morning to get jabbed with the Coronavirus vaccine. It was  easy but time consuming though. After calling the prescribed phone number I got an operator at a call centre in Prince George.

She was very pleasant, but her first response was “Nanaimo is full, they are not booking appointments now.” However, she said she could transfer me but it “may take an hour to get an answer in Island Health”. I waited 49 minutes and got a pleasant responder (in Parksville) who actually knew where Nanaimo is. In no time at all, after getting the name and various numbers I got booked for April 1. Next week they start taking bookings for British Columbians aged 75 or more. Good luck. The number is 1-833-348-4787

A brief look elsewhere

Stuart Forrest

Arrest warrant issued for violent offender
0319 - An warrant has been issued for the arrest of 31 year old Stuart Forrest for breach of probation. The warrant was issued by Abbotsford Police Dept. The Nanaimo RCMP was notified that Forrest is believed to be in the Nanaimo area. Forrest is considered violent with a history of possessing weapons including replica firearms.  Forrest is 5 ft. 9, 190 pounds, with short brown hair and blue eyes. The picture provided is recent. He has numerous tattoos and he has connections throughout central Vancouver Island. If anyone has information on the whereabouts of Stuart Forrest, please call the Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345.

Victoria shuts off 24-hour camping in parks
0319 - Victoria has outlawed 24-hour camping in its parks, effective May 1. People camping overnight will have to pack up and move on between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Mayor Lisa Helps said with a commitment from the province offering indoor options as a pathway to permanent housing by the end of April, people will have the supports they need and the city parks can be restored to their pre-pandemic use. As many as 190 people have been sheltering in city parks. 

Court rules health orders paramount
0319 - A legal advocacy group that challenged COVID-19 rules in British Columbia says its argument that the restrictions unjustifiably infringed on religious freedoms has been dismissed by a judge. The petitioners represented by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms included a group of Fraser Valley churches that sought to hold in-person services, which have mostly been banned since November. The Calgary-based centre said the B.C. Supreme Court did find the orders issued by the province’s top doctor infringed on their right to religious freedom, but they were justified.

Friday, March 19

TODAY'S WEATHER

CITY CLEARS OUT DOWNTOWN ENCAMPMENT - City bylaw staff removed an encampment of homeless people from Italian Square Park in front of Port Place on Thursday, as RCMP oversaw the action. NanaimoNewsNOW reported approximately 20 people peacefully packed up their belongings from about a dozen tents in an orderly fashion. A fence was erected around the fountain to prevent further overnight stays. Nanaimo community safety manager Dave LaBerge said moving the homeless away from one public space to be dispersed elsewhere doesn’t address the problem, however he emphasized something had to be done. It’s believed many of the campers were previous residents of the Wesley St. encampment. What do you think?

35 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES ON ISLAND - Island Health has 35 new positive coronavirus tests in the latest report from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. British Columbia had 622 new cases with eight deaths. Dr. Henry said 286 are in hospital, an increase of 4 since Wednesday, 85 people in critical care. As of Thursday, the total number of cases in British Columbia over the course of the pandemic has reached 90,049. 

ESSENTIAL WORKERS NEXT IN LINE FOR VACCINE - Essential workers will be next in line for with the AstraZeneca vaccine as the province moves into the next phase of its immunization rollout plan. More than 300,000 essential workers including teachers, child care workers, first responders and grocery store employees will be next to get the vaccine. Premier John Horgan called it “the beginning of the end” of the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C. What do you think?
• first responders (police, firefighters, emergency transport); 
• K-12 educational staff; 
• child care staff; 
• grocery store workers; 
• postal workers; 
• bylaw and quarantine officers; 
• manufacturing workers; 
• wholesale/warehousing employees; 
• staff living in congregate housing at places such as ski hills; 
• correctional facilities staff; and 
• cross-border transport staff
The frontline workers are those who have jobs where the use of personal protective equipment is challenging, where outbreaks have occurred, where workers live or work in large congregations or where maintaining a workforce is vital to keeping a service running, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.

CANADA DAY TARGET FOR VACCINES - Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry hopes everyone over the age of 18 will receive their first dose by Canada Day if all goes well. The next age cohort to receive vaccines, those 70 to 79 and Indigenous elders ages 55 and over, can start booking their vaccine appointments starting Saturday. Roughly 900,000 doses of vaccine, predominantly Pfizer, are expected by April 18. 

HORGAN HOPES FOR RELAXED RESTRICTIONS - Premier John Horgan expects people who vaccinated will be able to participate in more activities as provincial health restrictions are relaxed. He declined to speculate on what limits could be placed on people who have not received the vaccine. He told a news conference Thursday that he expects more health restrictions to be lifted as the number of people receiving COVID-19 vaccines increases. 

CARBON TAX WILL BE COSTLY - Tom Fletcher of Black Press reports the harmonization of B.C.’s carbon tax with the federal tax will cost jobs and increase government deficits when both reach $50 a tonne, and the rapid climb to $170 by 2030. The increase is expected to cost B.C. more than 20,000 jobs by 2030, push up deficits already ballooning from the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, and shrink the national economy by about two per cent, says a study released March 16 by economist Ross McKitrick, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute. What’s your view? 

LANTZVILLE RESIDENTS SUE OVER DEVELOPMENT - Lantzville residents lost their case during a public hearing about a substantial suburban development, so now they are suing. The Lantzville Community Association filed petition to the BC Supreme Court on Tuesday. It claims the District contravened the Local Government Act and breached rules about procedural fairness in a Sept. 28, 2020 public hearing. It seeks an order quashing a zoning bylaw approved in November, 2020 granting increased density in the proposed Clark-Medd subdivision being developed in upper Lantzville. Let us know your thoughts at Nanaimonet Letters 

OPENING FOR AIRPORT COMMISSIONER - The City is recruiting one representative to sit on the Nanaimo Airport Commission Board.  The term is three years with optional extensions for a total of nine years. The ideal candidate will have Civil Engineering and/or Land Development experience.  Knowledge of airports and airlines is desirable but not essential. The representative must meet the eligibility requirements as described in the Nanaimo Airport Commission bylaws.

A brief look elsewhere

Assisted death to include mentally ill
The Canadian Senate has passed a bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying, eventually including people suffering solely from mental illnesses. The senate voted 60-25, with five abstentions, to approve a revised version of Bill C-7, even though the government rejected or modified amendments made by the Senate. It was expected to receive royal assent Thursday night.

Island hospital nurses, patients feel unsafe
Nurses and people who receive mental health care at Vancouver Island hospitals are concerned about their safety and want to see improvements to the system. Emma Epp and Ella Hale started a social media group after they were left feeling unsupported and unsafe in the hospital system while being treated for their mental health. Both have been admitted to the Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES) ward at Royal Jubilee Hospital after suicide attempts. They say they did not feel safe during the experience. The B.C. Nurses Union says there has been a notable increase in violence towards its members, particularly from patients with mental health challenges.

U.S. to send us more vaccines
The United States plans to send roughly four million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine that it is not using to Mexico and Canada in loan deals with the two countries, an administration officialsaid Thursday. Canada will get 1.5 million doses and Mexico 2.5 million doses. The Biden administration has come under pressure from allies worldwide to share vaccine, particularly from AstraZeneca, which is authorized for use in other countries but not yet in the United States.

 

Covid ranks fourth in Canadian deaths
This is one of the most educational websites available if you like statistics. For instance, with all the concern about Covid-19 is is no even near the highest causes of death in Canada. It has a running comparison of Covid-19 deaths versus the usual causes of death year to date 2020-21. The site has up-to-the-second statistics for the entire world.  View the site HERE

1 Heart disease                 44,937
2 Alzheimer-demnetia  29,738
3 Lung cancer                   24,246
4 COVID-19                        22,134
5 Lung disease                16,639
6 Stroke                             15,053

Thursday, March 18

TODAY'S WEATHER

COUNCIL SEEKS TO BAN COVERSION THERAPY - Nanaimo city council voted unanimously Monday to get a staff report outlining options for the City of Nanaimo to ban conversion therapy. The practice, which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual has been denounced as harmful by the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychiatry Association and other groups. The federal Department of Justice says conversion therapy has been shown to lead to loneliness, illicit drug use, suicide ideation and suicide attempts. EDITORIAL COMMENT.

CABLE BAY PROJECT FOLLOWED ALL RULES - A development permit issued by the Regional District of Nanaimo allows logging of nearly 100 acres of a forested lot west of the Cable Bay Trail. RDN general manager of strategic and community development, Geoff Garbutt, said the applicant followed all the rules, including surveying and harvesting plans, along with assessments on drainage and erosion control from a professional engineer. The model for these development permit areas are professional reports and the conditions related to these development permits are based on those reports. One area resident is concerned the logging is too close to a stream behind her Cedar Heights Cresent home.

FOCUS ON TRADES HEALTH ISSUES - The Vancouver Island Construction Association and the province have launched a new program to help address addictions and the overdose crisis in the industry. The BC Corners Service said that in 2018 about 81 per cent of all fatal overdoses occurred among men, while 44 per cent of fatal overdose victims were employed. Of that total, more than 50 per cent of people were employed in the trades or transport industries.

DIRE WARNING FROM STILWELL - Is anyone paying attention? Does anyone care? How could you not? asks former Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell? By not producing a budget the government will take “$13 billion for who knows what. A blank cheque with no details, no plan,” Stilwell posted on social media.  She said British Columbians should brace themselves. “You thought a pandemic was bad? Just wait to see the negative impacts from this”.

FOCUS ON ASIAN GIANT HORNETS - B.C. and Washington state have unveiled their co-operative efforts to find and eradicate the invasive Asian giant hornets. The hornets are a problem on both sides of the border so officials and citizen scientists will trap and exterminate accordingly. Comprehensive surveys will take place in Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley as well as between White Rock and Aldergrove. There were about 60 traps, baited with orange juice and rice wine, set up in areas close to the U.S. border last year. Westendorp said more traps will be set this year because of the increased activity in Washington. Last year, six hornets were collected in the Fraser Valley but none on Vancouver Island. 

THE CHEQUE IS STILL NOT IN THE MAIL – If you’re waiting for your ICBC COVID-19 rebate cheque that was supposed to go out starting this week they are being delayed because of a cyberattack. ICBC said the cyberattack targeted a third-party vendor that was contracted for printing and distribution services for the cheques. The vendor had access to policyholders' names, addresses, cheque amounts and cheque numbers, but no other personal information, said ICBC.

Consumer price index goes up
0318 - The Canadian consumer price index in February was up 1.1 per cent compared with a year earlier, up from the year-over-year increase of 1.0 per cent recorded in January. Statistics Canada says driving much of the growth was a five per cent year-over-year increase in gasoline prices, marking the third-straight month of gains. Financial data firm Refinitiv had said the average economist estimate is for a year-over-year increase of 1.3 per cent.

Minorities favoured in new set of grants
0318 - Additional grants for online businesses will give special consideration to businesses owned by British Columbians who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour, Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday. The program boosts the program and extends it to include the service industry. Horgan said that demand for the initial $7,500 grants quickly surpassed the 1,500 grants available. The province is now adding $30 million to the program, which is designed to help businesses create online shops and improve e-commerce experiences for customers.

Pharmacies want to provide vaccinations
0318 - Shoppers Drug Mart president Jeff Leger wants the B.C. government to speed up the vaccination process by allowing pharmacies to provide the service. He said this could do a lot as more volume comes into the country. He said there are 10,000 pharmacies in Canada and two to three million doses could be administered per week. Some provinces are already allowing pharmacies to administer the shots.

Walmart will close six stores in Canada
0318 Walmart will close six stores and spend $500 million to upgrade more than half its remaining locations. It’s a move to improve the “look and feel” of its stores and enhance its online business. Three stores are in Ontario (Mississauga, Hamilton, and Kitchener), two in Alberta (Calgary and Edmonton) and one in Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John’s). Workers will be offered jobs at other stores as the market is already served by other Walmart stores near by.

Island has 12 new coronavirus cases
0318 - There were 12 new positive tests for Coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, health officials said Wedneday. The province reported 498 new cases and four deaths since Tuesday’s update. The number of confirmed cases in B.C. has risen to 89,427 while the death toll is 1,411. There are 4,851 active cases in the province, 281 people in hospital with 83 in intensive care. The Island Health region 225 active cases. A total of 444,140 doses of vaccine have been administered province-wide. There have been 996 confirmed COVID-19 cases that are variants of concern identified in the province.

Wednesday, March 17

TODAY'S WEATHER

A PEDESTRIAN DECISION – City Council has given the go-ahead to 10 pedestrian infrastructure projects for more than $1,000,000, half of it from reserves. Assistant Transportation Manager Barbara Thomas said the extra funding will allow considerable improvements. That will include rapid flashing beacons as well as curb modifications and lighting improvements for the crossings. As well, council voted 5-4 to fast track a sidewalk along Haliburton Street. The News Bulletin noted that block of Haliburton is close to Coun. Erin Hemmens’ house on Gillespie Street, but she insisted she has no conflict of interest. 

TWO KILLED IN GABRIOLA ACCIDENT - Two men are dead as a result of a work-site accident on Gabriola Island Tuesday morning. RCMP say a boom of a concrete pump truck broke and landed on two workers at a construction site. An RCMP press release noted both men were pronounced dead at the scene. 

DRIVING RAMPAGE DAMAGES FOUR POLICE CARS - A man is in police custody after a driving rampage involving multiple police vehicles and causing thousands of dollars in damage. The carnage was stopped when a quick-thinking officer used his own police vehicle to pin the suspect’s vehicle next to a building to prevent his escape. The incident unfolded at approximately 11:45 pm on Monday March 15, on Terminal Ave near Comox Road. There were no reported injuries to any officers involved.  

 DONNIE AND DHALI BACK ON THE AIR - If you lose your job, go buy another one. That appears to be what Don Taylor and Rick Dhaliwal have done. They bought into the employee-owned CHEK TV and will air a new sports variety show, Donnie and Dhali – The Team, April 5 on CHEK. The pair, along with producer Ryan Henderson, had a radio show on TSN/Team 1040, a station that suddenly shut down last month. The new show will air 10 a.m. to noon, Monday to Friday on CHEK and multiple digital platforms. FULL STORY

 NOT QUITE AS IT APPEARS – British Columbia income and disability assistance clients will see a $175 permanent monthly increase next month. It’s the largest single increase in B.C. history, said Social Development Minister Nicholas Simons. But hold the phone. Recipients got a $300 monthly COVID-19 supplement from April to December last year. Then the province cut it to $150 a month in January, ending this month when the new $175 permanent rate kicks in on April 1. More than 300,000 people are affected by the change. It’s the third increase to rates since 2017 and will cost the provincial government $400 million annually.

VAISAKKHI PARADE CANCELLED - The annual Surrey Vaisakhi Khalsa Parade is not going ahead this year due to the ongoing pandemic. Parade organizers said they decided to cancel this year’s event scheduled for April 24. Organizers call it one of the largest events of its kind in the world, with the day-long celebration typically drawing crowds of up to 500,000 people. It is one of the most important days in the Sikh calendar, the creation of the Khalsa in 1699.

 Province boosts online business
0317 - Black, Indigenous and people of colour will get special consideration under an expanded boost for online businesses and extending it to include the service industry. Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday that the program would give special consideration to businesses owned by British Columbians based on race. Horgan said that demand for the initial $7,500 grants quickly surpassed the 1,500 grants available. The province is now adding $30 million to the program, which is designed to help businesses create online shops and improve e-commerce experiences for customers.

Consumer price index goes up
0317 - The Canadian consumer price index in February was up 1.1 per cent compared with a year earlier, up from the year-over-year increase of 1.0 per cent recorded in January. Statistics Canada says driving much of the growth was a five per cent year-over-year increase in gasoline prices, marking the third-straight month of gains. Financial data firm Refinitiv had said the average economist estimate is for a year-over-year increase of 1.3 per cent.

Island Health has 27 new virus cases
0316 - Island Health had 27 new Coronavirus cases Tuesday, part of 556 new cases province wide. There were no deaths since the last update on Monday. There are 4,999 active cases in the province, 280 people in hospital, 84 in intensive care. Virus variants continue to rise, with 116 identified in the last 24 hours for 996 variants of concern detected. The majority of variants have been of the U.K. strain, 41 linked to South Africa, while 34 are linked to the Brazil variant. A total of 424,517 doses of vaccine have been administered province-wide by Tuesday. 

Three injured in crash near airport
0316 - A two-vehicle crash in front of Nanaimo Airport on the weekend resulted in three injuries. The crash happened early evening on Saturday at the Timberlands Road intersection. Four ambulances and a helicopter responded to the scene along with Ladysmith RCMP and Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department.

Weapon found after couple flees pickup crash
0316 - Police recovered a loaded firearm after two people fled the scene of a one-vehicle crash near Horne Lake on Sunday. Two people in the stolen pickup truck took off on a dirt bike that had been in the truck. They appeared to be injured but were last seen travelling north on Highway 19 and onto a trail system. The dirt bike was later found crashed near the Inland Highway West.

Battle of confidence over AstraZeneca
0316 - Federal officials are mounting a renewed push to instill Canadian confidence in Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, but they’re in for a tough battle. Members of the federal body advising the country on vaccine addressed public fears Tuesday to stress the vaccine’s safety for those over the age of 65. NACI chair Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh says there is now enough “real-world evidence” to show it is both safe and effective for seniors.

Tuesday, March 16

LIMITED CHURCH SERVICES COMING – Those who want to will soon be able to Praise the Lord. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon issue details on how small, outdoor religious gatherings can be held and that planning is under way to gradually allow for the return of indoor services.

VACCINATION SCAMS TARGET SENIORS –Some seniors have been getting phone messages inviting them to register for coronavirus vaccinations and asking for detailed personal information. Do not reply – nobody will call you, you must call in. To register for an appointment, call 1-833-348-4787 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week. The Beban site is now inoculating 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily until Oct. 31. The Cedar site will open March 31 until Oct. 31, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

MEANWHILE - Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry downplays concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports throughout Europe of people getting blood clots. Dr. Henry said officials around the world continue to monitor the situation, however the 37 instances of blood clots and similar adverse reactions is dwarfed by the millions of doses administered to date. She added the vaccines used here have been remarkably effective and safe.

NASAL SPRAY FOR VIRUS – A Vancouver biotech company has developed a nasal spray for treatment of COVID-19 levels by 95 per cent within 24 hours, and more than 99 per cent in under three days. Dr. Gilly Regev, who co-founded SaNOtize with Dr. Chris Miller, says the nasal spray kills the virus in the nose, and reduces the viral load. In months of testing, the virus was killed before it could spread to the lungs. 

GETTING JAZZY - Nanaimo has a long tradition and reputation for developing and supporting stellar jazz artists. This year’s Nanaimo International Jazz festival is “virtual” this year and showcases some of the best talent around. It’s online, continuing until March 20. Nine performances will be unveiled over three weeks culminating March 20 with a special tribute to Shelton Brooks, Canada’s first jazz composer. Best yet, there is no charge to access any of the performances but they would love it if you would become a member or make a donation to continue to support efforts to promote and celebrate jazz. The Chamber of Commerce is a sponsor of the 2021 festival. MORE

ROAD TO TOFINO TO BE CLOSED – If you have any plans to go to the west coast of Vancouver Island next week, the only highway link will be temporarily shut down for rock blasting next week. Highway 4 at Kennedy Hill will be closed in both directions from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23. The closure will restrict all road access to Tofino and Ucluelet during daylight hours.

Trudeau in no hurry to reopen border
0315 - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the topic of reopen the Canada-U. S. border any time soon is not for today. He says people on both sides of the border will have to keep waiting patiently for the COVID-19 pandemic to abate. Trudeau’s recent conversations with President Joe Biden rekindled the debate about reopening the border. Biden is cautiously hopeful that accelerating vaccination efforts will allow Americans to gather in small groups by the July 4 weekend. New York congressman Brian Higgins says it should be possible to reopen the border by then, with a partial opening before the end of May.

75 positive Covid tests on Island over the weekend
0015 - British Columbia health officials Monday reported 75 positive tests for Covid in the Island Health region.They are part of the 1,506 new COVID-19 cases province-wide since the last update on March 12. Ten deaths were reported over the weekend bringing the provincial death toll to 1,407. There are 4,987 active cases in the province, 269 in hospital, 76 of whom are in intensive care. More than 9,000 people are under public health monitoring due to possible exposure to an identified case. MORE DETAILS

Bystanders disarm gun-wielding assailant
0315 - Bystanders disarmed a 39-year-old man who had reportedly assaulted another man, by striking him with a firearm. They prevented the suspect from fleeing on his motorbike. Nanaimo RCMP arrested the suspect in a parking lot of a south Nanaimo business at about 5 pm on March 14. MORE

Monday, March 15

VACCINE APPOINTMENTS MOVED UP The province announced Sunday it was moving up vaccine registration for seniors in the 80- to 85-year-old category, encompassing about 105,000 people. The following age groups will be able to phone and register for a vaccine.

Noon Monday — age 84 and over
Tuesday — age 83 and over
Wednesday — age 82 and over
Thursday — age 81 and over
Friday — age 80 and over
The call centre is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. The number to call is 1-833-348-4787. Family members, friends, or any support person can also call to make an appointment on a senior’s behalf.

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW – Then there was a friend who had his second dose of the vaccine after which he began to have blurred vision on the way home. When he got home, he called Island Health for advice and to ask if he should see a doctor or the hospital. He was told not to go to a doctor or hospital, but just return to the vaccination centre and pick up his glasses.

BRIAN McFADDEN of the Vancouver Island Military Museum has some bad news, but it comes with good news. The Military Museum has gone to temporary hours. The good news is that construction is under wary for the new hotel and that impacts Cameron Road. They have worked out a schedule with the construction company which needs the road closed for crane and concrete activity. The new hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. This schedule is likely to remain in effect until the end of April when they will reassess the situation.

VIU STUDENTS ADAPT - Students in VIU’s Child and Youth Care program didn’t let physical distancing get in the way of developing activities that support children, youth and families in their communities this year. Over the years, students in Vancouver Island University’s Child and Youth Care (CYC) program have built strong connections with community agencies that help children, youth and families who are dealing with challenges or obstacles to healthy living. Field experience is an integral part of the program, but COVID-19 put a halt to in-person practicum opportunities, says Cheryl Cameron, VIU CYC Practicum Co-ordinator. The students found ways to mobilize and make things happen despite the pandemic. MORE

ROGERS BUYING SHAW COMMUNICATIONS Rogers Communications Inc. has signed a deal to buy Shaw Communications Inc.  valued at $26 billion, including debt. Rogers will pay $40.50 cash for all of Shaw’s issued and outstanding class A and class B shares. Shaw’s class B shares closed at $23.90 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday. Rogers will invest $2.5 billion in 5G networks over the next five years across Western Canada. Rogers also says it will create a new $1-billion fund dedicated to connecting rural, remote and Indigenous communities across Western Canada to high-speed internet service.