Two years into pandemic, effects of COVID-19 on youth mental health a growing concern

Even as adults cope with ever-changing restrictions and advice around the COVID-19 pandemic, the stress they're living is being passed on to their children, leading to growing concerns for child psychologists. Kylie Stanton reports.

While children have largely been spared from the most severe physical outcomes of COVID-19, the toll the pandemic is taking on youth mental health is another story.

Children and teenagers in B.C. have accounted for fewer than one in five COVID-19 cases, and less than two per cent of hospital admissions.

But a recent University of Calgary study looking at data from more than 80,000 youth around the world found depression and anxiety symptoms have doubled in children and adolescents compared to pre-pandemic.

It’s a trend doctors at BC Children’s Hospital say they’ve observed as well.

The hospital’s emergency department has reported an 11-per cent increase in youth arriving for mental health treatment since the start of the pandemic.

Dr. Ashley Miller, who works as a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the hospital, said youth with existing depression or anxiety or who are affected by  neurodevelopmental differences seem to have struggled the most with periods of greater restrictions.

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But she said all young people, who thrive under routine and structure, were affected to a greater or lesser extent.

“As things open up and kids and teens are able to see their friends more and get back to their regular activities more, things seem to improve, but then when it gets into another wave and things shut down a little more, there’s that sense like we all have of ‘I’m so tired of it and why can’t I do these things I want to do,'” she said.

“And there are some kids and teens who just kind of struggled the whole time, so there’s a bit of a mix depending on a lot of different factors.”

From changes to everyday life like handwashing and masks, to disruption and anxiety around children’s institutions like daycares and schools, the pandemic has also loaded pressure onto parents.

Miller said that is also an important factor, given that kids — especially younger ones — take their cues from mom and dad.

“So, if parents are feeling highly anxious, regardless of the cause — and they communicate that through what they say, but also through their non-verbal behaviours — especially little kids will take their cues from that,” she said.

The risk of COVID-19 to children, though lower than for adults, remains real. Many suffer from the effects of so-called long COVID, and a small number have also developed a poorly-understood syndrome called MIS-C.

MIS-C refers to multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, first identified in April 2020, which can occur after COVID-19 infection and affects mostly school-aged children.

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But given the potential mental health challenges, doctors say parents need to manage a tricky balance between keeping their kids safe, and mentally healthy.

“The real message is we have to do as much as possible as we can to support these kids – so that when they come through the pandemic, we’re not looking at long-term consequences of that,” Dr. Manish Sadarangani, pediatric infectious disease physician at BC Children’s Hospital said.

With the evolving epidemiology of COVID as the Omicron variant becomes dominant, Miller said parents will need to look at reassessing their tolerance for risk, a process she said can be made easier for kids by introducing changes gradually.

The good news, according to Miller, is that the things that mental health experts have long prescribed to help children and teens thrive remain constant: keeping up with routines, getting enough sleep, physical activity and time outdoors and quality time with the family.

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

Wastewater COVID-19 values dropping in some Alberta cities

Researchers who track COVID-19 cases through Alberta’s wastewater believe the province has passed the peak of the pandemic’s Omicron wave. As Ina Sidhu reports, there has been a consistent drop in samples across the province.

Wastewater sampling in Alberta municipalities seem to indicate the beginning of the end of the Omicron-fuelled wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we’ve seen across Alberta in the samples last collected on Wednesday this week is that wastewater values of SARS-CoV-2 RNA are certainly down from the peak of what we had seen with this fifth wave,” Dr. Michael Parkins of the Cumming School of Medicine said Friday.

“We’re up slightly from where we were on Monday, but we’ve seen a clear and consistent trend over the last five sampling points that wastewater values of SARS-CoV-2 are decreasing, suggesting cases to be diagnosed six days from now are less over time.”

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Wastewater-based epidemiology has become the de facto method for the province to track the prevalence of COVID-19 in Alberta municipalities, as the wastewater system captures all COVID-19 cases in a population whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.

On Jan. 10, molecular PCR testing – a more accurate test for COVID-19 than rapid antigen testing – was restricted solely to Albertans who are at known risk for severe outcomes and those who live and work in high-risk settings, like continuing care and acute care.

Wastewater monitoring for fragments of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is done in 19 Alberta communities by a coalition of scientists, including at the University of Alberta and University of Calgary.

A graph of COVID-19 prevalence in Calgary and area wastewater since the beginning of December.

A graph of COVID-19 prevalence in Calgary and area wastewater since the beginning of December.

Global News / University of Calgary

Parkins, an assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s departments of medicine and microbiology, immunology and infectious disease, said this downward trend is being observed in the two largest cities.

Sample values are still higher than prior waves and Parkins said the downward trend isn’t a universal phenomenon across the province.

“Certainly in the larger municipalities, the peak wastewater values – which correlated with cases that we’d be seeing six days in the future – occurred about two-and-a-half weeks back,” Parkins said. “And over the last 10 days, we’ve seen a consistent decline across large municipalities.

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“But that’s not necessarily the same everywhere. In some of the smaller municipalities, we see value still increasing, such as Okotoks, Lethbridge and Taber.”

In past waves, wastewater results have preceded spikes in cases. And hospitalizations usually follow increased case numbers.

“We still have an increasing number of people with symptoms from COVID-19 that are coming into hospital,” Parkins said. “So while cases are dropping and are expected to continue to drop, hospitalization rates are increased and will likely continue to increase, representing the peak that we had seen previously.”

A graph of COVID-19 prevalence in Calgary and area wastewater since the University of Calgary started tracking it.

A graph of COVID-19 prevalence in Calgary and area wastewater since the University of Calgary started tracking it.

Global News / University of Calgary

On Friday, Alberta announced 1,191 COVID-19 patients were in hospital, a pandemic record.

While the data seems to bear out Thursday’s announcement from Premier Jason Kenney of “early indications that Alberta has reached and surpassed the peak of infections in our province,” Parkins warned the fifth wave still isn’t over.

“Certainly wastewater values suggest we have passed the peak and that things are improving,” he told Global News.

“Of course, that’s dependent on the activity of Calgarians and Albertans.”

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

Police remove 'unruly' unmasked passengers from flight at Abbotsford, B.C. airport

Police were called to Abbotsford International Airport on Friday, after a pair of passengers became disruptive aboard a flight and refused to comply with the federal COVID-19 mask mandate.

Abbotsford police said officers removed the two men from a Swoop Airlines flight bound for Vancouver from Toronto.

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In a statement, a Swoop spokesperson confirmed police were requested due to the passengers’ “unruly” behaviour.

“The safety of our travellers and our crew is always our first priority, and Swoop has implemented a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to non-compliance with the mask mandate outlined by Transport Canada,” the company said.

Police said the men had been banned from future Swoop flights, and that Transport Canada was also probing the incident.

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

NYC police officer killed during domestic disturbance call in Harlem

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A New York Police Department officer was killed and another gravely injured Friday night after responding to a domestic disturbance call, according to a law enforcement official.

A suspect was also killed in the shooting in Harlem, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

The official said a call had come in shortly after 5 p.m. of a mother needing help with her son. Three officers responded to the ground floor apartment on 135th Street.

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They spoke to the mother in a front room, and then two officers went to a back room where the son was, and shots rang out, the official said.

Police dispatch audio captured some of the chaotic scene, including an officer screaming for assistance and another officer informing the dispatcher that two officers had been shot.

One officer asks for “three buses” or ambulances to the scene, a six-story apartment building, and police to block off traffic on the route to nearby Harlem Hospital. The building is on a block between two iconic Harlem avenues: Malcolm X Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.

Mayor Eric Adams was at the hospital where the officers were taken after the shooting, the third time in four days that officers have faced gunfire on the job. Inside the hospital entrance, a line of officers stood shoulder to shoulder at the top of some stairs.

An officer was wounded in the leg Tuesday night in the Bronx during a struggle with a teenager who also shot himself. On Thursday, a narcotics detective was shot in the leg on Staten Island.

The last NYPD officer fatally shot in the line of duty, Brian Mulkeen, was hit by friendly fire while struggling with an armed man after chasing and shooting at him in the Bronx in September 2019.

Mulkeen’s death came about seven months after Det. Brian Simonsen was killed by friendly fire while he and other officers were confronting a robbery suspect at a cell phone store in Queens.

In 2015, a man who’d been riding a stolen bicycle shot and killed Officer Randolph Holder as Holder and his partner approached him on a footbridge over a Manhattan highway.

The year before, Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were fatally shot by a man who ambushed them as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn. The man, whose threatening posts online included a vow to put “wings on pigs” — ran into a subway station and killed himself.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Winnipeg Blue Bombers sign most outstanding lineman Stanley Bryant

The avalanche of signings continued for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night.

Just a day after bringing back Zach Collaros and Adam Bighill, the Bombers re-signed the league’s most outstanding lineman, Stanley Bryant.

The 35-year-old signed a one-year contract extension. The team’s starting quarterback broke the news.

Bryant is one of the most decorated offensive linemen in CFL history. He won his third career Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award this season, becoming the first player in league history to do so.

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He also won in 2017 and 2018, and was the runner-up for the award in 2019. Bryant was also named a CFL all-star for the sixth time in his career last season.

Bryant anchored the Bombers offensive line that allowed the least number of sacks in the CFL in 2021.

He’s played 11 seasons in the CFL, including the last six in the blue and gold after breaking into the league with the Calgary Stampeders in 2010.

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A mainstay at the tackle position, Bryant first joined the Bombers in 2015. He appeared in 103 consecutive games before his ironman streak was snapped late in the 2021 season when he was rested after first place was already clinched.

Bryant is a three-time Grey Cup champion. In addition to his two titles in Winnipeg, he also won the cup in 2014 with the Stamps.

The Bombers have now signed three of their five starting offensive linemen to new contracts with Jermarcus Hardrick and Patrick Neufeld previously signing extensions. Backups Geoff Gray and Chris Kolankowski also have new deals, but starters Michael Couture and Drew Desjarlais remain unsigned.

Free agency begins on Feb. 8.

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

'Really amazing': Community rallies to support Shuswap woman after fire

WATCH: A Shuswap woman says she is humbled by the amount of support she's received from the community since her home burnt in unusual circumstances earlier this month. The blaze near Salmon Arm is believed to have been started by a man whose family says he was just trying to keep warm.

A Shuswap woman says she is humbled by the amount of support she’s received from the community since her home was seriously burnt under unusual circumstances earlier this month.

The fire, near Salmon Arm, remains under investigation by police, and the family of the man who is believed to have sparked the flames says he was just trying to keep warm.

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Bonnie Thomas said it was her son who first noticed the fire at around 3 a.m. on Jan. 8.

“My son was still awake watching TV and he’d heard a sound outside so he went to check on it and the flames were already going up the side of the home,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ son woke her up. She grabbed a coat and rushed out of the house.

While mother and son were safe, the flames and smoke did serious damage.

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Thomas said both her home and vehicle are a write-off.

Since then, the community has rallied around Thomas and her son, connecting them with a new place to live, raising thousands to replace their furniture and offering help to rebuild the home.

Thomas, a member of the Neskonlith band, said the “tremendous support” makes her feel like she is living in a traditional community.

“Traditionally in our community, our communities were strong. When it came to community members that were unfortunate such as this, in a traditional community, everybody came together to help,” said Thomas.

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Thomas feels the support shows the impact her mother, well-known Neskonlith leader Mary Thomas, had on the community.

“Her life’s work was what she called building bridges between people and the culture,” said Thomas.

“I really feel like the teachings of my mother have really spread across the community of Salmon Arm.

Meanwhile, the man who is believed to have lit the fire remains in hospital and may not survive.

Following the discovery of the blaze, police said they found him unconscious and lying in the snow.

The 23-year-old’s family says he fell through the cracks of the mental health and judicial system and was trying to keep warm when he started the fire.

“At this point in time I don’t know what more I can do aside from providing prayers to their family and I hope he does make it,” Thomas said.

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

Drug used to treat COVID-19 in short supply at Hamilton hospitals

A Hamilton infectious disease specialist says the city’s hospitals have been rationing doses of a drug used to treat COVID-19 due to low supply during the current wave of the pandemic.

St Joseph’s Healthcare Dr. Zain Chagla says Tocilizumab — an anti-inflammatory medication — is one of few drugs physicians can give to people when they get moderately or critically ill with COVID-19 to protect them from getting ventilated or dying.

Chagla says Hamilton’s hospitals have “been very strict” in recent times since supply shortages have led to limiting doses and turning to alternative medications.

“We look at patients to see whether or not there is an expected survival just for the sake of making sure that we give the drug to people where we think it’s going to derive the most benefit,” Chagla told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

“We’ve had to bring in alternative medications which have similar efficacy, which is good, but … are expensive and have more drug interactions associated.”

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Ontario’s COVID Science Advisory Table recommended rationing the drug as far back as April 2021 as supply shortages coincided with the third wave of infections that sent more patients into intensive care than the first two.

The agency suggested use be restricted for critically- and moderately-ill patients and that a second doses  — usually considered after 24 hours — be scrapped.

Dr. Peter Juni, the group’s scientific director, said the dosing change is unlikely to impact patients’ treatment but rationing the drug was recommended so the maximum number of people can benefit.

“It’s basically the best trade-off we can make to treat this population of patients in the hospital who would require the drug,” he said in an interview in April.

Chagla says Pfizer’s new COVID-19 treatment, Paxlovid, could help if the drug is administered early for people who are high risk.

Clinical trial data submitted to Health Canada revealed the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 89 per cent.

Doses can be given to adults, 18 years of age and older, who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing mild or moderate illness, and who are at high risk of becoming more seriously ill.

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“It’s a little trickier; patients need to get tested early,” Chagla said.

“There’s a lot of drug interactions that we have to deal with, so not every patient is going to be eligible. But certainly there’s a lot of hope for outpatient therapy, particularly.”

Dr. Dominik Mertz, medical director of infection control at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), says the potential caveat with the drug is its effectiveness with people who are vaccinated since the trial data was primarily done in high risk individuals not vaccinated.

“Less than one per cent of those highest risk individuals required hospital admissions with treatment. So that’s a huge fact and great to see,” said Mertz.

“But what we’ve seen in the already vaccinated individuals will be low, so you will see less of an impact.”

Ontario is set to receive approximately 10,000 courses of Pfizer’s anti-viral COVID-19 pill in January from the federal government, according to the province’s ministry of health.

Last week, Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the country has already received its first shipment of 30,000 treatment courses of the drug, with another 120,000 expected through March.

Hamilton’s hospitals reported close to 300 COVID patients in their care as of Friday, with about 90 of those having been specifically hospitalized for COVID.

The city’s intensive care units (ICUs) recorded just over 40 people who are critically ill.

Ontario had 4,114 people in hospital with COVID on Jan. 21 with 590 in ICUs.

The number of institutional COVID-19 outbreaks in Hamilton were at 85 as of Friday connected to close to 1,400 total cases, according to public health data.

More than 800 of those are tied to 40 surges in homes containing seniors, including 609 at 24 long-term care homes (LTCH) and 215 in 16 retirement homes. Just over half of the estimated 824 cases are with health care workers.

Two long-term care homes are reporting connections with about 150 of the infections — 95 at Heritage Green Nursing Home in Stoney Creek and 64 with The Wellington on the Mountain.

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The outbreak in the city’s primary jail, the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, has been steady over the past couple of days with reported cases at 81 as of Jan. 21.

Just over 50 of the cases are tied to inmates.

The outbreak numbers potentially represent only part of the picture in the city since public health stopped reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces not tied to high-risk settings like hospitals and congregate settings.

There are seven surges tied to about 170 cases in the city’s shelter system while about 117 are connected with 19 support homes.

As of Jan. 18, the city has put about 1.16 million COVID vaccine doses into arms with about 455,000 second visits and 254,000 third shots.

Over 81.1 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians aged five and up have had a pair of doses, while 86.3 per cent have gotten at least one shot.

About 87 per cent of residents aged 12-plus have had at least two shots, while about 89.6 per cent have had a first dose.

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The city is still behind the provincial average, which has 88.9 per cent of those 12-plus with two doses and 91.6 per cent with a single dose.

Third-dose immunization is at 45.4 per cent, meaning more than 5.8 million Ontarians have received a booster shot.

Excluding kids aged five to 11, Hamiltonians in the 12-to-17 age group represent the lowest vaccination rates of those eligible in the community at just over 80 per cent having had a pair of doses

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

'A balancing act': Local hotel industry asks City of Calgary for relief on taxes and fees

Calgary hotels are feeling the financial pinch due to repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic. As Adam MacVicar reports, the industry is hoping for relief from the City of Calgary.

Ongoing financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced Calgary’s hotel industry to request financial aid from the City of Calgary.

The Calgary Hotel Association penned a letter to city council and the mayor requesting an abatement on municipal property taxes and utility fees until May 31, 2022.

“The whole first quarter is lost,” Calgary Hotel Association president Sol Zia told Global News. “We’re likely not going to be back to whatever the new level of business is until May, hence the May 31 ask — to get us through the first quarter and into the second quarter before we know things will improve in the summer.”

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The financial impact of the pandemic on local hotels is estimated to be $500 million over the last two years, according to the hotel association.

At the Carriage House Inn in south Calgary, daily challenges continue to persist, including a roll-back in cash flow, staffing, changing health measures and the Omicron variant.

“The impact of Omicron on our industry, especially with the United States recommending not to travel to Canada, has immensely hurt us,” Carriage House Inn general manager Lino Savino said Friday. “We were looking at a pretty good 2022 and we were expecting a little bit of a return to normal business, but it’s been devastating.”

The Calgary Hotel Association has also made a similar request to the provincial government.

According to Zia, the province has already abated the Alberta Tourism Levy until March 31, 2022, for hotels that have a documented revenue drop of 40 per cent or more.

The most recent request would also see the levy abatement extended until the end of May.

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“We’re not asking for the government or the City of Calgary to cover all of our costs,” Zia said. “We’re just asking for some relief from the tax portion… as we look through this year.”

Calgary city council has already approved a property tax deferral for hotels until the end of 2022.

The CHA confirmed it has met with the city and the mayor’s office regarding their request, which would also apply the same revenue loss criteria as their request to the province.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the changing environment with COVID-19 and it’s toll on local businesses must be addressed.

In an interview Friday with 770 CHQR, Gondek said property taxes for hotels are based on both assessed value of the property as well as revenue.

“The assumptions that are made in a pandemic environment about their revenue combined with the value of their property is something that needs to be taken quite seriously and reviewed for the times that we’re in,” Gondek said. “We’re committed to working with them on making sure they get the best possible outcome. ”

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Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said he hopes to raise the issue with city council and administration next week, to determine what options are available.

The city’s finances are tight, Wong said, after a property tax increase as well as new figures on inflationary pressures in Alberta.

“It’s a balancing act,” Wong told Global News. “The question administration has to help us with is what are the priorities, where are the opportunities and how can we support Calgary’s economy, businesses and our residents.”

Zia said half of the hotels in the city are family owned businesses and that government assistance will be an important measure to keep businesses from closing down.

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The latest repercussions due to the Omicron variant have pushed back any sort of recovery to 2019 levels another few years down the road, Zia said.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” he said. “But really anything the city can do to ease the burden for the hotels, it’s going to be critical.”

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

Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist monk and mindfulness master, dead at 95

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Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist who in the 1960s came to prominence as an opponent of the Vietnam War, died on Saturday aged 95 surrounded by his followers in the temple where his spiritual journey began.

“The International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism announces that our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed away peacefully at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam, at 00:00hrs on 22nd January, 2022, at the age of 95,” said his official Twitter account.

In a majestic body of works and public appearances spanning decades, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke in gentle yet powerful tones of the need to “walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

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He suffered a stroke in 2014 which left him unable to speak and returned to Vietnam to live out his final days in the central city of Hue, the ancient capital and his place of birth, after spending much of his adult life in exile.

As a pioneer of Buddhism in the West, he formed the “Plum Village” monastery in France and spoke regularly on the practice of mindfulness — identifying and distancing oneself from certain thoughts without judgment — to the corporate world and his international followers.

“You learn how to suffer. If you know how to suffer, you suffer much, much less. And then you know how to make good use of suffering to create joy and happiness,” he said in a 2013 lecture.

“The art of happiness and the art of suffering always go together.”

Born Nguyen Xuan Bao in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh was ordained as a monk as modern Vietnam’s founding revolutionary Ho Chi Minh led efforts to liberate the Southeast Asian country from its French colonial rulers.

Thich Nhat Hanh, who spoke seven languages, lectured at Princeton and Columbia universities in the United States in the early 1960s. He returned to Vietnam in 1963 to join a growing Buddhist opposition to the U.S.-Vietnam War, demonstrated by self-immolation protests by several monks.

“I saw communists and anti-communists killing and destroying each other because each side believed they had a monopoly on the truth,” he wrote in 1975.

“My voice was drowned out by the bombs, mortars and shouting.”

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Towards the height of the Vietnam War in the 1960s he met civil rights leader Martin Luther King, whom he persuaded to speak out against the conflict.

King called Thich Nhat Hanh “an apostle of peace and non-violence” and nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam,” King wrote in his nomination letter.

While in the United States to meet King a year earlier, the South Vietnamese government banned Thich Nhat Hanh from returning home.

Fellow monk Haenim Sunim, who once acted as Thich Nhat Hanh’s translator during a trip to South Korea, said the Zen master was calm, attentive and loving.

“He was like a large pine tree, allowing many people to rest under his branches with his wonderful teaching of mindfulness and compassion,” Haemin Sunim told Reuters.

“He was one of the most amazing people I have ever met.”

Thich Nhat Hanh’s works and promotion of the idea of mindfulness and meditation have enjoyed a renewed popularity as the world reels from the effects of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed over a million people and upended daily life.

“Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote. “If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.

“If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here.”

© 2022 Reuters

COVID-19: Manitoba reports 8 more deaths, ICU numbers hold at 50

According to the latest COVID-19 dashboard, there are now 664 Manitobans in hospital with COVID-19, which is one fewer than Thursday.

This comes the same day Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said January is shaping up to be the deadliest month of the pandemic.

According to Health Canada, more than 10,000 Canadians have been hospitalized over the past week, which is up nearly 50 per cent from the week before, and there have been over 100 deaths per day this week across the country.

Trends of new cases in Canada and by province or territory, during week 02

Canada-wide reports of daily COVID-19 cases from the week of January 9-15

Weekly epidemiological report/ Government of Canada

In Manitoba, ICU numbers are holding at 50 for the second day in a row but virologist Jason Kindrachuk says if we want to keep Omicron from spreading and mutating into another deadly strain, we need to get vaccination numbers up — and fast.

“By their nature, viruses mutate and they change. The more ongoing transmission you have, the more opportunity there is for the right number of random mutations to come into place at the same time and actually give you a change for the virus,” he says.

The provincial COVID-19 dashboard says those who are not fully vaccinated are 11 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU with the virus and 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19.

Critics have described the Conservative government’s approach to the pandemic as reactive instead of proactive, and Kindrachuk says whatever policy comes into place surrounding public health needs to “follow the science and be fluid.”

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“The virus has certainly changed over time and if we don’t match our policies over time to meet that, then the virus is going to exploit those cracks,” Kindrachuk said.

“Let’s not get caught up in what the policies were a year ago or 15 months ago. We need to adapt them to address the situation that is currently at hand.”

Addressing the current situation properly and rapidly increasing vaccination rates are two tools Manitobans can use to flatten the Omicron variant and avoid a mutation, which could fuel a fifth wave.

“The longer you let this virus transmit, certainly within areas with low vaccine or immune coverage, you see new variants emerge,” Kindrachuk said.

“It’s a random process and it’s happening all the time and once in a while we get a nasty new one that emerges. If we look at historically where we’ve been and we let the virus keep transmitting, we’re going to see another one.”

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In some positive news, 7,200 Manitobans rolled up their sleeves to get a vaccination on Thursday, 110 of which were second doses as the number of eligible children aged 5-11 is increasing every day.

If you’re looking for a place to get your dose, the RBC Convention Centre is once again taking walk-in appointments.

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

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