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‘A difficult day’: Nightclub and banquet hall operators in B.C. react to forced closures – CBC.ca

September 8th, 2020

The order to close all nightclubs and banquet halls in British Columbia in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases has left both industries reeling. 

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C., said Tuesday’s announcement was both disappointing and frustrating.

“It’s a difficult day,” Guignard said after Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry announced the changes to public health orders. “Businesses are going to close because of this.”

What’s most frustrating, said Guignard, is that the vast majority of nightclubs were meeting or exceeding safety standards. 

“It’s not those bars that are causing the cases to increase,” he said. “It’s not like they manufacture it in the kitchen and put it in your drink.”

He blamed the spike in infections on people who think the rules don’t apply to them, referencing recent media coverage of drum circles at the beach and dance parties on Vancouver’s Granville Street.

A crowd gathers at a drum circle on Vancouver’s Third Beach in late July. (Ryan Schaap)

“They’re not coming into our establishments, or if they are, they’re not lasting very long because we kick them out,” said Guignard. 

While clubs and stand-alone banquet halls must close indefinitely, bars, pubs and restaurants will remain open but cannot serve alcohol past 10 p.m. Music and other background sound, such as televisions, must be lowered to conversation-level to prevent patrons from shouting to be heard. 

Henry said the amended orders were issued as “a last resort.”

“We recognize that these venues have tried. We’ve made adjustments but there are still exposures happening,” she said.

The changes come as the province reported 429 new cases of COVID-19 over a four-day period, bringing the total to 6,591. Two more people, both in long-term care, have died of the virus.

Opposite intended effect

According to Guignard, nightclubs were not operating as many might have imagined. 

Since reopening in late June, Guignard said nightclubs have essentially transitioned into lounges, with maximum parties of six seated at least two metres apart from each other.

In July, B.C. implemented new measures at restaurants, bars and nightclubs requiring all patrons to be seated (meaning no ordering from the bar) and temporarily banning dance floors. 

Guignard said the only reason cases are reported at these establishments is because the industry has done a good job of contact tracing.

A video that appears to have been taken on Granville Street shows a crowd gathering in the busy entertainment district in mid-August. (TB/Twitter)

He fears the intended effect of the new amendments could backfire.

Instead of “the relative safety of a licensed premise,” people will congregate in private settings where social distancing and contact tracing measures aren’t enforced, Guignard said.

“This could actually end up increasing cases in some environments.”

‘We’re totally screwed’

Sukh Mann, president of the B.C. Banquet Hall Association, doesn’t understand why the province has lumped nightclubs together with banquet halls, which are food-primary businesses.

He said the industry feels unfairly “targeted.” 

According to Mann, banquet halls have enforced all necessary safety measures, including requesting patrons’ contact information, limiting the number of people in washrooms and hiring added security to ensure new rules are followed. 

The B.C. Banquet Hall Association represents every banquet hall in Surrey, Richmond and Vancouver. 

Banquet halls associated with golf courses and yacht clubs have been excluded from the new order, but Mann wonders why. 

Originally, the association had asked the province for permission to operate halls at 50 per cent capacity, like restaurants. But the provincial government rejected the proposal, Mann said. 

“With operating a banquet hall the size of our facilities — where they range from 10,000 to 40,000 square feet — 50 people doesn’t cut the cake.”

Currently, social gatherings larger than 50 people are not permitted in B.C. 

“We’re totally screwed,” Mann said. “We have no way of paying our property taxes. We have no way of paying our rent … How do we keep the lights on?”

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The Kardashians leave E! as cable TV viewers flee – Los Angeles Times

September 8th, 2020

Since “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” premiered in 2007, the reality show has been a ratings-generating, attention-grabbing stalwart for NBCUniversal’s E! network. That all ends next year when the show concludes its run on the Comcast-owned cable channel after what will be its 20th season.

Neither the Kardashian-Jenner clan nor the Comcast-owned network said why they were parting ways. The Tuesday statement Kim Kardashian West posted on Instagram merely thanked E! “for being our partner.”

“We’ll forever cherish the wonderful memories and countless people we’ve met along the way,” said the statement, which also appeared on other family members’ accounts. Said NBCUniversal: “We thank the entire extended family and our production partners, Bunim/Murray and Ryan Seacrest Productions, for embarking on this global phenomenon together.”

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The Kardashian-Jenner empire provided fodder for what will ultimately be 14 years of family drama, not to mention multiple spinoffs from the flagship show. (To be sure, E! will air two more seasons of the program before it ends in 2021.)

“Certainly they were a real anchor to the network,” said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “It brought a lot of people to E! that would not have otherwise been there.”

But NBCUniversal may not have wanted to continue paying top dollar for a show that was declining in the ratings, analysts said. The Kardashians in 2017 renewed their deal with E! through 2020. The deal was valued at less than $100 million, according to Variety.

The media company just axed its long-running “E! News” program last month after 29 years.

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Besides, anyone wanting the latest developments on Kim and Kanye could follow it virtually in real-time through online news outlets, which probably hampered viewership.

Their relevance is not on TV, their relevance is on Snapchat and social media

Eunice Shin, partner at business consultancy Prophet

On a macro level, though, the exit is not merely interesting because of what it means for E!, but rather what it says about the changing businesses of TV and celebrity that the show embodies. Audiences, especially younger viewers, are bailing on linear cable TV for streaming services, as well as other entertainment options, including Fortnite and TikTok.

And the Kardashians and Jenners are going where their audience already spends most of its time — to social media. With the rapid adoption of rapidly proliferating social apps, they don’t need a legacy TV network to reach fans (and haters).

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“Obviously they bring their own audience like nobody else, and they have an ability to monetize like nobody else in all sorts of different ways,” said analyst Rich Greenfield of LightShed Partners. “If you’re the Kardashians, you realize your audience is watching less and less TV every day.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has kept Americans confined to their living rooms like never before, 2020 is expected to be a record year for the number people who ditch pay-TV, said Ross Benes, an EMarketer analyst. The economic downturn caused by coronavirus closures has put more pressure on households to abandon traditional cable bundles, the thing tethering audiences to linear TV.

“There’s been an increase in the number of cheaper streaming options, then you have the pandemic to add onto it, so people have more financial uncertainty than they used to have,” Benes said. “There’s just not a whole lot of incentive to pay $80 to $100 for satellite or cable television right now.”

The decline in live TV ratings played out during the run of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Its ratings peaked with the Season 4 finale in February 2010, which had 4.8 million total viewers, according to Nielsen numbers. The most recent episode had just 810,000 total viewers.

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Traditional media companies have tried to adapt to the flight from linear TV by launching their own streaming services. Additional Kardashian content surely could have been a benefit to NBCUniversal’s nascent service, Peacock, which is facing stiff competition in the growing streaming market. New episodes of the show already appear on the service.

But the Kardashians have their own ways of taking advantage of their massive online followings, and staying fresh with the Gen Z crowd flooding new apps. The pandemic has increased the popularity of free video streaming apps such as TikTok, as people look for new ways to entertain themselves at home. Unlike traditional paid TV, platforms such as YouTube and TikTok track the videos its users watch and make recommendations, which could help the Kardashians get in front of younger eyeballs.

“They’re driven by algorithms, and they cater to everyone’s tastes in a different way,” Michael Wayne, CEO of Kin, a lifestyle entertainment company, said of the new apps. “Those platforms are super serving underserved audiences and have been doing so for many, many years.”

Well before the rise of TikTok, the Kardashians demonstrated an ability to stay ahead of their celebrity rivals when it came to courting followers digitally with their own apps, social accounts and even a mobile video game (“Kim Kardashian: Hollywood”). Kourtney Kardashian could be seen this summer posting with TikTok influencer Addison Rae. Brand influencer work on social media is an obvious way for them to continue to flex their power.

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“Their relevance is not on TV, their relevance is on Snapchat and social media,” said Eunice Shin, a partner at brand and business consultancy Prophet. “They are absolute brand marketers, and that’s what they exist for. They don’t necessarily need television to do that.”

No one will be surprised if the Kardashians end up with a blockbuster producing deal with Netflix or one of the many companies chasing its subscriber counts and stock market valuation. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last week announced a lucrative production pact with the Los Gatos, Calif., streaming giant, though it’s not clear what type of programming they will usher to the service.

Whatever they [the Kardashians] do next, there’s no doubt they will remain “a headline-grabbing, attention-grabbing, ratings-grabbing machine,” said Kyle Hjelmeseth, president of G&B Digital Management, a company that works with digital content creators. “Whatever happens next is going to be surprising only to those who haven’t been watching what influencers have been doing.”

Times TV editor Matt Brennan contributed to this report.

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Xbox Series S: Everything to know about the $300 next gen console – CNET

September 8th, 2020

Theresa Tam supports federal review into Canada’s pandemic early warning system – The Globe and Mail

September 8th, 2020

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam attends a news conference as efforts continue to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada March 23, 2020.

Blair Gable/Reuters

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer said she supports an independent review of the country’s pandemic early warning system, and pledged to back government scientists who say their voices were increasingly being ignored and marginalized within the department.

“I think management has to be able to address any concerns from our scientists,” Theresa Tam told a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday. “Any difficulties of public servants, or our staff, in expressing their views and their concerns has to be taken really seriously.”

In light of a Globe and Mail investigation, Health Minister Patty Hajdu has ordered an independent review into the oversight of the Global Public Health Information Network, known as GPHIN, as well as concerns raised by scientists within the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

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GPHIN served for decades as an early warning and intelligence-gathering system for health threats such as the COVID-19 outbreak. However, a Globe and Mail investigation in July found that key aspects of GPHIN’s functions were either shut down or curtailed in early 2019, less than a year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Several of the highly specialized doctors and epidemiologists, whose job was to scour the world for signs of deadly outbreaks, were shifted to work that wasn’t related to pandemic preparedness, amid shifting department priorities. And in May, 2019, an alert system designed to keep tabs on potentially catastrophic health threats fell silent.

Ms. Hajdu said she was troubled by statements from scientists within Public Health who told The Globe that their voices were sometimes being ignored by managers who lacked a background in science. Several past and present employees, some of whom The Globe is not identifying because they feared punishment for speaking out, said it became difficult to convey critical information up the chain of command. The problems extended beyond GPHIN into the agency itself, due to restructuring that took place over the past six to eight years.

“There’s a massive lack of understanding by the people working in the agency about the basics of health. What you present up the chain has to be dumbed down,” Michael Garner, an epidemiologist who spent 13 years at Public Health and was a senior science adviser before leaving last fall, said in a previous interview. “But some of these things are complicated. Having to simplify it down just doesn’t work.”

Ms. Hajdu said her office is now in the process of determining candidates to lead the review.

Dr. Tam said she hoped the independent review will strengthen Canada’s early warning capacity. “We will address any findings and recommendations accordingly,” she said.

Before it was curtailed, GPHIN was responsible for one-fifth of the “epidemiological intelligence” used by the World Health Organization, and was called a “cornerstone” of Canada’s pandemic preparedness. The Globe obtained 10 years’ worth of records that show GPHIN issued more than 1,500 alerts over the past decade, which helped the government monitor and prioritize potential health threats.

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But officials within Public Health effectively shut that function down in late 2018, by preventing scientists from issuing alerts without senior management approval. With no clearance to issue alerts, the system soon went quiet. As a result, most of GPHIN’s surveillance and intelligence gathering also stopped.

“From my perspective, it’s very important to have as minimal of a delay, and minimal number of layers of bureaucracy, in a system which is meant to provide early alerting,” Dr. Tam said.

Created in the 1990s as an experiment, GPHIN gathered clues from medical data, news outlets, social media, internet blogs and sometimes obscure sources such as financial reports to detect signs of outbreaks, particularly in countries that may not disclose them.

GPHIN once flagged a hidden outbreak of swine flu after noticing fluctuations in the price of hog futures in certain countries. And in 1998, the analysts noticed that a pharmaceutical company in China was reporting unprecedented sales of antiviral drugs in one particular region, for no apparent reason. That led to the discovery of the first SARS outbreak, which China had failed to disclose.

Dr. Tam and deputy chief public health officer Howard Njoo said they were informed of the outbreak of COVID-19 in China by a GPHIN e-mail on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, which referenced a newspaper report on the outbreak in Wuhan.

However, Wesley Wark, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa who is an expert on intelligence gathering, said that is not how GPHIN was designed to work. The operation was created to gather intelligence and provide analysis that would inform the department’s risk analysis of a potential outbreak. That aspect has failed terribly in this outbreak, said Prof. Wark, who is working with the Auditor-General on a parallel investigation into the failings of Canada’s pandemic early warning system.

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He said the government lacked good intelligence on the outbreak in January and February, which could have allowed it to act faster and better prepare. A fully functioning GPHIN was intended to serve this purpose, and potentially detect signs of a problem in China much earlier than Dec. 31.

Instead, throughout January, February and much of March, the government determined that the virus posed minimal risk to Canada. Public Health repeatedly classified the threat from the virus as “Low,” according to the department’s risk assessments. That, in turn, affected key decisions, such as when to implement border closings, physical distancing as well as lockdowns at long-term care homes, which critics argue came much too late.

“The risk assessments [produced by Public Health] were not risk assessments in any professional sense of the word,” Mr. Wark said. “They were not looking at the risk COVID-19 presented to Canada and Canadian interests. What they were doing instead was simply keeping tabs on the extent to which COVID had made an appearance in Canada.”

He said any examination of GPHIN’s problems must include a broader investigation into why Public Health’s risk assessments failed to raise alarms. “The system Canada created wasn’t working as it’s supposed to work,” Mr. Wark said.

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Drugmakers sign safety pledge amid race to develop coronavirus vaccine – CBS Evening News

September 8th, 2020

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Drugmakers sign safety pledge amid race to develop coronavirus vaccine – YouTube

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513,415 children in the U.S. have tested positive for coronavirus since pandemic started, report says – CBS News

September 8th, 2020

New data out Tuesday shows that more than 500,000 children have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic started, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They said children represented 9.8% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S., where more than 6.3 million total cases have been reported, per a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The AAP reported there were 70,630 new child cases, a 16% increase over two weeks, between August 20 and September 3, which brings the national total to 513,415. Puerto Rico was among six states and territories that showed an increase in child cases.

The AAP and the Children’s Hospital Association compiled the data of children of varying ages as reported by 49 state health departments, New York City, Puerto Rico and Guam. Texas was excluded from the analysis, the AAP noted.

children-coronavirus-percent-increase-september-2020-aap.jpg
Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics show the percent increase in child cases of COVID-19 between August 20 and September 3, 2020. The data was derived from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Texas was excluded from the count. American Academy of Pediatrics

Coronavirus deaths among children

The report said the cumulative death toll in the U.S. for children due to the coronavirus is 103. In a subset of data that was analyzed from 42 states and New York City, children were 0-0.3% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 18 states reported zero child deaths.

“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children,” the AAP said. But health experts have said that kids could spread COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control has issued new data about a deadly and mysterious pediatric illness with potential links to the coronavirus. Since mid-May, the CDC has been following an outbreak of Multisystem Inflammatory Illness in Children (MIS-C) or sometimes referred to as PMIS.

The CDC describes it as “a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19” that sometimes presents after a COVID illness or after contact with someone with COVID-19. Instead of attacking the lungs like the new coronavirus disease does in adults, this syndrome, while seemingly very rare, can trigger serious, even deadly cardiac complications in kids.

As of September 3, the CDC has collected reports of 792 confirmed cases of MIS-C and 16 deaths across 42 states, New York City and Washington, D.C. Other cases are under investigation, according to the CDC.

The CDC’s data suggests that “most cases are in children between the ages of 1 and 14 years, with an average age of 8 years.” They also note that “more than 70% of reported cases have occurred in children who are Hispanic/Latino (276 cases) or Non-Hispanic Black (230 cases).”

Elmo’s new book for kids going back to school… 04:35

Some students returning to in-person classes

The AAP report was released as thousands of children returned to school this week for in-person classes. On Long Island, parents seemed nervous and excited as they dropped their children off.

Students lined up in Richardson, Texas, for temperature checks before entering the building. Forrester Elementary in San Antonio is usually packed with 850 kids; but this morning, only 53 opted for in-person classes.

“I feel like they’re just a little off balance, maybe a little bit with the rooms looking different, everybody wearing masks,” principal Kelly Mantle told CBS News. “I think it is going to become a new norm for a little while and children are going to get used to it and we’re getting used to it every day that goes by.”

The new figures from the AAP have some educators worried, like those in suburban Phoenix, where the first day of in-person classes was canceled after teachers called in sick.

In New York, new cases are up more than 25% compared to two weeks ago. And with New York City schools preparing for in-person classes in the coming weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to quell parents’ fears.

“We’re going to have a COVID report card for every school in the state,” he said.

Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.

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Apple Countersues Epic Games, The Latest Shot In ‘Fortnight’ Fracas – Deadline

September 8th, 2020

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds look like an imminent threat to Apple’s AirPods Pro – TechRadar

September 8th, 2020

5G and compact design will drive iPhone 12 upgrades, LiDAR sensor not so much: pre-launch survey – PhoneArena

September 8th, 2020

Why Fauci thinks a vaccine by November is ‘unlikely’ – PBS NewsHour

September 8th, 2020

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Why Fauci thinks a vaccine by November is ‘unlikely’ – YouTube

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