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Police probe late night shootings in Toronto, Richmond Hill

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Aug 6th, 2020

Police are investigating two separate shootings in Toronto and Richmond Hill late Wednesday that sent one person to hospital.

The first incident took place around 10 p.m. outside a home on Blyth Street in Richmond Hill.

A middle-aged man was shot in the chest during what York regional police are describing as a targeted shooting during a robbery.

The victim’s injuries are considered serious.

Police are looking for three suspects who fled in a dark colour Sedan.

At around midnight, Toronto police received numerous calls for shots fired on Manhattan Drive in the Warden Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East area.

A witness reported seeing someone in a green Kia shooting at a white Mazda before both vehicles sped off.

Two suspects ditched the Kia nearby at Parma Court and officers chased them on foot. Both were captured and arrested. Police said a firearm was recovered.

Police have not been able to locate the other vehicle. No injuries have been reported.

Toronto teacher charged with sexual assault; police say more victims possible

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 5th, 2020

Toronto police have charged a teacher with sexually assaulting a minor and investigators are concerned there could be other alleged victims.

Police allege the teacher began talking to the boy over text or social media before meeting up in person, at which point the sexual assault took place.

The crime is alleged to have occurred on July 7, and the man was arrested on July 28.

Taher Saifuddin, 43, (pictured above) is charged with one count each of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, luring a minor and sharing explicit images with a person under the age of 18. He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 11.

He was last employed at Royal Crown Academic School in Toronto’s Scarborough area.

Police say he has worked at eight other schools since 2015:

  • Hanson International Academy between January 2015 and April 2015
  • Yorkville International Academy between October 2016 and June 2017
  • Merit Education between June 2016 and July 2016 and July 2017 and August 2017
  • Madinatul Uloom Academy between September 2017 – June 2018
  • Bond International College between September 2018 and January 2019
  • Progressive Training College of Business between February 12, 2019 and February 22, 2019
  • Westfield Secondary School between February 2019 and June 2019
  • Yorkville High School between August 2019 and September, 2019
  • Royal Crown Academy School between August 2019 and May 29, 2020

 

Anyone who might have information on other potential incidents is being asked to come forward.

Canadian company urges human trials after COVID-19 vaccine results in mice

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Aug 5th, 2020

OTTAWA — A Canadian company is telling the government today that its trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine on animals completely blocked the virus, but it must conduct human trials to know whether it has found a possible cure for the pandemic.

And a leading health-care expert says the findings are promising even though they haven’t been peer-reviewed.

Providence Therapeutics says it needs federal funding to move forward, but it has not heard back from the Trudeau government since May, the month after submitting a $35-million proposal to conduct first-stage human trials.

Providence has told the government it could deliver five million doses of its new vaccine by mid-2021 for use in Canada if it were able to successfully complete human testing, but it has heard nothing.

Eric Marcusson, the San Francisco-based co-founder of Providence and its chief science officer, says the company has concluded testing on mice that showed its vaccine was able to block the entry of the novel coronavirus into their cells.

Successful tests in animals can provide proof of the concept behind a potential new medicine or vaccine before trials in ever-larger groups of human subjects determine how well the drug works in the body and whether it has harmful side-effects.

Trials in humans are expensive and usually time-consuming.

Mario Ostrowski, the University of Toronto professor of medicine and immunology whose laboratory performed the animal trials, said he supports the results and says they are on par with tests of vaccine candidates from the American pharmaceutical firm Moderna and Germany’s BioNTech.

All three companies use the same new mRNA vaccine technology and last week, Moderna began a 30,000-person human trial after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. government.

The U.S. has also committed to pay Germany’s BioNTech and its American partner Pfizer $1.95 billion to produce 100 million doses if their vaccine candidate proves safe and effective in humans.

The mRNA vaccine technology involves using a key fragment of genetic material instead of working with an inactive sample of live virus.

“We have been testing the prototype vaccine in animal studies,” Ostrowski told The Canadian Press. “When we give the vaccine to mice, it is safe and makes a very strong immune response and very potent antibodies.”

Ostrowski said that the strength of the antibodies found in the mice appeared to neutralize the virus better than other similar vaccine candidates have at the same testing stage.

“Another point is that the Providence vaccine is very similar to the Moderna vaccine in the U.S. and the German (BioNTech) vaccines, both showing excellent results,” added Ostrowski, who practices at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Brad Wouters, the executive vice-president of the Toronto-based University Health Network, said he has seen the new Providence data and it looks promising, but it needs to be peer-reviewed.

“The fact that the vaccine has created neutralizing antibodies means that the mouse immune system is reacting to the vaccine and producing antibodies that block the ability of the virus to infect cells,” Wouters said in an emailed response to questions.

“This suggests the results are better than even they were expecting.”

But Wouters added that the Providence data needs a full peer review, and that under normal circumstances he wouldn’t even be commenting publicly on research at this stage unless it were accompanied by a published peer review.

“This is the normal and correct way for this to happen. But as you have seen, COVID-19 is breaking traditions and they (Providence) are certainly not the first to release information from experimental research in advance of publication,” said Wouters, who is also the senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Alberta Sen. Doug Black has urged Ottawa to fund Providence so it can develop a domestic COVID-19 vaccine to lessen the risk Canadians will have wait in line for a foreign-made pandemic cure.

Several health-care professionals have also written to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to urge him to make up his mind on the Providence proposal.

The company plans to release the results publicly on Wednesday at the same time it delivers them to several relevant government departments.

“We’re still blocking the virus 100 per cent. Nothing gets in,” Marcusson said in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he has been living in lockdown since March as the pandemic exploded in California.

“There’s no doubt this vaccine needs to be tested in humans because the results in mice are really that exceptional. This has the chance to be an extremely effective vaccine, but we won’t know for sure until we get into humans,” he said.

Marcusson is a 20-year veteran of the American biotechnology sector and had founded his own consultant business before meeting Providence chief executive Brad Sorenson in 2014. The two founded Providence in 2015 to develop cancer vaccines but it has pivoted to COVID-19. Marcusson said 20 per cent of his work remains outside the company as a consultant.

Black and several health experts say the government must move forward with a made-in-Canada vaccine because there have been troubling signs that a vaccine produced abroad likely wouldn’t be available to Canadians until much later.

Canada has already funded a the partnership between China’s CanSino Biologics and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia but China has held up shipments of the vaccine that it was supposed to send to Dalhousie researchers by the end of May to start human trials.

“They’ve already been burned a couple of times with masks not getting across the border from the U.S. and a vaccine that they helped fund not getting into the country because it was held up at customs in China,” said Marcusson.

“So, this is a vaccine that can be made in Canada for Canadians,” he added. “It would be nice if that wasn’t important, but it is important, and they need to realize this and fund a Canadian solution to this problem.”

Social worker stabbed at interim housing apartment, suspect arrested

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Aug 5th, 2020

A City of Toronto social worker is recovering in hospital after she was stabbed on Tuesday while on shift at an interim housing apartment in midtown.

Police responded to a call for a stabbing on Broadway Avenue, near Yonge Street, around 7 p.m.

The victim was rushed to a trauma centre with serious but not life-threatening injuries.

The suspect, a 45-year-old man believed to be a client of the program, was taken into custody by police.

The building currently houses 150 clients until September, when it’s set to be redeveloped.

The City said they’re conducting a full review of the incident as they work with Toronto police.

Masks now mandatory in common areas of Toronto apartments, condos

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Aug 5th, 2020

Apartment and condo dwellers will now have to mask up when they leave their unit, as a new bylaw takes effect on Wednesday making face coverings mandatory in the common areas of residential buildings.

Last week, city council passed a bylaw requiring masks or face coverings in common areas like lobbies, elevators and laundry rooms.

The bylaw puts the onus on building owners and property managers to adopt a policy to ensure masks are worn by their residents.

Children and those who cannot wear a mask for a medical reason are exempt from the rule.

City council approved this and other new bylaws related to COVID-19 measures a week ago, as the city prepared to enter Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan.

Why do some people keep testing positive for Covid-19?

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Aug 4th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, in casual discussion of the virus, the term “Long Haulers” is, generally, used to describe people for whom symptoms of Covid-19 can linger for weeks and months, long after the worst seems to be over. And that can be debilitating.

But that’s not the only kind of ‘long-hauler’. There are also people, we’re learning, who recover, but continue to test positive weeks later. Even without any symptoms. How long can this virus linger inside people? What can other diseases that stay with people for years and even lifetimes tell us about what we’re seeing in these cases with Covid? What do we still not know about how all this works?

Tech sector drives U.S. markets higher after best four months in a decade

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 4th, 2020

TORONTO — The continuing strength of the tech sector powered U.S. stock markets higher in the start of trading in August after they concluded the best four months in a decade.

The S&P 500 reached its loftiest level since February while the Nasdaq composite set another all-time record.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 236.08 points at 26,664.40. The S&P 500 index gained 23.49 points to reach 3,294.61 after hitting an intraday high of 3,302.73. Nasdaq rose 157.52 points to 10,902.80 after reaching a record 10.927.56 in earlier trading.

The three factors driving the markets on Monday were momentum in technology after last week’s blowout earnings, a further rise in manufacturing activity in the U.S. and Europe and hopes that U.S. lawmakers will agree to another round of fiscal relief.

Economic data has consistently surprised to the upside, but it’s going to be increasingly difficult to beat expectations this month, said Angelo Kourkafas, investment strategy analyst at Edward Jones.

“I think it’s going to be a little more of a bumpy ride than we’ve experienced in the last four (months),” he said in an interview.

The Toronto Stock Exchange was closed for a provincial holiday.

Microsoft and Apple, which together account for about 12.5 per cent of the S&P500, saw their shares gain. Microsoft started the week up 5.6 per cent after confirming it was in talks to buy social video app TikTok in the U.S. after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to ban the China-based app over security concerns.

Apple was up 2.5 per cent on the day while other names also did well after beating earnings expectations last week. Amazon earnings rose 77 per cent, Apple was up three per cent, Microsoft nine per cent and Facebook seven per cent. Only Google declined.

About 85 per cent of companies on the S&P 500 have beat expectations, the highest rate for a second quarter since 1992.

“You can clearly see who is winning in this environment,” Kourkafas said.

As a whole, companies in the index saw earnings decline 40 per cent, compared with the 44 per cent decline forecast by analysts, he said.

“So the negative 40 per cent, even though it’s a horrible number, it’s better than expectations.”

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.72 US compared with 74.60 on Friday.

The September crude contract was up 74 cents at US$41.01 per barrel and the September natural gas contract was 30.2 cents at US$2.10 per mmBTU.

The December gold contract, which had the highest trading volume, was up 40 cents at US$1,986.30 an ounce after peaking at a record US$2,009.50. The September copper contract was up 4.4 cents at nearly US$2.91 a pound.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD)

8 more city-run child care centres reopen Tuesday

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 4th, 2020

More city-run child care centres will be back up and running today in Toronto, nearly two months after the province gave their reopening the green light.

The reopening of eight more buildings means that close to half of all centres are now operational, and the city expects all 47 to be ready by the end of September.

“A phased approach to reopening child care programs is the right move,” Mayor John Tory said in a release.

“It will allow operators the time to make their spaces safe for children, their families as well as for child care operators and their staff. As we continue to reopen child care centres, we must do everything possible to protect our children so that we can provide safe child care options to parents who are eager to get back to work.”

Families are being advised to contact their child care providers directly to find out the reopening status in their neighbourhood.

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