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Today’s coronavirus news: TDSB votes unanimously for mandatory vaccines; Scientists in search of COVID-19’s origins warn the search has ‘stalled’
Aug. 26, 2021

7:04 a.m. The Toronto District School Board has voted unanimously for the development of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination procedure.

Trustees voted to have TDSB staff develop a procedure which would require all TDSB staff, trustees, and visitors to disclose and provide proof of vaccination status and to be fully vaccinated to help protect the health and safety of both staff and students.

The procedure will address the following key areas, according to a press release from the TDSB:

Individuals covered by the procedure are expected to submit a formal attestation if they are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination.

Individuals who have not been vaccinated will be required to attend mandatory education on the benefits of vaccination.

A schedule for dates by which point any unvaccinated individuals must disclose if they have received first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

TDSB will comply with its human rights obligations and accommodate employees who are legally entitled to accommodation.

That the finalized procedure and strategy be implemented prior to school re-opening on September 9, 2021, if feasible, or as soon as possible thereafter.

That the procedure contemplate where regular COVID-19 testing would be required.

5:44 a.m.: Plans to turn the Broadway hit “Come From Away” into a big-screen movie musical have been indefinitely placed on hold because COVID-19 delivered an unexpected blow to the project, say the Canadian writers of the musical.

David Hein and Irene Sankoff were well into the script stages of their film adaptation.

“We were supposed to go into production out in Newfoundland and then all the borders closed,” Sankoff said in a webcam interview from Seattle.

“I think it cost a lot more than anyone wanted to, just because of COVID, so we’re in a holding pattern for that at the moment.”

The Tony-winning “Come From Away” is inspired by the real-life story of residents in Gander, N.L., who hosted thousands of unexpected plane passengers forced to land in the small town after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The writers says they remain hopeful their script will be turned into a movie when the time is right.

5:44 a.m.: The international scientists sent to China by the World Health Organization to look for the origins of the coronavirus say the search has “stalled” and warn the window for getting to the bottom of the mystery is closing fast.

In a commentary published Wednesday in the journal Nature, the experts say the origins investigation is at “a critical juncture” requiring urgent collaboration. They noted among other things that Chinese officials are still reluctant to share some raw data, citing concerns over patient confidentiality.

Increasing numbers of American scientists have called for two Chinese labs to be investigated, a request China has dismissed as “scapegoating.”

Meanwhile, a U.S. intelligence review ordered up by President Joe Biden proved inconclusive about the virus’s origin, including whether it jumped from an animal to a human or escaped from a Chinese lab, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Earlier this year, the WHO sent a team of experts to Wuhan, where the first human COVID-19 cases were detected in December 2019, to probe what might have triggered the pandemic now blamed for nearly 4.5 million deaths worldwide, with more than 10,000 people a day succumbing despite more than five billion doses of vaccine administered.

In their analysis, published in March, the WHO team concluded the virus probably jumped to humans from animals, and they described the possibility of a laboratory leak as “extremely unlikely.”

But the WHO experts said their report was intended only as a first step and added, “The window of opportunity for conducting this crucial inquiry is closing fast: any delay will render some of the studies biologically impossible.”

5:43 a.m.: A man upset over state-ordered coronavirus restrictions has been sentenced to just over six years in prison for planning to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Ty Garbin apologized and was sentenced Wednesday. He admitted his role in the alleged scheme weeks after being arrested last fall.

He is among six men charged in federal court but the only one who has pleaded guilty.

Garbin says they trained at his property near Luther, Michigan, constructing a “shoot house” to resemble Whitmer’s vacation home and “assaulting it with firearms.”

The government noted Garbin’s “exceptional” co-operation and asked the judge to give him credit for helping investigators reinforce their case against his co-defendants. He’s likely to testify at any trial.

The 25-year-old aviation mechanic told U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker: “I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of stress and fear her family felt because of my actions. And for that I am truly sorry.”

The judge said the “constitution is designed to ensure that we work out our fundamental and different views peacefully, not at the point of a gun, not with some other blunt force threat or a kidnapping conspiracy.”

Prosecutors recommended a nine-year prison term. But Jonker went shorter, at 6 1/4 years, saying he was convinced that Garbin was an “excellent prospect” to stay out of trouble when released from prison.

Thursday 5:39 a.m.: Steven Lachance, a Montreal-based digital security analyst and entrepreneur, says he was worried when the Quebec government announced it would impose a vaccine passport system across the province to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

But after he took a look at the smartphone applications that became available for download Wednesday, he said Quebec’s system should be the model for other provinces. Lachance and another tech expert interviewed by The Canadian Press say the applications do what they claim to do and are not capable of secretly gathering user data.

“I was very skeptical when I first heard of the government’s intentions around this kind of technology -- it could have gone wrong in so many ways,” Lachance said in an interview.

Instead, Lachance said he was pleasantly surprised to see the government adopt an international standard that he described as “unquestionably much better than anything (the government) could have come up with internally.”

That standard, known as the SMART Health Card, is also being used for vaccine passports in New York state, Louisiana and California. The technology is based around a quick response code containing a person’s name, date of birth and information about the vaccinations they have received.

Starting Sept. 1, Quebec residents will need to show proof of vaccination to visit businesses the provincial government deems non-essential, such as bars, clubs and restaurants. That proof is in the form of a quick response code -- or QR code -- distributed to vaccinated residents by the Health Department.

On Wednesday, Quebec released the applications that will be used to power its vaccine passport system on Apple devices: VaxiCode Verif for businesses and VaxiCode for patrons. Android versions are expected to be released later in the week. Quebec residents are encouraged to download VaxiCode and upload their QR code into it.