Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 653 new COVID-19 cases; Experts say Ontario case rates lower than expected due to public health measures

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.10:15 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 653 new cases of COVID-19. Across the province, 21,651,850 vaccine doses have been administered. Of eligible Ontarians (12 and older), 85.8 per cent have one dose and 80.2 per cent have two doses.10:01 a.m.: Ontario’s daily COVID-19 case counts are lower than what many experts had expected by now, and while they point to a number of factors for the relative relief, they say now is not the time to ease up on those measures.For much of the summer, the province’s top doctor warned of a September surge, followed by a bleak fall and winter. That has not materialized — yet — as the daily case counts remain under 1,000 and the graph of Ontario’s seven-day average roughly shows a plateau since the beginning of September.That’s well under the worst-case scenario in Ontario’s most recent modelling, which showed about 4,000 daily cases by now. Reality is more in line with the best-case scenario, in which cases would have steadily fallen since Sept. 1.Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also stable even without more restrictions being introduced — noting the proof-of-vaccination system only took effect a few days ago. “There is a little bit of cautious optimism in that with society being more open, kids back to school, all of the things that we ... would have concerns about leading to escalating transmission, we’re not seeing,” he said.7:45 a.m.: More than 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and, with the possibility that vaccines will be offered to young children in the coming months, the pandemic’s familiar wave-after-wave pattern of new infections could soon calm.Scientists believe that as more people increase their immunity to the virus either through vaccination or infection, cases in Ontario are on track to drop to endemic levels as early as spring, provided of course that a more transmissible and vaccine-evasive variant doesn’t rear its head in the meantime.The implication of COVID-19 becoming endemic — that is, infections of the virus occurring at some consistent baseline level in the population — is that we will simply have to learn to live with it.Read more from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace.7:05 a.m.: In late May, Samantha Yammine, a Toronto neuroscientist who advocates for vaccines, shared what had become, for her, a source of shame and embarrassment. For much of her life, Yammine had lived with a severe anxiety around needles — a phobia that led her to avoid vaccination for years.As a scientist, Yammine understood the toll of the pandemic and knew mass immunization was the way out. But she was crushed by fear and dread. How could she be a vaccine advocate if she didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19?“I knew I had to get it, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to,” she said.Yammine, 31, known as Science Sam on social media, is not frightened of needles in the way some people become mildly distressed about spiders or thunderstorms. Her fear is rooted in childhood trauma and it activates the same fight-or-flight response that another person might have if they encountered a bear or a home intruder.But when Yammine shared her story on Twitter, it came with a positive development. After months of planning, therapy and an appointment at an accessibility clinic, she had done it: she was vaccinated.Read the full story from the Star’s Amy Dempsey.6:30 a.m.: Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans’ protection against the virus.How much the manufacturers stand to gain depends on how big the rollout proves to be.U.S. health officials late on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older — along with tens of millions of younger people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus because of health conditions or their jobs. Officials described the move as a first step. Boosters will likely be offered even more broadly in the coming weeks or months, including boosters of vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. That, plus continued growth in initial vaccinations, could mean a huge gain in sales and profits for Pfizer and Moderna in particular.“The opportunity quite frankly is reflective of the billions of people around the world who would need a vaccination and a boost,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said.6 a.m.: Britons are encouraged these days — though in most cases not required — to wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson regularly appears in the packed, poorly ventilated House of Commons cheek-by-jowl with other maskless Conservative lawmakers.For critics, that image encapsulates the flaw in the government’s s

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 653 new COVID-19 cases; Experts say Ontario case rates lower than expected due to public health measures

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

10:15 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 653 new cases of COVID-19. Across the province, 21,651,850 vaccine doses have been administered. Of eligible Ontarians (12 and older), 85.8 per cent have one dose and 80.2 per cent have two doses.

10:01 a.m.: Ontario’s daily COVID-19 case counts are lower than what many experts had expected by now, and while they point to a number of factors for the relative relief, they say now is not the time to ease up on those measures.

For much of the summer, the province’s top doctor warned of a September surge, followed by a bleak fall and winter. That has not materialized — yet — as the daily case counts remain under 1,000 and the graph of Ontario’s seven-day average roughly shows a plateau since the beginning of September.

That’s well under the worst-case scenario in Ontario’s most recent modelling, which showed about 4,000 daily cases by now. Reality is more in line with the best-case scenario, in which cases would have steadily fallen since Sept. 1.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also stable even without more restrictions being introduced — noting the proof-of-vaccination system only took effect a few days ago.

“There is a little bit of cautious optimism in that with society being more open, kids back to school, all of the things that we ... would have concerns about leading to escalating transmission, we’re not seeing,” he said.

7:45 a.m.: More than 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and, with the possibility that vaccines will be offered to young children in the coming months, the pandemic’s familiar wave-after-wave pattern of new infections could soon calm.

Scientists believe that as more people increase their immunity to the virus either through vaccination or infection, cases in Ontario are on track to drop to endemic levels as early as spring, provided of course that a more transmissible and vaccine-evasive variant doesn’t rear its head in the meantime.

The implication of COVID-19 becoming endemic — that is, infections of the virus occurring at some consistent baseline level in the population — is that we will simply have to learn to live with it.

Read more from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace.

7:05 a.m.: In late May, Samantha Yammine, a Toronto neuroscientist who advocates for vaccines, shared what had become, for her, a source of shame and embarrassment. For much of her life, Yammine had lived with a severe anxiety around needles — a phobia that led her to avoid vaccination for years.

As a scientist, Yammine understood the toll of the pandemic and knew mass immunization was the way out. But she was crushed by fear and dread. How could she be a vaccine advocate if she didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19?

“I knew I had to get it, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to,” she said.

Yammine, 31, known as Science Sam on social media, is not frightened of needles in the way some people become mildly distressed about spiders or thunderstorms. Her fear is rooted in childhood trauma and it activates the same fight-or-flight response that another person might have if they encountered a bear or a home intruder.

But when Yammine shared her story on Twitter, it came with a positive development. After months of planning, therapy and an appointment at an accessibility clinic, she had done it: she was vaccinated.

Read the full story from the Star’s Amy Dempsey.

6:30 a.m.: Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans’ protection against the virus.

How much the manufacturers stand to gain depends on how big the rollout proves to be.

U.S. health officials late on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older — along with tens of millions of younger people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus because of health conditions or their jobs.

Officials described the move as a first step. Boosters will likely be offered even more broadly in the coming weeks or months, including boosters of vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. That, plus continued growth in initial vaccinations, could mean a huge gain in sales and profits for Pfizer and Moderna in particular.

“The opportunity quite frankly is reflective of the billions of people around the world who would need a vaccination and a boost,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said.

6 a.m.: Britons are encouraged these days — though in most cases not required — to wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson regularly appears in the packed, poorly ventilated House of Commons cheek-by-jowl with other maskless Conservative lawmakers.

For critics, that image encapsulates the flaw in the government’s strategy, which has abandoned most pandemic restrictions and is banking on voluntary restraint and a high vaccination rate to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

As winter approaches, bringing the threat of a new COVID-19 surge, Britain’s light touch is setting it apart from more cautious nations.

“The story of this government in the pandemic is too little, too late,” said Layla Moran, an opposition Liberal Democrat lawmaker who heads the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus.

She said some U.K. hospitals are already seeing the number of virus patients in intensive care units that they would normally expect in the depths of winter, though overall daily hospital admissions are running at about a fifth of January’s peak.

4:05 a.m.: In the before times, Katie McCarron could count on her best Canadian customers to make the trip to her store in Portland, Oregon, to stock up on their favourite high-quality, human-grade pet food.

COVID-19 had other plans. Soon enough, though, so did Portland Pet Food Co.

“Some of them would just be shopping in Portland, and we’d hear that they had been here, or they’d write us and they’d be asking, ‘How can I order your food online with the border closed?” the B.C.-born McCarron said in a recent interview.

In the United States, however, every international shipment of pet food products requires a special health certificate, making it impossible for a small retailer like Portland Pet Food to offer online sales outside of the country.

“We can’t ship to Canada — it’s just too costly, and we do have to get these certificates issued each time we ship. So I just had to pursue getting into distribution.”

Today, thanks in large part to a deal with the Canadian chain Pet Valu, Portland Pet Food is available in more than 500 specialty retailers in Canada, an expansion that equates to about 25 per cent of the company’s worldwide retail footprint.

McCarron clearly already had expansion on her mind before the pandemic hit. Portland products are already available in Japan, and she recently signed an agreement for distribution in China. Korea and Taiwan are next on her list.

But the ongoing ban on non-essential land travel from Canada to the U.S., tentatively extended now for a 19th month until Oct. 21, drove home the importance of winning shelf space in a part of the world where crossing the border is no longer as easy as it once was.

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Peter Frumusa was no double murderer. Why would police trust a drug dealer nicknamed ‘The Snake’?

When Peter Frumusa heard he was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a Niagara Falls couple as they slept, he collapsed face-first in the prisoner’s dock, wailing, “I didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing.”It took five minutes for his lawyer Leo Adler to pull him to his feet.It took another nine years to prove that Frumusa was telling the truth and set him free.At the time of Frumusa’s trial in Niagara Falls in the fall of 1989, he was a 29-year-old cocaine addict with some shady associates.The murdered couple was retired autoworker Richard (Hop) Wilson and his wife Annie.The Wilsons had been married for less than five months in August 1988, when someone broke into their home on Niagara Parkway clubbed them to death in their beds. Theirs was a marriage of convenience. The Wilsons met in a Niagara Falls nursing home, where Richard, 70, was a patient and Annie, 48, one of his nurses.Marriage meant Richard, a widower with no children, could live out his years in his family home on the Niagara Parkway with round-the-clock medical care. He had been using a wheelchair after undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery and suffering several strokes. Annie’s marriage to him mean she was guaranteed more than $50,000, plus a home for herself and her daughter, Brenda Smith, who was in a relationship with Frumusa. All Annie had to do was bathe, dress and take care of Richard until he died.Not long after their marriage, one of the groom’s friends dropped by for a visit and Richard sadly asked, “How could I have been so stupid?”On the morning of Aug. 23, 1988, Smith couldn’t reach her mother on the phone and so she dispatched Frumusa to check out the house.No one answered the door, and Frumusa called police. He was waiting in his car outside when officers arrived.Within hours, Frumusa was told he was under arrest. “Don’t say that,” he told arresting officers. “Don’t tell me that. You can’t tell me that.”No physical evidence was presented at Frumusa’s trial that linked him to the slayings; not one trace of blood was found on Frumusa or his clothing, experts told the court.That’s despite the fact that Annie Wilson’s blood was splattered on the eight-foot ceiling of her bedroom, on the walls and on a mirror three metres from her body, Const. Terry Ward of Niagara region police testified during the trial. Blood was also sprayed on the ceilings and walls of Richard’s bedroom, as well as on a television screen about two metres from his body. Nothing at the murder scene — including fibres, fabrics or fingerprints — linked Frumusa to the crime site, Ward testified. Adler, Frumusa’s lawyer, said this was inconsistent with the personality of his cocaine-addicted client. “Would a slob not leave forensic clues?” he asked the court. Testifying against Frumusa was a 29-year-old Niagara Region cocaine and heroin dealer nicknamed “The Snake.”The Snake was in a detention centre facing break-and-enter charges when Frumusa was charged.The Snake claimed that Frumusa confessed to him over the phone that he killed the couple, even though he and Frumusa didn’t know each other particularly well.The Snake’s story started to unravel after Frumusa was sent to prison.Four years after the murder, a cook in a Niagara Falls restaurant run by a mobster, told the Star the murder was carried out over Annie Wilson’s debts.The cook said he heard the murders being plotted, and that he attempted, without success, to alert police.Frumusa “got railroaded all along,” the cook told the Star, shortly before going into hiding from his old associates. The Niagara Falls mobster who ran the restaurant where the cook decided to make an example of Annie Wilson over her debts, the cook said. “She’s going to pay the ultimate price,” the cook recalled one mobster connected to the restaurant saying.Richard Wilson was killed because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — namely in his own home, the cook said. Robbery charges against the Snake were dropped after he testified against Frumusa.A former girlfriend of the Snake later told court in the murder trial of prostitute Monique Cloutier of Hamilton that she had doubts about the Snake’s story about Frumusa.“I asked him why he testified against Peter Frumusa,” she testified. “Why would Pete confide in him when they weren’t even friends? He said, ‘Pete didn’t.’”“He was lying to try and work a plea with the cops so he didn’t have to go to jail,” she explained. “I asked him why he would do something like that. He said, he ‘couldn’t go to jail because he’d be NG, no good, a stool pigeon.’” The Snake admitted in testimony in the same Hamilton trial in April 1990, that he had been medicated and on psychiatric care since early childhood because of his violent behaviour. Frumusa later told the Star that he was almost stabbed to death on his first day in general population at Millhaven penitentiary near Kingston.“I came out of my cell, made a left and — bang — I felt this sensation, a sort o

Peter Frumusa was no double murderer. Why would police trust a drug dealer nicknamed ‘The Snake’?

When Peter Frumusa heard he was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a Niagara Falls couple as they slept, he collapsed face-first in the prisoner’s dock, wailing, “I didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing.”

It took five minutes for his lawyer Leo Adler to pull him to his feet.

It took another nine years to prove that Frumusa was telling the truth and set him free.

At the time of Frumusa’s trial in Niagara Falls in the fall of 1989, he was a 29-year-old cocaine addict with some shady associates.

The murdered couple was retired autoworker Richard (Hop) Wilson and his wife Annie.

The Wilsons had been married for less than five months in August 1988, when someone broke into their home on Niagara Parkway clubbed them to death in their beds.

Theirs was a marriage of convenience. The Wilsons met in a Niagara Falls nursing home, where Richard, 70, was a patient and Annie, 48, one of his nurses.

Marriage meant Richard, a widower with no children, could live out his years in his family home on the Niagara Parkway with round-the-clock medical care. He had been using a wheelchair after undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery and suffering several strokes.

Annie’s marriage to him mean she was guaranteed more than $50,000, plus a home for herself and her daughter, Brenda Smith, who was in a relationship with Frumusa.

All Annie had to do was bathe, dress and take care of Richard until he died.

Not long after their marriage, one of the groom’s friends dropped by for a visit and Richard sadly asked, “How could I have been so stupid?”

On the morning of Aug. 23, 1988, Smith couldn’t reach her mother on the phone and so she dispatched Frumusa to check out the house.

No one answered the door, and Frumusa called police. He was waiting in his car outside when officers arrived.

Within hours, Frumusa was told he was under arrest. “Don’t say that,” he told arresting officers. “Don’t tell me that. You can’t tell me that.”

No physical evidence was presented at Frumusa’s trial that linked him to the slayings; not one trace of blood was found on Frumusa or his clothing, experts told the court.

That’s despite the fact that Annie Wilson’s blood was splattered on the eight-foot ceiling of her bedroom, on the walls and on a mirror three metres from her body, Const. Terry Ward of Niagara region police testified during the trial.

Blood was also sprayed on the ceilings and walls of Richard’s bedroom, as well as on a television screen about two metres from his body.

Nothing at the murder scene — including fibres, fabrics or fingerprints — linked Frumusa to the crime site, Ward testified.

Adler, Frumusa’s lawyer, said this was inconsistent with the personality of his cocaine-addicted client. “Would a slob not leave forensic clues?” he asked the court.

Testifying against Frumusa was a 29-year-old Niagara Region cocaine and heroin dealer nicknamed “The Snake.”

The Snake was in a detention centre facing break-and-enter charges when Frumusa was charged.

The Snake claimed that Frumusa confessed to him over the phone that he killed the couple, even though he and Frumusa didn’t know each other particularly well.

The Snake’s story started to unravel after Frumusa was sent to prison.

Four years after the murder, a cook in a Niagara Falls restaurant run by a mobster, told the Star the murder was carried out over Annie Wilson’s debts.

The cook said he heard the murders being plotted, and that he attempted, without success, to alert police.

Frumusa “got railroaded all along,” the cook told the Star, shortly before going into hiding from his old associates.

The Niagara Falls mobster who ran the restaurant where the cook decided to make an example of Annie Wilson over her debts, the cook said.

“She’s going to pay the ultimate price,” the cook recalled one mobster connected to the restaurant saying.

Richard Wilson was killed because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — namely in his own home, the cook said.

Robbery charges against the Snake were dropped after he testified against Frumusa.

A former girlfriend of the Snake later told court in the murder trial of prostitute Monique Cloutier of Hamilton that she had doubts about the Snake’s story about Frumusa.

“I asked him why he testified against Peter Frumusa,” she testified. “Why would Pete confide in him when they weren’t even friends? He said, ‘Pete didn’t.’”

“He was lying to try and work a plea with the cops so he didn’t have to go to jail,” she explained. “I asked him why he would do something like that. He said, he ‘couldn’t go to jail because he’d be NG, no good, a stool pigeon.’”

The Snake admitted in testimony in the same Hamilton trial in April 1990, that he had been medicated and on psychiatric care since early childhood because of his violent behaviour.

Frumusa later told the Star that he was almost stabbed to death on his first day in general population at Millhaven penitentiary near Kingston.

“I came out of my cell, made a left and — bang — I felt this sensation, a sort of numbness, not realizing at first there was blood,” Frumusa told reporter Tracey Tyler.

While behind bars, Frumusa enlisted Toronto defence lawyer James Lockyer, who worked on the case with co-counsel Michelle Levy.

A new trial was ordered on the basis of the fresh evidence from the Snake’s old girlfriend and the cook.

Lockyer argued in court that the Snake might have been involved in the double-murder of the Wilsons.

He “received extreme favours from police in exchange for his testimony,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer noted that the Snake also testified for the Crown at Hamilton murder trials in 1992 and 1993, each time having charges against himself dropped. That included charges for robbery, assault and uttering threats.

Prisoners like the Snake are known in jailhouse circles as “priests” — they seem to constantly be hearing confessions.

Lockyer called the Snake a prime suspect in one of those murders before he testified for the Crown.

“The odds against the same person having crucial information from the mouth of the killer in three murder trials must be extremely high,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer described the Snake as a violent drug addict who had amassed 37 convictions by 1993 and “had killed at age 15 during the course of a robbery.”

The Cook said the Snake also bragged about cutting off a man’s leg with a chain saw.

The Snake “was almost in a position where it seemed he had a licence to commit crimes,” Lockyer told the court. “He has, in essence, played with the justice system like a child with a toy.”

Ultimately, the lawyer said, the Snake “was put into the witness protection program at the expense of the Ontario taxpayer.”

In June 1998, at the age of 39, Frumusa finally got a judge’s apology and his freedom. “To you, Mr. Frumusa, on behalf of the court and our justice system, I apologize for what you have gone through,” Justice Paul Forestell told him in a Welland courtroom.

“You’re free now. Go on and enjoy life. Accept our apologies,” the judge said.

Forestell told Frumusa that he was lucky to have the help of lawyers Lockyer and Levy. The judge also praised Crown attorney Michael Quinn’s “courage” in withdrawing the charges and accepting blame.

Quinn then apologized himself.

He also told the court that Frumusa wouldn’t have been prosecuted for the double murders if the recommendations made by retired Quebec judge Fred Kaufman at the inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin for the 1984 murder of Christine Jessop had been in place at the time.

After the Kaufman inquiry, there were also new guidelines for Crown attorneys regarding the use of jailhouse informants.

Those guidelines call for a registry of when jailhouse informants are used, and supervisory approval before an informant is used as a witness by a crown attorney.

Kaufman also warned that jailhouse informants, like the Snake, must be handled with care.

“The systemic evidence emanating from Canada, Great Britain, Australia and the United States demonstrated that the dangers associated with jailhouse informants were not unique to the Morin case,” Kaufman warned. “Indeed, a number of miscarriages of justice throughout the world are likely explained, at least in part, by the false, self-serving evidence given by such informants.”

So who beat the Wilsons to death, if it wasn’t Frumusa?

The cook said there were four men involved, including the Snake, and they stripped off their bloody clothes in the Niagara Falls restaurant when the job was done.

One of them compared the violence to getting rid of unwanted puppies, the cook said.

“It’s finished,” another of them said.

The whereabouts of the cook and the Snake are unknown.

The murders remain unsolved.

Peter Edwards is a Toronto-based reporter primarily covering crime for the Star. Reach him via email: pedwards@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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