Tuesday June 23, 2020
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MONITOR

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Practical Use

Macular degeneration diagnostic tool hidden in plain sight

An experiment that began by testing the properties of quantum entanglement has led to the discovery of a new diagnostic tool that could help optometrists detect macular degeneration much earlier than was previously possible. University of Waterloo researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) set out to test the human eye’s ability to perceive one of the properties of quantum entanglement but quickly realized that the tool they created to test their theory had an immediate practical use. The ICQ researchers then teamed up with researchers from the School of Optometry and Vision Science to use their work to design a unique form of light that is visible to people with healthy eyes, but not to people whose eyesight is degenerating.


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Restart Funds

Kitchener joins call with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in pressing for bottom-line requirements for safe-restart funds

As federal, provincial and territorial governments negotiate “safe economic restart” funding agreements, the City of Kitchener is supporting the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) call for four bottom-line requirements to ensure funds urgently protect frontline services for Canadians and support a nationwide economic recovery. "Municipalities provide services residents depend on, like clean water, public health, and roads and trails. But these services are at risk with cities and communities in financial crisis,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “We welcome the Prime Minister’s safe restart commitment, but COVID-19 has left a big deficit in our budget, and municipalities or all sizes need federal and provincial funding support to continue providing essential services.”


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Reaction Cycle

New mechanism and drugs to boost immune system, potentially treat COVID-19 discovered

A new mechanism to greatly boost the immune defense system with a specific class of drugs may be the key to treating COVID-19 and other diseases or viruses, such as HIV and cancer. The research is grounded in the discovery of a new mechanism that amplifies the reaction cycle of the human immune defense system. “This discovery can have a huge impact in the treatment of many diseases and viruses and importantly right now, COVID-19,” said Professor Qing-Bin Lu, lead researcher on the study. “With this new knowledge, we hope to be able to greatly boost the efficacy of the immune system to help it fight aggressive viruses and diseases with new potent compounds to outperform drugs that have some very serious side-effects.”


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UW Q&A

Rural recovery from COVID-19

We know that cities and urban spaces have seen more cases of COVID-19 overall, but what unique challenges do rural communities face in the post COVID-19 world? To help us understand rural recovery, we talked to Professor Heather Hall, an expert in economic development in rural Canada. What are the unique challenges that rural economies face due to COVID-19? Rural Canadians are struggling with unemployment, uncertainty, fear, and competing demands over work and providing childcare and family care much like the rest of Canada. But one of the biggest challenges in rural Canada has been access to broadband. We have rural communities where students cannot easily connect to virtual learning, where employees cannot easily work from home, where small businesses cannot easily transition to online sales because there is limited or no access to broadband. This is not a new issue in rural Canada – but COVID-19 has certainly shone a huge spotlight on the digital divide that exists in this country.


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Opinion

For a healthy working-age person, the risk of dying from COVID-19 is significantly lower than dying by accident or from other diseases

By Gwyn Morgan

After being locked down since March 16, Canadians are emerging, as if after a hurricane, to assess the damage that has occurred in just 12 weeks. The main victims are, of course, the patients and valiant front-line workers who have succumbed to COVID-19. But shutting down the economy has ravaged businesses, jobs and savings, while the prime minister’s spending announcements from the front steps of Rideau Cottage added more than $20 billion a week to our national debt. With the benefit of hindsight, let us examine some vital questions. Was confining much of the working-age population the right decision?


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Education

Study investigates virtual learning impact on families

Virtual learning was already coming. In fact, it was here. But the abrupt shift to physically distant education during the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything for families with grade school-aged children in Ontario. The Western-led LEAP (Learning, Education, and the Pandemic) study aims to assess family experiences with learning during COVID-19. Specifically, Western Education researchers are exploring how family stress and virtual learning during the pandemic impacted students’ education. Education professor Emma Duerden, and her co-investigators Diane Seguin and J. Bruce Morton, will also assess how a child’s physical activity, sleep patterns, extracurriculars, thinking-reasoning ability and time spent socializing impact these associations.


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Coping with a Pandemic

Using wise reasoning to get through the COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is paramount that people use wise reasoning to manage the uncertainty and work together, according to research from the University of Waterloo. An international team of wisdom scientists led by a University of Waterloo professor have developed a Common Wisdom Model (CWM) that offers insights for exercising wisdom during societal challenges such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CWM, people can boost their wise reasoning when they maintain humility about their own knowledge, adapt to contexts, engage multiple viewpoints, and attempt to balance differing views. “A common wisdom model can provide a starting point for developing interventions to help combat foolish tendencies and balance personal interests with societal needs during these times of heightened risk and anxiety,” says Igor Grossmann, lead researcher on the study and Director of Waterloo’s Wisdom and Culture lab.


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Achievement

Wilfrid Laurier Student Entrepreneur Named Student Entrepreneur National Champion and Wins $10,000

by Luk Pham

Blair Forrest (right), owner of AMZ Prep Canada and full-time student at the Wilfrid Laurier University, has won $10,000 and has been named 2020 Student Entrepreneur National Champion by this country’s largest student leadership development organization, Enactus Canada, and proud program supporter, HSBC Bank Canada. AMZ Prep Canada helps businesses, ranging from small to large brands, sell their products on Amazon’s marketplace. “Congratulations to Blair Forrest whose achievements serve to inspire young Canadians across the country,” says Kim Hallwood, Head of Corporate Sustainability, HSBC Bank Canada. “Supporting Blair and others like him is part of our commitment to help communities with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the global economy.”


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Worst Contraction

Canada begins recovery from the deepest but shortest recession in history

With the risk of a second pandemic wave and the wait for a vaccine ongoing, Canada’s economic trajectory hinges on the successful balance of opening the economy while withdrawing government support.

An 8.2 per cent decline in the Canadian economy this year will mark the worst annual contraction on record. Despite the quick and pronounced economic fallout from the pandemic, recovery is underway. A brighter outlook for 2021 is forecast in today’s release of The Canadian Outlook Summary, with an economic rebound of 6.7 per cent in 2021 and 4.8 per cent in 2022. Yet as the threat of the pandemic eases, a number of factors will affect Canada’s path to recovery.


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Reopening

Kitchener Council endorses phased reopening of select City recreational amenities

Cambridge, Waterloo and other municipalities and townships also phase in recreational amenities and follow similar structure.

In line with the Province’s stage two reopening, and the previously approved Kitchener Reopens framework, Kitchener City Council has endorsed a gradual, phased reopening of select city splash pads, pools, community centres and arenas. Several facilities will reopen to the public for limited use over the next few weeks.


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Recovery Task Force

Region launches Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Committee

The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Committee, comprised of Regional Councillors representing cities and townships within the Region, held their first meeting last week. The committee’s focus is to support our community in its recovery by reviewing stimulus activities such as: tax policy; reducing red tape; development charges; capital spending and stimulus activities in general. “It’s vital that our Region move into the next phase of pandemic control and economic recovery,” said Councillor Sean Strickland, elected Chair of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Committee. “We want to help our community bounce back as quickly and safely as possible.”


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Opinion

We need to restart our lives with care and planning

It’s time for government officials to focus on helping old and vulnerable people re-integrate into mainstream society - By Rodney Clifton

No doubt many Canadians remember drinking from school water fountains long before students carried water bottles. When the school day began, some elementary students would rush to get a drink while the other children queued in an orderly fashion. Learning about queuing culture was a major lesson for students in elementary school. There were, of course, different queues for different school activities. The big boy who pushed others out of the way at the fountain couldn’t push his weight around in English class or math class. Mastering the rules for queuing was a necessary, but often harsh, lesson for young students. But it definitely helped children become mature adults. The adult world is full of queues: waiting for a stop light to change, making an appointment at a dental office, lining up at the grocery checkout counter.


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IT

What Scale-Ups Can Teach Us About Post-COVID-19 IT Services
By Shenif Visram, Chief Financial Officer, Aptum

It is difficult to begin any discussion about business today without acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous upheaval, challenges and hardship not only for employers but also the individuals and families that make up our community. From physical distancing requirements to disaster preparedness, the pandemic will permanently change how organizations plan and deploy IT services. Even in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, one of the world’s largest innovation ecosystems, with 15,000 tech companies and thousands of start-ups, we’ve seen the effects of the pandemic on businesses of all sizes and their employees.


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Survey

A Building Industry Survey Shows that 498 Construction Projects were Delayed in the GTA because of COVID-19

These holdups will result in the loss of about 9,000 housing starts over the course of the next 18 months

The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) released a survey of its members today that show a majority of residential construction projects in the GTA have been delayed due the COVID-19 Pandemic. The survey covered 498 active construction projects representing 156,000 units at various stages of construction. 276 of these projects are located in Toronto alone. These interruptions will have far reaching impacts on housing supply in an already tight market and will have negative financial impacts on government coffers. The residential construction industry was granted essential workplace status under Ontario’s emergency orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the industry was only able to complete homes that were near completion and work on important infrastructure projects such as hospitals. Never-the-less overall development and building projects across the region were delayed.


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Study

Queen’s University Belfast leading UK-wide trial to measure COVID-19 antibodies in children

Queen’s University Belfast is leading a UK-wide trial called ‘Seroprevalence of SARS-Cov-2 infection in healthy children’ to measure antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in healthy children. Over 1,000 children (known as ‘Covid Warriors’) from Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales will have their antibodies measured at baseline, 2 months and 6 months. The aim of the study is to assess the numbers of children who may have had COVID-19, and if those children have antibodies that may be able to fight off the infection. The findings from this study will be important for estimating the proportion of children that have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and have antibodies that may be consistent with immunity. This data can then be considered as part of planning measures, such as opening schools and opening routine paediatric services, such as health visiting and paediatric clinics.


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Survey

More Canadians intend to work from home and limit driving or taking public transit

A new survey found that COVID-19 is driving a lasting shift in Canadians’ commuting routines with a decline by 25 per cent of respondents (84 per cent compared to 63 per cent) stating they will travel to work post lockdown, whether in their own vehicle, taking public transit or carpooling.


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Ted Talk

How digital innovation can fight pandemics and strengthen democracy

Can technology create a democracy that's fast, fair ... and even fun? Digital minister Audrey Tang shares how Taiwan avoided a COVID-19 shutdown in early 2020 through innovations like developing apps to map mask availability, crowdsourcing ideas that could become laws and creating a "humor over rumor" campaign to combat disinformation with comedy. (This virtual conversation, hosted by TED science curator David Biello and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers, was recorded June 1, 2020.)


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Opinion

Automatic increases in generosity of Canada’s Employment Insurance program will add to Ottawa’s deficit and risks discouraging work long-term

As unemployment rates soar, Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) program automatically becomes much more generous and accessible, which will add to Ottawa’s financial pressures and risks increasing long-term unemployment, finds a new study by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank. “Already, vastly more people qualify for EI and are eligible to receive many more weeks of benefits with fewer hours of work than just a few weeks ago, and we know this increasingly generous coverage can lead to harmful long-term effects in the labour force,” said Fred McMahon, resident fellow at the Fraser Institute and author of Extended Employment Insurance Now Open to All: Atlantic Canada’s Warning for Other Provinces.


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Study

44% Ontarians’ Work Situation Affected By Pandemic

Submitted by Angela Joyce

Even as the Ontarian economy begins to re-open after months of being shuttered due to COVID-19, four in ten (44%) Ontarians’ work situation is affected by the pandemic. A recent poll by Ipsos carried out on behalf of MNP LTD has found that almost two in ten are either working reduced hours or receiving reduced pay (17%) or have lost their job (15%). In addition, many say someone in their household has lost their job (14%) or is working reduced hours or receiving reduced pay (9%). “While some are starting to head back to more regular work, their pay or hours might not be the same as they were before. That coupled with delaying payments over the last few months, and already being stretched thin before the pandemic, means a lot of people will not be able to meet their debt repayment obligations. I would recommend anyone who finds themselves in that position speak with a professional who can offer debt advice,” says David Gowling, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD.


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Vaccine Distribution

This is how to distribute a coronavirus vaccine to everyone

Current manufacturing capacity may not be enough to supply a global COVID-19 vaccination programme; Public funding arrangements often restrict vaccine access at present; More partnerships between researchers and manufacturers are needed- by Arnaud Bernaert

The World Economic Forum proposes creating a pairing mechanism for vaccine innovators and vaccine manufacturers. It aims to protect both innovators, who will find capacity to produce, and manufacturers, who will access vaccine candidates at the right clinical development pathways – i.e. when they reach phase 3 and no earlier, hence averting the need for innovators to unilaterally and exclusively secure large capacities from individual manufacturers while their vaccines are yet unproven.


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EVENTS



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This week

Virtual Multicultural Festival

The Virtual Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival will be a week-long celebration of the diversity in our community beginning on June 20th and ending on June 27th - Canadian Multiculturalism Day.


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November 5 - 7, 2020

Board Governance Boot Camp



Capacity Canada presents our annual Manulife Board Governance BootCamp November 5, 6 & 7, 2020 delivered virtually for the first time. This BootCamp delivers practical governance training to non-profit Boards and equips them with relevant action plans that will deliver a noticeable performance improvement in their boardrooms.



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