Tuesday February 16, 2021



5 Factors That Could Dictate the Success or Failure of the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

A viral immunologist highlights outstanding questions about the emergency use of vaccines against COVID-19. By Dr. Byram W. Bridle, associate professor of viral immunology U of G, Department of Pathobiology

As a viral immunologist who develops immunization strategies to prevent infectious diseases and treat cancers, I would like to highlight outstanding questions about the emergency use of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. These vaccines have raised hopes that the pandemic is nearing an end. Hopefully this is true, but here are some potential sticking points.

Family Business

Family businesses risk missing the mark on ESG

In a year where business has had to transform the way it meets the needs of society and the environment, family owned businesses risk falling behind, according to a new global survey of 2,801 family business owners. While more than half (55%) of respondents saw the potential for their business to lead on sustainability, only 37% have a defined strategy in place. European and American businesses are lagging their Asian counterparts in their commitment to prioritising sustainability in their strategy. 79% of respondents in mainland China and 78% in Japan reported 'putting sustainability at the heart of everything we do' compared to 23% of US and 39% in the UK. Larger businesses and those owned by later generations also buck the trend, with greater focus on sustainability. This reluctance to embrace sustainability comes despite the fact family owned businesses are highly likely to see a responsibility to society. Over 80% engage in proactive social responsibility activity, and 71% sought to retain as many staff as possible during the pandemic. Nor is it a function of economic pessimism - less than half (46%) expect sales to fall despite the pandemic and survey respondents felt optimistic about their business' abilities to withstand and continue to grow in 2021 and 2022.


The Future of User Interfaces Shaping New Consumer Experiences

Global augmented and virtual reality market is expected to reach $661.40 billion by 2025

A recent analysis of the Future of User Interfaces Shaping New Consumer Experiences, finds that user interface (UI) technologies have moved beyond the concept of simply representing machines to their users to enabling sophisticated and personalized interaction. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated their use in healthcare, manufacturing, education, retail, and banking to simplify interactivity and improve engagement. The global augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) market is expected to reach $661.40 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 86.3% from 2019 to 2025, driven by contactless commerce. Beyond 2030, AR and VR will merge, allowing users access to the total reality-virtuality continuum. Meanwhile, the global biometrics market revenue is forecast to reach $54.97 billion in 2025, with next-generation identification, palm vein and behavioral biometrics experiencing significant demand. "The need for adoption of new user interface (UI) technologies to alleviate challenges posed by the global pandemic is immediate but constrained by infrastructure issues such as a lack of 5G networks and capable devices," said Murali Krishnan, Visionary Innovation Group Senior Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "For futuristic UIs to become ubiquitous, security and privacy will be critical. Organizations must prioritize cybersecurity, business continuity plans, and risk assessments. Further, the transition to the fifth generation of wireless technology will be critical to the success of UI devices. Its ability to connect 1 million devices for every square kilometer will make 5G the backbone for UI devices and overall connected ecosystems."


Employee concerns about workplace safety continue to rise despite increased focus on cleaning and disinfection and vaccine availability

According to a new survey, employee confidence may hinge on more stringent disinfection protocols and increased communication about the specific actions and qualifications of those implementing them.

With the one-year anniversary of the pandemic lockdown looming, cleanliness and disinfection is a priority in virtually every setting. Although signs of fatigue are growing, also on the rise are employees’ concerns about the safety of their work environment. Despite companies’ expanded cleaning protocols and increasing availability of vaccines, there are indications that there is room to improve employees’ confidence in workplace safety and cleanliness, according to a new survey conducted by Openworks. In fact, the importance of frequent cleaning and disinfecting has actually increased since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the survey, which tracked how employee expectations have shifted from May to December 2020. The survey sought to understand full-time employees’ sentiments around cleaning and disinfection of their workplace ­– and whether time or the introduction of a vaccine have altered those beliefs.

Omnivarian Roots

Canadians still love meat, regardless of COVID-19

Recalls and plant shutdowns due to COVID-19 couldn’t keep Canadians away from the meat counter. But prices did reach the sticker-shock point - By Sylvain Charlebois

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone on Earth one way or another, which is why the moment we are in is so unique. The way we consume food has also changed: how and where we buy it, and where we consume it have seen tremendous changes over the last 11 months. Proteins play a significant role in our nutrition, COVID or no COVID. Some claimed early in the pandemic that Canadians would go back to basics and get reacquainted with the meat counter, like in the old days. The numbers are in and show that Canadians haven’t forgotten their omnivarian roots. Nationally, NielsenIQ data shows that pork had a great 12 months of sales, from Feb. 1, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021. Volume-wise, sales were up 12 per cent, more than chicken and beef. Dollar-wise, sales were up 17 per cent for pork, 16 per cent for beef and 12 per cent for chicken, despite processing plant closures and disruptions across supply chains.


Canadian housing starts trended higher in January

The trend in housing starts was 244,963 units in January 2021, up from 238,747 units in December 2020. This trend measure is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts. "The national trend in housing starts increased in January," said Bob Dugan, CMHC's chief economist. "Both single- and multi-family SAAR starts rebounded strongly in January from declines in December, driving the overall trend higher. Single-family starts were particularly strong in Montréal, reaching their highest level since February 2008." Due to COVID-19, CMHC's monthly Starts and Completions Survey (SCS) for December 2020 was not conducted in the Kelowna CMA, it resumed in January 2021. This press release includes national housing starts totals without Kelowna in order to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic where the SCS survey was conducted in both December 2020 and January 2021. The national trend and month-to-month change in the SAAR level was very similar with and without Kelowna in December and January. We will continue to monitor the situation in each centre and adjust the SCS accordingly.


Libro Credit Union invests $348,000 with five non-profits working on food security, employment and housing

Libro Credit Union invested $348,000 with five local non-profits leading the charge in tackling some of the biggest challenges facing our region: local food accessibility, employment and housing stability. “We have the privilege to partner with local non-profit organizations who share our concern for the good of our communities,” said Liz Arkinstall, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Libro Credit Union. “Sharing our expertise, resources, and local love is core to our business. We know when our communities succeed, we all succeed.”

Virus Sudy

Research discovery shows viruses can ‘hijack’ cellular process in order to block immune response

Research led by Queen’s University Belfast and McGill University has found that viruses, (small microbes that cause diseases such as the common cold, measles, or COVID-19) can ‘hijack’ an existing molecular process in the cell in order to block the body’s antiviral immune response to a viral infection. The results of the study have been published in the journal Molecular Cell. As the current COVID-19 pandemic has proved, viral infection is a significant threat to the health of humans as well as livestock, pets, and plants. Discovery of a potentially druggable process that is hijacked by the virus to facilitate viral infection could have significant health and financial benefits to society. This discovery is a breakthrough in the fields of immunobiology and gene expression, and further research will determine if targeting this cellular mechanism could be used to more effectively treat viral infections.

Global Centres

London’s continued future as a Global Financial Centre in post-Brexit Era

“Amsterdam’s emergence as the primary centre for European share trading suggests that the European Union will never develop a global financial centre that displaces London.” by John R. Bryson

Newspaper headlines have declared that “Amsterdam ousts London as Europe’s top share trading hub”. This has been seen as another downside of the UK leaving the UK. Amsterdam has become Europe’s most important hub for trading shares with London pushed into second place. For Amsterdam, this was a dramatic shift for a city that in November 2020 was fifth behind Paris, Frankfurt, and Milan. There are many ways of reading this shift. On the one hand, in Brexit terms, it is perhaps surprising that London remains in second place rather than being pushed down the list of European share trading centres. On the other hand, it is perhaps surprising that Amsterdam has surpassed Paris and Frankfurt. This really should have been a story about the emergence of a new European Global Financial Centre that would displace London and compete on equal terms with New York and Shanghai.


Dialysis patients at greater risk of dying from COVID-19 infection

Patients in Ontario with chronic kidney conditions who require dialysis have a significantly increased likelihood of contracting and dying from COVID-19, new research from Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute has shown. Study author Dr. Peter Blake says the research emphasizes the need to prioritize dialysis patients for vaccination. Published in CMAJ, the study shows that of the more than 12,000 patients undergoing long-term dialysis in Ontario, 187 patients became infected with SARS-CoV-2 between March and August 2020. Of the patients who were infected, 60 per cent needed to be hospitalized and nearly 30 per cent died. That’s almost four times the mortality rate from COVID-19 than the general population. The researchers continued to collect data into the second wave of the pandemic, and report that as of the end of January 2021, a further 424 dialysis patients were diagnosed with COVID-19, equivalent to 4.5 per cent of all dialysis patients in the province, and that 130 have now died.

Winning Title

University of Waterloo, School of Accounting & Finance Demonstrates High Financial Ethical Standards

On 11 February 2021, the University of Waterloo, School of Accounting & Finance was awarded the winning title of the 2021 CFA Society Toronto Local Ethics Challenge. This year’s local champions from University of Waterloo include Shubhankar Bhatt, Dhanusha Sathiyaseelan, Parshv Shah, Zhuoran (Johanna) Wu and mentored by their Faculty Advisor Krista Fiolleau Phd, CPA, CA. The team demonstrated their ability to expertly negotiate ethical dilemmas in a real-life investment scenario and presented their case to a panel of seasoned investment professionals. "The CFA Society Toronto Local Ethics Challenge was a fantastic competition to apply concepts learned through courses in school and on the job. The case was challenging and composed of many ethical issues, but through the CFA Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct, we were able to work together to outline problems, provide recommendations and answer questions from the judges. We are all looking forward to moving on to the national round of the competition!” said Shubhankar Bhatt, University of Waterloo, School of Accounting & Finance.


Government of Canada announces further measures to support international students

International students bring so much to Canada, contributing more than $21 billion annually to our economy and supporting the vitality of our communities. The pandemic has presented myriad challenges for international students, and the Government of Canada has taken action to assist them through this difficult time with a variety of measures, including offering open work permits for former international students who hold or held a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). As part of the Government’s efforts to support international students, the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today announced further measures to ensure that international students won’t miss out on opportunities after they graduate due to the pandemic. With the prospect of many international students continuing online learning from abroad for several more months, temporary changes to the PGWP Program put in place earlier in the pandemic are being extended and expanded. These measures will assist international students by ensuring that studies completed outside Canada will count towards a future PGWP, and by allowing international students to complete their entire program online from abroad and still be eligible for a PGWP. The measures apply to all international students who are enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program, and meet all other PGWP criteria.

After the Fire

HopeSpring's Updated Response to the Fire at The Inn of Waterloo

HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre is located at The Inn of Waterloo and was impacted by the unfortunate fire that took place on Tuesday, February 9th, 2021. HopeSpring is relieved to hear that no one was harmed and that our community partner at The Inn of Waterloo, The House of Friendship, was able to house, support and quickly triage those who were staying at The Inn. We are so inspired how our beautiful community has come forward to ensure no one would be without hygiene, clothing and other materials that inevitably would be lost due to the fire. We also acknowledge The Inn of Waterloo and all they are going through at this time. In mid-October 2020, HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre was asked to vacate our rented space within The Inn of Waterloo in order to allow the House of Friendship to be re-homed as a result of the covid-19 pandemic as supported by The Region of Waterloo. Our space at that time was directly located within the tower area of the hotel.

Wilfrid Laurier University is set to host a four-week virtual user experience (UX) design challenge that will see university and college students from across Canada tackle problems related to climate change for the chance to win $8,500 in cash prizes. Design for Change will challenge students to develop and design solutions to help transform social behaviour toward greener and more sustainable practices. From March 1 to 27, students can participate in workshops and will have access to mentorship from industry leaders as they work on their design. Students can participate alone, in pairs, or teams of three and no prior UX experience is required. “UX design is all about creating solutions to complex problems and doing so from a human-centred perspective,” said Abby Goodrum, Laurier's User Experience Design program coordinator. “I'm hoping that students taking part in this design challenge will not only come away with new skills but also the ability to create innovative user-centred designs that can have a real impact on the environment and global climate change.” more ...

Moving Forward

Grand River Film Festival to Celebrate Digitally

The festival will deliver its 14th season of programming as a virtual, at-home experience

Waterloo Region’s longest running film festival will celebrate its 14th season as a newly formatted at-home virtual experience. The Grand River Film Festival (GRFF) is introducing the virtual festival experience, GRFF@Home, in May 2021 as a continuation of its annual film festival programming. “For GRFF, a virtual festival is a brave new world. But it has become the reality for festivals across the country and around the world, and the options available to us are quite impressive,” says Michael Clarke, Programming Chair. The virtual festival, GRFF@Home, will include an expanded selection of films available for online streaming. Viewers can expect interactive activities, such as live events and Q&As, allowing patrons to enjoy a variety of festival content from the comfort of their home. “Despite the challenges COVID-19 has erected, GRFF sees opportunities for more varied engagements with the film loving community,” says GRFF Chair, Paul Tortolo. more ...


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