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Ontario's stay-at-home order in effect and 'Courage' masks: In The News for Jan. 14

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 14 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

TORONTO — A stay-at-home order is now in effect across Ontario. 

The directive requires residents to stay home except for essential outings, such as accessing health care, shopping for groceries, or outdoor exercise.

The province has said there's no set definition for what is "essential" because everyone has their own unique circumstances and regional considerations.

There's no limit on how many times people can leave their homes per day, or on how long they can be out.

Premier Doug Ford has urged people to use their "best judgment" in deciding whether to go out. 

But critics say the measure, which was announced on Tuesday as the province enacted a second state of emergency, is vague, particularly given law enforcement officers' ability to fine those not in compliance. 

The order is part of Ontario's effort to combat soaring rates of COVID-19 that officials have warned could soon overwhelm the health system.

As of Wednesday, Ontario was reporting a total of 224,984 COVID-19 diagnoses since the pandemic began. Of those, 29,636 cases were still active, while 5,127 people had died. 

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Also this ...

OTTAWA — A federal official says the government is considering using data on incoming travellers to prevent returning vacationers from using a special benefit for people who must quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19.

The government promised earlier this week to introduce legislation to prevent anyone who returned from abroad for non-essential reasons from receiving the benefit during the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

The source says officials are drafting the legislation and expect it to include information-sharing mechanisms among agencies and departments to identify anyone looking to flout the rules.

The Canadian Press isn't identifying the source because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on behind-the-scenes discussions.

It wouldn't take much to for the government to match names of incoming travellers with applicants for the sickness benefit after officials updated a similar program in the last year.

That program now sees roughly 20 million names of anyone arriving by land or air shared with Employment and Social Development Canada to help its investigators identify improper payments of unemployment and seniors benefits.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House for a historic second time, charged with "incitement of insurrection" over the deadly mob siege of the U.S. Capitol in a swift and stunning collapse of his final days in office. 

With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 on Wednesday to impeach Trump. The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to "fight like hell" against the election results.  

Ten Republicans fled Trump, joining Democrats who said he needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a "clear and present danger" if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20.  

The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election. 

Holed up at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, Trump later released a video statement in which he made no mention at all of the impeachment but appealed to his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Biden's inauguration.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointedly did not rule out that he might eventually vote to convict Trump, but he also blocked a quick Senate impeachment trial. 

Minutes after the House voted to impeach Trump, McConnell said in a letter to his GOP colleagues that he’s not determined whether Trump should be convicted in the Senate's upcoming proceedings. 

McConnell's openness was a stark contrast to the support, or at times silence, he’s shown during much of Trump’' presidency, and to the opposition he expressed rapidly when the House impeached Trump 13 months ago. 

McConnell will be Washington’s most powerful Republican once Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, and McConnell’s increasingly chilly view of Trump could make it easier for other GOP lawmakers to turn against him.  

McConnell’s burgeoning alienation from Trump, plus the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, underscored how the GOP’s long, reflexive support and condoning of Trump’s actions was eroding.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

WUHAN, China — A global team of researchers arrived today in the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic was first detected to conduct a politically sensitive investigation into its origins amid uncertainty about whether Beijing might try to prevent embarrassing discoveries. 

The 10-member team sent to Wuhan by the World Health Organization was approved by President Xi Jinping's government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of WHO.  

Scientists suspect the virus that has killed more than 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China's southwest. The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints it allowed the disease to spread, says the virus came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, but international scientists reject that.  

Two members of the team did not land in Wuhan because they had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies and were being retested in Singapore, WHO said in a statement on Twitter.  

The rest of the team arrived at the Wuhan airport and walked through a makeshift clear plastic tunnel into the airport. The researchers, who wore face masks, were greeted by airport staff in full protective gear, including masks, goggles and full body suits. They will undergo a two-week quarantine as well as a throat swab test and an antibody test for COVID-19. They are to start working with Chinese experts via video conference while in quarantine.  

The team includes virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.  

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On this day in 1878 ...

Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the telephone to Queen Victoria, who spoke with her friend, Sir Thomas Biddulph.

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In entertainment ...

Face masks emblazoned with the Tragically Hip's popular song title "Courage" have raised more than $40,000 in support of Canada's music industry.

The Kingston, Ont. band started selling the COVID-19 non-medical cloth masks last summer for $15 each on its web store and funnelling the proceeds to the Unison Benevolent Fund.

The organization provides counselling and emergency relief services to the music industry, which has been slammed by the pandemic as live musicians and their crew have been unable to tour.

A statement from the band last August said the mask was created "by popular demand and sad necessity" as Unison experiences a huge surge in requests for assistance. 

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ICYMI ...

A surgeon in northwestern Alberta has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct for hanging a rope in the shape of a noose on an operating room door. 

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta says in a decision that Dr. Wynand Wessels "acted with the intention of sending a message that would be reasonably interpreted as intimidating or threatening."

Dr. Wessels, through his lawyer, told a hearing in October that he grew up in South Africa during apartheid and liked making knots.

The orthopedic surgeon suggested the gesture was about team building and based on boy scout activities he did as a child. He said it was not directed at any person and was not meant to be racist.

The decision did not determine the doctor was motivated by racism. 

"The evidence established that the rope was perceived by some people as a racist gesture or as a symbol of racism," says the decision. "However, there is not enough evidence to support a finding that Dr. Wessels was motivated by racism or intended to create a racist symbol when he hung the rope on the door."

The college said sanctions will be determined at a later hearing. The doctor's permit to practise medicine is currently active.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021

The Canadian Press