The world is changing every day. Now, more than ever, these questions matter. What’s happening? And why should you care? This Matters, a daily news podcast from the Toronto Star, aims to answer those questions, on important stories and ideas, every day, Monday to Friday. Hosts Adrian Cheung, Saba Eitizaz and Raju Mudhar talk to experts and newsmakers about the social, cultural, political and economic stories that shape your life.
The Omicron Variant: what we know and what we don’t
18:46Guest: Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, infectious diseases physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga News and serious worry over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spread almost as quickly as the virus itself. The World Health Organization says the newest, potentially more contagious variant poses a “very high” global risk. The UK’s Health and Security Agency calls it “the most worrying we’ve ever seen.” In the span of a week and a half, the Omicron variant has been detected in more than a dozen countries around the world. But what do we really know about Omicron? What makes it more transmissible? Given what we know about how COVID works, how worried should we be? Today on “This Matters,” we go to the basics with an infectious diseases doctor to explain why scientists believe the variant is more transmissible, talk through what we know and perhaps more crucially, what we’re still waiting to find out.
Omicron, the travel ban and getting home to Canada under the wire
23:09Guest: Alex Boyd, Calgary-based reporter for the Toronto Star The latest Omicron variant has starkly reminded the world about what global health advocates have been shouting about for more than a year – if vaccines aren't shared, the virus and its variants will spread. Canada has followed dozens of other countries in announcing more travel bans on African countries, and many in South Africa are feeling like they're being punished for alerting the world about Omicron. And just as it came made its presence known in the pandemic, Star reporter Alex Boyd was travelling across Africa to report on exactly these issues. She made it back to Canada from South Africa right under the wire, just hours ahead of the travel ban. She joins "This Matters" to talk about Canada's initial quarantine confusion and how vaccine inequality in the Global South is connected to what's unfolding now.
COVID outbreaks are surging in schools. What can we do about it?
17:40Guest: Kenyon Wallace, investigative reporter for the Star The start of the school year in Canada was in effect a real-time experiment of how COVID-19 could spread among a mostly unvaccinated population. Despite vaccine mandates among school staff, mask use, physical distancing and ventilation, the vast majority of elementary school-age children are unvaccinated with their vaccine rollout only now in its initial stages. COVID outbreaks have surged in Ontario schools since November leaving the question about what we can do to slow the spread before the holidays.
Vaccine Hunters are back for kids’ vaccines and third-dose boosters
14:11Guest: Andrew Young, founder and director of Vaccine Hunters Canada For more than a million Canadians, volunteers for Vaccine Hunters Canada have been heroes and messengers of hope in the difficulties of the pandemic. After the initial rollout of vaccines in spring 2021 were plagued by shipment delays, miscommunication, massive lines that stretched for hours that were no guarantee you'd get a shot, Vaccine Hunters Canada stepped in. The grassroots, citizen-led volunteer team sourced information on where to get the vaccine, confirmed the eligibility requirements and then shared that information across social media channels in a clear and accessible way. After a brief hiatus in the late summer, they're back to connect Canadians to children's vaccines as talk about third-dose boosters over the winter heats up. We talk to the founder of Vaccine Hunters on the community of helpers that have helped transform the pandemic.
Conflict on Wet’suwet’en territory, the RCMP and press freedom
23:38Guest: Brandi Morin, French/Cree/Iroquois human rights journalist who lives in Treaty 6 territory Last Friday, RCMP arrested award-winning journalist Amber Bracken and documentary maker Michael Toledano, as well as 15 others, as part of a raid on one of the camps set up to keep TransCanada Energy's Coastal GasLink gas pipeline out of Indigenous territory. Many say the multibillion-dollar gas project — one of the largest private sector investments in Canada — violates both Indigenous and international laws. The consequent standoff in the territory of the Wet'suwet'en is raising serious questions about the role of the RCMP when it comes to Indigenous communities, and what the current situation means for press freedom and access to information on this issue.
The Metaverse is coming. Here’s what you need to know
19:22Guest: Emma Westecott, associate professor of game design at OCAD University and co-director of the Game: Play Lab The Metaverse is coming. Long thought to be one of the next great leaps in shared digital spaces, the idea of the Metaverse recently got a boost from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg when he announced the company is investing $10 billion and rebranding its own platform with the name Meta. But Facebook is not alone. There are already game worlds and platforms like Fortnite and Roblox that are building elements of it. There is a long way to go before we get to something that’s been depicted in movies like “The Matrix” and “Ready Player One.” But as development really gets underway, now is the time to be asking what do we want the Metaverse to look like and how to make it beneficial for everyone?
How space technology is helping to fight the next pandemic
20:53Guests: Canadian astronaut Dr. Dave Williams and Alex Boyd, Toronto Star reporter What if the answers and solutions of the pandemic are found in the stars? The two industries of space and medicine are more closely aligned than we may think, as many of the technologies we use today were first tested in the rigours of space. Can space exploration and research help us find our way through this pandemic and prevent the next one? We talk to one of Canada’s most decorated and experienced astronauts, Dave Williams, to learn the future of medical care is already being pushed to the limits in space.
Mask up, it’s not over, Canada’s health officials warn
17:45Guest: May Warren, reporter for the Toronto Star With winter months bringing in an uptick in COVID-19 cases and a relatively static vaccination rate, Canada's top health officers are urging people to double down on masking because masks are the last line of defence against the virus. With a major shift (again!) in the conversation and culture around masking and new data available, reporter May Warren joins "This Matters" for a little bit of a refresher on masks, how we should wear them and why we're still talking about them. See Health Canada's latest guidelines and policies on masks here.
Kids and vaccines: What you need to know now
17:28Guest: Megan Ogilvie is a health reporter at the Star Parents of children aged 5 to 11 can now book their children for their first dose of vaccines across Canada. It’s been a long wait for this cohort, which is the largest unvaccinated group in Canada. Most parents — who have had to live through plenty of invasive COVID tests at the first sign of symptom — now have an option to get their kids more protection against this disease. But will it be another mad rush to book online, only to come up empty? Or will things be better this time around? Also, for many parents, getting the shot booked is just the first hurdle, now you’ve got to deal with a youngster who has to face a needle. This episodes provide some initial observations on the booking process and some helpful tips and advice.
Kids at heart: ‘Kidults’ help toys reach sales records
19:05Guest: Adrienne Appell, toy trends expert and senior vice-president of marketing communications of The Toy Association While many industries were devastated by the pandemic, the toy industry enjoyed record breaking sales. One of the most interesting trends to come out of the past two years is that growth shows adults are buying toys for themselves, which the industry has dubbed the “kidult” category. From expensive Lego sets to collectibles for fans of all kinds, there are now toys for people of all ages and also in every price range. This trend is being fuelled by many factors including social media, people trying to recapture their youth and the emphasis on self care and wellness.