Crackdown on Freedom Convoy continues as Canadian police arrest at least 170 protesters: COVID updates – USA TODAY

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Hundreds of Canadian police swept through the country’s capital Saturday, arresting protesters and clearing out vehicles in an attempt to bring an end to a three-week protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

At least 170 people were arrested Friday and Saturday, after police began the crackdown of the so-called Freedom Convoy on Friday morning. Officers, some in riot gear, approached the protest zone and scuffles broke out in some areas as police, including some officers on horses, pushed the crowd back.

Protesters were gone from the street in front of Parliament Hill by Saturday morning. Police said on Twitter that protesters were “aggressive and assaultive” throughout their attempts to clear the area, and pepper spray was used to disperse them. They also said children had been brought to the front of the police line.

Interim Police Chief Steve Bell said at a press conference Saturday that 47 additional people were arrested Saturday. The operation to clear the protesters is “not over,” Bell said.

“Go home. If you don’t go home, we will remove you from the streets,” Bell told remaining protesters during the press conference.

The demonstrations in the capital are the last stronghold of a movement that for weeks disrupted trade between the U.S. and Canada by shutting down the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor. The border crossing reopened earlier this week.

Meanwhile across the country in Vancouver, police on Saturday closed the Pacific Highway Border Crossing, advising all pedestrians and motorists to use alternate border crossings. The closure was taken as a preventative measure and “to help ensure public and officer safety,” according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In the U.S., Capitol Police officials are considering reinstalling a fence around the Capitol ahead of a planned trucker protest against COVID-19 restrictions next month in Washington, D.C.

Also in the news: 

Los Angeles County Unified School District is ending its outdoor masking requirement starting next week, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho tweeted Friday.

Masks will be optional on all Indiana University campuses starting March 4, officials announced Friday.

►The Wisconsin Hospital Association reported Friday that the number of patients in intensive care with COVID-19 fell below 150 patients for the first time since August 2021.

►Country artist Willie Nelson has canceled eight concerts in Nashville, New Orleans, Fort Worth and San Antonio in March and April because of COVID-19 concerns, but some upcoming Austin-area appearances are still on.

►The Navajo Nation is maintaining a mask mandate to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, even as the last of the states that surround the reservation dropped the requirement.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 78.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 933,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 421.2 million cases and over 5.8 million deaths. More than 214 million Americans – 64.6% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re reading: How bad is it to be in ICU with COVID-19? It’s far more miserable than people can imagine, experts tell USA TODAY. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

US surgeon general, family test positive for COVID despite vaccines

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and his family have all tested positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, he announced Friday, saying the experience was “disappointing.”

Murthy was not present at the White House coronavirus briefing Wednesday, and he has not had any recent contact with the president, according to the White House. 

Murthy, his wife, Dr. Alice Chen, their 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter all tested positive. All have been fully vaccinated, except the youngest child who is not eligible to receive a vaccine, Murthy said.

Their daughter tested positive first and is feeling a little better after having had a fever, cough and congestion. Their son has been congested and had a low-grade fever, Murthy said in tweets Friday. He and his wife have “mild symptoms,” he said, including headache and chills. “Our breathing is fine, thankfully,” he said.

“We’ve tried to be safe, but it’s tough when your kids are sick. You want to comfort them when they’re unwell. That often requires being close physically. We’d make that choice again, but I feel for those who struggle to balance protecting themselves with caring for family,” he said in his tweet.

The surgeon general urged others not to feel ashamed if they get COVID despite taking all precautions, adding that nothing can completely eliminate risk. It can be “frustrating and disappointing” to get COVID even with precautions, Murthy said, and people should not judge others as “careless” if they get sick.

Though vaccination is still considered the best defense against serious illness and hospitalization, according to health and government officials, the latest wave of infections with the omicron variant has seen many test positive who were already vaccinated. Murthy said being vaccinated has given him “peace of mind” and the ability to continue to care for his children even while sick.

Bill honoring doctor who died by suicide amid pandemic passes Senate  

President Joe Biden will receive a bill passed by Congress honoring Dr. Lorna Breen, who died by suicide amid the stress of the COVID pandemic in 2020.

Breen, 49, was an emergency room doctor in Manhattan and was treating COVID patients on the frontlines early on in the coronavirus pandemic. Her family has been advocating for bolstered federal resources to go toward fighting mental health concerns among health care workers.

“Personal Protective Equipment can reduce the likelihood of being infected, but what they cannot protect heroes like Dr. Lorna Breen, or our first responders, against is the emotional and mental devastation caused by this disease,” Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney said at the time of her death.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act “establishes grants and requires other activities to improve mental and behavioral health among health care providers.”

Port Canaveral commissioner says CDC controls over cruising ‘sounds a lot like communism’

Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray was detailing the latest twists in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19-related guidelines for the cruise industry to the Canaveral Port Authority, when Port Commissioner Micah Loyd apparently had heard enough.

“I can’t speak for my fellow commissioners up here, but I think it sounds a lot like communism to me, personally, if you want to know my personal view about it,” said Loyd, who is the owner of Loyd Contracting Inc. in Titusville. “Why they would put this extra layer on top of it to try to control commerce is beyond my comprehension of American values. It’s hindering our operations, in my opinion.”

Loyd was reacting to new CDC voluntary guidelines announced on Feb. 9 that establish a new status classification for cruise ships called “vaccination standard of excellence.” Under that standard, not only would at least 95% of passengers be vaccinated — as they would be in a ship classified as “highly vaccinated” — but they also would need to have a booster shot, if eligible.

Murray also noted a positive for the cruise industry: The CDC lowered its warning on cruise ship travel, from the highest alert level — a “Level 4” — to “Level 3,” citing a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases reported on vessels. 

– Dave Berman, Florida Today

Contributing: The Associated Press