Trucker protest at US-Canada bridge over vaccine mandates heighten economic worries: COVID-19 updates

protest at a major border crossing by Canadian truckers critical of pandemic vaccine mandates could head to a fourth day on Thursday, shutting down traffic on one international gateway and backing it up at another.

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The protest has heightened concerns about commerce and what comes next. It also has added pressure — and wait times — at another international bridge, the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, where traffic is backing up.

The bridge carries 25% of all trade between the two countries, and Canadian authorities expressed increasing worry about the economic effects.

Truckers calling themselves the Freedom Convoy are opposing a Canadian mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements.

There are now growing concerns that not only is the protesters’ fight spilling over the border to affect U.S. businesses and interrupt supply chains, but U.S. truckers may also be organizing similar protests in Washington and elsewhere.

In addition to the inconvenience of the bridge being impassable into Canada, and the backup of traffic at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, there are serious international commerce concerns. The Ambassador Bridge is one of America’s busiest international border crossings.

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Both Detroit and Windsor have significant auto operations and the standstill is a huge concern for businesses that already have been suffering from global supply chain and local staffing issues. So far, automakers have suggested that the disruptions are minimal. But if the protest drags on, it has the potential to create more supply chain problems. 

“This interruption on the Detroit-Windsor bridge hurts customers, auto workers, suppliers, communities and companies on both sides of the border,” Ford Motor Company said in a statement. “We hope this situation is resolved quickly because it could have widespread impact on all automakers in the U.S. and Canada.”

Also in the news: 

►California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed off on extending COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for workers on Wednesday, along with more than $6 billion in tax relief for small businesses.

►Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told reporters this week that he thinks it’s “absolutely possible” that players from the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals could contract COVID-19 and miss the Super Bowl.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 77 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 912,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 402 million cases and over 5.7 million deaths. More than 213 million Americans – 64.2% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re reading: Moms are at war over COVID. Who’s to blame?

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.

Rhode Island man avoids jail time for defrauding COVID relief program

The Warwick, Rhode Island, man who made national headlines as one of the first people to try to defraud federal relief programs during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic avoided jail time at his sentencing Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy sentenced David Butziger, 53, to three years of supervised release, with the first six months spent in home detention, for conspiring to commit bank fraud by submitting phony applications for $543,000 in forgivable loans that were intended to help keep struggling businesses afloat during the crisis.

McElroy distinguished Butziger, a first-time offender, from his co-conspirator, David Adler Staveley, a repeated felon with a history of fraud. Staveley received 56 months in prison for his part in the scheme at his sentencing in October.

McElroy referenced Butziger’s age, clean record, work history and acceptance of responsibility in rejecting a request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee H. Vilker that he serve 21 months behind bars.

— Katie Mulvaney, The Providence Journal

Kansas woman died of allergic reaction to COVID vaccine, autopsy shows

Jeanie Evans died of “anaphylaxis due to COVID-19 vaccination,” according to her autopsy report.

The Effingham, Kansas, resident died March 24, 2021, a day after the Moderna vaccine was administered to her in Jefferson County.

The Topeka Capital-Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, acquired the autopsy report Tuesday from the Shawnee County coroner’s office after submitting a Kansas Open Records Act request.

Evans, 68, had a medical history of hypertension, environmental allergies, allergic disorder and reactive airway disease — which wasn’t asthma — and had experienced previous anaphylactic reaction to the drug Albuterol, the autopsy report said.

It said Evans began to complain that her airway felt blocked about 15 to 20 minutes after she received her first COVID vaccination on March 23, 2021. Evans was taken by ground ambulance and  died the next day.

— Tim Hrenchir, Topeka Capital-Journal

Contributing: The Associated Press

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