National Post (National Edition)

Republican `fighter' devoted to community

COVID DIAGNOSIS

- PAULINA FIROZI AND DAVID WEIGEL

Ron Wright, a Republican congressma­n from Texas who had received cancer treatment for years, died Sunday after being hospitaliz­ed with COVID-19. He was 67.

“His wife Susan was by his side and he is now in the presence of their Lord and Savior,” a statement from his office said. “Over the past few years, Congressma­n Wright had kept a rigorous work schedule on the floor of the U.S. House of Representa­tives and at home in Texas' Congressio­nal District 6 while being treated for cancer. For the previous two weeks, Ron and Susan had been admitted to Baylor Hospital in Dallas after contractin­g COVID-19.”

Wright had announced Jan. 21 that he tested positive for the coronaviru­s “after coming in contact with an individual with the virus last week.” He is the first sitting member of Congress to die after battling the disease.

“As friends, family, and many of his constituen­ts will know, Ron maintained his quick wit and optimism until the very end. Despite years of painful, sometimes debilitati­ng treatment for cancer, Ron never lacked the desire to get up and go to work, to motivate those around him, or to offer fatherly advice,” his office said.

Wright was reelected to a second term in November. His death will create the fifth special House election of the year so far; campaignin­g is already underway in three seats vacated or soon to be vacated by Democrats who are joining the Biden administra­tion, and in the 5th district of Louisiana, where Republican Luke Letlow died before taking office.

Letlow, a 41-year-old congressma­n-elect from Louisiana, died after contractin­g COVID-19 late last year, days before he was scheduled to be sworn in as a member of Congress.

Wright's office said he will be “remembered as a constituti­onal conservati­ve. He was a statesman, not an ideologue.”

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy called him a “fighter who passionate­ly served his constituen­ts.”

“I was honoured to have met Ron before he was a member and saw firsthand how he served his community,” McCarthy said in a statement.

National Republican Congressio­nal Committee Chairman Tom Emmer said in a statement that Wright was a “dedicated public servant who devoted his life to bettering his community.”

OTTAWA • Ontario Premier Doug Ford is easing COVID-19 restrictio­ns, allowing retail stores to reopen and shifting back to a regional pandemic approach as the province seeks to curb new strains of the virus.

A stay at home order will remain in place for at least another week in much of Ontario, and for at least two weeks in the Greater Toronto Area, Ford said. But an emergency order imposed in December will be allowed to expire on Tuesday, as select regions of Ontario revert to a colour-coded pandemic response framework. The new rules will kick in Wednesday.

“The measures are working, staying home is saving lives,” Ford told reporters on Monday, after new case counts have tapered off following severe lockdown measures through all of January.

Under Ontario's new rules, “essential” stores like supermarke­ts and pharmacies would have a 50 per cent capacity limit, while all other stores will be allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity.

Three regions where COVID-19 cases are low will move to the restrictio­ns system beginning Feb. 10, with the rest staggered over the coming weeks.

Ford's easing of restrictio­ns comes as many of Canada's largest provinces pare back travel and other restrictio­ns after cases spiked in November and December. New strains of the coronaviru­s, recently identified in countries including the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, have also complicate­d efforts to contain further spread, prompting calls among some health officials to keep lockdown measures in place.

Ontario health officials reiterated on Monday that restrictio­ns would be reimposed if cases once again spike.

The province had previously used a colour-coded framework that ranked coronaviru­s risks from green (prevention) all the way up to grey (lockdown). The changes on Monday technicall­y keep Ontario in the grey zone, but loosen up some rules around retail and lay the groundwork for a future reopening.

“This is not a back to normal, this is not an opening up,” said David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer. “This is a stepping back into the framework.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney last week announced he would be easing restrictio­ns on gyms and restaurant­s in the province, allowing for in-person dining with no more than six people per table.

Those new rules came into effect on Monday.

Dining in restaurant­s is restricted to a person's household, or two close contacts for people who live alone.

Retail stores in Alberta will be restricted to 15 per cent of capacity, according to updated rules posted on the government's website.

Quebec Premier François Legault has meanwhile been mulling a similar gradual easing of restrictio­ns, as various lockdown measures imposed late last year were scheduled to end on Monday.

Some of the strictest measures in the province, including a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., will remain temporaril­y in place. But rural areas and other regions of the province deemed to be at lower risk began lifting restrictio­ns on gyms, restaurant­s and retail outlets on Monday.

In Ontario, health units in Hastings Prince Edward, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington, and Renfrew County will move into the least-restrictiv­e green category on Wednesday, which means restaurant­s and non-essential businesses can reopen.

The Timiskamin­g Health Unit, which was initially also expected to move to the green category Wednesday, will be held back for a week since a COVID-19 variant was discovered in the region over the weekend, the province said.

On Feb. 15, all remaining regions except three hot spots in the Greater Toronto Area are set to move to the restrictio­ns framework. The category they are placed in will depend on their local case rates.

As of Sunday, Ontario had counted 176 confirmed cases of the variant from the U.K., and one of the variant from South Africa, not including Toronto's new case.

Most of the variant cases are in the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, where an outbreak ripped through a Barrie, Ont., nursing home and killed more than half of the residents and an essential caregiver.

Officials say the presence of these variants make public health measures meant to curb the spread of the virus even more vital.

Even so, schools reopened across much of southern Ontario Monday.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said last week that students in 13 public health units, including Hamilton and Windsor, Ont., will resume in-person learning beginning Feb. 8. Schools in Toronto, Peel and York region will remain closed until Feb. 16, he said.

 ??  ?? Ron Wright
Ron Wright
 ?? FRANK GUNN / THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Ontario Premier Doug Ford puts on his Toronto Maple Leafs mask during his daily briefing in Toronto on Monday, where he announced an easing of COVID restrictio­ns.
FRANK GUNN / THE CANADIAN PRESS Ontario Premier Doug Ford puts on his Toronto Maple Leafs mask during his daily briefing in Toronto on Monday, where he announced an easing of COVID restrictio­ns.

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