Cool change moves in after Sydney and northern NSW endure record-smashing heatwave


A cool change has begun moving across NSW after Sydney and regions of northern NSW sweltered through the hottest November night on record and firefighters battled dozens of blazes across the state.

Parts of Sydney – including the city – broke the 40C barrier for a second consecutive day on Sunday after swathes of western NSW, South Australia and northern Victoria baked through even higher temperatures approaching 45C.

While temperatures have cooled in South Australia and Victoria on Sunday, NSW’s eastern and northeastern regions sweated through another hot day.

Maximums in many central Sydney suburbs pushed over 40C again, including Penrith in the city’s west.

Temperatures across the Hunter were also well in excess of 40C, with the mercury hitting 41.9C at Cessnock Airport.

A gusty southerly arrived late on Sunday afternoon and is expected to bring cooler temperatures for Monday before the heat returns to NSW from Tuesday.

“That sweet cool relief is finally making its way through Sydney,” the bureau tweeted.

“Airport just dropped from 35 degrees to 26 in 20 mins while Bellambi saw a 10 degree fall in 1 hour. Southerly now heading into western Syd and will push into Hunter in coming hours.”

Southeast and southern Queensland are also likely to experience elevated temperatures from Monday, with no respite until at least Thursday.

It follows Observatory Hill in central Sydney recording an overnight minimum of 25.3C, breaking the November record of 24.8C set in 1967.

Overnight November minimum records also fell in Camden, Newcastle, western NSW’s Bourke and Cobar and Ulladulla on the state’s south coast.

Saturday’s overnight minimum at Nobbys Head in Newcastle was 24.1C, breaking a 64-year November record of 23.1C.

“The (places) that have the longer records, some of them have been broken, which is reflective of the fact the weather has been rather insanely hot overnight,” Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Helen Kirkup told AAP.

NSW has sweltered through the night amid the state’s first heatwave of the season, with no respite to arrive until Sunday evening.

AAP

NSW Ambulance’s Dominic Morgan said the agency was called out to 3356 emergency incidents on Saturday, its third-busiest day on record.

Total fire bans will remain in place on Monday in NSW’s Northern Slopes and North Western districts.

RFS crews battled more than 60 bush and grass fires across the state on Sunday including a blaze in the western Sydney suburb of Northmead which damaged a home.

It was declared under control about 3pm, while another further west in the Blue Mountains jumped to a “watch and act” alert before being downgraded just before 6pm.

RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said on Sunday the service was deploying “overwhelming force” to attack every major blaze and encouraged NSW residents to have their fire plans ready.

“As soon as we get a fire call, we’re sending everything we can to it to limit the spread of these fires,” Mr Rogers told reporters.

“Just because we’ve had some rain in the past few months doesn’t mean the risk is eliminated, because it isn’t – it’s a different risk this year.

“I’d rather not be on the back of a four-year drought, which is what we were in last year … (we’re) definitely better positioned but nonetheless it’s a risk.”

Last summer’s bushfires destroyed 2476 homes and claimed 26 lives.





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Sydney and northern NSW endure a second day of record-smashing heatwave


Sydney and chunks of regional NSW have sweltered through the hottest November night on record, with no respite likely until late afternoon.

Parts of Sydney – including the CBD – broke the 40-degree barrier on Saturday while swathes of western NSW, South Australia and northern Victoria baked through even higher temperatures approaching 45C.

Overnight, Observatory Hill in central Sydney recorded a minimum 25.3C, shattering 1967’s November record of 24.8C.

Overnight November minimum records also fell in Camden, Newcastle, western NSW’s Bourke and Cobar and Ulladulla on the state’s south coast.

Saturday’s overnight minimum at Nobbys Head in Newcastle was 24.1C, breaking a 64-year record of 23.1C.

“The (places) that have the longer records, some of them have been broken, which is reflective of the fact the weather has been rather insanely hot overnight,” Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Helen Kirkup told AAP.

While temperatures are set to cool in South Australia and Victoria on Sunday, NSW’s eastern and northeastern regions will sweat through another day.

Central Sydney is likely to again hit 40C as northwesterly winds hold back the sea breeze, while Penrith in the city’s west will reach 42C.

Temperatures across the Hunter are forecast to hit 43C, while much of northeastern NSW will break the 40-degree barrier.

A gusty southerly will not arrive until later on Sunday afternoon, bringing cooler temperatures for Monday before the heat returns to NSW from Tuesday.

“In terms of the change coming through this afternoon, we’ll probably see it between 3pm and 5pm through the Sydney basin, and with that we’ll see temperatures drop fairly significantly,” Ms Kirkup said.

NSW has sweltered through the night amid the state’s first heatwave of the season, with no respite to arrive until Sunday evening.

AAP

Southeast and southern Queensland are also likely to experience elevated temperatures from Monday, with no respite until at least Thursday.

The RFS has issued a total fire ban for most of eastern and northeastern NSW for Sunday, including Greater Sydney, the Illawarra, Hunter and north coast.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Peter McKechnie on Friday urged NSW residents to have fire plans ready and prepare their properties.

“This is the first time since the devastating season last year we’ve seen widespread elevated fire danger,” he said.

Last summer’s bushfires destroyed 2,476 homes and claimed 26 lives.





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Estia state’s worst for COVID aged care cases, as families endure Keilor second wave


Across Estia’s Melbourne homes, 35 residents have died with coronavirus. By comparison, not-for-profit St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner had 45 deaths. Two other commercial chains, Bluecross and Japara, have recorded more deaths than Estia (Bluecross has had 45, and Japara 41).

In August, Estia staved off the first outbreak at the Keilor Downs centre, keeping infections to just nine people. The second wave that started at the home in September has now been the cause of five deaths from 51 cases – 23 of these cases were still active as of Thursday.

That second outbreak started when a resident returned to his shared room at Keilor following a stay at Footscray Hospital, where he acquired COVID-19.

Five families of residents at the Keilor home have told The Age they were disappointed the operators had failed to stop a second outbreak.

Joe Desira’s mother, Rita, has lived in Estia’s Keilor Downs home for three years and survived the first outbreak unscathed.

Rita Desira, 94, is now in hospital with coronavirus. She is asymptomatic.

But for the past two weeks, the 94-year-old has been in Epping Private Hospital, having tested positive to coronavirus. She is asymptomatic, but son Joe is incredulous the outbreak was allowed to spread after the first cases in August.

“It’s a lack of due care,” said Mr Desira. “From what I can gather, after the first outbreak, once they got clearance from the Department of Health and Human Services, they went back to not wearing any personal protective equipment because they had nothing to worry about any more.”

A spokeswoman for Estia said that while from time to time within the centre some staff were not in full PPE constantly, all were directed to wear gowns and gloves, as well as masks and face shields, when in close contact with residents.

Mr Desira pointed to two of Estia’s other homes as evidence it had handled the pandemic poorly. “What lessons did they learn from Ardeer and Heidelberg?” he said.

Those two Estia aged care homes were two of Melbourne’s hardest hit, with Ardeer recording 165 cases and 17 deaths, and Heidelberg 122 cases and 10 deaths.

Since the first death occurred in Victorian aged care in July, 646 residents have died with coronavirus. Active aged care cases have now plummeted, from a high of 2077 in mid-August to just 50 on Wednesday. Estia, with 392, has had the most cases in Melbourne. Another for-profit operator, Bluecross, has had 301 coronavirus positives and not-for-profit BaptCare 281.

Estia is a listed company founded by Peter Arvanitis, a co-owner of Heritage Care – which operates Epping Gardens where 38 residents have died with coronavirus, and which is now being sued by families and staff for neglect and failing its duty of care. Mr Arvanitis sold his shares in Estia in 2016 for $55 million and he is not involved in the day-to-day management of the homes.

Estia is now run by a board that has tried to reinvent the company. The company posted a half-year after-tax profit of $14 million in February before the pandemic hit Australia.

Its fortunes have since crashed, with its share price tumbling from almost $3 in November to $1.43 on Wednesday.

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Mr Desira said he was speaking publicly about his disappointment with the company because it was not only residents like his mother affected, but all of the staff members – 22 of whom have acquired coronavirus at the Keilor centre. “They’ve got families to go home to, too.”

A spokesman for Estia’s management said the impact of the coronavirus outbreaks in his company’s homes had been significant for both residents and their families. “We feel for each and everyone who has either suffered loss or been unable to visit their loved ones on a regular basis,” he said.

Estia’s spokeswoman said that, in addition to regular virtual meetings with families held by Mr Thorley, “we have added extra resources and support so that families are individually updated about their loved ones, including the families of those residents transferred to hospital. Families can also access a dedicated support phone line for the home”.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the federal government, which has responsibility for homes, “continues to closely monitor aged care providers, including Estia Keilor, as we combat the impact of COVID-19”.

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He said the group set up by the state and federal governments, the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, was working with local health authorities and the facility to minimise further spread of the virus, including transferring negative residents to hospitals. “I understand DHHS is currently undertaking a review of this case,” Mr Colbeck said.

Two of Estia’s Melbourne homes – Ardeer and Heidelberg – have sanctions against them from the federal government, and in all seven of its homes have had similar warnings over the past two years.

Estia’s Ardeer, Heidelberg and Keilor Downs homes all scored perfect marks when assessed by the Aged Care and Quality Safety Commissioner (or predecessor agencies) in the past two years.

Mr Desira said he was furious at the seeming lack of communication between the federal and state governments, and with the federal regulator.

“The home can do whatever they want because the state doesn’t have any authority once the outbreak is resolved. But then you don’t know if the federal regulator is paying attention to the problems that caused the outbreak in the first place,” he said.

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‘I’m torn’: WI voters waffle on Trump, Biden, as protests endure



De Pere, Wis.

Alexis Arnold says she’s sympathetic toward protesters who have peacefully fought racial injustice this summer. But as some demonstrations spiral into violence, her anxiety is building.

“Why are we so broken right now?” the art gallery owner wondered.

The uncertainty is drawing her to whatever stability President Donald Trump can offer. He has spent weeks pushing questions of safety and security to the forefront of the presidential campaign. And there are signs some Wisconsin voters are listening, after protests have sometimes become violent in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a white police officer shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times, paralyzing him.

“The public just needs something to make them feel comfortable and safe again,” said Ms. Arnold, who is white, and has voted for Democrats in the past and is raising a biracial daughter. “I almost [would] rather see Trump stay and try to resolve it rather than bring somebody in new.”

That sentiment could prove decisive in Wisconsin, a state that put Mr. Trump in the White House in 2016 after he carried it by less than 1 percentage point. The president has already used dark and misleading warnings of destruction in American streets following violence in Portland, Oregon, and is now seizing on unrest in Kenosha, where he’ll travel on Tuesday.

His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has condemned violence and focused more on the victims of police brutality.

But the images of unrest in Kenosha – of protesters clashing with police, shattered windows, and a teenager carrying an AR-15 style gun in the streets – are intensifying the partisan divide in Wisconsin. In interviews with dozens of voters in Green Bay and its suburbs, Democrats saw racism and fear-mongering in Mr. Trump’s messages, part of a ploy to change the subject from the pandemic.

Republicans, even those who admittedly cringed at Mr. Trump’s style on other issues, were unwaveringly supportive.

And some of the rare voters unsure of their choice said they felt drawn to Mr. Trump in this moment, a warning sign for Mr. Biden, who has tried to make the election a clear referendum on Mr. Trump, his leadership, and his handling of the coronavirus.

As part of that strategy, Mr. Biden has all but shunned in-person campaigning and generally kept a lower profile. That approach has left some voters who haven’t ruled out Mr. Trump hazy on where Mr. Biden stands on race and criminal justice, a vacuum quickly filled with misinformation.

“It was out there that he would get rid of the police,” said Mike Guerts, referring to an often repeated falsehood about Mr. Biden’s position.

Mr. Guerts, a wavering Trump voter, says a friend has inundated his phone with pro-Trump posts. The mail worker from Madison, who was in town visiting his father, said he knows not everything his friend sends is true but he doesn’t yet know enough to feel comfortable with Mr. Biden.

“I’ve been a lifelong Republican. I’m torn,” he said, noting police brutality is a pressing problem. “But that does not excuse the lawlessness.”

There is far less ambiguity among Trump stalwarts. Many were quick to identify all protesters and Democrats as “socialists.”

Some don’t agree there is systemic racism in the United States and argued that Black Americans often provoke police into using force. Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenager who is charged with shooting three people, killing two, in Kenosha, was rarely mentioned.

Instead, they saw Democrats and their celebrity allies as stoking the unrest.

“They haven’t done anything to stop it,” said Rick Demro, a retired commander with Green Bay police department. “You don’t see them back up law enforcement. They’re quick to cast judgment before they facts come out. I think all that does is promote the rioting instead of trying to quell it. Part of me says, it’s to help them for the campaign purposes.”

Mr. Demro said he’s particularly angered by professional athletes and organizations speaking out against police brutality – including his beloved Green Bay Packers. He hasn’t missed a home game since the early 1980s, and he waited for 30 years to get his season tickets. But this week, he talked to his wife about giving them up in protest. She refused, he said, because she wants to pass them down to their children.

Mr. Demro was among the Trump supporters who said they did see problem in policing. When he watched the video of a Minneapolis police officer pinning George Floyd to the ground until he stopped moving, the May incident that triggered a new, broadly supported movement for racial justice, he said he knew it was “wrong.”

But there’s evidence to suggest that events in the months since have taken a toll on public support for protesters in the state.

A Marquette University Law School survey found support for the protests had fallen 13 percentage points from June to August and is now even with disapproval. The survey of Wisconsin residents conducted before the shootings in Kenosha found that support fell everywhere except the city of Milwaukee, including the suburbs, exurbs, and large towns, where Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are vying for supporters.

To win Wisconsin, Mr. Trump must run up the score in the conservative-leaning suburbs and exurbs across the state, working-class areas where trade union’s allegiance to Democrats has faded and the pull of cultural issues has grown. While he dominated in Green Bay’s Brown County in 2016 – winning by 11 percentage points – the area supported a Democrat-backed Supreme Court justice this spring, in a surprising surge of Democratic turnout.

They were Democrats like Michelle Yurek, a fourth-grade teacher who was preparing to go back to teach in a classroom last week, as Mr. Trump told the Republican National Convention that “no one will be safe in Biden’s America.”

“I don’t think we’re safe in Trump’s America,” Ms. Yurek said, from her home in a neat subdivision on the edge of Green Bay where she lives with her husband and three children. “I think he’s caused a lot of the division.”

Driving his supporters to the polls, while overcoming barriers to voting in the pandemic, is critical for Mr. Biden. That means winning over voters like Brittaney Leake, a support staff worker at a group home and a mom of three, with another on the way.

Ms. Leake says she didn’t vote in 2016 because she’s disillusioned with what she see as politicians’ unfulfilled promises. Mr. Biden hasn’t given her a reason to change course, she said.

“Just because he’s a Democrat doesn’t mean he has my vote,” Ms. Leake said. “If I can’t specifically see what he’s going to do for a change, I’m not going to vote for him. … There has to be action.”

Ms. Arnold, the gallery owner, voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton four years ago. But she hasn’t been unhappy with Mr. Trump’s record. She thinks he’s trying to look out for businesses like hers and she’s heard positive things about his criminal justice reform bill.

It seems daunting now to switch leaders at a time when she’s everyone is “stretched so thin.” She’s still mulling over her choice, wishing she could hear more from both candidates for a plan for a reset. “I think we’re all just kind of worn out. And we just want to get back to somewhat of a normal life.”

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

Editor’s note: As a public service, the Monitor has removed the paywall for all our coronavirus coverage. It’s free.



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Kevin Sheedy advises the Adelaide Crows to ‘stay cool in the heat’ as they endure the psychological impact of losing


Imagine the psychological impact of enduring the 14 consecutive losing post-game atmospheres Adelaide has since round 21 last year, 11 of them coming in 2020.

It’s got to take a toll, right? That toll isn’t just a bit of regular sadness or disappointment; research shows the emotion felt after a loss seems psychologically traumatic.

A 1999 study in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences on top-level rugby players after games spells this out.

“Humiliation, shame and resentment were all found to be significantly higher after losing,” the study read, as was a “reduction in arousal [also described as ‘sullenness’] but no reduction in stress [as compared to pre-game levels].”

Two weeks ago Crows coach Matthew Nicks used the word “pressure” to describe what was bludgeoning his side further from winning and closer to an entire season of failure.

Kevin Sheedy and his GWS side walk off the ground after a loss to Carlton in 2013.

Kevin Sheedy and his GWS side walk off the ground after a loss to Carlton in 2013. Credit:Getty Images

“I think it [the reason for not performing] is pressure. When you get under pressure … it does build when you’re not getting the results you’re after, what you can find is players try harder but in the wrong areas,” Nicks said.

GWS coach for 2012 and 2013 (their first two seasons in the AFL) Kevin Sheedy said he made his players focus on winning quarters, not games, during their barren run.

“It was a better way of looking at it,” Sheedy said.

Leigh Brown said keeping it simple was key for Fremantle in 2001.

Leigh Brown said keeping it simple was key for Fremantle in 2001. Credit:Getty Images

“We won quarters and I’d give a premiership point a quarter. We might not win the game and we played three great quarters, and on my ladder you get three points.

“Internal measurement is important for coaches.”

By that measure the Crows are still ranked last, winning 13 quarters for 2020. Gold Coast in 2018 were similarly bad, winning 11 quarters over the first 12 rounds.

Sheedy said Nicks needs patience, something he reckons he had a lot of.

“I don’t know Matthew, but make sure you stay cool in the heat,” Sheedy said. “While it does get to a situation where it might seem everything you try is not working, it will turn around quickly.

“When players’ confidence is being shattered you’ve got to be the most positive person, to give them an absolute plan and landscape on the way to the next win.

“That’s why you’re there. At no time should you be negative. No negativity in my coaching most of the time.”

Leigh Brown, who was part of Fremantle’s side in 2001, said the losses never got into the Dockers’ heads before their drought-breaking win against Hawthorn.

“We were all putting in a lot of hard work and everyone wanted to do the right thing and we were trying to find different ways to be positive and tick off our own little wins along the way,” Brown said.

“It wasn’t complicated. It was about getting back to basics and working on those fundamentals and having some fun along the way.

“We knew we had to head down bum up too because we were a long way off the pace.”

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