Last March, Tim Okamura was weak from COVID-19 and grieving the death of a cousin to the disease when the hospital across the street began bringing in the body trucks.
Only a few weeks earlier, the Canadian contemporary artist from Sherwood Park, Alta., had been dismissive of the masked fellow travellers on a flight from Germany (“I sort of thought people were overreacting”) and by the masked and gloved fellow New Yorkers when he returned to his Brooklyn home.
“I went to the deli, the same deli that all the hospital workers were going to. I might have gone out to play pool one night and was shaking hands with people,” Okamura told CBC News on Friday.
“A little bit in the back of my mind, I was like, ‘Maybe this isn’t the greatest idea,’ but I was proceeding as normal.”
By mid-March, the coronavirus in New York was spreading rapidly and Okamura’s denial gave way to a few precautions — he bought masks, gloves and a wildly expensive jug of hand sanitizer.
But then he got a cough that he couldn’t shake, followed by chills and soon the realization that he had almost assuredly contracted the disease.
Okamura never did get tested — a security guard at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center warned him off with stories about the shortage of tests and chaos inside — but Okamura didn’t really need proof.
He’d had the chills, body aches, headaches, fatigue, brain fog and the bizarre loss of his sense of smell.
“I tried smelling garlic, nothing. I tried smelling cinnamon, nothing. … The only thing I could slightly smell was like were man-made things like disinfectant, hand sanitizer and that type of thing.”
And, if all that wasn’t enough, there were the body trucks.
“That was right outside my window. The first truck got set up and that weekend I saw them wheeling bodies out,” he recalled. “I looked inside the truck and I could see — and this is pretty grim — like, eight bodies, head-to-toe, on either side of the truck. And then they built shelves, makeshift shelves, so it was basically four levels high.”
As a Canadian living in the United States for the last three decades, Okamura doesn’t mince words when describing his dismay at American leadership during the pandemic. But in New York, one of the early hot spots for the virus, residents adopted safe practices that have stuck, he said.
“New York is a good example of how you should handle it and behave,” he said. “And then you see the rest of the country and people that are literally getting into fistfights over wearing a mask.
“Overall, just a chaotic response: a president that downplayed it, lack of preparation, conspiracy versus science.”
The reopening of the city’s businesses allowed him to start safely getting together with people again, but those encounters also brought him face to face with naysayers and conspiracy theorists among his own social circle.
“When you’re confronted with people who think it’s all a conspiracy, it’s a bit frustrating. You have to kind of work through the steps of logically kind of deciphering what they’re saying, being patient with it,” he said.
‘Deeply affected by the pandemic’
“It’s like the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining and then depression and then finally acceptance,” he said. “You can see those stages happening with people, too.”
Okamura is known for his paintings that often depict Black Americans with themes of social justice, representation and racial equality. Time Magazine used his painting of Toni Morrison in March’s 100 Women of the Year project. In Edmonton, he is represented by the Peter Robertson Gallery.
In all, Okamura was laid low by the disease for more than two months. His studio, filled with 30-odd unfinished paintings, speaks to its lingering effects, he said.
But while 2020 has been an unproductive year for him as an artist, it’s also been a time in which he has learned and grown, he said. He has a richer relationship with his parents, a new gratitude for his immune system and a deep appreciation for the opportunity to do some “soul searching and kind of coming to grips with your humanity.”
It has also opened up a new artistic door, with a series of paintings he has planned called Health Care Heroes, which will include portraits of nurses from COVID-19 units in Brooklyn, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta and a portrait of three emergency doctors from the Wyckoff.
He said most of the portraits will be gifted to the nurses, while a few group portraits will be sold with some proceeds going to a organization chosen by the medical professionals.
It’s a fitting tribute from the artist who has journeyed through the five stages, from denial to acceptance, and now wants to go one step further.
“I have been deeply affected by the pandemic on many levels, and wanted to show my appreciation for the heroic work of the doctors and nurses.”
Coronavirus: Canada adds 870 new cases, 6 deaths in last 24 hours – Global News
Canada added 870 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, but the national case count rose by an extra 248 cases that were delayed in reporting, bringing the national total to 140,752.
Six new deaths were also reported nation-wide in the last 24 hours, plus one from earlier in the week in Quebec, to bring the total to 9,200.
Ontario reported 293 new cases on Thursday, a slight decrease from the 315 reported the day before.
Three more deaths in the province have brought its total toll to 2,825, and resolved cases increased by 179 from the day before.
Fifty-three people are currently hospitalized, up from nine on Wednesday, while 21 patients are in intensive care, up from one on Wednesday, with 12 of them on a ventilator.
Quebec raises coronavirus alert level in several regions including Montreal
Quebec reported 251 new cases in the last 24 hours, but added 499 cases Thursday due to a delay in reporting from earlier in the week, bringing its case total to 66,356.
The province now has been reporting an average of 300 new infections per day the last week.
“It’s everywhere that we have to be careful,” Health Minister Christian Dubé said.
Two deaths occurred in the province in the last 24 hours and one other was recorded that occurred earlier in the week.
The number of hospitalizations in the province shot up since Wednesday, going from six to 136, with 29 patients in intensive care, up from three a day earlier.
Over in British Columbia, 165 new cases of coronavirus were reported, setting a new single-day record over 139 recorded last week. Two of those cases are considered epi-linked.
Strengthening public health in British Columbia by reducing the risk of influenza during the pandemic
There are now 1,705 active cases in the province, a record high for them.
One new death was reported to bring the total to 210.
However, hospitalizations did decrease from 60 patients to 57, with 22 of them in intensive care.
In Alberta, 146 new cases were reported, bringing the province’s active cases to 1,403 with 41 in hospital and eight of them in ICU. No new deaths were reported.
Saskatchewan added seven new cases, while one case from Wednesday had been removed after deeming it to be from a non-Saskatchewan resident.
There are currently 109 active cases and five patients in hospital in the province, all in Saskatoon. No new deaths were reported.
Manitoba reported 11 new cases Thursday, and currently has 293 active cases with 10 in hospital and two in intensive care. No new deaths were reported.
Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor raises alarm over ‘stigmatizing behaviour’ in COVID-19 case
New Brunswick reported no new cases Thursday and said there are currently two active cases there.
Nova Scotia has continued its streak of no new cases, up to 10 days now.
No new cases were reported in the territories.
There have been 30,019,763 confirmed cases globally so far, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 943,515 deaths.
— With files from Global News staff
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
What StatCan learned by asking 35000 Canadians about pandemic discrimination – CTV News
New data from Statistics Canada is adding to growing calls for the federal government to address racial inequities experienced by various population groups in Canada during the course of the pandemic in its economic recovery plan.
The survey results released Thursday found that 28 per cent of Canadians surveyed reported they had experienced some form of discrimination since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statistics Canada surveyed 35,000 Canadians between Aug. 4 to 24 to better understand which groups have been negatively impacted as a result of systemic failures amid the health crisis.
The agency notes that the survey data is not based on random selection and that the findings should not be interpreted to represent the overall Canadian population.
Young participants aged 15 to 24 were twice as likely as seniors aged 65 and older to report that they had experienced discrimination over the course of the pandemic. Among youth, Statistics Canada found women were 45 per cent more likely than their male counterparts to reporting having experienced prejudice.
Both Indigenous men and women were more likely than their non-Indigenous participants to report experiences of discrimination, but the difference was again particularly large among women.
DISCRIMINATION IN POPULATION GROUPS
According to the report, the experiences of discrimination also varied “across ethnocultural characteristics.”
Statistics Canada found that Chinese, Korean, Southeast Asian and Black participants were more than twice as likely as white participants to report that they had experienced discrimination.
The agency said the results are consistent with the data from a previous crowdsourcing initiative, which found that Chinese, Korean and Southeast Asian participants perceived an increase in the frequency of race-based harassment or attacks since the beginning of the pandemic.
The new report also found that immigrants who arrived in Canada within the last 10 years were more likely than established immigrants and Canadian-born participants to report that they had experienced discrimination.
Gender-diverse participants who did not report their gender as exclusively female or male were almost three times more likely than males to report that they had experienced discrimination during the pandemic. LGBTQ and other sexual minority participants were also more likely to report experiencing discrimination.
Additionally, participants who identified themselves as having a disability were twice as likely as participants without a disability to report being discriminated against.
FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION
Among those who said that they experienced discrimination, the most commonly reported form was based on race or skin colour (34 per cent), followed by age (30 per cent), physical appearance (26 per cent) ethnicity and culture (25 per cent) and sex (22 per cent).
Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, says the new data amplifies equity concerns those who have experienced racism have had for years.
Go told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed racial inequities in multiple sectors across Canada including employment, health care, housing and education.
“Even before the pandemic, People of Colour, Indigenous people were earning less income, they were more likely to be employed in low wage jobs, and they have higher unemployment rates… There has also been significant increases for unemployment rate among Chinese and South Asian, more so than any other group,” Go said.
“We know that this is a result of systemic racism and structural racism within the labour market.”
Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change (COP-COC) is a campaign that is currently pushing for political parties to acknowledge racial inequalities amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada’s economic restart plan.
The campaign is calling for the federal government to address discrimination within its borders so the health crisis does not continue to impact racialized groups more so than other populations.
“By doing so, we will increase the opportunities for employment for the underrepresented groups, and that includes not just people of colour, but also women and people with disability as well,” Go said.
WHERE AND HOW DISCRIMINATION OCCURS
As each group faces its own set of unique challenges and circumstances, Statistics Canada found that the most common forms of discrimination differed between groups.
Among Indigenous participants who faced bias over the course of the pandemic, the most common form was discrimination based on Indigenous identity while those belonging to a visible minority group reported forms related to race and ethnicity. Among Black participants 84 per cent reported that they had experienced discrimination related to race or skin colour.
Similar to how the forms of discrimination were mixed, where participants experienced prejudice also varied.
Statistics Canada reported that about 4 in 10 participants (36 per cent) said that they had experienced discrimination in a store, bank or restaurant. One-third experienced it while using public areas such as parks and sidewalks, almost one-third experienced it online, and approximately 3 in 10 experienced it in the workplace or when applying for a job.
However, not all groups experienced the same types of discrimination situations.
According to the data, Black and South Asian participants reported more often incidents of discrimination that occurred in a store, bank or restaurant.
Chinese and Filipino participants were more likely to report experiencing discrimination while using public areas, and Arab respondents were more likely to report bias in the workplace.
Gender-diverse and sexual minority participants said they mostly faced discrimination online.
In all population groups, participants who reported experiencing discrimination also had lower levels of trust in institutions, including the police and the court system.
Statistics Canada acknowledged that each population group faces its own unique set of challenges and additional analyses will be required to get a deeper understanding of issues faced by all groups of people that live in Canada.
Visualizations by CTVNews.ca’s Mahima Singh
U.S. supply firm executives 'should not have been permitted' to enter Canada: Blair – CTV News
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says executives of an American supply company did not receive quarantine exemptions from the Canadian government and “should not have been permitted” to enter the country.
According to a CBC News investigation, three executives from shipping and business supply firm Uline Inc. flew to Toronto on a private jet and visited the company’s facility in Milton, Ont. without quarantining. A spokesperson for the company told CBC News that the three employees were issued formal exemptions from the mandatory two-week self-isolation period for their two day-trip.
A federal order-in-council dictates that there are only five individuals who can issue such an exemption: Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
Blair took to Twitter on Thursday to say that the government had not issued any exemptions in this case.
“To clarify: No special entry exemptions were provided to Uline executives, nor were any National Interest Exemptions. This was not a political decision,” Blair said.
“A decision was made by officers based on the information provided. Entry should not have been permitted.”
Blair said the government is working to prevent such a repeat of the incident.
“It is important that Canadians continue to have confidence in the integrity of our border. We are working with the CBSA to ensure that similar cases do not occur again,” he said in a tweet.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also weighed in on the story during a Thursday press conference.
“There should be one rule for all the people, it doesn’t matter who you are, I don’t care if you have 50 cents or you have $10 billion. It doesn’t make a difference,” Ford said.
He applauded the border service agents, saying that “if someone slipped up” or “made a little mistake” he’s “sure it’s not going to happen again.”
“Just treat our rules with respect, and everyone’s going to have a good time after the quarantine and after we open up the borders, but not until then. Just stay at home, wherever you’re coming from, and we’ll open our arms up after we get through this,” Ford added.
CTV News has reached out to Uline Inc. for comment.
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