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Advocate says second COVID-19 wave has inmates locked down in 'atrocious' conditions – Preeceville Progress

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OTTAWA — Rising COVID-19 case count bodes ill for prison inmates, many of whom remain under partial lockdown without adequate health care, says the head of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

Three federal prisons have reported five cases of COVID-19 between them in the last few days as the pandemic worsens on the outside.

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“They’ve compensated for the lack of ability to socially distance by locking people down in really restrictive ways, which has tremendously affected the mental health of prisoners,” said Emilie Coyle.

She called the conditions in some institutions “atrocious,” and said a toxic relationship between correctional officers and inmates conflicts with guards’ de facto role as caregivers during the pandemic.

Guidance from public health officials who are not familiar with prisons aggravates a deficient health-care system and translates into restrictions that “don’t equate to care,” Coyle said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Her advocacy group, which works with female inmates, is calling on the federal government to release some offenders so as to allow easier physical distancing behind bars, a step she says provinces have taken more readily than Ottawa.

She is also asking for more investment in rehabilitation programs to encourage community reintegration and prevent recidivism, paving the way for earlier releases.

The federal prison population fell by only two per cent to about 13,700 between March and April, while the number of Canadians incarcerated at provincial and territorial institutions dropped by 25 per cent to roughly 18,200 between February and April, according to Statistics Canada.

The changes came after Public Safety Minister Bill Blair asked the federal prison service and the parole board in March to consider releasing some inmates early to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Nearly one-quarter of inmates in federal custody are serving life sentences and ineligible for parole, he said in the spring.

But many federal prisoners have been ensnared in a catch-22 that has hindered their release, Coyle said.

“What ended up happening was they shut everything down and nobody had access to programs, and the conditions of parole or release are usually that they’ve completed their programs within the institution,” she said.

The odds of prison depopulation seem even longer as case counts spike across the country, which raises the risk of transmission via inmate transfers and correctional officers.

The five inmates who have been detected with COVID-19 this week — two in Drummondville, Que., one in Stony Mountain, Man., and two at the Edmonton Institution for Women — are medically isolated and being monitored, the Correctional Service of Canada said.

Contact tracing is underway and testing is being offered at the three federal institutions affected, the agency said.

None of the three facilities is currently allowing visitors, a restriction that has been in place at all federal prisons in Quebec since late September due to the coronavirus spike.

“The little social activity they had with family, loved ones, spouses, children — all links with the outside world were suspended,” said Samira Figuigui, director general of the John Howard Society of Quebec.

“They find themselves really locked in their cells, sometimes 23 hours out of 24,” she said in French, calling the treatment inhumane.

As the second wave washes across Canada, the correctional service said it continues to screen employees and equip correctional officers and inmates with medical masks, on top of heightened cleaning measures and social restrictions.

“For example, in past months, we suspended visits and some activities in certain areas to limit comings and goings within our institutions,” spokeswoman Véronique Rioux said in an email.

“In addition, modified routines are in place, which means that movements are carefully considered within the institutions, including between ranges (common areas), to ensuring physical distancing is maintained.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2020.

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19 positive COVID-19 cases at East York elementary school | Watch News Videos Online – Globalnews.ca

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The Toronto District School Board has confirmed that there are 19 positive cases of COV19-19 linked to Thorncliffe Park Public School. The cases were detected days after the Ontario government launched a pilot project for voluntary COVID-19 testing of students and staff without symptoms in schools. Marianne Dimain reports.

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Ontario records 1746 new COVID-19 cases today amid drop in testing – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The number of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario surpassed 1,700 once again today amid a significant drop in testing over the past 24 hours.

Ontario health officials reported 1,746 new infections today, up slightly from the 1,708 confirmed one day prior but down from the record 1,855 recorded on Friday.

The new cases come as the province reports a notable drop in testing today.

After surpassing 50,000 tests per day for three consecutive days, only 39,406 tests were completed yesterday.

According to provincial health officials, the test positivity rate provincewide is now 4.6 per cent, up substantially from 3.7 per cent on Sunday but on par with the positivity rate at this point last week.

The rolling seven-day average of new cases is now 1,570, up from 1,429 one week ago.

“These trends of course remain concerning. The fact that we have had record high numbers on Friday and continued high numbers over the weekend and today is troubling,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Monday afternoon. 

“The question is will we be able to keep it there and come down or will we plateau and start going up again?”

COVID-related hospitalizations also climbed to 618 today, up from 601 on Sunday, with 168 of those patients now in intensive care.

A count of local public health units and individual hospitals puts the number of hospitalizations at 631.

Eight more virus-related deaths were recorded today, down from 24 on Sunday and the lowest single-day death toll since Nov. 20.

Two of the fatalities confirmed over the past 24 hours involve residents of long-term care facilities, the latest data from the province reveals.

Of the new infections today, 622 are in Toronto, 390 are in Peel, and 217 are in York Region.

Toronto’s total today is the highest single-day tally recorded in the city since the start of the pandemic.

Another 108 new cases were reported in Durham Region today, up from 73 one day prior.

GTA public health units account for nearly 80 per cent of all new COVID-19 cases in the province and today marks one week since Toronto and Peel Region entered a 28-day lockdown.

During the lockdown, restaurants can only remain open for takeout and delivery and non-essential retailers are only permitted to offer curbside pickup and delivery.

Gyms, casinos, and movie theatres have also been closed.

Residents are being advised to only gather with members of their household and only go out for essential purposes.

Tougher public health measures were introduced in five more Ontario regions today, including Windsor-Essex, which was placed in the province’s “red” zone.

Task force working on plan for vaccine rollout

Last week, the province released details of its COVID-19 vaccine task force, which will be responsible for the distribution of vaccines when they are approved and arrive in Canada.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott previously said she expects Ontario to receive a total of 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the first three months of 2021.

Recipients of the vaccine will require two doses 28 days apart, which means the first shipment Ontario receives will likely only be enough to inoculate 1.2 million residents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that he expects most Canadians who want to be vaccinated will be able to do so by September 2021.

“I really think that if we have these vaccines landing on Canadian soil some time in very early 2021, like if it is the month of January, even in early February, I think this would be considered a huge success,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist, told CP24 on Monday morning.

“We are not making these vaccines here. We are really relying on companies in other countries to produce this and send it to us.”

He said early rollout of the vaccine in Canada will go a long way to protecting the most vulnerable.

“Even with that very first early batch of vaccines that are coming… you can do so much good with that. If we just vaccinate target populations, like people in long-term care facilities… right off the bat, you are going to just decrease the probability of so many people getting very, very sick, coming to hospital, and sadly dying,” he said.

“We can alleviate that, we can alleviate tremendous suffering at an individual level but we can also take off tremendous pressure from our health-care system… Even well before September we can do some tremendous good.”

New cases in the GTHA today:

Toronto: 622

Peel Region: 390

York Region: 217

Durham Region: 108

Halton Region: 35

Hamilton: 54

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Ontario parents can now apply for second COVID-19 payout. Here's how – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Just in time for the holidays, Ontario parents can now apply for their second COVID-19 payment from the provincial government.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement during a news conference on Monday, saying the funds aim to help parents struggling due to additional learning and child-care costs amid the pandemic.

“There are thousands of families out there who have made sacrifices, who’ve taken seriously the public health advice, and who have gone that extra mile to make sure their child can learn safely,” Ford told reporters.

“We will always be there to support each and every single person in this province. That’s why I’m proud to announce that starting today the portal is open for applications for the ‘Support for Learners’ program.”

Parents of children aged 12 or younger will be able to receive a one-time payment of $200 per child, and $250 for children 21 years of age or younger with special education needs.

The portal is open to all eligible parents in Ontario, whether their children attend school in-person, online, or both.

“This financial support will help families cover the unexpected costs of school supplies, and other learning resources, especially for our youngest learners,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce told reporters.

“The money will be deposited directly into your accounts within roughly two weeks following your verification.”

The province said the application for the “direct one-time payments” can be submitted online and parents have until Jan. 15 of next year to apply.

This is the second payout from the province to Ontario families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first payout came in the spring. The government said it will spend $380 million on the second payout to parents, on top of the $378 million from the first round. 

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