For any Canadians who spent the summer ignoring news about the novel coronavirus, now might be a good time to pay attention.
In the past two weeks, British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba have all set or come close to new daily records for the highest number of new COVID-19 cases reported in each province. On Saturday, both Ontario and Quebec recorded their largest daily figures in a month or more.
In other words, all of Canada’s five most populous provinces are being reminded that COVID-19 is still a threat – even though this is the time of year when viral diseases are least likely to be active.
“Respiratory viruses should not be circulating at all in July and August. We, with doing nothing at all, should be seeing no COVID – but we’re doing a lot, and we’re still seeing COVID,” Dr. Colin Furness, a infection control epidemiologist, said Sunday on CTV News Channel.
“That gives you a sense that the virulence of this virus is there, and it’s going to come back hard.”
But while the records and big increases may seem concerning on their own, experts warn that it’s best not to read too much into the “ongoing blips” of any day’s individual total.
“It’s important for us not to be too concerned about short-term trends, but to look at the bigger picture,” Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
MORE THAN 5,000 ACTIVE CASES
One way to get a sense of that bigger picture is to look at trends around the number of active COVID-19 cases. Because patients are often considered active for a week or more, these numbers are less prone to the wild swings of one-day totals.
With 367 new cases of COVID-19 reported across Canada on Saturday and only 145 new recoveries logged, Canada’s total number of active cases moved past the 5,000 mark for the first time in nearly three weeks, according to CTV News records.
However, saying the number of active cases is at its highest level in a few weeks may be misleading. Quebec has occasionally made major adjustments to its recovery figures with little explanation, including by announcing more than 23,000 new recoveries on July 16.
If those 23,000 cases were to be removed from the historical data on active cases, then Canada would not have had more than 5,000 active cases since June – until Saturday.
Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist based in Mississauga, Ont., told CTV News Channel on Saturday that he does not see the overall state of COVID-19 activity in Canada as a significant concern, particularly because hospitalization levels have remained steady.
“It is concerning what we’re seeing out there, but in the grand scheme of things it is still overall low community transmission,” he said.
Breaking the numbers down by province and territory, though, it’s clear that the situation is not at all the same in different parts of the country.
A SECOND WAVE IN THE WEST?
Measured by active cases, B.C.’s first wave of COVID-19 peaked on April 28, when authorities knew of 717 patients in the province.
By June, that number was below 200. It stayed there until early July. The number of active cases started to slowly rise at that point, however – and in the past three weeks, the increase has been anything but slow.
On Aug. 10, B.C. passed 400 active cases. Two days later, it passed 500. Two days after that, it passed 600.
By Aug. 21, there were 824 active cases of COVID-19 in the province – more than there ever had been before. And still the number kept rising, hitting 1,014 on Aug 23. As of Friday, the last day the province publicized data, there were 982 active cases.
B.C. is one of two provinces where there are currently more active cases of COVID-19 than there were at any point during the first wave of the pandemic.
The other is Manitoba, which originally topped out just under 200 in early April. Two months after that, its active case count was down to the single digits.
But there have been big increases more recently, starting in July and continuing through August. Manitoba has not reported a decrease in the number of active cases since Aug. 19. As of Sunday, the number sat at 462 – more than double the spring peak.
Saskatchewan was on similar ground last month. The province has twice reported more than 300 active cases of COVID-19 – on back-to-back days in late July. Since then, though, the caseload has shrunk, with fewer than 100 active cases reported every day for the past week.
Although Alberta reported some of its highest single-day new case counts since April, the number of active cases there has remained well below the province’s spring peak.
For the past four weeks, Alberta has hovered between 1,000 and 1,200 active cases. That’s a lot more than the 328 active cases the province bottomed out at on June 5, but it’s far fewer than the more than 3,000 it was tracking in late April and early May.
STABILIZATION IN THE EAST AND NORTH
Whatever is happening in the West does not seem to be affecting the coronavirus situation in Central Canada, Atlantic Canada and the territories.
While Western provinces were setting new records and seeing escalating case counts, Ontario was hitting some of its lowest patient numbers since the earliest days of the pandemic. On Aug. 9, that province reported fewer than 1,000 active cases for the first time since March; the number then stayed below 1,000 for 12 days.
There has been some escalation over the past two weeks, however. There were 904 active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario on Aug. 16, 1,010 on Aug. 23, and 1,181 on Sunday.
Quebec’s numbers are a little harder to judge, because of the two major adjustments to the province’s number of recoveries, but the active case load there appears to have stopped falling and stabilized between 1,200 and 1,300 over the past week and a half.
The numbers are far smaller in Atlantic Canada, where earlier in the summer all four provinces went through periods without a single active case, only for the virus to pop back up.
As of Sunday, there were five active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, four in New Brunswick, three in Prince Edward Island and one in Newfoundland and Labrador.
There are no active cases in any of the territories; the last of the 20 known total cases was reported in Yukon on Aug. 7.
Coronavirus activity is expected to ramp up in Canada as summer gives way to fall and the weather cools, driving Canadians indoors where it is easier for the virus to spread.
There are fears that this could be exacerbated by the return of children to classrooms, which is already underway in some parts of the country and will have taken place at most schools within two weeks.
Already in Quebec, approximately 20 teachers have been ordered to isolate after two educators at one high school tested positive for COVID-19. The tests occurred on a preparation day before students were allowed in.
Oughton said that although most French-language high schools in Quebec have resumed classroom instruction, it is too soon for the extent of COVID-19 spread in schools to show up in the province’s numbers.
Another concern is what will happen when COVID-19 overlaps with the traditional winter influenza season. Because the diseases caused by the two viruses present similarly, it is possible that flu symptoms could be enough for quarantines to be ordered or schools to be shut down for fear of an outbreak.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of false alarms,” Oughton said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s recent report of an “exceptionally low” amount of flu activity this summer provides some hope here, though. So does data from countries in the Southern Hemisphere, where flu season is already underway and record low levels of influenza are being detected.
Taken together, Oughton said, these statistics show that distancing and other measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 are having the same effect on influenza – reducing its transmission rate and reducing the likelihood of widespread “false alarms.”
COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Ontario and Quebec – CBC.ca
The Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) expires on Sunday, ending the income support program the federal government rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic to help people with payouts of up to $2,000 a month.
The government says about 8.8 million Canadians have received the benefit since April. Roughly half of the four million Canadians still getting the payments through Service Canada and who are eligible for employment insurance are expected to be transitioned to a modified EI program.
The changes will be in place for one year, with three additional programs proposed for those who do not qualify for EI.
On Monday, Parliament is set to debate a bill to implement those new recovery benefits.
The New Democrats and the governing Liberals reached a deal on Saturday that delivers two weeks of paid sick leave for people affected by the pandemic under the Canada recovery sickness benefit.
In return, the NDP is promising to vote in favour of the throne speech, giving the Liberals the backing they need to survive a confidence vote and avoid an election.
What’s happening in the rest of Canada
As of 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 153,110 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 131,066 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,307.
WATCH | Trudeau says Canada at ‘crossroads’ as COVID-19 cases surge:
Quebec reported 896 new cases on Sunday — up from 698 the previous day — and its highest jump in intensive care-unit patients since late April with an increase of 12 patients. A total of 18 new hospitalizations were reported Saturday.
In Dorval, in Montreal’s West Island, a long-term care home that was hit hard by the first wave of the pandemic, with 38 dead in less than a month, has put residents in isolation after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
The regional health authority said staff at CHSLD Herron learned of the positive case Saturday morning and quickly isolated and tested all patients and employees who had been in contact with them.
Ontario added 491 more cases on Sunday, up from 435 on Saturday. The Ontario Health Ministry also reported that a total of 112 people are hospitalized, a number that is on the rise. On Saturday, the province reported that there were 100 people in hospital.
The majority of newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus are concentrated in three public health units: Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.
In Wasaga Beach, Ontario Provincial Police say enforcing physical distancing at a large car meet on Saturday was an impossible task after more than 1,000 car enthusiasts flocked to the beach town for an evening of street racing and stunts. Social media posts from the scene captured footage of the gathering:
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Sunday, the first in the province since Sept. 18. The province says the case is travel-related, as the man had returned home to the province from Manitoba, and he has been self-isolating since his arrival and following public health guidelines.
Manitoba reported 51 new cases on Sunday, including 36 in the Winnipeg health region. Starting Monday, people in Winnipeg and 17 surrounding communities will have to wear masks in all public indoor spaces and cap gatherings at 10 as the region moves to the orange — or “restricted” — level under the province’s pandemic response system.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 32.9 million. More than 995,000 people have died, while over 22.7 million have recovered.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has further eased lockdown restrictions imposed after a surge in coronavirus cases, allowing most children to return to school from next month and sending more than 125,000 people back to work. A further easing could take place on Oct. 19 if the average falls below five new cases per day. Masks remain mandatory.
India has registered 88,600 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours in a declining trend, with recoveries exceeding daily infections. Sunday’s surge has raised the country’s virus tally to over 5.9 million.
In Europe, hospitals in the Paris and Marseille regions are delaying some scheduled operations to free up space for COVID-19 patients as the French government tries to stem a rising tide of infections.
Italy reported another 1,766 coronavirus cases on Sunday, in line with its recent daily increases. Another 17 people died, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,835, the highest in Europe after Britain.
In the Americas, coronavirus cases in Colombia, which is nearly a month into a national reopening after a long quarantine, surpassed 800,000 on Saturday, a day after deaths from COVID-19 climbed above 25,000.
The U.S. state of Florida now has more than 700,000 confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus, according to statistics released by the state Department of Health on Sunday.
Africa has more than 1.4 million confirmed cases across the continent, a majority of them — more than 668,000 — in South Africa.
Health experts point to Africa’s youthful population as a factor in why COVID-19 has not taken a larger toll, along with swift lockdowns and the later arrival of the virus.
Canada issues last-minute visas allowing pregnant mom to return home from Haiti with her children – CBC.ca
A Canadian woman who is entering the last month of her pregnancy was finally able to return home to Canada, after the federal government granted last-minute Temporary Resident Visas to her soon-to-be adopted Haitian children.
Sarah Wallace, her husband Jean Pierre Valteau, and their three children Jean Moise Kessa, Jean-Jacques Valteau and Eva-Maria Doris flew in to Vancouver Saturday afternoon.
Immigration Canada issued the visas late Friday night as the family was en route to Seattle, and after spending the night in the U.S., they was able to rebook a connecting flight back to Canada, a spokesperson for the Rural Refugee Rights Network, which has been assisting the family, confirmed.
The family had booked the flight to Vancouver, through Seattle, without certainty that the visas would come through.
Wallace, a midwife originally from Devon, a town west of Edmonton in central Alberta, has lived in Haiti for the better part of 12 years.
She had hoped to return to Canada earlier in her pregnancy due to concerns that she might not be able to access emergency medical care.
But she had been told by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that her two Haitian children couldn’t return to Canada with her because their adoptions aren’t finalized.
While that normally wouldn’t prevent them from travelling to the country, under Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, the children — four-year-old Jean Moise and two-year old Eva-Maria — don’t qualify as immediate family members. In pre-pandemic circumstances, Wallace would have been able to obtain travel visas for the children as their legal guardian.
The IRCC had told CBC News earlier in September that for international adoptions, the adoption must be completed in the child’s home country before the immigration process to Canada can proceed.
“In this case, the officer reviewing [the] request for exemption from the COVID-19 travel restrictions was not satisfied that the definition of a family member was met,” a spokesperson had said.
“My whole life is about trying to keep babies with their families, and yet here the Canadian government is forcing me to make an impossible choice between my own health and that of my soon-to-be born baby and that of my two dependent children,” Wallace had said earlier in the week, prior to her return flight to North America.
Wallace and her family will be self-isolating for 14 days in Edmonton.
While Wallace was able to obtain visas, at least one other Alberta family who travelled abroad to adopt is still waiting to come home.
Derek and Emilie Muth finalized their adoption of two-and-a-half-year-old Zoe in Nigeria last year. But despite her adoption being complete, her citizenship is not yet finalized. Canadian immigration staff have been repatriated from the only government office in West Africa that can finish processing their paperwork.
Zoe has sickle cell anemia, and doctors in both Nigeria and Canada have written letters advocating for the family’s return to Canada, where she’ll have more reliable access to the medication and care she needs.
The immigration minister’s office told the family that the IRCC is unable to provide a timeline for when they’ll be able to return.
Why the Queen herself has twice delivered Canada's speech from the throne – CBC.ca
Hello, royal watchers. This is your regular dose of royal news and analysis — curated this week by Eva Lam. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox.
Our CBC colleague and senior reporter Mark Gollom took a look this week at the two occasions in which Queen Elizabeth opened Parliament in Canada:
This week saw Gov. Gen. Julie Payette carry out one of her more significant parliamentary duties as the Queen’s representative — opening up the new session of Canada’s Parliament by delivering the speech from the throne.
It’s referred to as such because, quite simply, the speech to outline the federal government’s priorities for that session of Parliament is read from the throne, or seat, that is reserved in the Senate chamber for the Queen or her royal representative.
But there have been two occasions in which the Queen herself has sat in that seat and read the speech from the throne in Ottawa.
“Both of Queen Elizabeth II’s speeches marked key events in her reign,” said Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris.
The first was on Oct. 14, 1957, and it marked the Queen’s first visit to Canada as a reigning monarch and the first time the monarch opened Parliament in Canada.
The visit lasted four days, limited to Ottawa, and occurred during John Diefenbaker’s first year in office as prime minister.
“Diefenbaker’s government had only been elected in June of that year, so the visit was evidently arranged at short notice and was a coup for the minority Conservative government,” said Michael Jackson, president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada.
Diefenbaker “held a deep respect for the monarchy,” and he took “special care to ensure that this event be shared across the country,” according to the Diefenbaker Canada Centre website.
“Television cameras appeared for the first time in the House of Commons and in the Senate as the CBC broadcast the speech nationwide,” the website said.
The Queen began the speech noting that this marked “the first time the representatives of the people of Canada and their sovereign are here assembled on the occasion of the opening of Parliament.”
“This is for all of us a moment to remember,” the Queen said.
Canadian journalist and author June Callwood, writing for Maclean’s about the royal visit to Canada, wrote that the Queen read the speech “in a bath of spotlights that brought the temperature of the room to [33 C].”
Indeed, the strong lights, needed for a National Film Board documentary of the visit, blew all the fuses in the House of Commons just five minutes before the Queen’s arrival, Callwood wrote.
“For four minutes and five seconds, there was total power failure. CBC technicians wept when power was restored, with 55 seconds to go,” she wrote.
The Queen’s second throne speech read in Canada came 20 years later, on Oct. 18, 1977, as part of her Silver Jubilee tour.
This was a five-day visit, again limited to Ottawa, but as Jackson notes, the government at the time may not have been as keen about the event as the Diefenbaker government.
It came during Pierre Trudeau’s time in office, and, as Jackson wrote in his 2013 book The Crown and Canadian Federalism, some members of the prime minister’s cabinet supported eliminating the monarchy.
The government “was reluctant” to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee and “grudgingly, it arranged a short visit to Ottawa,” Jackson wrote.
Still, in the opening passages of the throne speech, the Queen remarked how she had “greatly looked forward to being with you here in the Canadian Parliament in my Silver Jubilee year.”
“Whenever I am in this wonderful country of Canada, with her vast resources and unlimited challenges, I feel thankful that Canadians have been so successful in establishing a vigorous democracy well suited to a proud and free people.”
That was the last time the Queen has opened Parliament in the country, something that Robert Finch, dominion chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, finds regrettable.
“I think we have missed a few good opportunities over the years by not having the Queen deliver the speech from the throne more often,” he said.
“The throne speech gives us one day where we are all reminded of the Crown’s role in Parliament. To have had the Queen do it herself more often would have really helped drive home the reality that Canada is a constitutional monarchy and that she is the Queen of Canada.”
Royal brothers don’t always get along
When word spread recently that a statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, will be unveiled next year in a garden at Kensington Palace, some observers wondered if its installation on July 1 — which would have been her 60th birthday — will encourage some sort of rapprochement between her sons.
Much speculation has swirled about the nature of the relationship between Prince William and Prince Harry, particularly as their lives have taken them in different directions: William on the path expected of someone who is a direct heir to the throne, and Harry, farther down the line, finding a new life in California.
Whatever the exact nature of their relationship — and whether there is froideur, if not friction — it would hardly be the first time distance had developed between royal siblings who once were very close.
“When we look at history, often it’s a challenge for royal siblings to all be in the same place … and as they grow older, often, the experience of heirs to the throne tends to diverge from that of younger royal children,” said Harris.
Take, for example, King Edward VIII, who ruled from January to December 1936. Edward’s younger brother Albert found himself unexpectedly on the throne as King George VI after his older brother abdicated in order to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson.
“His younger brothers looked up to him when they were young, but then the abdication crisis happens and that causes a lot of strain,” said Harris.
Edward “was continuing to insist on the details of his income and whether [his wife] the Duchess of Windsor would be addressed as her royal highness … so certainly there’s a great deal of strain between the two brothers,” said Harris.
Go back a few generations, and everything was not all sunshine and light among all nine of Queen Victoria’s children.
“The future Edward the Seventh and Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, were associated with much more partying and society life whereas it was actually the younger sons … seen by Queen Victoria herself, as being more responsible,” said Harris.
Victoria leaned on her youngest son, Leopold, “as a kind of private secretary,” Harris said, noting he was a hemophiliac and couldn’t go into the military, a common occupation for royal men at the time.
“There’s some evidence of jealousy, that for the future Edward the Seventh, he was heir to the throne, he would have expected to be in that role of assisting his mother with her state duties.”
WATCH | Why biography of Harry and Meghan could add to deep royal wounds:
Harris sees some parallels among Victoria’s nine children and William and Harry in how the siblings were close when they were young, particularly because they were living in the shadow of parent’s death.
Victoria’s children “had lost their father, Prince Albert, and particularly the younger ones, growing up in this atmosphere of mourning brought them together.”
But there was a sense that over time, Queen Victoria didn’t treat them all equally.
“She had more confidence [in] some of her children’s advice or abilities than others, and so that created some strain within Queen Victoria’s extended family,” said Harris.
Kate documents Britons’ lives under lockdown
The final selections have been unveiled for Kate Middleton’s Hold Still photography project, which aims to capture life in the U.K. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project, which the Duchess of Cambridge launched in May in collaboration with London’s National Portrait Gallery, invited people of all ages to submit a photo focused on three core themes: Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness. From over 31,000 submissions, a panel of five judges, including Kate, selected 100 portraits to be featured in a digital exhibition.
“The images present a unique record of our shared and individual experiences during this extraordinary period of history, conveying humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope,” read a message on the Kensington Royal Instagram account announcing the final 100 portraits on Sept. 14.
In the weeks after the project launched, Kate was spotted leaving encouraging messages underneath Instagram posts of people who submitted photos using the hashtags #HoldStill and #HoldStill2020, per Cosmopolitan.
On an image of a health-care worker in full uniform, Kate commented, “Thank you so much for sharing your story and for all the amazing work you continue to do at this difficult time,” signing off with a “C,” for Catherine. On another image of a young child blowing on a dandelion, Kate wrote, “A perfect example of Hold Still … the chance to re-engage and value the simple things around us.”
The final selections for the project reveal the breadth of Britons’ experiences during the pandemic. One shows a five-year-old boy with leukemia receiving chemotherapy at home during lockdown. Another shows a woman at a Black Lives Matter protest at the U.S. Embassy in London holding a sign reading, “Be on the right side of history.”
Others show physically distanced kisses and exhausted health-care workers. Each image comes with text from the entrants themselves revealing the story behind the picture.
The Queen, with whom Kate shared a number of the portraits ahead of the exhibition’s debut, has also released a congratulatory statement on the project, saying, “The Duchess of Cambridge and I were inspired to see how the photographs have captured the resilience of the British people at such a challenging time.”
Royals in Canada
Queen Elizabeth is scrupulous about staying out of the politics of the day, and one visit to Canada made that abundantly clear. Her 1984 trip to mark the bicentennials of Ontario and New Brunswick, along with the sesquicentennial of Toronto, was delayed by two months to avoid a federal election.
When she and Prince Philip arrived in Moncton on Sept. 24, they were greeted by a prime minister only just settling into his new job. Brian Mulroney, fresh off the Progressive Conservatives’ landslide victory, welcomed the royal couple and was with them at several points during the visit.
Often asked to oversee official openings, the Queen had the chance to do that at two high-profile places: the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Science North in Sudbury.
The 13-day visit also came shortly after the birth of her third grandson, Prince Harry. His arrival, The Canadian Press reported at the time, was recognized by the Province of Ontario with the gift of a natural willow bassinet that was presented to Buckingham Palace officials.
“The borderless climate, biodiversity and health crises are all symptoms of a planet that has been pushed beyond its planetary boundaries. Without swift and immediate action at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to reset for a green-blue recovery and a more sustainable and inclusive future. In other words, the global pandemic is a wake-up call we simply cannot ignore.”
Prince Charles, in a virtual keynote speech to launch Climate Week NYC 2020 this week. A longtime advocate for the environment, the prince called for a military-style response akin to the U.S. Marshall Plan to rebuild post-war Europe.
With Barbados declaring its intention to remove the Queen as head of state, some residents of the English Berkshire town of Reading — home to one of the largest Barbadian diasporas outside of Barbados — explain why they believe “the time is right.” [The Guardian]
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle celebrated Harry’s 36th birthday on Sept. 15 by donating $130,000 to CAMFED, a charity that supports girls’ education in Africa. [Vanity Fair]
Activist Gloria Steinem revealed in an Access Hollywood interview that she and Meghan Markle cold-called U.S. voters to encourage them to vote in November’s presidential election. [Harper’s Bazaar]
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, had her likeness captured in a clay bust during a live-streamed sculpture session. She was promoting the U.K.’s Vision Foundation and their work for blind and partially sighted people, a cause with which she has a personal connection. [Vanity Fair]
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