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Canadian retail sales continue rising after pandemic plunge – CBC.ca

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Canadian retail sales for October came in stronger than expected, rising by 0.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that total sales activity for the month hit $54.6 billion, marking the sixth consecutive monthly increase since the record decline in April.

The sales growth was led by motor vehicle and parts dealers, Statistics Canada said. Sales at new car dealerships was up 0.8 per cent.

The consensus expectation of economists had been for sales to rise by 0.2 per cent in October, following the 1.9 per cent jump seen in September.

Sales in British Columbia rose by 2.1 per cent, with health and personal care stores, as well as building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers, contributing the most to the increase. In Alberta, sales rose 1.1 per cent on higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers.

In Ontario, retail activity fell for the first time since April, coinciding with a record number of COVID-19 cases and stricter public health measures within the province. Sales in Ontario were down by 0.4 per cent, with the drop led by clothing and clothing accessories stores.

Statistics Canada said its advance outlook for November is that retail activity is expected to remain relatively unchanged.

“Retail sales achieved a remarkable recovery, having etched out a V-shaped rebound,” BMO economist Priscilla Thiagamoorthy said in a commentary. “But, with tighter restrictions amid an outbreak in new virus cases, expect some softness in activity in the coming months.”

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1 year after Canada's first coronavirus case, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on – CBC.ca

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Monday marks one year since the first case of the virus that causes COVID-19 was confirmed in Canada, in a patient who came to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital after returning from Wuhan, China. 

While many of the lessons learned from the early days of the novel coronavirus are being applied in the pandemic’s second wave, concerns remain about inadequate protections in long-term care and the disproportionate impact of the virus on people of colour. 

Among both long-term care residents and the general public, more people have now died of COVID-19 in Ontario during the second wave than in the six months after the global pandemic was declared in March.

“These are all preventable deaths,” said Dr. Nitin Mohan, an assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont., and a physician epidemiologist with the public health consulting firm ETIO.  

Long-term care crisis continues 

“The fact that we’re this far along in the pandemic and we’re still seeing the outbreaks and deaths in long-term care homes, it’s almost embarrassing that this is happening,” Mohan said in an interview. 

Dr. Zain Chagla is an infectious disease specialist in Hamilton, Ont. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch of Toronto’s University Health Network calls what happened in Ontario’s long-term care homes last spring tragic.  

“What’s more tragic is how it’s unfolding in the second wave, because there certainly could have been steps taken between wave one and wave two to significantly protect the most vulnerable population among us,” said Bogoch in an interview.

“What we’re seeing in the long-term care facilities just demonstrates, unfortunately, years and years of neglect,” he said. “It was awful to watch this unfold, but sadly, it was predictable.”

Uncertainties characterized early days

In the first two months of 2020, predictions varied about how Canada would be affected by the novel coronavirus first identified in China. 

Public health officials and political leaders seemed to tilt more toward calming fears about COVID-19 than sounding the alarm.

There were repeated assurances that the risk in Ontario was low, that the general public should refrain from wearing masks. Well into March, officials were saying that no evidence could be found of community spread. 

At a news conference inside the Ontario legislature on Jan. 25, 2020, officials announced Canada’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

“Those uncertainties in the early part of the pandemic were real because we just didn’t know,” said Bogoch.

Although he acknowledged that public health messaging adapted over time, Bogoch said it didn’t do so as fast as they would have liked. 

The system was slow to acknowledge that the virus was not just being imported by travellers returning from a handful of distant countries, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician in Hamilton and an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University.

“I think the pivot from this being a travel disease to this being an endemic disease was done relatively late,” Chagla told CBC in an interview.

“There’s something to be said about understanding the evidence has changed and recognizing it quickly and making those changes quickly.” 

Chagla said a crucial point came in late February when community transmission was identified in the U.S. and doctors in Canada were seeing people returning from the U.S. with COVID-19. 

“There was no hope that this was not going to (spread in) Canada at that point,” he said. “I think probably that was the turning point to say, ‘OK, there is a risk here to us. We need to start invoking public health measures.’ ” 

Ontario declared its state of emergency on March 17, and the federal government halted non-essential travel across the land border with the U.S. on March 20. 

Mohan believes governments acted decisively to impose lockdown measures in the spring.

“We were dealing with something that was relatively new and unknown, getting data and making decisions in real time,” he said. 

During the first two months of the pandemic, Ontario had limited capacity to test for COVID-19. Except for people who had travelled out of the country, most of the general public couldn’t get tested unless they were sick enough to go to hospital. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Lack of testing hampered tracking

When experts look back to the early months of 2020, there’s a general consensus that Ontario’s hospital sector mobilized quickly to face COVID-19, readying for a potential surge of patients even as supplies of personal protective equipment were tight. 

However there’s also strong agreement that Ontario’s limited capacity to test for the coronavirus hampered the ability to track its spread. 

Until May, Ontarians couldn’t get a test for COVID-19 unless they met a strict range of criteria that excluded much of the general public.

Given the death rates in the first wave, scientists believe the actual number of infections in the spring was far higher than the officially reported case counts. 

“There were some clear limitations in our testing capacities that are a result of poor funding models of public health,” said Mohan.

“In a once in a generation pandemic, when we need to act quickly and decisively, it’s hard to do that when you’re sort of building a plane in the sky.”

The ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to be transmitted by people before they showed any symptoms also confounded the experts. 

Early on, officials put a big emphasis on screening people for symptoms such as fever and cough. Although that helped identify a significant proportion of cases, it sent an inaccurate message that people couldn’t spread the virus before showing symptoms.

“Had we known clearly that there was pre-symptomatic transmission, I think the way we would have handled things would have been much different,” said Chagla. 

Dr. Isaac Bogoch is an infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network in Toronto. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

He said quarantines would have been imposed on travellers sooner and the way public health officials traced cases would have changed significantly.  

Chagla, Bogoch and Mohan all say too little was done to protect people in racialized and low-income communities.

Even this deep into the pandemic, people of Black and South Asian descent are over-represented among the COVID-19 caseload

2nd wave shows signs of receding 

The one-year anniversary of the virus in Canada comes amid signs that the second wave is starting to recede, albeit with warnings that new case numbers will only continue to drop if public health restrictions stay in place. 

There are also fears that highly contagious variants of the coronavirus could either prolong the second wave or drive an even more widespread third wave before the bulk of the population gets vaccinated.  

Thousands of new infections are still being reported every day across the country, and the average daily number of deaths is not expected to decrease for weeks.

About 200,000 Canadians have contracted COVID-19 in the past month alone. The case fatality rates among different age demographics suggest that hundreds of those will die. 

“It’s hard for me to reconcile with the mistakes being made in the second wave,” said Mohan.

“We can’t get back these lives lost.”  

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How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada's first case – CTV News

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MONTREAL —
On January 25th, 2020, Canadians were still living their lives like they always had: commuting to the office, visiting friends, dining out, hugging loved ones, vacationing. But the announcement that day of Canada’s first COVID-19 case set in motion a chain of events that would soon change everything.

By March, with cases climbing, health officials began implementing a series of measures that would fundamentally alter how many Canadians live. Lockdowns and calls for physical distancing led to companies shifting to work from home, travel restrictions, mask-wearing rules, cancellation of major events, and video meetings replacing in-person interactions as people were asked to avoid seeing anyone, even loved ones.

Jack Jedwab, the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says the biggest change to Canadians’ daily lives has been the isolation from friends, family and co-workers.

“I think at the root of a lot of that change is these limits on our mobility, which take different forms, whether it’s interacting with family and friends, or seeing people that we’re accustomed to seeing in our daily lives in person as opposed to on screens,” he said.

An online survey conducted for Jedwab’s group in September found that over 90 per cent of the 1,500 people polled said COVID-19 had changed their lives, with most citing the inability to see family and friends as the biggest factors.

While few Canadians have been untouched by the pandemic, Jedwab says women, newcomers to Canada and people who were already economically and socially vulnerable appear to have been among the most deeply affected, particularly by job losses.

Here’s a look at how COVID-19 has changed daily life for some Canadians of different groups:

 

SENIORS

For Bill VanGorder, a retired 78-year-old from Halifax, the pandemic put a temporary halt on his active social life and his favourite pastimes of volunteering in the local theatre and music scenes.

“Theatre people, as you may know, are people who love to hug, and not being able to hug in these times probably has been one of the most difficult things,” he said in a phone interview.

He considers himself lucky, because at least he and his wife Esther have each other, unlike many of his single friends who are completely isolated. Many older people, who are more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, are struggling to stay connected with family or finding people to help them with household tasks.

VanGorder, who works with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, also believes unclear government messaging, particularly on when older adults will get access to the vaccine, is “creating huge anxiety and mistrust in the system,” among already-nervous seniors.

But while the pandemic has been hard, he says there have also been silver linings. He and many of his friends have been learning to use platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime, which help seniors stay in touch with relatives and connect with their communities.

“We think the positive thing is that, of course, this knowledge will continue after COVID and will be a real step forward, so that older adults can feel more involved in everything that’s going on around them,” he said.

The first thing he’ll do when things get back to normal is to hug his grandchildren and theatre friends, he said.

 

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

As classes have moved online, many students have had to adapt to living and studying in small spaces and being isolated from friends and campus life at a stage when forging lifelong friendships and social networks can be crucial.

Small living quarters, the inability to travel home, financial fears and uncertainties about the job market have contributed to a “greater sense of isolation” for many students, according to Bryn de Chastelain, an Ontario resident studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

While he believes schools have done their best to support students, de Chastelain says many students have seen their mental health suffer.

“A number of students are really struggling with having to learn from home and learn online, and I think that a number of strategies that students are used to taking up are very difficult to replicate in the online environment,” he said.

 

PARENTS

Schools across the country were shut down for several months in the spring, ushering in a challenging time for parents who were suddenly forced to juggle full-time child care, work and keeping their families safe.

The reopening of schools in the fall brought different challenges depending on each province’s COVID-19 situation and approach. In Ontario, some parents opted for full-time online learning, while others were forced into it when Premier Doug Ford chose to extend the winter break. In Quebec, which doesn’t allow a remote option for most students, some reluctant parents had no choice but to send their children back to class.

“I think uncertainty, not only for kids but for everything — work, life relationships and everything — that has certainly been the theme of COVID,” said Doug Liberman, a Montreal-area father of two.

Liberman said the biggest challenge has been trying to balance the health and safety of his family with keeping his food manufacturing business going and maintaining a sense of normalcy for his two girls, ages 10 and 12.

For his family, that has meant trying to spend time outside but also accepting more screen time, and ultimately, taking things day-by-day.

“I certainly think that we certainly don’t have the answer, and I think we’ve done as best as we could, like everybody else has,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.

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Filipina nanny asks to stay in Canada after kidney diagnosis – CBC.ca

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Most young mothers don’t have to make a choice between hugging their children and accessing the medical treatment that keeps them alive, but that’s the situation Kherin Dimalanta says she faces here in Ottawa. 

Dimalanta, 33, is a Filipina nanny working for a family of two doctors, one of whom has become the face of the fight against COVID-19 in this city. 

While Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, a regular contributor to CBC, goes to work in the ICU and his wife Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng sees patients at her private psychology practice, Dimalanta is at home caring for their three young boys. 

“We would not have been able to do what we did through the pandemic, to continue our work, if we did not have help at home,” said Cathy Kyeremanteng. 

Dimalanta, left, with Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng, third from right, and Dr. Kwadwo Keremanteng, second from right, after the birth of their third child. (Submitted by Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng)

Dimalanta arrived three and a half years ago under a live-in caregiver visa. After a few years of working in Ottawa, she had hoped to apply for permanent residency and bring her own two children to live with her in Canada. 

But six months after she arrived, Dimalanta went for a routine blood test as part of an insurance application and discovered she had chronic kidney disease. 

The diagnosis meant she was no longer medically admissible to Canada, even though she had already worked and paid taxes in Canada for months before she fell ill.  

“It just turned my life upside down,” Dimalanta said. “I feel like I don’t have the right to dream anymore.”

WATCH | Dimalanta’s difficult choice:

Kherin Dimalanta arrived in Canada from the Philippines three years ago, hoping to one day apply for permanent residency. But a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease means she’s no longer medically admissible to Canada, leaving her facing an impossible choice. 1:26

Immigration system ‘doesn’t feel Canadian’ 

Dimalanta’s nightly dialysis costs around $40,000 a year. That’s almost twice the annual health-care cost threshold set by the Liberal government in 2018. Prospective immigrants who would cost the health-care system more than $21,204 a year are ineligible for permanent residency because they’re deemed an excessive burden. 

But Cathy Kyeremanteng believes that rule shouldn’t apply to people who were already working legally and paying taxes in Canada.

How could Canada send somebody home to die in front of their children, just because we have to pay for the medical treatment?– Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng

“She fell sick while she was here, by no fault of her own,” Kyeremanteng said.

“How could Canada send somebody home to die in front of their children, just because we have to pay for the medical treatment?… It doesn’t feel Canadian to me.”

WATCH | Frustration over the government’s decision:

Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng, whose family employs Kherin Dimalanta, says she’s frustrated and disappointed in Canada’s immigration system after waiting several years for a response to Dimalanta’s permit application. 1:23

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada was unable to provide a comment by deadline on the situation facing people who, like Dimalanta, are already living and working in Canada, but are not medically admissible. 

“It illustrates the structural problem in our immigration system,” said Jamie Liew, an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa. 

Liew says that while highly skilled immigrants often come to Canada with their permanent resident status pre-approved — which means they’re not at risk of being sent home if they get sick — low-skilled migrant workers can only apply for permanent residency after a few years. 

“We, for whatever reason, don’t value [them] the same way … despite the fact that a lot of skilled migrant workers provide essential services, as we’ve seen through the pandemic,” Liew said. 

Dimalanta with the three Kyeremanteng boys she’s cared for since 2017. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Nanny’s difficult choice

Dimalanta has applied for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds because she cannot afford dialysis treatment in the Philippines. Without it, her doctors have told her she will die. 

While she waits for the humanitarian appeal, a process that often takes years, she has applied for both a temporary resident permit and an open work permit so that she’s eligible for OHIP and has the freedom to return to the Philippines to see her children. 

Almost two years later, no decision has been made on Dimalanta’s application. 

She has “implied status,” so she’s allowed to continue to work and pay taxes, but every few months she must appeal to the OHIP review committee for continuing coverage. She can’t risk leaving the country in case she’s not allowed back in. 

It’s now been almost four years since she last saw her children. 

The last time Dimalanta saw her children Jeremy, left, and Jillian, right, was in April 2017, before she came to Canada to work as a live-in caregiver. (Submitted by Kherin Dimalanta)

“My kids will always say, ‘Don’t worry, Mama. Just stay there and get well.’ Even if I ask, you know, what gift do you want for Christmas? It’s, ‘Don’t think about us, just get well,'” Dimalanta said. 

Without a reprieve, she has a stark choice: stay in Ottawa and access life-saving treatment, or go home to her children and watch her condition worsen. 

“Is it better for me to stay here and get the medication and work still? Or is it better for me to go home, see them, hug them?” she asked. “What would you choose?”

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