With COVID-19 cases surging in the U.S., Canadians living south of the border are hunkering down and find themselves thinking a bit more about home these days.
Some who spoke with The Canadian Press from the hardest-hit areas said they were surprised by the speed at which their respective states reopened, while others said the situation was overblown.
All are trying to maintain physical distancing and wear masks when they do go out.
“All we can do is the best we can to stay as safe as possible, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking,” said Houston resident and Toronto native Grace Gonzalez.
Texas surpassed 5,000 hospitalizations last week as the second-biggest state scaled back its aggressive opening strategy, ordering bars closed indefinitely and restaurants to reduce capacity.
In Houston, where Gonzalez has lived for eight years, the public threat level was raised to its highest level on Friday.
“I was in shock when they decided to open up Texas, I felt it was way too early,” Gonzalez said. “We never saw a dip at all … there wasn’t any of that flattening of the curve before they decided to reopen.”
Gonzalez said masks weren’t prevalent in recent weeks and many went about their lives as if everything was back to normal. But she stayed at home most of the time, while making limited trips to stores.
“I feel like a lot of mentality (here) is if you feel sick or if you’re in one of those groups that are immunocompromised, you should stay home, but if I’m healthy, why should I have to stay home?” Gonzalez said.
WATCH | COVID-19 cases are surging throughout the U.S. Why it’s not a surprise:
That question of individual-versus-collective good is something Ontario-born Cheryl Applebaum noted in Florida, where more and more younger people have been infected. The state set a record Saturday with more than 9,500 cases.
Officials moved to shutter beaches and discouraged bar gatherings in a state that has more than 3,300 registered COVID-19 deaths.
“It really just increased our anxiety level,” said Applebaum, who lives in the Tampa area.
Applebaum was born in Windsor, Ont., raised in Toronto and his lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years with her Canadian husband.
“Both my husband and myself are in the more vulnerable age group, we’re both seniors and we have been very conscientious about social distancing, wearing face coverings, proper hygiene when we go out and come in,” said Applebaum. “And to see some of the people in the grocery stores relax those things has been very disconcerting.”
Applebaum acknowledges the situation has her thinking about Canada a lot these days.
“To be honest, this (COVID-19) in conjunction with the political climate down here has made us seriously think about moving back,” Applebaum said.
Not everyone worried
However, not all Canadians living in the U.S. are overly worried.
Ken Moon, who lives in a town just north of Dallas, feels the situation is overblown on both sides of the border.
“Others may choose to say you must hide away forever and never do anything again, but that’s not how we live our lives,” said Moon, a southeastern Ontario native who found out through serological testing that he’d had COVID-19 in February, with milder symptoms, despite having other health issues.
Moon said he believes the bigger numbers in recent days are more a result of increased testing. He says the only real change in his day-to-day life is wearing a mask.
“It is what it is, the biggest thing is keeping those that are infected away from the seniors’ care facilities,” Moon said.
Moon said he wasn’t opposed to the Texas reopening plan, noting some acquaintances in Canada haven’t left home in months.
“I have no idea where this idea of complete quarantine came from but that’s what they’re doing, and it’s kind of like ‘Why are you doing that?”‘ Moon said.
Pandemic varies across U.S.
Like in Canada, the COVID-19 circumstances vary across the country.
The situation in Florida was worrisome enough for Ontario-born Laurie Turley-Michel that she headed back to her summer residence in Ohio early, with the impression that people in the Sunshine State were in denial about COVID-19.
“I was personally afraid to go out at all,” said Turley-Michel, who has been in the U.S. for 15 years. “It wasn’t until right before we decided to come back to Ohio that they implemented a stay-at-home order, but it didn’t last long. Florida was one of the first to start reopening.”
She works at a law firm where employees are mostly working remotely and clients are obliged to wear a mask for meetings. Turley-Michel has largely stayed home. other than going for groceries or essential purchases. She always wears a mask in public.
“We haven’t had family over here, we live in a rural area so it’s easier to stay social distanced,” Turley-Michel said.
Amy Williams, who lives in a small town near the Arizona-Mexico border where cases have been low, said she was optimistic when the lockdowns in March in her home state and her home province of Ontario happened almost in lockstep.
“Ontario and Arizona issued lockdown orders within two or three days of each other and then I felt in terms of cases, we were on the same trajectory as Ontario and then our governor decided to open things up,” said Williams, a native of Mississauga who will have to put off an annual summer trip home due to obligatory quarantine measures.
On Sunday, Arziona had 3,858 new cases of COVID-19. Ontario, with almost double the population, had 178.
Williams, a mother of two who works as a psychologist in the local school system, said her primary concern is how schools will reopen during the earlier August return in that state amid the spike.
“I just don’t see how we’re going to be able to not only physically prepare for the reopening, but mentally,” Williams said.
“I don’t know what that’s going to look like.”
Canada adds 288 new coronavirus cases as curve continues to flatten – Globalnews.ca
The number was nearly identical to the totals recorded for Saturday and Sunday. Many provinces waited until Monday to report those numbers, taking a weekend break from daily updates.
Nine more deaths were reported Monday as well, three of them in Quebec — marking the lowest death toll for the province since April 2. The remaining six were in British Columbia, representing a cumulative total since Friday. One of the deaths occurred in June, but has only now been attributed to COVID-19.
Ontario also reported no new deaths Monday for the first time since the end of March.
Canada has now seen 105,915 lab-confirmed cases, along with 8,693 deaths. A total of 69,570 cases have since recovered.
Although it didn’t see any new deaths, Ontario still reported 154 new coronavirus cases Monday, and Quebec saw 74 more cases.
Nova Scotia reported one new case, the only Atlantic province to do so Monday.
Saskatchewan saw three more cases over the past 24 hours, while Manitoba stayed clear of new infections. Alberta added 49 new cases, and British Columbia reported seven.
While the Yukon and Northwest Territories haven’t reported any new cases for over two months now, Nunavut is awaiting confirmation of its first-ever presumptive case, which was reported Thursday.
All provinces and territories are in the midst of slowly reopening their economies after weeks of shutdowns at the height of the pandemic, which federal modelling suggests remains on a downward trajectory.
Daily totals of new cases have been hovering around 300 for over a week, after spiking past 400 in late June.
We could see a rise in diseases like COVID-19 because of climate change
Worldwide, the novel coronavirus pandemic has grown to over 11.5 million confirmed cases and has killed at least 536,000 people, according to public health data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
In the United States, confirmed cases are closing in on three million as cases continue to surge in several states. The country has been reporting an average of 50,000 new cases daily since the end of June.
Researchers and public health officials around the world say the true number of infections is likely far higher due to limitations in testing.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Clearview AI stops offering facial recognition software in Canada amid privacy probe – CBC.ca
Clearview AI, the controversial U.S.-based technology firm, will no longer make its facial recognition software available in Canada. Federal and provincial privacy authorities made the announcement on Monday and then Clearview confirmed it to CBC News.
A statement issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said Clearview had advised officials of the decision in response to an ongoing investigation by the privacy authorities of Canada, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec.
In its announcement Monday, the federal privacy commissioner’s office said the joint investigation into Clearview would remain open and that “authorities still plan to issue findings in this matter given the importance of the issue for the privacy rights of Canadians.”
In a statement emailed to CBC News, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That said, ”In response to [the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s] request, Clearview AI has ceased its operations in Canada.”
“We are proud of our record in assisting Canadian law enforcement to solve some of the most heinous crimes, including crimes against children. We will continue to co-operate with [the Office of the Privacy Commissioner] on other related issues.”
Ann Cavoukian, a former Ontario privacy commissioner, called the announcement “great news.”
“This shows that we can indeed make a difference and stop privacy-invasive practices,” said Cavoukian, who now serves as executive director of the Global Privacy and Security by Design in Toronto.
The company first came under scrutiny earlier this year when it boasted about collecting billions of photos from the internet to feed its facial recognition app.
Clearview said the tool is meant to allow police to “identify perpetrators and victims of crimes,” but privacy advocates worried the technology could fall into the wrong hands or lead to a dystopian future in which anyone can be identified within seconds whether they consent to facial recognition or not.
Software used by police forces
Monday’s statement by federal and provincial privacy authorities said the RCMP was “Clearview’s last remaining client in Canada” and that the contract would be suspended indefinitely. A separate investigation into the Mounties’ use of the software would also continue, the federal privacy watchdog said.
RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin confirmed the Mounties’ National Child Exploitation Crime Centre “no longer has a license with Clearview AI and has stopped using its software.” She did not indicate exactly when the force ended its use of the app.
WATCH | Canadians’ faces in Clearview AI database:
Another “ongoing issue under investigation by the authorities is the deletion of the personal information of Canadians that Clearview has already collected, as well as the cessation of Clearview’s collection of Canadians’ personal information,” the federal privacy watchdog’s statement said.
CBC News reported in June that while Clearview was offering residents of certain jurisdictions the opportunity to request their data be deleted from the firm’s database, it did not appear Canadians were eligible.
Ton-That told CBC News that Canadians will now “be able to opt out of Clearview’s search results” without specifying how people could do so.
On Monday afternoon, the company’s website still quoted an unnamed “detective constable in the sex crimes unit” of a Canadian law enforcement agency as saying, “Clearview AI is hands-down the best thing that has happened to victim identification in the last 10 years.”
This couple can't be together in Canada because of COVID-19, so they're moving to Serbia – CTV News
She lives on an island where COVID-19 has never been detected. He lives on an island where every case has been resolved.
And because their countries’ border restrictions prevent either of them from travelling to the other’s home, they’re planning to meet up on another continent, in a nation where they don’t speak the language or have any ties and the novel coronavirus is a much more pressing concern.
“It seems crazy in my mind, for him to be leaving an island in the Caribbean … where there’s no COVID. I’m leaving our other island in Eastern Canada where there’s also no COVID, and here we go off, leaving our safe havens … and off we go to Europe for I don’t know how long,” Carly Fleet told CTVNews.ca vin a phone call on Monday from Grand Manan, N.B.
None of New Brunswick’s 165 COVID-19 cases have been traced to Grand Manan, an island in the Bay of Fundy. Grenada’s 23 patients have all recovered. But travel restrictions in both countries mean neither Fleet nor her common-law partner Sean Bodden can visit the other.
They were last together in late February, weeks before the pandemic disrupted global travel and Grenada shut its borders. Like many Caribbean nations, it delayed its reopening plans after Antigua and Barbuda announced dozens of cases within weeks of letting tourists back in. This means that Fleet, a Canadian citizen, cannot enter the country.
Less clear is what would happen if Bodden tried to get into Canada. Those looking to reunite with Canadian spouses or common-law partners have officially been allowed into the country for about a month, but many couples have reported difficulty getting the non-Canadian partner in, even when they have what they believe to be sufficient proof of their relationship.
The Canada Border Services Agency has said that there are no set criteria for a non-Canadian partner to make it across the border. Instead, individual border guards have the authority to decide who gets in “based on the information available to them at time of processing.”
While Bodden has a lease that shows he and Fleet have been together for longer than one year – meeting the government’s required length for a relationship to count as common-law – their situation is complicated by them having spent some time during that period apart, each in their own countries.
That has Fleet concerned that trying to get her partner into Canada is “like playing Russian roulette,” as she put it, because a border guard could decide they have not been together long enough to qualify.
“We’ve heard so many horror stories of married couples and all sorts of different situations where people have tried it. Some get through; some don’t,” Bodden told CTVNews.ca on Monday in a phone call from Grenada.
If Bodden is denied entry into Canada, it’s not at all clear where he could go next, as his citizenship is Trinidadian, not Grenadian – and neither country has reopened its borders.
“If I do get turned away at the border, I may not be able to get back into Grenada and I definitely will not get back into Trinidad,” he said.
Given the inability to travel between their two coronavirus-free communities, Fleet and Bodden have instead booked plane tickets to a distant land that is reporting hundreds of new COVID-19 cases a day.
On Friday, they will have their long-awaited reunion in Paris. They won’t be staying there, as Trinidad and Tobago is not one of the 14 countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the European Union bloc. Instead, they’ll fly on to Istanbul.
They’ve also booked tickets to take them from Turkey to Belgrade, Serbia, but a recent spike in COVID-19 cases there has led to some restrictions being reimposed. Fleet fears that the situation may worsen by the time her flight arrives.
“I don’t know, by the time Friday rolls around, if we’ll still be able to get into the country,” she said.
Bodden and Fleet are hardly the only half-Canadian couple separated by the border measures. Many of them are in touch with each other online, and Fleet says she’s aware of some in situations she considers worse than hers, including parents being separated from newborn children they have yet to meet and women going through high-risk pregnancies without their partners.
She says she initially understood why the rules were in place to protect public health and could live with that, but recent news that the government is guaranteeing access to professional baseball and hockey players has her wondering why that is doable for athletes but not for couples.
“I can’t stay in a country that’s going to give priority to sports over family,” she said.
“We’re certainly not advocating for open borders. We understand that the safety of Canadian citizens has to be first and foremost. We would just like some exemptions to be made for committed couples and families to be able to reunite.”
‘I’LL DO ANYTHING’
Whether they end up in Serbia, Turkey or Croatia – the very few countries that they say meet their criteria of currently accepting Canadians and Trinidadians, not requiring them to quarantine and being reachable from Paris – Fleet and Bodden will have no local ties, no understanding of the language, no accommodations booked and no idea of how long they’ll stay.
“We just thought ‘If we’re going to be together, we need to do something dramatic,’ so we started looking at countries that … let foreign nationals in,” Fleet said.
“We’ve just kind of resigned ourselves to the fact that we don’t know exactly where we’re headed.”
It isn’t their first choice. They say that since it became clear they wouldn’t be able to spend the summer together in New Brunswick, they’ve been making plan after plan after plan, only to readjust as the pandemic endures and travel restrictions are extended.
With new COVID-19 case rates again accelerating in the Balkans, they expect that Friday may not go exactly as they expect either – but they still expect to reunite in Paris, and will figure out the rest from there.
“We’ve made so many plans in the past and had doors shut in our face that we just keep on trying until we do succeed,” Bodden said.
“I’ll do anything to be with her. I don’t care where it is.”
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