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Coronavirus: Canadian zoos struggle to survive amid lockdown measures – CTV News

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Last week, Paul Goulet’s 10-year-old daughter quietly went to his wife with worry about her father.

“It’s like he’s here, but he’s not really here,” she said.

That nearly broke Goulet, the owner of Little Ray’s Nature Centre, a zoo and animal rescue organization with locations in Hamilton and Ottawa.

Usually an eternal optimist, Goulet said the pandemic is killing his business and wearing him down.

He’s cut costs where he can, but the vast majority of his costs are fixed — the snakes, sloths and tortoises still have to eat.

Gross revenue is down 94 per cent, he said, due to the forced closures and capacity limits during the pandemic, and he’s taken out loans totaling more than $900,000 to help pay the bills.

“I’ve been pushed to my absolute breaking point,” Goulet said.

Other zoos and aquariums across the country say they’ve also reached their breaking points.

Jim Facette, the executive director of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, said institutions across the country are having a hard time.

“They’re hanging on, but it’s a struggle,” Facette said.

He said some of the facilities qualify for the federal wage subsidy program and have received support, but others are not eligible, including those that are owned by another level of government, like the Toronto Zoo, which is owned by the City of Toronto.

“Our institutions are unique, you can’t just shut the lights, lock the door and leave,” Facette said.

“The Number 1 thing they want though, I hear this all the time, is they want to open.”

Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John, N.B., shuttered its doors last year largely due to the pandemic and the uncertainty going forward, Facette said.

Zoos have an entire revenue-generating ecosystem that includes hosting corporate events, weddings and the like, he said. The Zoo de Granby in Quebec had to cancel more than 30 weddings last year.

Facette has spent a lot of his time lobbying various governments during the pandemic to figure out how to keep zoos and aquariums afloat.

“We need to increase capacity when they are open, so we’ve asked if they’d consider rapid testing as part of reopening strategies,” he said.

“We haven’t heard back.”

For Dolf DeJong, the CEO of the Toronto Zoo, the last year has been a trying one.

Last year, when China imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus originated, DeJong said the zoo began stockpiling food for the animals.

They were shut down for two months in the spring during the first lockdown, then were able to do drive-thru visits for about a month before members were allowed back in at a significantly reduced capacity.

Then they moved to a pre-booked model from July until they reverted to drive-thrus in late November. They closed their doors again on Dec. 26 when the province issued a stay-at-home order.

The zoo had about 600,000 guests last year, DeJong said, about a third of those coming from the drive-thru. Daily guests last summer peaked at 5,000 – half of what they used to see the previous summer.

They’ve been able to raise about $1 million through their non-profit arm for a program called Zoo Food For Life, which is about enough to cover the cost of food for the facility’s 5,000 animals.

January and February are historically down months for the zoo, DeJong said.

“Being closed right now doesn’t hurt as badly as it hurt last year being closed on the Friday of March Break,” DeJong said.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to host guests on the new April break, that the weather will be great, and we have Easter in there. We’d like to think we can start rallying from these early in the year losses.”

For Goulet, he said he has used every possible government program for help, including the wage and rent subsidy programs, which have kicked in about $240,000.

But he needs about $840,000 for Little Ray’s to survive to the end of this year.

The company’s biggest money maker, he said, are animal festivals that run from January to April.

“None of those are happening,” he said.

Provincial restrictions have eased somewhat in Ottawa and Hamilton, so Little Ray’s is now allowed to have small groups inside. They’re also doing live Zoom shows now, but they only bring in about five per cent of the money the live shows at schools and birthday parties used to.

“I’m happy we’re open, so instead of losing $80,000 a month, we’ll lose maybe $60,000,” Goulet said. “It will curb our losses, but we’re still losing money at massive rates.”

He has turned to the public for help with a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $200,000 from more than 2,000 people in just over a week.

His supporters also organized a bottle drive where they collected some 200,000 bottles.

“We’re slowly trying to turn the ash into something and that’s only because we’ve had a ton of public support,” Goulet said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2021.

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COVID-19 pandemic could be over in Canada by September, microbiologist predicts – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
With more doses of COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Canada and guidance changing on administering the shots to citizens, a microbiologist suggests the pandemic will “probably” be over in this country by September.

“I think we’re about to go into that third act and finally put an end to the pandemic,” said Jason Tetro, the author known as the Germ Guy, noting many people have been trained to be pessimistic this winter.

The first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Canada on Wednesday, the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in this country.

Late Wednesday, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued new guidance on administering the COVID-19 vaccine. The panel of medical experts says the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines can be given up to four months after the first.

Tetro tells CTV News Ottawa that after a glum few months, there is reason for optimism.

“We’ve got lots of doses coming; we’ve got three approved, we’ve got two others that are in the pipeline. I think we’re going to be definitely getting to that point where by the summer we’re going to be in a very good position and probably see the end of this pandemic by September,” said Tetro.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government will have enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate all Canadians by September. Trudeau said Wednesday he’s “optimistic” the timeline could speed up.

“If we get to a point where we have the entire population vaccinated, at least with the first shot, it’s probably going to get us to a point where we’re going to be able to gather again, we may not even need the masks and while we still will probably be hesitant to get back to normal, we’re going to start looking a lot better by that time,” said Tetro.

The microbiologist says the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine gives Canada a variety of vaccine options to begin targeting different age groups.

Tetro adds the longer intervals between doses can speed up the timeline to vaccinate all Canadians against COVID-19.

“What we’re trying to do now is to remove the pandemic status of COVID-19 and maybe even bring it down by the end of this year to what would essentially be a common cold and flu status,” said Tetro.

He notes research from Scotland, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and Israel shows one dose for all Canadians will make a difference.

“If we get everybody vaccinated with one dose, it doesn’t matter which one it happens to be, that’s going to give us the protection we need to be able to get through the seasonality and also to remove the pandemic emergency that we’re currently living through now,” said Tetro.

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Woman almost loses $580 after money order reported lost by Canada Post – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
They’re not used as commonly as they once were, but a money order is something you can buy at Canada Post that is supposed to be as good as cash.

The post office says it’s a safe and secure way to send funds in the mail, but a Brampton woman says that when her money order got lost she was initially denied a refund.

Elizabeth Diehl said she appreciates Indigenous art and tries to support Canada’s First Nations artists so she ordered six pairs of handmade moccasins as Christmas presents.

“I ordered them in November as they are always lovely to wear on a cold winter day,” Diehl said.

When they arrived, Diehl sent a money order for $580 to the woman who made them in Weagamow First Nation in northern Ontario.

A money order is the preferred method of payment in the fly-in community.

“She relies on Canada Post money orders because they don’t have active banks up there I believe,” Diehl said.

One month after sending the money order, the person contacted Diehl to say she had never received it.

Canada Post said it would take 45 days to investigate so Diehl sent another money order to make sure the woman would receive her funds for the moccasins.

Canada Post eventually told Diehl the money order was lost in the mail, but that she would only get back fees she paid for the money order, not the $580 dollars.

A customer service agent with Canada Post told her “unfortunately, because insurance coverage was not purchased at the time of mailing, we are unable to provide any additional compensation.”

Diehl said there was no mention of insurance coverage being needed when she purchased the money order.

When CTV News Toronto reached out to Canada Post, we were told insurance is not required for money orders and funds are guaranteed returned if a money order is lost and uncashed.

“We spoke to Ms. Diehl to let her know we are refunding her $580 money order as per our policies,” a spokesperson told CTV news Toronto.

Diehl felt if she hadn’t contacted CTV News Toronto she would not have received her refund.

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Canada PM says U.S. very open to helping other nations with COVID-19 vaccines

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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The United States is “very open” to helping other countries procure COVID-19 vaccines and conversations about how to do so are continuing, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

The United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for every adult by the end of May, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday. The initial goal had been end of July.

Canada‘s target is end-September and critics, who complain about the slow vaccine rollout so far, say Trudeau should ask the United States to permit shipments across the border.

Trudeau told reporters it was clear from his conversations with Biden that Washington understood the best way to combat COVID-19 was to do so worldwide.

“By stepping up on the COVAX facility internationally, by looking at how they can be helpful around the world, (they are) very open to helping out other countries and those conversations will continue,” he said.

The COVAX program co-led by the World Health Organization is designed to ensure equitable vaccine distribution worldwide.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he was hopeful the United States will be able to share COVID-19 vaccines.

Later on Wednesday, Canada‘s advisory panel on immunization recommended that to make the most of limited supplies, the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc vaccines should be extended to four months, up from six weeks.

Canada will be able to provide access to first doses of highly efficacious vaccines to more individuals earlier,” the panel said on its website. The provinces of Alberta and British Columbia have already announced a four-month gap.

The six-week gap was already a deviation from the way the vaccines were tested. In clinical trials, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were giving three weeks apart and the Moderna shots four weeks apart.

Canada has recorded a total of 22,045 COVID-19 deaths compared to some 513,000 in the United States.

A first batch of 500,000 vaccine doses from AstraZeneca Plc arrived on Wednesday. These had not been included in Ottawa’s initial plan, Trudeau said, noting regulators were also examining other vaccines.

“We are very optimistic that we are going to be able to accelerate some of these time lines,” he said.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alistair Bell and Bill Berkrot)

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