Melanie Fournier went to bed a week ago Thursday feeling grateful that, despite everything going on in the world, she was in the best health of her life.
Less than 12 hours later, the 42-year-old Montreal-area woman was racked with coughs that left her gasping for breath and was burning up with fever.
“I woke up with a little scratch in my throat and started trying to cough it up,” she said in a phone interview.
“Within 20 minutes I had a full-blown fever, I was hacking up my lungs and it hit me: I need help.”
Fournier, who works in health and social services, is one of the thousands of Canadians who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
She and several other Canadians have shared their stories with The Canadian Press in order to demystify the illness and to urge the public to respect physical distancing measures.
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In the days following the onset of her symptoms, Fournier felt panic creeping in as she struggled to get through to anyone on Montreal’s hotlines, which constantly disconnected her. Later, she had to fight to get tested since she hadn’t travelled recently and didn’t know who infected her.
Since her test came back positive last Monday, Fournier has struggled with burning lung pain, a cough and fever, and “body aches and pains worse than any flu I’ve ever had.”
But even worse, she said, was the fear and isolation she felt after being left to fight a serious illness at home, with little advice beyond take Tylenol, rest and drink fluids and call 911 if she couldn’t breathe.
“It’s scary going through this by myself,” she said.
Kyla Lee, a 33-year-old lawyer from Vancouver, takes issue with those who claim COVID-19 is no more than a bad flu.
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Lee, who has no underlying health conditions, says she fell ill a few days after returning from a conference in Ohio and was diagnosed as a presumptive case by a doctor after she began experiencing a fever, fatigue and a deep cough.
The busy lawyer, who rarely pauses in her day and has never taken more than a day or two off for any illness, said that even nearly a week later, on her bad days she’s left gasping for breath on the edge of her bed after just a couple of phone calls.
“The breathing is the big difference,” she said in a phone interview last week.
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“It’s like my lungs have sacks of rice around them, so when I take a deep breath I feel pressure.”
Both Lee and Fournier decided to go public with their symptoms to show that even healthy young people with no underlying conditions are not immune and to help others who are worried about themselves or loved ones.
“It’s an incredibly alienating virus,” Fournier said.
“There’s shame associated with it,” she added. “How many people did I infect? Did I infect somebody? Will I cause somebody to die?”
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At 61 years old, both Julien Bergeron and Manon Trudel are in an age demographic that is more prone to complications than either Lee or Fournier.
But the Montreal-area couple, who contracted COVID-19 aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February, say the mental aspect of the journey was far worse than the physical.
The couple had to endure weeks of confinement in their windowless room on the ship docked in Yokohama, with instructions constantly blaring on the loudspeaker and and endless stream of personnel knocking at the door.
Trudel, who has a background in workplace health and safety, knew the proper quarantine procedures weren’t being followed, which added to the stress.
She began asking for protective gear and lobbying Canadian officials and eventually the media, doing interviews from inside their room’s tiny bathroom to avoid the sounds of the couple fighting next door from filtering through the ship’s thin walls.
Bergeron was told he’d tested positive on Feb. 18, Trudel a few days later. She had no symptoms, while he experienced lung pain and fatigue due to pneumonia but said it was no worse than his previous bouts.
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The 22 days Bergeron spent in hospital were the longest the couple has spent apart in 25 years.
“It was very, very hard mentally,” Bergeron said.
Now that they’re home, the couple say they’re worried that Quebec doesn’t seem to be taking the virus as seriously as Japan, where they say those who tested postive were immediately put in hospitals or other facilities away from the public.
“Here, people are not hospitalized, not taken out of their living environment and it worries us enormously,” Trudel said.
“People should be in hospitals or hotels, not with their families and friends, not going to the liquor store.”
They say they’re still taking the risk seriously and are staying away from others as they return to life in Quebec.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
No difference between racism in Canada and the U.S., activists say – CTV News
Some of Canada’s leaders have said that systemic racism does not exist in the country the way it does in the U.S. However, Canadian activists say the racism black people face in each country is no different.
Former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that racial tensions do not stop at the border.
“When people think about racism they look at what’s happening in the States and they put on these blinders, and they presume that racism… only exists when you can blatantly see it happening — when someone’s being choked with a knee, when someone’s being shot at, when someone is dying,” Caesar-Chavannes said. “That’s not the case of our reality every single day. Systemic racism, microaggressions exist in our institutions.”
Protests began last week in Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. The protests have since spread across other parts of the world and Canadians have joined in solidarity.
Despite a surge in anti-racism protests globally, Canadian author and activist Desmond Cole told CTVs Your Morning that is not a new movement in either Canada or the United States.
“Black people have literally been saying the same thing for generations and it feels like the desperation to be heard before — [that] we’re completely unable to live in this society — the desperation is what’s changing, but nothing that we’re saying is new,” Cole said in an interview on Wednesday.
Cole said that police are repeatedly sent to help when a crisis involves a black person because Canadians are still afraid of black people.
“We keep insisting that there’s no other way, but obviously somebody who’s trained in de-escalation, somebody who’s trained to talk to people, someone who doesn’t have a weapon, someone who can offer services and support, that person is obviously a better person to come and respond,” Cole said.
Cole said the federal government needs to look at other ways to help black people when they are in crisis rather than sending the police.
“When somebody is in crisis, what we do now is we say, ‘Let’s send several burly men with guns, who have a licence to kill to go and support somebody who may be in mental health crisis.’ We don’t care about the fact that maybe that person might be terrified of an armed response to their house.”
Caesar-Chavannes said racism in Canada can be seen daily when considering incarceration rates and health statistics.
“When you look at our health outcomes, when you look at our justice system and the overpopulation of our prisons with black and indigenous people, you have to really think about whether or not systemic racism does not actually exist in this country because I think it’s our lived reality every day,” Caesar-Chavannes said.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT RACISM IN CANADA
Caesar-Chavannes said politicians don’t have to look any further than the country’s Indigenous populations to understand that “racism has and continues to exist in Canada.”
Before steps can be taken to address racism in Canada, Caesar-Chavannes said there first needs to be “an accountability and an understanding [of] racism existing.” She said Canada’s leaders cannot throw around the term ‘anti-black racism’ without having concrete steps to help solve the issue.
“It needs to start with adequate, sustained and intentional funding for programs that address anti-black racism in a way that organizations [and] programs don’t have to keep seeking and looking for funding and jumping through hoops to get that funding,” Caesar-Chavannes said.
To do so, Caesar-Chavannes said “unusual suspects” — anyone who has “intersections of intersecting identities” — need to help drive these conversations forward and to suggest “ways for the government to actually create equity for equity seeking groups.”
Caesar-Chavannes explained that women, black women, Indigenous people, religious minorities and people with disabilities, among others, need to be part of the conversation to create change.
“We need to have those unusual suspects at the table. If you’re having the same conversations right now with the same people that you had conversations with two years ago, you need to really change and think about if you want, sustainable change and if you want lasting change — change that’s going to have a real impact with people on the ground,” she said.
At the beginning of the 43rd Parliament, Caesar-Chavannes shared on Twitter her 43 goals that she hoped to accomplish during the term, including increasing the number of black people in Cabinet, increasing the number of black staffers, and to understand that diversity is ubiquitous.
“We’ve not had an Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) or a Deputy Minister (DM) of black heritage, a black person, in any of those positions since the formation of our country. And I think the federal composition of our system needs to be reflective of the population that it serves and that includes on the bureaucratic side,” Caesar-Chavannes said in an interview with Your Morning.
She quit the Liberal caucus in March 2019 to sit as an independent after alleging that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been hostile towards her.
POLICING AND CORPORATE POWER
Toronto community organizer and human rights activist Akio Maroon said in an interview with CTV News Channel that defunding the police would help address racism in Canada.
“Demilitarizing the police, defunding the police, that would be a start. I think Toronto’s police budget is $1.08 billion… And that is just way too much,” Maroon said on Wednesday. She added that that money could be spent elsewhere to better address the issue.
“The money that we are spending for law enforcement, we can move that money to mental health resources, we can have after school programs, we can educate our community members,” Maroon said. “There are other ways in which we could be looking at reinvigorating our justice system without this kind of carceral environment.”
In addition to the police, Cole said corporations can also be blamed for continued racism against black people, saying both of their powers should be disbanded.
While corporations including Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, Spotify and Amazon have taken to social media to share statements in support of anti-racism protests, Cole says they need to do more.
“Corporations have too much power like the police do. They are a huge part of this problem if not the main source of this problem, because all of this labour that poor people are doing is to serve these corporations while we die against it,” Cole said.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found that black people are at a higher risk of in-hospital death compared to white people.
“We’re living in a crisis right now where people are dying of a communicable disease that we have never seen before this year, and corporations are still forcing people to go to work for minimum wage,” Cole said. “Black people are disproportionately dying of COVID, working for these corporations instead of staying home.”
Trudeau positions Canada as champion of co-ordinated global recovery plan – CBC.ca
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today to make the case for a co-ordinated global response to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest countries.
He’ll be among the leaders and heads of state to deliver remarks during a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).
Among other things, he is expected to promise that Canada will partner with developing countries, which stand to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and help to rally the world behind measures like debt relief to help them survive the crisis.
That is similar to the message Trudeau delivered last week while co-hosting a major United Nations summit, alongside UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Without a global co-ordinated recovery plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly $8.5 trillion US from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.
While no country has escaped the economic ravages of the deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, developing countries, already in debt distress before the pandemic, cannot afford the kinds of emergency benefits and economic stimulus measures undertaken in wealthy, industrialized countries like Canada.
Bank of Canada holds rate steady, saying COVID-19 economic impact 'appears to have peaked' – CBC.ca
The Bank of Canada held its benchmark interest rate steady at 0.25 per cent on Wednesday and said it thinks the economic impact of COVID-19 on the world’s economy “appears to have peaked.”
Canada’s central bank has dropped its rate dramatically since the pandemic began, cutting its rate from 1.75 per cent in late February to 0.25 per cent barely a month later.
The bank’s rate influences the rates that Canadian borrowers and savers get from their banks on things like mortgages and bank accounts. The central bank cut its rate in an attempt to encourage borrowing and investing to stimulate the economy, but those rate cuts weren’t the only thing it did to try to buttress the economy from the unprecedented hit of COVID-19.
The bank also started a number of bond and debt-buying programs in order to make sure there is enough cash in the system.
It announced on Wednesday it will tinker with two of them because things are starting to look up, but it is still buying up government bonds at a record-setting pace in order to make sure banks have enough cash on hand to lend to credit worthy borrowers.
“The Bank’s programs to improve market function are having their intended effect,” the bank said. “After significant strains in March, short-term funding conditions have improved. Therefore, the Bank is reducing the frequency of its term repo operations to once per week, and its program to purchase bankers’ acceptances to bi-weekly operations.”
Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes noted that “both of these operations have seen much less take-up (or none at all) of late.”
“The bank stands ready to adjust these programs if market conditions warrant,” the central bank said. “Meanwhile, its other programs to purchase federal, provincial, and corporate debt are continuing at their present frequency and scope.”
In barely two months, the feverish pace of bond buying to buttress the economy has ballooned the bank’s balance sheet by $125 billion, Toronto-Dominion Bank economist James Orlando calculated.
Slowing the frequency of new purchases is likely to bring that number down a little, but stimulus measures will remain in place for a while yet, CIBC economist Royce Mendes says.
“The bank had accumulated a large swath of short-term securities on its balance sheet, but now that those programs can wind down, the composition of the bank’s balance sheet is likely to change.”
Worst case scenario avoided for now
The reason for the bank’s cautious optimism is the bank’s belief that Canada has avoided the worst-case economic scenario that it painted in April.
The central bank now expects GDP to decline between 10 and 20 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, less than the 15 to 30 per cent decline forecast in April.
“Massive policy responses in advanced economies have helped to replace lost income and cushion the effect of economic shutdowns,” the bank said in explaining its rate decision. “Financial conditions have improved, and commodity prices have risen in recent weeks after falling sharply earlier this year.
The rate decision means that Canadians with variable rate mortgages shouldn’t expect any changes to their lending rate any time soon.
“The historically low mortgage rates currently in the market are here to stay until the economy approaches the level it was at before the pandemic started,” said James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub.ca and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise Financial.
“This means that anyone with a variable rate can expect prime to remain unchanged. Fixed rates will stay near historic lows.”
Wednesday’s decision is the last one under the leadership of Stephen Poloz. Tiff Macklem was named to replace him. Macklem “participated as an observer in governing council’s deliberations for this policy interest rate decision and endorses the rate decision and measures announced in this press release,” the bank said Tuesday.
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