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
Black in small-town Canada: From racism to building inclusive communities – Globalnews.ca
Seeing Confederate flags sold and displayed around Stratford, Ont., had left Edward Smith feeling disappointed and disturbed.
The 37-year old, originally from Ohio, moved to Stratford to work as an actor; he.has lived in the Ontario city that’s known for its arts and culture scene for 10 years.
According to the 2016 census, Stratford has a population of around 31,00 people. Fewer than 350 identified as Black.
Last week, Smith was out walking his dog and saw a Confederate flag hanging in the window of an apartment in his building. He snapped a photo and posted it in the community association group with the question: ‘Can we do better?”
“And then the vitriol came,” he said. Blatantly racist memes were sent his way, which depicted lynching, blackface and language that praised white supremacy.
While many supported him, Stratford also needs to face the hateful environment that has been created, he said.
“The community needs to take responsibility for the fact that racism feels welcomed and at home in its midst,” he said. “We need to realize our own culpability in allowing people to hold these views unchallenged.”
Being Black in a small town or city in Canada can hold a different set of challenges when it comes to one’s sense of belonging, multiple residents told Global News. Some may experience both overt and subtle forms of racism, while others find themselves teaching their non-Black neighbours how to be allies.
In recent months, protests have been happening across the world stemming from the deaths of multiple Black people at the hands of police, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. People have also continued to call for an end to anti-Black racism across the country.
Feelings of isolation
But being Black at this time in a community without many Black people can be extra isolating, says Meghan Watson, a registered psychotherapist based in Toronto.
“It’s not necessarily just geographic,” she said. “That isolation is defined by feelings of hopelessness. There may be triggers around previous experiences of isolation, perhaps instances of microaggressions or macroaggressions and invalidation may arise.”
Discussing race and raising children of colour
Watson says Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BlPOC) can feel further isolation if they don’t have an understanding, accepting or supportive community of allies around them.
“That’s going to create some mental health issues where you might see someone in persistent anxiety and stress or hyper-vigilance of their surroundings.”
She says many have long believed that racism may not exist in a country like Canada or that we’re just too “nice,” especially in small-town living, but experiences involving overt and subtle racism still exist.
“There’s a lot of benevolent racism that happens in small communities.”
“There’s a lot of well-meaning individuals who have pure intentions, but it’s deeply rooted in a history of believing in and considering people of colour and Black individuals in Canada as less-than.”
‘Pain’ from daily microaggressions, racist comments
After feeling isolated and dealing with racist comments living in the small town of Pembroke, Ont., Burgundy Morgan, 23, knew she had to leave.
In high school, she remembers teachers would hammer her with questions, asking where she was “really from.” Some white classmates called her “the whitest Black girl” because of how she spoke, she said.
“I just kind of went along with it … because I wanted to make friends. I did feel pain from things like that,” she said.
Pembroke has a population of around 15,000 people and only 75 are Black, according to 2016 census data. For Morgan, the worst experience was how some people treated her natural hair.
“People were always coming up to me, touching my hair, playing with my hair, always asking me questions.”
She eventually moved to Ottawa to go to college and doesn’t plan on going back to Pembroke.
She remembers white classmates saying the N-word around her, not knowing the history of that word.
“There’s a lot of things that weren’t taught about racism in schools (and) it’s not enough to be ‘not racist.’ You have to be anti-racist and continuously be educating and taking accountability for your actions.”
The importance of building a community
Tristan Barrocks, 36, has been living in Shelburne, Ont., for five years with his wife and children. The town had about 8,100 people, according to the 2016 census, about 750 of whom were Black.
Barrocks, a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer, says he has seen how diverse his town has become in just the last few years. In fact, when he first moved from Brampton, Ont., to Shelburne, a few other Black families also moved with him.
“It was definitely a dramatic difference in the sense of the pace of life and also the quality of life,” he said.
Now, Barrocks has invested his time in building a more inclusive community for his children. He joined a local parent council to include more Black-focused events and programming within the school system and hopes to bring more extra-curricular activities to students of all backgrounds.
In his eyes, this is a way to expand his community and make it more diverse.
“There is the old-school string of thought where Shelburne is small-town … and we need to keep that vintage style,” he said. “Some of these people have never left Shelburne or been around Black or brown people or Asian people.”
He says that while he has not experienced racism in his town himself, he often deals with racial bias or stereotypes about being Black. But he also has a lot of respect for his local leaders and neighbours — Barrocks says hundreds of people showed up to a Black Lives Matter protest recently.
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“There are things happening (here). There is progress being made,” he said.
Barrocks says he spent months soul-searching his decision when he first moved and realized he also had assumptions about small-town living.
“We made assumptions people weren’t friendly or people were looking at us a different way … We took the initiative upon ourselves to engage in dialogue.”
The cost of living in a city
Alyssa, a 44-year old woman who has lived in Paris, Ont., for most of her life, says that while living in the town of around 12,000 people is usually quiet, she has faced microaggressions.
Global News has changed Alyssa’s name to protect her identity.
As a school teacher, students have made fun of her lips and the colour of her skin, she said.
“I didn’t say anything about it because I was a little bit in shock and numb,” she told Global News.
Alyssa says she would feel more comfortable living in a larger city, as the environment would be more diverse.
“I just physically feel more comfortable there,” she said.
But the cost of living in a major urban centre like Toronto or Montreal is a deterrent that has kept her in Paris.
Racism is a burden for Black people everywhere, but within a city, it may be “easier to bear,” she said. Finding other Black people to discuss what she is going through is close to impossible in Paris, as seeing another Black person is a “rarity,” she said.
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Watson understands how important it is to be around communities that look like you and support you, but she also understands how hard it can be.
She recommends reaching out to support groups digitally or trying to build relationships with others in your city or town.
Small-town living may not be for everyone either, she stresses, and if you are planning to make the move, do some reflection first. She says it’s not a Black person’s job to “fix” diversity problems in small towns either.
“Everybody has a different tolerance and understanding of what it means to feel connected to others.”
More information about anti-Black racism in Canada:
Racial profiling and racial discrimination against Black people is a systemic problem in Canada, according to numerous reports and experts.
Black Canadians account for 3.5 per cent of the country’s total population, according to the latest government statistics, but are over-represented in federal prisons by more than 300 per cent, as found by the John Howard Society.
A Black person is nearly 20 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a fatal shooting by Toronto police, a 2018 report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission found, and Black Canadians are more likely to experience inappropriate or unjustified searches during encounters and unnecessary charges or arrests.
They’re also more likely to be held overnight by police than white people, according to the John Howard Society.
Black Canadians experience disparities in health outcomes compared to the population at large, according to research from the Black Health Alliance. The Black Experiences in Health Care Symposium Report notes that they often face barriers and discrimination within health-care systems. Black people report higher rates of diabetes and hypertension compared to white people, which researchers published in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health say may stem from experiences of racism in everyday life.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Today's coronavirus news: Canada begins testing thousands of blood samples for antibodies; Iran mandates masks after record death toll – Toronto Star
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 11:01 a.m.:
There are 105,455 confirmed cases in Canada.
Quebec: 55,784 confirmed (including 5,566 deaths, 25,280 resolved)
Ontario: 35,794 confirmed (including 2,689 deaths, 31,266 resolved) (The Star does its own tally and will be updating this story later today. As of 5 p.m. Saturday, by the Star’s count, cases were up a total of 117 since Friday evening.)
Alberta: 8,259 confirmed (including 155 deaths, 7,532 resolved) British Columbia: 2,947 confirmed (including 177 deaths, 2,608 resolved)
Nova Scotia: 1,064 confirmed (including 63 deaths, 998 resolved)
Saskatchewan: 796 confirmed (including 14 deaths, 711 resolved)
Manitoba: 314 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 302 resolved), 11 presumptive
Newfoundland and Labrador: 261 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 258 resolved)
New Brunswick: 165 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 162 resolved)
Prince Edward Island: 30 confirmed (including 27 resolved)
Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 11 resolved)
Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
Nunavut: No confirmed cases, 1 presumptive
Total: 105,455 (12 presumptive, 105,443 confirmed including 8,676 deaths, 69,173 resolved)
11:02 a.m.: Iran on Sunday instituted mandatory mask-wearing as fears mount over newly spiking reported deaths from the coronavirus, even as its public increasingly shrugs off the danger of the COVID-19 illness it causes.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicized an image of himself in a mask in recent days, urging both public officials and the Islamic Republic’s 80 million people to wear them to stop the virus’s spread.
But public opinion polling and a walk through any of the streets of Tehran show the widespread apathy felt over a pandemic that saw Iran in February among the first countries struck after China.
On June 30, Iran saw its highest single-day reported death toll of the pandemic with 162 killed.
The new rules require those in Tehran’s subway, riding buses or indoors to wear them. The government said those seeking “public services” also will be required to wear a mask.
10:49 a.m.: New York City is preparing for Phase 3 of the reopening process Monday, but without indoor dining.
The city, which suffered terribly in the spring from the virus., will allow nail salons, tattoo and massage parlours to reopen at 50 per cent capacity, ABC reports.
New York state was seeing almost 800 deaths a day at the virus’s peak but recent numbers have been in the single digits or low double digits.
9:52 a.m.: The U.K. government says selected sports stars are to be exempt from quarantine requirements when competing in England.
However, those involved will instead live and work in “bubbled” environments behind closed doors, U.K. culture secretary Oliver Dowden announced on Sunday.
The new measures will allow Formula One, international soccer, golf and snooker events to take place. Competitors involved in these events will be granted quarantine exemptions.
9:09 a.m.:The hard-hit Australian state of Victoria has recorded 74 new coronavirus cases after announcing a record 108 new infections on Saturday.
The Saturday increase resulted in state Premier Daniel Andrews announcing a lockdown of nine Melbourne inner-city public housing blocks containing 3,000 people, where 27 cases have been detected.
Police are guarding every entrance of the housing estates and residents are not allowed to leave their homes for any reason.
Andrews said the residents will have their rent waived for the next two weeks and will receive one-off hardship payments of between about $750 and $1,500 (Canadian). The government said it would arrange the delivery of food and medical supplies to all homes.
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Australia had for months been largely successful in keeping the virus at bay.
7:45 a.m.: Israel ordered thousands of people into quarantine after a contentious phone surveillance program resumed while Palestinians in the West Bank returned to life under lockdown amid a surge in coronavirus cases in both areas.
A statement Sunday from Israel’s Health Ministry said “many” messages had been sent to Israelis following the renewed involvement of the Shin Bet domestic security agency. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that more than 30,000 people were notified they must enter quarantine since Thursday.
After imposing strict measures early on during a first wave of infections, Israel and the Palestinian territories appeared to have contained their outbreaks, with each reporting only a few dozen new cases a day in May. But an easing of restrictions led to a steady uptick in cases over the past month.
“We are in a state of emergency,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, adding that Israel would need to further clamp down to rein in the virus.
Israel is now reporting around 1,000 new cases a day, higher than its peak during the previous wave and it is set to reimpose restrictions in response, limiting occupancy in bars, places of worship and event spaces to 50 people. It is requiring citizens wear masks and has urged more stringent social distancing.
6:11 a.m.: The national immunity task force has started testing thousands of blood samples for COVID-19 antibodies and should be able to produce a more detailed picture of how many Canadians have been infected with the novel coronavirus within a couple of weeks.
It will be much longer, however, before we know more about what kind of protection against future infection having the antibodies provides, said Dr. Timothy Evans, executive director of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.
Plus, said Evans, most of the people whose blood is being tested will not be informed of the results because of how the blood is being collected for testing.
“There won’t be an opportunity for individuals to find out their status,” said Evans, who is also director of the McGill School of Population and Global Health.
At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified in January, while many others were sick but couldn’t get tested because provinces were limiting who could access the procedure until just a few weeks ago.
Evans also said a significant number of people get the infection and show no symptoms and will have no clue they were ever sick. Evans said immunity testing in other countries has suggested the actual infection rate is 10 to 20 times more than the number of confirmed cases.
Saturday 8:32 p.m.: Mexico topped 30,000 COVID-19 deaths Saturday, overtaking France as the country with the fifth-highest death toll since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Officials reported 523 more confirmed coronavirus deaths for the day, bringing the nation’s total to 30,366 for the pandemic. Mexico’s total confirmed infections rose by almost 6,000 to 251,165, about on par with Spain, the eighth highest caseload.
Also Saturday, about 200 street vendors briefly blocked several major avenues in downtown Mexico City on Saturday to demand they be allowed to sell again amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Saturday 6:47 p.m.: Officials across the U.S. pleaded with Americans to curb their enthusiasm for large Fourth of July crowds Saturday even as President Donald Trump enticed the masses with a “special evening” of tribute and fireworks staged with new U.S. coronavirus infections on the rise.
People wandered the National Mall in baking heat and took shade under the scattered trees while, not far away, music wafted from a party on the White House South Lawn. To come: the “Salute for America” celebration with Trump’s speech from the White House grounds, a military air show and a more ambitious fireworks display than has been seen in years.
The crowds on the Mall were strikingly thinner than the one gathered for last year’s jammed celebration on the National Mall. Many who showed up wore masks.
At the White House, several hundred invited guests assembled on the sweeping South Lawn, gathering around tables decorated with flowers and small U.S. flags as a military rock band played. Most guests were unmasked.
Trump’s guests were doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers and military members as well as officials from the administration, said Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary. He said the event was a tribute to the “tremendous courage and spirit” of front-line workers and the public in the pandemic.
Saturday 5:30 p.m.: As of 5 p.m. Saturday, Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 37,675 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,733 deaths, up a total of 117 new cases since Friday evening, according to the Star’s latest count.
As has been the case in recent weeks, the vast majority of new cases were reported in a handful of health units. Only Windsor-Essex (35 new cases), Peel Region (25 cases), York Region (21 cases) and Toronto (20 cases) reported increases in the double digits. The 20 cases in Toronto were the fewest in any day since March 26.
Meanwhile, just two more fatal cases were reported — both in Toronto. The daily rate of deaths has also fallen sharply since peaking in early May when the health units reported as many as 94 deaths in a single day.
Earlier Saturday, the province reported 150 patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 39 in an intensive care unit, of whom 26 are on a ventilator — numbers that are all near the lowest levels in data that goes back to early April.
The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths — 2,687 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”
The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
Two Americans charged with breaking Canada's quarantine rules – CTV News
Two Americans have been fined for breaking Canada’s COVID-19 quarantine rules after being spotted multiple times in an Ontario town, police say.
Ontario Provincial Police officers in the Rainy River District, which runs along the Canada-U.S. border west of Thunder Bay, Ont., say the 66-year-old man and 65-year-old woman entered Canada on June 24.
Police report that the visitors were told to drive straight to their Canadian destination and stay there for 14 days.
“Both individuals failed to comply with the … Quarantine Act and were observed making stops in the Town of Fort Frances,” police said Saturday in a news release.
As a result of the charge, the man and woman, who police say live in Excelsior, Minn., have each been fined $1,000.
Everyone entering Canada for non-essential reasons since March has been ordered to quarantine for two weeks. This rule is currently scheduled to remain in place until the end of August. Visitors also have to wear non-medical face masks while en route to their quarantine locations, unless they are in private vehicles.
The border is also closed outright to most non-citizens until July 31, although there are exceptions for permanent residents, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, diplomats and air crews.
Another exemption allows Americans to travel through Canada to reach Alaska. There has been concern that some tourists may be using this as a loophole to get into the country and stay here, and several charges related to Quarantine Act violations have recently been laid against Americans found in Banff, Alta. B.C. Premier John Horgan recently implored American tourists to go straight to Alaska and straight back, without stopping to see the sights of Canada.
The Quarantine Act carries maximum penalties of six-month jail terms and fines of up to $750,000, or more if a failure to quarantine leads to death or serious bodily harm.
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