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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world April 21 – CBC.ca

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Speaking during his daily COVID-19 update on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new $350-million emergency community support fund meant to help vulnerable Canadians, as he said the pandemic has worsened inequalities throughout the country.  

That fund is aimed at helping community organizations, charities and non-profits, which have had to change how they help groups like seniors and those experiencing homelessness, Trudeau said. 

“Their mission has always been to support people in their time of need, and that hasn’t changed,” Trudeau said. “But COVID-19 is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on those organizations, because more people need help.” 

Trudeau also said the government is launching a calculator for businesses to use when applying for the emergency wage subsidy, which gives employers up to $847 dollars per employee each week. That calculator, which will be hosted on the Canada Revenue Agency website, will allow companies to determine exactly how much the subsidy will cover.

Applications for the program will open on April 27, he said. At a later press briefing, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said the government anticipated 90 per cent of applications would be processed by May 5.

Trudeau also spoke of the difficulties Canadians have gone through while practising physical distancing for nearly six weeks. He said there are early signs that those measures have helped reduce the spread of COVID-19. Health officials in provinces across Canada are reminding people to stick with public health measures, however, even as some regions see a drop in new cases of COVID-19.

WATCH | Trudeau on why planes came back from China with supplies:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters on Tuesday 1:45

Ontario on Monday released updated modelling that suggested community spread of COVID-19 appears to have peaked. But the health experts who presented the updated information noted that the spread of the virus in long-term care is still growing.

“We’re at peak in the community, but still in that accelerating upswing of the curve in long-term care,” said Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the University of Toronto’s public health department.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that rushing to ease coronavirus restrictions will likely lead to a resurgence of the illness, a warning that comes as governments start rolling out plans to get their economies up and running again.

“This is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

He said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus, and the lifting of lockdowns and other physical distancing measures must be done gradually and strike the right balance between keeping people healthy and allowing economies to function. UN agencies on Tuesday made an appeal for more funding to help the most vulnerable, saying: “In this race against an invisible enemy, all countries must fight back, but not all begin from the same starting line.”

As of 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 38,422 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. The provinces and territories that provide public information on recoveries listed 13,201 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News count of coronavirus-related deaths based on provincial data, local public health information and CBC’s own reporting has recorded 1,910 coronavirus-related deaths in Canada. There have been two reported COVID-19-related deaths of Canadians abroad.

According to a case tracking tool maintained by U.S-based Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 2.5 million confirmed cases worldwide of the novel coronavirus, which causes an illness called COVID-19. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada says COVID-19 is a “serious health threat” in Canada. “The risk will vary between and within communities, but given the increasing number of cases in Canada, the risk to Canadians is considered high.”

The novel coronavirus, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, was first reported in China in late 2019. There are no proven treatments or vaccines for the virus, though researchers around the world are racing to find answers as to what might be effective against it.

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia‘s Vancouver Coastal Health has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 among staff at a chicken processing plant. Twenty-eight employees of United Poultry Company have tested positive for COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in B.C., including about how a Vancouver Island doctor is taking part in COVID-19 treatment experiments.

In Alberta, one day after the closure of a meat-processing plant in High River, another facility with dozens of COVID-19 cases among its employees says it is down to one shift due to “increased absenteeism” but will continue to operate. ​​The JBS plant in Brooks had 67 confirmed cases, but no one has been laid off.  Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

WATCH | Trudeau addresses outbreak in Alberta meat processing plants:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters on Tuesday 1:00

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is expected to announce a plan for how some businesses and services may be allowed to start reopening if case numbers stay low. The province reported four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 320. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he’s taking a 25 per cent pay cut as he pushes for cuts in the public sector. Pallister is asking public sector workers to accept reduced work weeks, job sharing or temporary layoffs to help the government redirect spending to health care during the pandemic. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Shoppers are separated by rows of wood pallets to help with physical distancing as they line up to enter a Costco store in Burnaby, B.C., on Sunday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Ontario’s numbers climbed to 11,735 as the province announced 551 new cases Tuesday morning, a day after models suggested community spread has peaked. The number of cases in long-term care homes in the province is still on the rise, though. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, including an analysis of the latest projections and what they mean for people in the province.

One long-term care home in Toronto reported Tuesday that five residents have now died of COVID-19. Three residents died overnight Monday at Hawthorne Place Care Centre, executive director Gale Coburn said in a statement. The centre has 51 positive cases, she added.

WATCH | Ontario COVID-19 cases may have peaked in general population:

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Quebec saw 102 additional deaths on Tuesday, becoming the first province with more than 1,000 deaths, with 850 of them having occurred in long-term care homes. The professional organizations representing doctors and nurses in the province announced Tuesday they would be looking into two such facilities that have seen a high number of deaths. The treatment of residents as a result of staff shortages in those facilities has also come under scrutiny. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

On Tuesday, New Brunswick reported no new cases for the third straight day, although Premier Blaine Higgs warned residents they would “need to adapt to a new normal” once the province begins to gradually reopen. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Newfoundland and Labrador also marked their third straight day with no new cases, though the province’s chief medical officer emphatically stated that the struggle isn’t over.  “No new cases to report over the last couple of days is indeed promising, but we must remain cautious with our optimism. I cannot stress enough that we are not yet in the clear,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald Tuesday. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Nova Scotia reported one COVID-19 death on Tuesday at a long-term care facility in Halifax. That brings the total number of deaths to 10, while 16 new reported COVID-19 cases bring the province’s case total to 737. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia, which is still reeling after at least 22 people were killed by a man who also died in an hours-long shooting rampage over the weekend.

Prince Edward Island reported no new cases on Tuesday, and the province is looking at lifting some restrictions put in place by early May, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.

In the Northwest Territories, an emergency loan program has provided $1.6 million, but a third of applicants were rejected Read more about what’s happening across the North, including a look at how Yukon businesses are trying to prepare for an expected drop in tourism.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

U.S. President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he will be placing a 60-day pause on the issuance of certain immigration green cards in an effort to limit competition for jobs in a U.S. economy wrecked by the coronavirus.

He told reporters during the White House briefing that the move would not impact those in the country on a temporary basis and would apply only to those looking for green cards in hopes of staying.

Much of the immigration system has already ground to a halt because of the pandemic. Almost all visa processing by the State Department has been suspended for weeks. Travel to the U.S. has been restricted from much of the globe, including China, Europe, Mexico and Canada. And Trump has used the virus to effectively end asylum at U.S. borders, turning away even children who arrive by themselves — something Congress, the courts and international law hadn’t previously allowed.

The U.S. is now reporting more COVID-19 cases than any other country in the world, with more than 800,000 Americans infected, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 45,000 have died.

With health authorities and many governors warning that far more testing is needed before the U.S. economy can be safely reopened, New York state launched the nation’s most ambitious effort yet to screen the general population for exposure to the virus.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said testing has to get up to scale before reopening can happen, adding that he was aware some people were unhappy they had to wear masks or engage in physical distancing. “It’s not a question of happy — it’s a question of life and death.”

At least three more states — South Carolina, Colorado and Georgia — have moved to loosen restrictions on commerce.

Stay-at-home orders and widespread business closures imposed in most states to slow the spread of the virus have stifled the U.S. economy and thrown at least 22 million people out of work, a level of unemployment not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

A medical worker, centre, takes a sample from the nose of a woman at a coronavirus testing tent outside MGH Healthcare Center on Monday in Chelsea, Mass. (Steven Senne/The Associated Press)

The economic damage has led to increasing agitation for relaxing physical distancing restrictions, especially as the rate of coronavirus hospitalizations and other indicators of the outbreak’s severity have begun to level off in parts of the country in recent days. In Pennsylvania, where Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has pledged to veto a bill in the Republican-led General Assembly that would force him to reopen some businesses, several hundred demonstrators, some in cars with horns blaring, rallied in Harrisburg, the state capital.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told ABC News there would be no real economic recovery until authorities got the virus under control and jumping the gun could lead to a big spike in cases.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed concerns Tuesday that people haven’t followed physical distancing measures as much as they’re supposed to under a state of emergency he declared two weeks ago to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Abe asked citizens to do more to prevent Japanese health-care systems from collapsing.

Abe made a stay-at-home request on April 7 to reduce social interactions by as much as 80 per cent in an effort to limit infections. But surveys show movement of people was not down that much at major train stations, and even less in downtown areas where restaurants and grocery stores are still operating.

WATCH | Manufacturing picks up at some workplaces after COVID-19 shutdown

France and South Korea begin to open some workplaces with new safety rules and more modest production targets. 1:15

The Netherlands extended its three-month ban on major public events on Tuesday. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the ban would now be in place until Sept. 1, although he added that an “encouraging” slowing of the spread of the coronavirus would enable elementary schools and daycare centres to reopen in May.

WATCH | How to handle physical distancing in tricky situations:

Physical distancing has radically changed how we socialize. But there’s still some scenarios where it’s difficult to limit our physical contact with others. Here’s how to best navigate them. 3:23

Ireland also banned major events on Tuesday until the end of August, while the government will decide what to do about smaller gatherings closer to May 5 when restrictions put in place on March 24 are due to expire. 

Spain cancelled its July running of the bulls in Pamplona, the more than 400-year-old event made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. The event was also called off during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. 

The country did slightly loosen some restrictions on Tuesday, announcing children would be allowed to go for walks beginning next weekend. The change came hours after the government first announced that young children, who are currently banned from leaving home under any circumstances, would be allowed to accompany their parents on essential trips such as to buy food or medicine. 

Crowds of youths in the outskirts of Paris targeted riot police with fireworks and torched rubbish bins in a third night of unrest, in areas where a heavy police presence to enforce a lockdown has exacerbated tensions. Trouble first flared in Villeneuve-La-Garenne on Saturday after a motorcyclist crashed into the open door of a police car, with unrest also breaking out Monday night into Tuesday in the neighbouring districts of Gennevilliers, Clichy-La-Garenne and Asnieres. 

France‘s lockdown permits people to leave home only to buy groceries, go to work, seek medical care or exercise. French President Emmanuel Macron said schools and shops would gradually reopen from May 11, but restaurants, hotels, cafés and cinemas would remain shut for longer.

A trash bin burns in the street during clashes in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, in the northern suburbs of Paris, early on Tuesday. Tension with the police initially flared after a motorcycle accident involving a police cruiser on Saturday. (Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy will announce before the end of this week its plans for the gradual reopening from lockdown, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday.

The lockdown, which closed most Italian businesses and prevented people from leaving their homes for all but essential needs, has been in place since March 9, putting a major strain on the eurozone’s third-largest economy.

“I wish I could say: let’s reopen everything. Immediately. We start tomorrow morning…. But such a decision would be irresponsible. It would make the contagion curve go up in an uncontrolled way and would nullify all the efforts we have made so far,” Conte wrote in a Facebook post.

Germany’s Oktoberfest has been cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis, the southern state of Bavaria said on Tuesday. Around six million partygoers gather every year in Munich for the two-week-long festivities, held in packed tents with long wooden tables and oompah bands.

A teacher cleans and disinfects chairs and tables at the the Phoenix Gymnasium secondary school in Dortmund, western Germany, on Tuesday. Students preparing for the Abitur high-school graduation exams taking place in May are allowed to return to school from Thursday. (Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain is marking Queen Elizabeth II’s 94th birthday with silence Tuesday, foregoing the usual gun salutes and ringing of bells. With thousands dead amid the outbreak, the monarch decided that the celebratory display of military firepower would not be appropriate.

Meantime, the British Parliament went back to work Tuesday — mostly virtually. A few dozen legislators sat, well-spaced, in the House of Commons, and agreed on arrangements for lawmakers to ask questions from home using videoconferencing program Zoom beamed onto screens erected around the wood-panelled chamber. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will continue to stand in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is still recovering from a bout of COVID-19.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has banned people in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country from returning to their hometowns to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of the dawn-to-sunset fasting during Ramadan. The announcement came amid warnings from health experts that Indonesia could face an explosion of coronavirus cases that could infect more than a million people after Ramadan unless the government imposes stricter measures.

Migrant workers wearing protective face masks collect catered food distributed by volunteers on Monday in Singapore. Migrant workers in the construction industry have been served with a 14-day stay home notice starting from April 20 in order to curb the transmission of the coronavirus at work sites. (Ore Huiyiung/Getty Images)

A northwestern province on the front line of China’s coronavirus battle reported its first cases in nearly three weeks on Tuesday, all Chinese nationals returning from overseas, as imported infections started to level off elsewhere. 

At the same time, with over 2.5 million coronavirus cases reported worldwide, China is warning its citizens against travelling abroad. The consular department of China’s foreign ministry said that Chinese citizens should fully assess the “serious” risk of getting infected and not being able to return.

Singapore said on Tuesday it had preliminary confirmation of 1,111 new coronavirus cases, taking the city-state’s total infections to 9,125. The health ministry said most of the cases were migrant workers living in dormitories, a group that accounts for more than three-quarters of the city-state’s total infections.

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Students upset as some Canadian universities hike tuition fees – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Some Canadian universities are raising tuition fees for the new school year much to the consternation of students, who argue their costs should be going down, not up in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While schools argue they need an infusion of cash to deal in part with higher costs of remote teaching and learning, students say they already face challenges, such as difficulty in finding summer employment.

“Students are struggling more than ever with skyrocketing tuition increases they have faced over the years,” Sofia Descalzi, national chairwoman the Canadian Federation of Students said on Friday. “It really is disappointing to see that in a time of crisis, universities and colleges are not ensuring affordability and accessibility of their education and reducing tuition fees, but they are going the opposite way.”

For example, the University of Manitoba announced last week it would be raising tuition by an average of 3.75 per cent. Most undergrads will be paying about $250 more a year for a full course load but others will pay $640 more.

The school said provincial grants have been falling while remote teaching and learning in light of the pandemic is adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to its costs. The university said it was setting aside another $600,000 in student aid.

“We know that cost is a barrier to many, even in the best of times,” said Janice Ristock, a vice-president.

Even in Ontario, where tuition was cut and then frozen for two years last year, the University of Guelph is among schools that have raised tuition for international students, who generally pay significantly more than their Canadian counterparts.

Horeen Hassan, with the Central Student Association at the university, said students were shocked at the increases, which the school estimates at between three and 15 per cent. International students already pay on average three times more than domestic students, she said, and COVID has wrecked their employment plans, too.

“Many international students are heartbroken that an institution they love so much is putting such a financial burden on them,” Hassan said in a release.

The university said the increase that took effect this spring was similar to hikes adopted by peer institutions although its overall rates were lower than theirs. At the same time, it said it would bolster supports available to students in need.

“We understand that the increases may represent a hardship for some continuing and returning international students, particularly amid challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the University of Guleph said.

Similarly, the University of Toronto said tuition for international undergrads has gone up for the summer session by an average of 5.4 per cent — 4.2 per cent for graduates — and will remain at that level in the fall. The school said it has also been providing emergency relief funding for those impacted by COVID.

Students, who have long complained about the cost of post-secondary education, said the pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Even with some emergency financial help from the federal government, many will have difficulty getting through the summer let alone being able to deal with more expensive education in the fall, Descalzi said.

A recent survey for the federation and the Canadian Association of University Teachers found a significant number of students were rethinking their plans. Among the reasons were lost income, limited support, and concerns about remote learning. In all, almost one-third of those asked said they might not go to school given the situation.

Descalzi said universities should resort to belt-tightening at the administration and executive levels or dip into reserves before placing a higher financial burden on those furthering their education.

“We are in times of crisis,” she said. “They should not be raising fees.”

Dalhousie University, which is raising tuition three per cent, said it was taking steps to cut costs and limit non-essential spending. The school noted that 41 per cent of its operating money comes directly from students and increases were necessary to maintain academic standards.

“This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic and is even more apparent today,” spokeswoman Janet Bryson said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 29, 2020

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For 4th day in a row, Canada adds fewer than 1,000 new coronavirus cases – Global News

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Canada’s daily coronavirus case count remained under 1,000 for the fourth consecutive day.

With 906 new cases and 102 deaths, Friday tipped the country over 89,000 cases. Close to 7,000 people have died and nearly 47,000 people have recovered.

Quebec, the hardest-hit part of the country, saw a spike in COVID-19 cases two weeks after reopening elementary schools. At least 41 students and staff tested positive, and the province saw its total case count rise by 530 cases Friday to more than 50,000 cases overall — more than half of Canada’s total number of infections.


READ MORE:
Quebec, province hardest hit by health crisis, tops 50,000 coronavirus cases

Quebec also saw its death toll increase by 61, with fatalities now totalling 4,363. More than 15,600 people are considered recovered.

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Ontario announced it is considering a regional approach to easing coronavirus restrictions. The province saw 344 new cases and 41 new deaths Friday, raising its figures to more than 27,000 cases and 2,230 deaths over all. More than 20,000 people are deemed recovered.






9:05
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario premier looking into possible regional reopenings


Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario premier looking into possible regional reopenings

A doctor in New Brunswick who failed to self-isolate after visiting Quebec earlier this month has been linked to a growing cluster of eight cases — an unwelcome development after New Brunswick had recently cleared almost all of its cases of COVID-19.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

The cluster includes three health-care workers and two cases in intensive care units. New Brunswick has seen zero deaths from COVID-19 so far, and a total of 128 cases, including 120 recoveries.


READ MORE:
2 new coronavirus cases in N.B., doctor connected to outbreak in Campbellton suspended

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Nova Scotia reported no new cases, leaving it with a little more than 1,000 cases and 59 deaths. The majority of fatalities are linked to one long-term care home in Halifax. The province is now allowing 10-person gatherings.

There were no new deaths reported in Alberta. The province has opened up its testing to everyone, regardless of symptoms. Two dozen new cases brought the total caseload to nearly 7,000, including more than 6,200 recoveries and 143 deaths. A hundred of those who have died are aged 80 and up.






1:38
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health minister discusses launch of next phase of testing strategy


Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health minister discusses launch of next phase of testing strategy

British Columbia also saw no new deaths. Four new cases brought provincial figures to 2,562 cases, including more than 2,100 recoveries, while the death toll remained 164.

Saskatchewan reported two new cases and no new deaths. Ten people have died so far, and the province has seen 641 cases in total. More than 500 people have recovered.

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READ MORE:
How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

Manitoba reported no new cases. The province has seen seven people die out of 283 cases. More than 270 are recovered.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases, leaving it with 261 cases, including three deaths and more than 250 recoveries. Residents are now allowed to expand their social bubbles.






2:37
Coronavirus: Toronto asks businesses, institutions to remain working from home until September


Coronavirus: Toronto asks businesses, institutions to remain working from home until September

All cases in Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon remain resolved, with no new information reported on Friday. Nunavut remains the one region in Canada without any confirmed cases so far.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus: Trump terminates relationship with World Health Organization

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Globally, the virus has resulted in close to 5.9 million cases and more than 363,000 deaths. The U.S. alone has seen more than 100,000 deaths.

— With files by The Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ford considering regional reopening of Ontario

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s considering a regional, phased approach to reopening the province amid the COVID-19 pandemic — an option he had previously resisted.

“Everything is on the table,” Ford said at his daily briefing on Friday. “It’s an option that we are looking at. I know other jurisdictions have done this. I want to know how this has gone in other areas, what lessons we can learn.”

Ford said the province’s expanded testing guidelines, released this morning, will help public health officials better understand trends and hot spots.

“Now that our testing is getting to where we need it, I am now comfortable with asking our officials to look at a regional approach for a staged reopening.”

Ford has previously said he wouldn’t consider a regional reopening, opting instead for a blanket policy despite considerable differences in the number of active cases in various parts of the province. For example, a CBC News analysis found that the per capita rate of active cases is four times higher in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area than elsewhere in Ontario.

Ford cautioned that an ultimate decision will be based on advice from public health officials.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said a regional approach presents challenges with public messaging and how to safely delineate various regions.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Friday afternoon that the reopening of any region needs to depend on public health numbers.

“We have a different situation here because of the size of the population,” Tory said, adding that the size of Toronto’s transit system alone makes it very different than the rest of the province.

344 new cases

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 344 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday and said it surpassed its testing benchmark for a second straight day.

The news comes as the province revealed its new testing strategy will focus on communities with relatively high numbers of cases and certain high-risk workplaces while also boosting Ontario’s contact-tracing work. (You can read the full provincial strategy at the bottom of this story.)

The new cases bring the total in the province since the COVID-19 outbreak began in January to 27,210. Slightly more than 77 per cent of those cases are now resolved.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s network of labs processed 18,525 tests yesterday, the most since May 15. The current daily target is 16,000, though the system has the capacity to handle more than 20,000 on any given day.

The backlog of samples waiting to be processed grew to 13,351, meaning more than 20,000 tests were added to the queue yesterday.

The overall number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 fell again — down seven to 826 — and remained at its lowest level seen in about a month.

The death toll from COVID-19 currently sits at 2,275, according to data compiled by CBC News. About 78.5 per cent of all deaths in the province were residents in long-term care homes.

Pop-up testing centres

Ontario’s Ministry of Health is helping to run pop-up COVID-19 assessment centres in one of the province’s hardest-hit areas.

In a news release issued Friday morning, the Scarborough Health Network said it is working in conjunction with the ministry and Toronto Public Health to operate the first of the pop-up facilities at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, in the northeastern part of the city.

Officials are encouraging anyone in those communities who thinks they may have been infected with the novel coronavirus, even if they are asymptomatic, to get tested.

 

Front-line health-care staff conduct drive-thru COVID-19 testing at a specially built facility near Etobicoke General Hospital in Toronto. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

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The assessment centre will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET today. Two more days of pop-up testing are scheduled in Scarborough thus far, though the ministry says there will be a total of days at five different locations.

The next is scheduled for June 1 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, while a third will be held at Global Kingdom Ministries on June 2.

North Scarborough is among the three areas of Toronto with the most COVID-19 cases, according to data released by Toronto Public Health earlier this week. Northern Etobicoke and parts of North York also have a high number of cases. All three areas are home to relatively low-income neighbourhoods with dense multi-unit residences.

The pop-up assessment centres are part of the province’s updated testing strategy, which is set to ramp up in earnest next week.

Expanded testing strategy

The revised plan was detailed by public health officials at a technical briefing for media this morning. It aligns closely with what Ford has hinted at over the past several weeks.

The strategy includes a directive, outlined in a memo from the Ministry of Health last weekend, that anyone who is concerned they may have COVID-19 is not to be refused a test at any of the province’s 131 assessment centres.

There will be “targeted campaigns” aimed at testing employees in key sectors identified by the province, including the agri-food, auto and retail industries. Officials are working with individual employers to put those campaigns in motion in the coming weeks.

Ontario will also establish mobile testing units — buses or vans equipped with supplies and staffed by health-care workers — that could be used to test those living in particularly hard-hit communities.

There are currently more than 20 public, commercial and hospital labs processing testing samples. The revised strategy does not include any new targets for daily capacity, because the situation is too fluid to provide an accurate benchmark, officials said.

Some infectious disease experts have been critical of the province’s messaging on testing, saying it has thus far left room for confusion about who actually qualifies for an assessment.

The province has failed to reach its daily testing target more than half the time in May. Levels dropped sharply once a blitz of nearly all long-term care residents and staff was completed over the long weekend, but they have picked up again in recent days after Ontario relaxed criteria for members of the public to be tested.

Public health officials have said that ramping up testing in the general public will be essential as Ontario looks to further loosen restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Source: CBC.ca

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Edited BY Harry Miller

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