Canadian officials acknowledged some regions of the country could be closer to reopening parts of the economy than others, but continued to stress a careful approach as the border closure with the hard-hit United States was extended for another 30 days during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Let us be very clear, while we want to be optimistic, we need to be absolutely cautious,” Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said Saturday.
Sobering reminders of the need for patience were heard throughout the day as case numbers continued to climb in Canadian nursing homes and prisons.
At Residence Herron, the suburban Montreal long-term care home where 31 people died from COVID-19 in less than one month, 61 of 99 residents have now tested positive for the virus, according to a regional health authority spokesperson.
Canadian Armed Forces members with medical expertise headed to long-term care homes in Quebec after Premier François Legault asked the federal government for assistance.
Meanwhile, alarms were raised about an outbreak at a federal women’s prison northeast of Montreal where 60 per cent of inmates have been infected, according to the Elizabeth Fry Society. The organization reported 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Joliette Institution, up from 10 on April 7, and other women’s institutions in Ontario and British Columbia also reported cases.
Trump, Trudeau strike different tones
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the extension for the closure restricting non-essential travel across the border, which began on March 21 and was set to expire on Tuesday.
“This is an important decision and one that will keep people on both sides of the border safe,” Trudeau said.
U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier this week that the border could open soon, but Trudeau and other Canadian political leaders did not strike the same tone in comments.
WATCH | Trudeau announces extension of U.S. border restrictions:
The U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, with more than 700,000 positive tests. Canada has more than 33,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 1,500 deaths.
Despite continuing grim news, glimmers of hope emerged this week as provinces and cities reported slower growth of the virus, and officials began discussing moves toward a “new normal.”
On Saturday, Trudeau repeated the need for caution and reminded Canadians to continue with physical distancing measures
“If we open too quickly, too soon or in the wrong way, we could find ourselves back in this situation a couple of months from now and everything we will have sacrificed during these months will have been for naught,” Trudeau said.
He said discussions with the premiers have found consensus on the need to co-ordinate how the country moves forward, but acknowledged that different provinces and municipalities are at different stages of the pandemic battle and may be able to relax measures sooner.
“The situation is very different right across the country from one region to the next and the measures that they will be able to move forward with at various moments will vary as well,” Trudeau said. “That’s going to be an important part of the recovery here.”
No defining guidelines on lifting restrictions
Trudeau’s messages of collaboration among provinces contrasted with the situation in the U.S. As protests formed against mandatory closures this week, Trump, on Twitter, urged supporters to “liberate” three states led by Democratic governors.
Trudeau’s government has so far held off on defining guidelines for provinces looking to lift restrictions, as Trump did for U.S. governors earlier this week.
At a Saturday news conference with cabinet ministers, Duclos said easing of measures will depend on factors like where the disease curve is heading, the number of deaths, equipment supply and space in intensive care units.
Meanwhile, Trudeau continued to stress he does not think it is a good idea for the House of Commons to resume business as usual Monday — with all 338 MPs, along with their staff, clerks, interpreters, security and cleaners.
CBC News has learned the Trudeau government made a new offer to opposition parties late Saturday afternoon to restart Parliament on Wednesday and compress five days of question period into two during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is demanding up to four in-person sittings each week, with fewer than 50 MPs in the chamber, to hold the government to account for its response to the health crisis and the resulting economic disaster.
Trudeau also announced Saturday the government is providing $306 million to help Indigenous companies.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said Saturday three more people died of the virus, all from long-term care facilities. The announcement came a day after Henry and other health officials released modelling data showing B.C. is flattening the COVID-19 curve to the point where plans are underway to loosen some provincial restrictions. Nevertheless, Henry is saying no to large summer events that are often the highlight of the season, such as the Pacific National Exhibition and Vancouver’s Pride parade. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta reported one new death and 165 new cases on Saturday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw partially attributed the recent rise in cases to a spike in testing. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan reported six new deaths in a Saturday briefing. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba reported three new cases on Saturday. Meanwhile, paramedics in rural parts of Manitoba say they’re not getting the same personal protective equipment as health-care workers in the bigger cities, putting them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, including an analysis of how the provincial government is handling the outbreak.
In Ontario, Toronto Mayor John Tory met with city officials Saturday to discuss how and when businesses and municipal services can reopen. No clear timeline was announced. Ontario’s current set of emergency measures last until May 11. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, where 485 new cases were reported Saturday, bringing the provincial total to 10,010.
In Quebec, Canadian Armed Forces members with medical training are arriving to help in the province’s long-term care homes. About 125 nursing officers, medical technicians and support personnel have been sent to help after Quebec asked Ottawa for assistance earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Premier Legault said he took “full responsibility” for the “deteriorating” situation in the province’s long-term care homes. Such facilities are struggling with staffing as a number of workers have fallen ill, while the senior residents of those homes have been dying at an alarming rate. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has floated May 1 as a possible date for lifting some restrictions in the province — if new case numbers remain low and recovery rates stay high. The province reported one new case of COVID-19 on Saturday in the Fredericton area. Eighty-seven people from New Brunswick have recovered from the virus. The province has 118 confirmed cases. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia is reporting three more deaths, along with 43 new positive tests. A government news release says the three recent deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax on Friday. Premier Stephen McNeil says the government is working with the home on an emergency plan to protect residents from the outbreak. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
Prince Edward Island for the second weekend in a row is offering free care packages containing potatoes and dairy products at drive-thru locations set up by the government, Amalgamated Dairies Ltd. and the P.E.I. Potato Board. The province, which is in its second day under a state of emergency, reported no new cases on Saturday. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
The Northwest Territories isn’t saying who is on its COVID-19 enforcement task force, and Yukon reported one new case on Friday. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North, including the efforts at a micro-manufacturing centre in Inuvik to create items essential workers need.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
Stores in Texas can soon begin selling merchandise with curbside service, and hospitals can resume nonessential surgeries. In Florida, people are returning to a few beaches and parks. And protesters are clamouring for more.
Governors eager to rescue their economies and feeling heat from President Donald Trump are moving to ease restrictions meant to control the spread of the coronavirus, even as new hot spots emerge and experts warn that moving too fast could prove disastrous.
Adding to the pressure are protests against stay-at-home orders organized by small-government groups and Trump supporters. They staged demonstrations Saturday in several cities after the president urged them to “liberate” three states led by Democratic governors.
Protests happened in Republican-led states, too, including at the Texas Capitol and in front of the Indiana governor’s home. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott already said that restrictions will begin easing next week. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb — who signed an agreement with six other Midwestern states to co-ordinate reopening — said he would extend his stay-at-home order until May 1.
For the first time in weeks, people were able to visit some Florida beaches, but they were still subject to restrictions on hours and activities. Beaches in big cities stayed closed.
Meanwhile, infections kept surging in the Northeast.
Rhode Island, between the hot spots of Massachusetts and New York, has seen a steady daily increase in infections and deaths, with nursing home residents accounting for more than 90 of the state’s 118 deaths. The state’s death rate of around 10 people per 100,000 is among the nation’s highest per capita, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.
Massachusetts had its highest number of deaths in a single day on Friday, with 159. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, citing health experts’ advice, said states should wait until infection rates and hospitalizations decline for about two weeks before acting.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
- Major cities in Brazil saw protests Saturday by hundreds of people denouncing pandemic lockdown measures also opposed by President Jair Bolsonaro, a fierce critic of stay-at-home measures imposed by state governments.
- Singapore reported a sharp, one-day spike of 942 infections, the highest in Southeast Asia, mostly among foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories. That brought the total to almost 6,000 in the city-state of six million.
- Total cases topped 10,000 in Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he’s concerned that people are not observing social distancing and announced a 100,000-yen ($1291 Cdn) cash handout to each resident as an incentive to stay home.
- France‘s national health agency said Saturday that the number of virus patients in intensive care dropped for the 10th straight day, and overall virus hospitalizations have fallen for three consecutive days. The country has seen almost 20,000 virus deaths. The agency urged the French public to stick to strict confinement measures, which have been extended until at least May 11: “Don’t relax our efforts at the moment when confinement is bearing fruit.”
- In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his government will seek to extend the state of emergency to May 9 but begin easing the total confinement of children beginning April 27. Children are thought to be a major source of transmission even if they rarely fall ill from the virus. They’ve been confined to their homes for five weeks, prompting parents to ask that they be allowed to at least take a daily walk.
Canada has an army of volunteers ready to help fight COVID-19 — so why aren't we using them? – CBC.ca
Thousands of Canadians have volunteered their time to help track COVID-19 cases across the country, but even Canada’s hardest-hit provinces haven’t used them.
The National COVID-19 Volunteer Recruitment Campaign was launched by the federal government in early April, calling on Canadians from coast-to-coast to step up and help.
“We need you!” the campaign urgently stated.
“We are building an inventory of volunteers from which provincial and territorial governments can draw upon as needed. We welcome ALL volunteers as we are looking for a wide variety of experiences and expertise.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, tweeted the campaign on April 12 to Canadians wondering how they could help with the COVID-19 response.
Wondering how you can help with Canada’s <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> response? Check out the National COVID-19 Volunteer Recruitment Campaign if you can help with: <br><br>- case tracking<br>- contact tracing<br>- health system surge capacity<br>- case data collection and reporting<a href=”https://t.co/YkohwHSjM6″>https://t.co/YkohwHSjM6</a>
Volunteers were called on to help with three key areas: case tracking and contact tracing, assessing health system surge capacity, and case data collection and reporting.
Health Canada and The Public Health Agency of Canada said 53,769 people signed up to assist in the effort by the time the posting closed on April 24.
But weeks later, the volunteer database does not appear to have been used in any province or territory — even in Ontario and Quebec, where 90 per cent of Canada’s new COVID-19 cases are now occurring.
“As contact tracing responsibilities fall under each provincial and territorial jurisdiction, they are determining when and how they will train and deploy volunteers to meet their evolving needs,” a spokesperson for Health Canada and PHAC said.
CBC News reached out to every provincial and territorial health ministry in the country and none could confirm they had used any of the volunteers.
Health Canada said it also shared names from the volunteer database with the Canadian Red Cross to help personnel in long-term care facilities.
But a spokesperson for the organization said they have only “recently started the initial process of reaching out to some of the individuals who submitted their names.”
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Canadians ready to help
Toronto teacher Shalini Basu found herself unexpectedly unemployed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, after her contract ended in March and schools across Ontario closed for the remainder of the school year.
“I read about volunteers for the database on Twitter and thought it would be a great way to use my time and be useful, seeing as though I have a lot of free time these days,” she said.
“I follow the news very closely and it seemed like there was an urgent need for volunteers.”
She filled out an extensive questionnaire online and was excited to help at a time when there wasn’t much else she could do for others — aside from staying home.
But Basu still hasn’t heard anything.
Volunteers said they were extensively questioned on whether they had medical experience, military experience and even veterinary experience to gauge where they could be best put to use.
But despite calling on people with a “wide variety of expertise,” many volunteers are left wondering who exactly the federal government was hoping to use.
“I hope by not being called it also means that a lot of Canadians applied and they filled their quota,” Basu said.
“I’ve been wondering how much this initiative actually got underway.”
Paul Baker also wanted to help.
The retired Guelph, Ont., senior has a background in marketing and felt he could be put to use reaching out to confirmed COVID-19 cases by phone to help track their close contacts.
“There is that first step that’s got to be taken in contact tracing, which is calling the person that’s positive and they know they’re positive, so it’s not going to be a stressful situation,” he said.
“Then you turn that over to somebody who’s got more training in how to actually call somebody and say, ‘You might be COVID positive.'”
Baker spent 45 minutes filling out the questionnaire, and hoped to be called on to help in other areas of the province or the country that had a high volume of new cases or outbreaks in long-term care homes.
But weeks later, he hasn’t received an update.
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says the motivation for the campaign was commendable and compared it to a “wartime effort.”
“Congratulations to the government for having that initiative up front, because they recognize contact tracing would be a big part of this,” he said.
“But there clearly wasn’t a subsequent plan to use the roster in a strategic way and there wasn’t a subsequent plan to navigate the federal-provincial divide.”
Because each province and territory has individual public health units that allocate resources and make decisions at a local level, Deonandan says a national database of volunteers would be challenging to roll out effectively.
“I’m not really surprised,” he said.
Even one of his PhD students in epidemiology volunteered and never heard back, Deonandan said.
“What needs to happen, obviously, is for the provinces to take over the contact tracing capacity in a meaningful way and maybe even restart the volunteer rostering process — because I’m still getting people contacting me asking how they can get involved.”
Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, has been calling on Ontario to step up contact tracing as the province continues to move toward reopening despite a steady stream of high caseloads.
“Anyone who knows what it’s like to go after something, can use a telephone and has a high school education can be trained to do the work,” he said. Both his parents — one of whom is a university professor — had volunteered and never heard back.
“I think public health is so overwhelmed that even managing a bunch of new people, whether they’re hired or volunteers, is probably something they can’t handle.”
Contact tracing key to stopping spread
A recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal found isolating positive cases and contact tracing played a key role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Shenzen, China.
Patients that were found to have COVID-19 because they reported symptoms of the disease were identified at an average of 4.6 days after they reported getting sick.
But contact tracing of those close to them, such as in the same household, reduced that time to just 2.7 days on average.
Another recent study published by JAMA Internal Medicine examined the first 100 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Taiwan and found they were most infectious in the days leading up to showing symptoms and in the five days after.
That study stresses the need to identify potential cases that may have been unknowingly exposed, but not know they’re sick yet, to effectively contain the spread of the disease.
“These findings underscore the pressing public health need for accurate and comprehensive contact tracing and testing,” Robert Steinbrook wrote in an editor’s note. “Testing only those people who are symptomatic will miss many infections and render contact tracing less effective.”
The World Health Organization also says contact tracing is “an essential public health tool for controlling infectious disease outbreaks” that can “break the chains of transmission” of COVID-19.
Volunteers could help not only with tracing contacts of COVID-19 patients, but also with cutting down the time it takes to notify public health units of positive cases, Warner said.
“One of the biggest sources of a lag in effective contact tracing is the time it takes from the moment the patient is swabbed to the time that piece of paper arrives in the fax machine at the public health office,” he said.
“We’ve got we’ve got people on the bench willing to work, but they probably don’t even have the capacity to open that list and look at those names because they can’t even do the job they’ve been tasked to do.”
To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.
Provincial border bans during pandemic anger barred Canadians, spark lawsuits – CBC.ca
Lesley Shannon of Vancouver was infuriated when New Brunswick rejected her request last month to enter the province to attend her mother’s burial.
“I’m mystified, heartbroken and angry,” said Shannon on Wednesday. “They’re basically saying my mother’s life has no value.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and the three territories have temporarily barred Canadian visitors from entering their borders unless they meet specific criteria, such as travelling for medical treatment.
The provinces and territories say the extreme measures are necessary to protect their residents from the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness.
But the border bans have fuelled criticism from civil rights advocates who argue barring fellow Canadians is unconstitutional. The travel restrictions have also angered Canadians denied entry for travel they believe is crucial.
“I’m not trying to go to my aunt’s or cousin’s funeral. This is my mother, my last living parent,” said Shannon, who grew up in Rothesay, N.B.
Protecting health of its citizens
On Thursday, shortly after CBC News asked for comment on Shannon’s case, the New Brunswick government announced it will reopen its borders starting June 19 to Canadian travellers with immediate family or property in New Brunswick. It also plans to grant entry to people attending a close family member’s funeral or burial.
The province’s Campbellton region, however, remains off limits.
Shannon was happy to hear the news, but is unsure at this point if she’ll be allowed to enter the province in time for her mother’s burial. She would first have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, as required the province, and the cemetery holding her mother’s body told her the burial must happen soon.
“I’m just hoping that [permission comes] fast enough for me.”
New Brunswick told CBC News that restricting out-of-province visitors has served as a key way to protect the health of its citizens.
“It’s necessary because of the threat posed by travel: all but a handful of New Brunswick’s [COVID-19] cases are travel cases,” said Shawn Berry, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, in an email.
Kim Taylor of Halifax was so upset over being denied entry in early May to attend her mother’s funeral in Newfoundland and Labrador she launched a lawsuit against the province.
“I certainly feel like the government has let me and my family down,” she said.
It’s not right. No province in Canada can shut its borders to Canadian citizens.– John Drover, lawyer
Shortly after speaking publicly about her case, Taylor got permission to enter the province —11 days after initially being rejected. But the court challenge is still going ahead — on principle.
“It’s not right. No province in Canada can shut its borders to Canadian citizens,” alleged Taylor’s lawyer, John Drover.
Violates charter, CCLA says
The CCLA argues provinces and territories barring Canadians violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that every Canadian has the right to live and work in any province.
The CCLA said if a province or territory limits those rights, its reasons must be justified.
“So far, what we’ve seen from these governments hasn’t convinced us that there is good evidence that these limits are reasonable,” said Cara Zwibel, director of CCLA’s fundamental freedoms program.
“The existence of a virus in and of itself is not enough of a reason.”
Newfoundland and Labrador also face a proposed class-action lawsuit launched this month, representing Canadians denied entry who own property in the province.
“The issue that our clients take is that this [restriction] is explicitly on geographic grounds and that seems to be contrary to the Charter of Rights,” said Geoff Budden, a lawyer with the suit, which has not yet been certified.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government told CBC News it’s reviewing the lawsuits. They have both been filed in the province’s Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball defended the province’s travel restrictions, arguing they remain necessary to avoid spreading the virus.
“This is put in place to protect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; it’s not about shutting people out,” he said.
WATCH | Inside the fight against COVID-19:
What about a 14-day isolation?
The rest of Canada’s provinces have each advised against non-essential travel for now but are still allowing Canadian visitors to enter their province. Nova Scotia and Manitoba, however, require that visitors self-isolate for 14 days. CCLA’s Zwibel said that rule may be a less restrictive way for a province to protect its residents during the pandemic.
“The Charter of Rights does require that if governments do place limits on rights, they do so in a way that impairs them as little as possible,” she said.
Back in Vancouver, a frustrated Shannon points out that New Brunswick is already allowing temporary foreign workers into the province — as long as they self-isolate for 14 days. However, her invitation is still pending.
“It’s very upsetting to think I’m less welcome in New Brunswick than somebody who was not even born in Canada,” she said.
Ontario, Quebec continue to account for majority of Canada’s new novel coronavirus cases – Globalnews.ca
Despite hundreds of new novel coronavirus cases still being reported in Ontario and Quebec, the number of overall cases across Canada continued to trend downward Friday.
More than 600 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported on Friday raised the national tally past 94,000 cases overall. More than 52,000 people are considered recovered, with more than 1.9 million tests conducted.
The national death toll went up by 66 deaths, for a total of 7,703.
Quebec accounted for the majority of the daily death toll once again. The province has been the hardest-hit region in Canada for the past few weeks, with 55 per cent of the national caseload and nearly 5,000 deaths (more than 60 per cent of Canada’s death toll).
Quebec reported 50 new deaths and 255 new cases on Friday. More than 17,700 people are deemed recovered in the province.
Ontario reported 344 new cases and 15 new deaths, leaving the province with nearly 30,000 cases and more than 2,300 deaths. More than 23,000 people have recovered from the virus.
Coronavirus: Ontario resumes short-term rentals
B.C. reported one new case and one new death, for a total of 2,628 cases and 167 deaths. The province has seen 2,272 people recover so far.
The Prairie provinces recorded new cases in the single digits. Alberta saw seven new cases — the lowest daily number recorded by the province since March 12.
All four Atlantic provinces reported no new cases or deaths on Friday. Prince Edward Island’s 27 cases have been resolved for weeks now, Newfoundland and Labrador has two active cases left out of 261 cases and three deaths, and Nova Scotia, where 61 people have died so far, saw bars and restaurants reopen.
New Brunswick reported its first COVID-19-related death on Thursday and has mandated face coverings in public buildings. Out of 136 cases, 121 are recovered.
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau asked why his government didn’t collect race-based data
The Northwest Territories and the Yukon continue to see no new cases, having resolved all their cases for some time. Nunavut remain the only region in Canada that hasn’t reported a positive case of COVID-19 so far.
Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in more than 6.7 million cases and nearly 394,000 deaths, according to figures tallied by Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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