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Coronavirus What’s happening in Canada on May 23

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Ontario and Quebec are among the provinces going ahead with plans to ease COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, despite concerns about their capacity for testing and tracking the spread of the virus that causes the contagious respiratory illness.

Health officials in Ontario on Saturday released data showing the province has added 412 cases, a number not as high as the 441 counted on Friday — the most on a single day since May 8 — but it’s still in line with an upward trend seen in the past week and a half.

Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases expert and professor at McGill University, spoke to CBC News about the need for being prepared.

“We should be monitoring much more, even than what we currently are, and we should certainly have more capacity in our hospital system to absorb new cases than we do right now,” he said.

 

Our weekend business panel discusses how retailers are struggling to adapt under the global pandemic. Plus, a look at the details of a bridge financing program for large companies unveiled by the federal government this week. 16:55

“If we are lucky and everything goes smoothly, everyone would be thrilled with that. But if things don’t go smoothly, we need to have surplus capacity, not already be at capacity in hospitals. That’s really a setting for potential problems.”

Earlier in the week, the Quebec government began allowing people to gather outdoors in groups of up to 10, from a maximum of three households. There were 646 new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Friday and 65 more deaths.

Ontario, meanwhile, entered Stage 1 of its framework to reopen the economy on Tuesday, giving the green light for retail stores outside of shopping malls with street entrances to reopen with physical distancing measures. Golf courses, marinas and private parks were also allowed to reopen.

As of Saturday, labs across Canada have tested 1,429,000 people for COVID-19, with about five per cent of these testing positive, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

 

Health-care workers talk next to a mobile COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

 

“We are now testing an average of 28,000 people daily,” Tam said in a statement.

As warmer weather draws more people outside, public health officers have been urging Canadians not to get complacent about safety. Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says people should get outside for fresh air and exercise, but physical distancing is still recommended.

An infectious disease specialist answers questions about the COVID-19 pandemic including whether two metres are still enough for physical distancing. 3:05

Njoo says it is too early to know whether an uptick in cases in Ontario in the last few days is a sign of a second wave of infections or something else but says overall Canada has been good at flattening the curve.

As small businesses begin reopening, some are starting to add a COVID-19 surcharge. It’s there to help cover the cost of personal protective equipment, and for some, to make up for income lost from having to reduce the number of customers they serve.

Winnipeg hair salon owner Joanne Rempel opened three weeks ago and says masks and hand sanitizer are expensive. She has scaled down the workplace, cutting the number of sinks and stylist chairs. Rempel herself is doing without a salary because she is just trying to get all her stylists back to work and pay the rent.

 

Some small businesses like hair salons are adding surcharges to the cost of their services to make up for the expenses associated with additional sanitation, protective gear and physical distancing. 1:46

Non-medical masks increasingly look likely to be part of the country’s new normal, especially in places where physical distancing is largely impossible. In Winnipeg for example, unions appealed this past week for masks to be mandatory on buses.

The Ontario government is recommending, but not enforcing masks on public transit as the province’s economy gradually reopens. It says transit agencies should provide sanitizers in the vehicles, barriers between drivers and passengers, and physical distancing measures.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday her ministry has been working with provinces to make sure they have the materials needed to meet their testing goals, including swabs, reagents and people to do the work.

 

A face mask is meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. But if it slips below your nose, hovers around your chin, or you touch the outside with your hands, medical experts say that might be riskier than not wearing one at all. 3:55

“We see ourselves as building capacity for all the provinces and territories to test to their fullest need,” she told the House of Commons committee on government operations. Each province has its own testing strategy, and Ottawa must adapt its support to meet their individual needs, she said.

On the political front, negotiations are to continue this weekend among federal parties over how Parliament should function as the COVID-19 crisis drags on, along with lockdown measures introduced in March.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said Parliament should reconvene on Monday for regular in-person sittings, arguing that the current practice of virtual meetings has run its course. He wants Parliament declared an essential service.

 

A staff member sprays disinfectant on a cart before handing it off to a customer at a garden centre in Ottawa on Saturday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

 

The House of Commons has been largely adjourned since mid-March. Fewer than three dozen MPs have been meeting in the Commons chamber once a week, and twice a week by videolink, giving more MPs a chance to participate without risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

As of 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 83,621 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 43,318 of those considered resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of deaths attributed to coronavirus based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s journalism stood at 6,447.

Federal public health officials have been encouraging people to stick with frequent handwashing, cough etiquette, physical distancing and staying home when sick. On Wednesday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam added another recommendation, saying people should wear non-medical face masks in public when they aren’t sure they will be able to physically distance.

Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Saturday that, for the first time in a long while, no new cases have been reported among residents of the province’s long-term care homes.

Days into B.C.’s transition into Phase 2 of re-opening, Henry noted the probability of new infections will go up as there are more gatherings — and that could be reflected in the number of cases early next week.

“Catching it early means we can respond, and make sure the chains of transmission are stopped,” she said. “The faster we can identify new cases, the faster we can respond to prevent spread.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

 

Dr. Bonnie Henry says British Columbians have been following social distancing guidelines as restaurants and businesses reopen. 0:43

In Alberta, Calgary and Brooks will join the rest of the province by allowing bars, restaurants, hair salons and barbershops to open on Monday, while more restrictions will be lifted across the province on June 1.

Premier Jason Kenney said Friday that the decision comes on the advice of the chief medical officer of health, though he warned that the virus is still a threat.

“While this is positive news for many, it doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods yet,” said Kenney. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

 

Saskatchewan said it will move to the next phase in its reopening on June 8Bars and restaurants are among the businesses that will be allowed to reopen in Phase 3, though they will have to operate at reduced capacity and with physical distancing measures in place. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

In Manitoba, two residential care homes run by the same company have been fined a total of more than $5,000 for violating public health orders in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

The homes are run by the private home-care business Daughter on Call, which confirmed earlier this week that one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19 on May 10. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

 

As Manitoba continues to ease restrictions and plan for the next phase of its reopening plan, here’s what some people dream of doing once life gets back to a “new” normal. 1:38

Ontario reported 412 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, continuing an upward trend and pushing the total number of cases in the province to more than 25,000 since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, new testing regulations took effect on Saturday, with asymptomatic front-line health-care workers being tested across the province.

The province will also begin a second round of testing in long-term care homes, which have been hardest hit by COVID-19. As criticism mounts about the number of tests being done in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford appealed to anyone with symptoms on Friday to visit a COVID-19 assessment centre. Read more about what’s happeing in Ontario.

 

People gather at a park in Toronto on Saturday as Ontario eases some COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

 

In Quebec, advocates say Montreal police have been unfairly ticketing homeless people and the support workers helping them and are calling for a moratorium on fines given to people living in the street.

Lyn Black, an Anishinaabe outreach worker in the city, told CBC News that she was fined $1,500 by police when she was handing out masks to people. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

 

People wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a mobile testing clinic in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

 

New Brunswick reported no new coronavirus cases on Saturday. A case reported Wednesday in the Campbellton region remains active and is still under investigation. The total number of cases is 121 with 120 of those patients listed as recovered. No one with COVID-19 is in hospital. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia reported one new case on Saturday.

“New case numbers are staying low and we continue to head in the right direction. We can, and should, be proud of how we’ve fared,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said in a press release sent out Saturday. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

More and more Nova Scotians are starting to wear non-medical masks when out in public. Public health officials say it’s an extra layer of protection whenever physical distancing is difficult to maintain. Darlene Ettinger, of Upper Kennetcook, N.S., has been busy sewing lots of masks and giving them away for free. The CBC’s Collen Jones has her story. 1:59

Prince Edward Island moved into Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, and is now allowing retail stores to open their doors to the public with physical distancing measures. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new coronavirus cases on Saturday, marking 16 days without a new case. Read more about what’s happening in N.L., where the government has announced new measures to help businesses impacted by the pandemic.

There were no new cases of coronavirus reported in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut on Thursday. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

 

 

Here’s what’s happening around the world

Edited By Harry Miller

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Canada not immune to the virus of COVID-19 conspiracies – CBC.ca

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Like the coronavirus, conspiracy theories and misinformation about COVID-19 are contagious and can spread easily among Canadians. 

  • Is hydroxychloroquine an effective treatment for those infected? 

  • Was the coronavirus genetically engineered in a lab as a biological weapon? 

  • Does regularly rinsing your nose with a saline solution protect you from the coronavirus?

False, unproven and not true, respectively.

Yet recent research suggests Canadians are exposed to a high level of bad information about COVID-19, and many are vulnerable to what some have described as “a pandemic of misinformation” or an “infodemic.”  

Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication released a survey last week that showed nearly half of Canadians, 46 per cent, believed at least one of four COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Similar research at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec indicated one in 10 Canadians believes a conspiracy theory.  

WATCH | Experts warn about products claiming to cure, prevent coronavirus:

From standing on your head, to drinking a special herbal tea — experts are warning Canadians against falling for phony cures for COVID-19. 1:54

Both studies found that young people were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories and false news. That’s not surprising considering that disinformation is most prevalent — and spreads most easily — on social media, which is a primary source of news for younger Canadians. 

But all ages are susceptible. 

“Everyone has fallen prey at some point to misinformation on social media,” Sarah Everts, an associate professor and co-researcher on the Carleton study, said on the university’s website. “Anyone who thinks that it’s easy to distinguish conspiracy theories and misinformation is at high risk of being fooled.”

Trust in news at record high

While some of the major social media and search platforms are taking measures to limit and reduce the amount of misinformation on their feeds, it is difficult to control the internet. CBC News has found that even discredited stories and bogus claims — such as Plandemic, a 26-minute documentary-style video full of false and misleading claims about COVID-19 — continue to resurface on alternative sites and platforms.

It’s all the more reason why reputable news organizations must devote resources to fact-checking COVID-19 claims.

The good news is that a number of serious media outlets in Canada have done just that by dedicating journalists to this important work.

The better news is that public trust in those traditional news organizations soared to record highs in Canada as the pandemic took hold, according to a new special edition of the “Trust Barometer” report by marketing firm Edelman Canada.

At CBC News, we launched a COVID-19 disinformation unit to fact-check viral COVID-19 claims on social media and other platforms. The goal is to hold platforms to account for the spread of bad information and unverified claims; to provide accurate takes on that information from verified experts; and to try to help Canadians navigate the minefield of false and misleading information. Find links to some of the team’s recent work below. 

(CBC’s French-language service Radio-Canada has a similar unit, Décrypteurs.)

WATCH | CBC’s Marketplace debunks COVID-19 immunity scams:

Misinformation about so-called miracle cures for COVID-19 are spreading online. Can you really buy your way to a better immune system? We ask an expert: UBC professor Bernie Garrett, who studies deception in healthcare, including alternative medicine. 5:27

Meanwhile, a team of journalists attached to our “Ask CBC News” (COVID@cbc.ca) project has received more than 41,000 questions from our audience on the pandemic, and some of their work addresses misinformation. The team has directly responded to more than 2,200 people, and many user questions have been put to experts on the air or published in one of our more than 40 FAQ articles. These pieces are consistently among the most-read articles on our website.

We recently launched our “Students Ask CBC News” initiative with Curio.ca. Every Tuesday night, CBC News Network produces a live segment dedicated to questions from high school students and expert answers. 

And as a member of the Trusted News Initiative, CBC/Radio-Canada joined an industry collaboration of major media and technology companies in March to rapidly identify and stop the spread of harmful coronavirus disinformation.

We view this work as essential public service and are fully committed to it. For as long as there’s an “infodemic,” CBC News aims to be part of the cure.  

Some recent fact checks by our COVID-19 disinformation unit:

No, the new coronavirus wasn’t created in a lab, scientists say

No, you can’t make an N95 mask out of a bra

Viral video claiming 5G caused pandemic easily debunked

Mushrooms, oregano oil and masks targeted in crackdown on misleading COVID-19 ads

No, someone wasn’t fined for sharing a car in Yellowknife during the pandemic

Chiropractors told to remove posts claiming their methods boost immune system and prevent COVID-19

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Statistics Canada to collect data on origins of guns used in crime – CBC.ca

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Statistics Canada has started a project to increase the amount of information collected on guns used in crime.

Researchers have said for decades there isn’t enough data about where guns come from and how they are used.

Without that information, it is a greater challenge to stop the flow of illegal guns into Canada or to curb gun violence. 

“It’s been a problem for 30 years,” said Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control.

“The information is quite fragmented. Jurisdictions like Toronto collect and trace and track crime guns, but a lot of others don’t.”  

Statistics Canada is working with police services and Public Safety Canada to change that. 

Last year, the agency added a variable to its homicide survey allowing police to indicate whether firearms used to commit a homicide were sent for tracing, and to provide the origin if discovered.

Besides that, Statistics Canada hasn’t said how it will increase the amount of information it receives on crime guns, just that it’s working on it.

But that’s a good first step, said Cukier.

Wendy Cukier is president of the Coalition for Gun Control. (Chris Dunseith/CBC News)

More data would help identify hot spots of gun activity in the country, she said.

It’s something law enforcement in the U.S. has done successfully. In the past, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has traced a large number of crime guns back to illegal sales.

“In Canada, we don’t have the mechanisms to make those sorts of determinations because we don’t have the tracing, the tracing data,” said Cukier.

“When it comes to identifying hot spots in Canada — dirty dealers, points of entry and so on — I think the police would say there is less information than they would like to have.”

Collecting that information nationally would allow police to target smuggling rather than discovering illegal firearms by chance when a car crosses the border, she said.

A rifle seized at the Alaska-Yukon border in 2014. (Canada Border Services Agency)

The Canada Border Services Agency seized 647 firearms in the 2019-20 fiscal year. In the last three fiscal years, that number peaked at 751 seizures in 2017-18.  

There is no way of knowing how many guns escape detection.

Cukier said the broad pattern of gun crime in the country has been known for years. 

Licensed guns like rifles and shotguns are often used in domestic assaults and attacks on police officers in rural communities. Handguns used by gangs are smuggled in from the U.S., stolen or sold illegally, she said.

But the figures used in crimes are elusive.

Even what police refer to as a gun used in a crime isn’t the same across the country, according to an email from Peter Frayne, a Statistics Canada spokesperson.

Rifles are generally the most seized type of gun in Nova Scotia. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Some jurisdictions may refer to a ‘crime gun’ as a firearm used to shoot, rob or threaten another person.

But some police services don’t use the term, meaning there is a “barrier to consistent data collection and recording,” according to Frayne. 

Statistics Canada says it’s working with police and other groups to come up with a definition.

The lack of standard definition upsets Nova Scotia gun owner Daniel Harrington, who is an award-winning target shooter. He uses a Stag 10 rifle that has now been banned by the federal government.

Harrington said legislators should get all the facts before they create laws that hurt licensed gun owners, especially when guns smuggled into the country could be the problem.  

“[It’s] so backwards,” he said.

He said it is important to define what it is that needs to be stopped.

“Like, assault rifle has no legal definition in Canada,” he said. “So define it, find out where it’s coming from, find out what you can do to stop that and then do it,” said Harrington.            

Daniel Harrington is a gun owner who uses his firearm for target shooting. (Submitted by Daniel Harrington)

Statistics Canada’s work is further complicated by a lack of requests to trace a gun’s ownership history.

Not all crime guns are submitted for tracing by police. There is no legal requirement that firearms be submitted by police for tracing through the RCMP-run Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre.

The aim of the centre is to help law enforcement figure out the history of a gun connected to a criminal investigation and to use that information as potential evidence in court, said Catherine Fortin, an RCMP spokesperson in an email. 

“We are not mandated to collect statistics on illegal firearms,” she said. 

That means the centre does not retain the information it gathers.

“Instead, the results are sent back to the police of jurisdiction, and are recorded in various, and inconsistent, formats,” said Frayne. 

The federal government has moved to ban the sale and importation of several types of semi-automatic firearms in Canada. (CBC News)

Not all tracing pans out, meaning the origins of some guns remains a mystery.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is also trying to fill in some of the gaps. The association represents senior police leadership from across the country. 

It has been exploring ways to increase data collection on the criminal uses of firearms through Statistics Canada.

The association also wants to “standardize definitions of key firearm-related concepts,” said spokesperson Natalie Wright in an email. 

Wright said they are trying to identify possible options for data collection and analysis on firearms. 

HRM residents turned in 152 guns to police in an amnesty program in 2016. (Stephen Puddicombe/CBC)

Despite the difficulties, collecting the information is still worth the effort, according to Jooyoung Lee, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. Lee studies the causes and consequences of gun violence. 

“It’s important to determine the origin of crime guns because any attempts at legislating the sale and flow of firearms has to recognize that the United States is a global supplier of firearms,” said Lee, “We just simply don’t know how many guns are Canadian in origin versus American in origin.”

Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at University of Toronto, says gun bans are effective at reducing violence. (CBC)

Cukier said even without a complete picture of where guns used in crime are coming from, she believes laws like the federal government’s ban on assault-style firearms still have to go ahead. 

“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘There’s no point in banning military-assault weapons because we have a problem with gun smuggling,'” she said.

“That’s like saying we shouldn’t try to treat breast cancer because lung cancer is a big problem. The ban on military-assault weapons is aimed at reducing the risk we will have mass shootings.”

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Minds behind pandemic predicting algorithm already thinking about future beyond COVID-19

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OTTAWA —
The Canadian researcher who was among the first to predict the deadly spread of COVID-19 says the world needs to change the way it monitors for and reacts to disease outbreaks.

Dr. Kamran Khan set out to make a “smoke alarm” that would detect disease outbreaks around the world when he created his pandemic-predicting software BlueDot.

Khan and his team of about 50 experts used big data and artificial intelligence to warn the world of a potentially serious viral outbreak three days before the World Health Organization, though they picked up on the signs even earlier.

Waiting for outbreaks to be declared typically takes too long, the University of Toronto professor of medicine and public health says, and the information often takes a long time to make it into the hands of the medical community and the public.

The world is changing, he says, and diseases are emerging with greater frequency and having bigger impacts.

Big data and artificial intelligence can provide a bird’s-eye view of diseases around the globe in real time, letting people move faster to quash new outbreaks.

It’s time we start using them, for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Khan says.

By this point, BlueDot’s story is famous around the world.

The software scours hundreds of thousands of sources of information in 65 languages around the world all day, every day, to look for signs of trouble.

Khan received the first indication something was amiss in Wuhan, China, on New Year’s Eve. The algorithm picked up a blog post in Chinese describing a pneumonia outbreak involving about 20 people.

Within seconds, the program was able to sift through anonymized international flight itineraries to predict 20 places the outbreak might spread.

The outbreak the algorithm described bore serious similarities to the 2003 SARS outbreak. Khan and his team submitted their findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal on Jan. 6.

By the time the virus showed up in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 13, the smoke alarm was ringing.

“If you see a case show up outside of Wuhan in another country, it’s telling you that the outbreak is much bigger than a couple dozen cases. Maybe hundreds, maybe thousands,” Khan says.

“That’s the moment we were quite concerned.”

Of the 20 places BlueDot predicted the virus could spread, 12 were among the first destinations to report outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

The embers landed in Canada, and the house has caught fire.

While Canada’s health-care system has struggled even to count the number of manually confirmed cases across the country due to archaic data gathering systems, Khan’s team in Toronto have used their technology to measure how well people have been sticking to public health advice.

Using anonymized cell phone data, they’ve been tracking how much people have been moving about as health officials urge them to stay home.

Khan refers to this as the “fire extinguisher” function of big data during a pandemic, allowing public health authorities to target their efforts where they’re needed most.

“When there’s only so many people, your human resources in the public health sector are finite, you can’t be everywhere,” he says.

As Canada gets farther from the crest of the first wave of the pandemic, and people begin moving around the country and around the world again, the smoke alarm is going to be important, Khan says.

“We’re going to be thinking about introductions from other parts of the globe and trying to make sure that those embers are kind of snuffed out as quickly as possible,” he says.

This time, he hopes governments, institutions and individuals will be able to take smarter steps more quickly.

“We need to be using the latest in data and digital technologies to our advantage to do that,” he says.

What we do with the information also needs to change, he says.

Typically when a new outbreak is reported, public-health officials find out first. They share the information with governments, which then share it with the medical community and eventually the public and industry become aware.

That cascade of information means delayed reactions.

“If we are going to be able to be successful, we are going to have to empower the whole of society,” Khan says.

And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that everyone needs to work to extinguish the fire together, he says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.

Source: – CTV News

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Edited BY Harry Miller

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