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Devastated by the pandemic, Canada's hotels make plans to reopen – CBC.ca

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Canadian hotels are tightening up their cleaning protocols and hoping to welcome some pandemic-fatigued guests desperate to get out of the house for a few days this summer.

Last Thursday, the Hotel Association of Canada and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) released joint health and safety protocols to help the industry adapt to new pandemic standards.

“We felt it was important to have a North American guideline at a time when both of our economies are reopening,” said Susie Grynol, president of the Hotel Association of Canada.

“These enhanced protocols might include [more frequent disinfecting] of common touch surfaces like door handles, light switches, remote controls, faucets. And in a room where we have surfaces that are difficult to clean, like throw pillows, bedspreads, the pen and pad of paper, the magazines — some of these items might be removed altogether.”

250,000 layoffs

The industry is trying to find ways to reopen safely after being pummelled by cratering revenue and massive layoffs since the pandemic began.

“We had a large percentage of hotels that did shut down across the country in a matter of 10 days. We laid off 80 per cent of our workforce, which represents north of 250,000 job losses,” said Grynol.

Brookstreet is a Canadian-owned and independently-run hotel in western Ottawa. Before the pandemic started, it had 340 employees; it has since reduced its staff complement to 19. As the hotel prepares for a planned reopening on June 1, it has been slowly bringing staff members back.

“We hope to get back to about 60 employees and then we’ll continue to grow as services come back online,” said Nyle Kelly, Brookstreet’s general manager.

‘Tumbleweeds’

Brookstreet has 276 rooms and 30,000 square feet of meeting space. Its average occupancy in normal times is 75 per cent; Kelly said it’s expected to operate at less than 5 per cent capacity for at least the next two months.

“I see tumbleweeds flowing through the lobby,” he said. “It’s quiet. It’s a little eerie, I guess, to see the hotel empty like this.”

Nyle Kelly, general manager of the Brookstreet hotel in Ottawa, says he expects lasting effects from the pandemic on the hotel sector. (CBC News)

Kelly said the hotel sector has been crippled by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be one of the last sectors to fully recover — because many hotels rely on renting out spaces for meetings and nobody’s in a hurry to arrange meetings right now.

“We don’t expect that part of the business to come back for quite a long time. So everything from trade shows to corporate conferences, to weddings, to galas, to fundraising type events — that’s all pretty much cancelled,” he said. “It hurts us massively because that also represents a lot of our guest room bookings too, as they’re associated with the conferences and banquet business.”

Long-term effects

And not all of the pandemic’s effects on the hospitality industry will be short-term, he said.

“We are also going to see a major impact on business travel,” he said. “I think people are changing the way they do things. People will start doing more video calls and those types of things. So we’ll see less business travel moving forward.”

Brookstreet only has a handful of reservations for the month of June. It’s already making preparations for those few guests.

“Even before you arrive at the hotel, we’re going to have new technology to allow a guest to check in over their devices. They’ll have their keys emailed to them in advance,” said Kelly, adding that guests can open room locks with their phones. “They touch their lock and they can go directly to their room.”

New rules for cleaning

Rooms at Brookstreet will stay empty for 48 hours at a time, he said. While empty, they will be cleaned, disinfected and inspected before accepting another guest.

The Hotel Association of Canada is recommending that, unless a guest requests otherwise, rooms be cleaned only once per stay — when the guest checks out — to limit possible exposure for housekeeping staff.

A physical distancing marker on the floor of Brookstreet’s lobby. (Christian Patry/CBC News)

The joint health and safety protocols also recommend the installation of acrylic shields at hotel front desks, the provision of personal protective equipment to staff as required, clear social distancing markers on floors and sanitation stations in all public areas.

When restaurants in hotels are ready to open again, they’ll have to find ways to maintain physical distancing. Brookstreet  is cutting the number of available tables in its restaurant by half; other facilities are spacing tables out. Some hotels will continue delivering room service by leaving the food at the guest’s door.

Many hotels, Brookstreet included, are also purchasing electrostatic sprayers for disinfectant.

Along with more frequent cleaning, mobile check in/key technology and the installation of UV lights at the entrance to disinfect keys and phones, the Novotel Toronto Centre has also purchased bedlifts to help housekeeping staff clean underneath beds.

The Hotel Association of Canada says all of these extra precautions represent a heavy cost for an already ailing industry. It’s calling on the government for financial help.

“One of our key recommendations to the government is that there would be forgivable portions of the loans that have been made available for amounts that have been paid toward capital investments to keep people safe,” Grynol said.

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Canada sees lowest daily coronavirus death toll in 2 months, 759 new cases – Globalnews.ca

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The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed 31 more lives across Canada, yet the number represents the lowest daily death toll in two months.

Monday also saw just 759 new confirmed infections across only six provinces — nearly matching Sunday’s number of new cases and marking a full week with numbers below 1,000.

Canada has now seen 91,694 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Of those, 7,326 people have died and 49,739 patients have since recovered from the illness.


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

The last day the country saw a death toll as low as Monday’s was on April 2, when 27 people died. The number of new deaths has trended downward since Saturday, after weeks that saw an average of 100 people and more dying daily.

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While the number of new cases has been trending downward since the beginning of May, the past week has seen a sharper decline since May 26, when fewer than 1,000 infections were confirmed for the first time since March 29.

Monday saw Ontario, with 404 new cases, surpass the total reported by Quebec at 295. The last time that happened was on March 22, as Quebec has regularly topped the country in new infections — often by wide margins.

Yet both provinces recorded their lowest death tolls in weeks: Quebec saw 20 more deaths, while in Ontario, 10 people died over the past 24 hours.

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

Nova Scotia was the only province in Atlantic Canada to report any cases Monday, and only saw one new infection.






1:11
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau calls for more ‘granularity’ on COVID-19 data


Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau calls for more ‘granularity’ on COVID-19 data

In the west, Alberta announced 34 more cases, while British Columbia recorded 24 new cases — representing numbers over the past 48 hours — and one additional death. Saskatchewan also reported a new case while announcing a previously-reported case had come back negative after retesting.

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Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick reported no new cases after seeing upticks in recent days. Prince Edward Island and the three northern territories have gone several weeks without new cases.

Every province and territory has now relaxed some physical distancing and economic shutdown measures, with an eye towards reopening businesses and public spaces.


READ MORE:
Physical distancing, mask use cuts relative coronavirus risk by at least 80%, study finds

The federal government is now setting its sights on contact tracing and supporting municipalities and provinces. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said Ottawa is rushing $2.2 billion in expected infrastructure funding to Canada’s cities.

Worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 6.25 million people and killed over 375,000 people. The United States remains the country with the most confirmed cases, at 1.8 million, while its death toll of 105,000 is also the highest globally.

Canada is currently the 14th most infected country in the world based solely on the number of cases confirmed, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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

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Trudeau says anti-black racism is alive in Canada and 'we need to be better' – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed today to do more to end anti-black racism in Canada after days of massive street protests in U.S. and Canadian cities against police brutality.

Trudeau said racism is not a uniquely American problem and more must be done in Canada to address systemic inequalities that have long plagued black and Indigenous communities.

“We need to be better in Canada. Even though we’ve made strides forward in the fight against racism and discrimination, racism still exists in Canada,” he said. “To young black Canadians, I hear you when you say you are anxious and angry.”

He said his government has funded black community groups, supported anti-racism programming and bolstered the collection of racial data at Statistics Canada to fight against discrimination, but he promised to do more.

Watch: Justin Trudeau addresses anti-black racism

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters on Monday. 2:31

Protests have erupted in major North American cities in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. 

Floyd, 46, died a week ago after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for just over eight minutes. His death was caught on video and swiftly went viral around the world.

All four responding officers were fired. The officer who pinned Floyd to the ground, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the video of George Floyd’s death “chilling” and “painful” and called on Canadians to channel the anger they feel over his death into action against injustice here in Canada.

Singh said Canadian police need more “de-escalation” training so routine police stops don’t turn deadly for racialized Canadians.

Singh started his political career in provincial politics and led a fight against the police policy of random street stops of minorities, known as ‘carding’.

“We need to tackle the injustice in the criminal justice system — the over-policing of black bodies and black lives,” he said.

Watch: Jagmeet Singh calls for criminal justice reform

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke with reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday. 2:47

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he was “heartbroken” to see the video of Floyd’s death.

“No one should ever feel unsafe around police officers who must uphold the law for all, or feel unsafe because of the colour of their skin. We all have a responsibility to fight anti-black racism,” he said.

Watch: Andrew Scheer says he’s ‘heartbroken’

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was asked about protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, in light of his own comments months ago that Wetʼsuwetʼen supporters were “radical activists” and should “check their privilege.” 2:38

Some of the protests demanding fair treatment from police have turned violent. A number of cities have been hit by looting and rioting.

In Montreal Sunday night, vandals broke into a music store and stole guitars, while others defaced buildings with graffiti.

Trudeau condemned the violence, saying it distracts from calls for an end to institutional racism.

“They do not represent the peaceful protesters who are standing up for very real issues in Canada,” he said.

Asked whether his own history of wearing blackface diminishes his ability to provide moral leadership on the problem of anti-black racism, Trudeau said he has “spoken many times about how deeply I regret my actions hurt many, many people.”

“We need to focus on doing better every single day, regardless of what we did or hadn’t done in our past,” he added.

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-Canadian, said in a tweet Sunday that he has “heard from people who have said that we should not worry about what is happening in the U.S. because that is not our problem.”

But he said racism is “a lived reality for black Canadians,” and he asked other Canadians to “step up” and “raise your voices and ensure that real inclusion accompanies the diversity of our country.”

He said black Canadians are disproportionately followed in stores by shop owners fearing theft, while black drivers have every reason to be anxious when they’re pulled over by a police officer.

“Check the unconscious bias around you and within you,” Hussen said.

That tweet received an angry response from Ed Ammar, a former chairperson of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, who tweeted at Hussen: “Don’t bring this to Canada you f—ing loser.”

Tweeting a video of the destruction in Montreal, Ammar, a Lebanese-Canadian immigrant, said: “Don’t bring what’s happening in the U.S. across the borders.”

Hussen addressed Ammar’s comments in an interview with CBC News Monday. “I publicly invite Mr. Ammar to call me,” he said.

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Strange symptoms, flare-ups, weeks-long illnesses for some COVID-19 survivors – CBC.ca

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Chandra Pasma thought it was strange when she started feeling a burning sensation in her neck and ear canal.

It was March 16, just days after COVID-19 had been declared a pandemic, and the 40-year-old Ottawa resident knew people were being infected across the country. But since her symptoms weren’t among those listed for the virus, she didn’t think much of it.

Then every single member of Pasma’s household started falling ill.

First it was her husband, 44-year-old Matt Helleman, who suddenly felt exhausted. Just days later, the couple’s three children — seven-year-old twins and a nine-year-old daughter — started experiencing fevers, sore throats, and fatigue. And around the same time, Pasma’s own symptoms ramped up into chest pain and a cough.

“I thought, oh crap,” she recalls. “This is COVID.”

Like many people with milder forms of the illness, the whole family hunkered down, hoping to get better over a couple weeks at home — not knowing it would mark the start of a months-long recovery, with none of the family members feeling back to normal even now, more than 10 weeks later.

So far, at least 90,000 Canadians have been infected with COVID-19. In some cases, the illness leads to a stay in intensive care or even causes death, with roughly 7,000 people dying to date. 

But in most other instances, those suffering from less-severe forms do recover outside the health-care system. What’s growing clear, both patients and clinicians agree, is that some of those people wind up facing a long, rocky road to recovery.

‘Constant cycle’ of new symptoms

A few months back, as the little-understood virus was first spreading around the world, health officials initially described it as a respiratory illness, even weaving that piece into its official name: SARS-CoV-2, referring to “severe acute respiratory syndrome.”

Since then, evidence and patient stories have emerged suggesting it actually impacts various parts of the body.

One recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, for instance, determined that changes to someone’s ability to taste and smell are likely a common feature of infection — a symptom first noticed anecdotally by doctors around the world.

Similarly, early notions of a roughly two-week recovery period for mild cases — outlined in a February review of preliminary Chinese data from the World Health Organization — have been questioned by people who say their less-severe illnesses are still taking weeks, if not months, to fully clear up.

Pasma first realized her family wasn’t alone after joining a COVID-19 support group called Body Politic on Slack, an online communication platform. The group now includes more than 4,000 people. 

There, she met other global COVID-19 sufferers who were also documenting weeks-long illnesses with a strange mix of symptoms.


In Pasma’s home, multiple family members wound up having gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea and diarrhea, while she experienced inflammation in between her lungs and chest wall. Then, weeks later, a chicken pox-like rash broke out on her stomach and upper thigh.

Business trips

“It just went on like that: A constant cycle of new symptoms developing,” Pasma said. “One symptom would get better, and I’d start to feel optimistic I was through it. Then something new would set in — something totally random and strange.”

She isn’t sure where she caught the illness, but said it may have been during one of two business trips to Toronto for her job as a researcher at the Canadian Union of Public Employees in the weeks before her symptoms started.

Like many Canadians early in the pandemic, she wasn’t told to get tested by her family physician, who instead encouraged her to just stay at home. 

It’s an experienced echoed by others, who’ve reported bouts of illness but no positive test result to record their experience as a confirmed case of COVID-19 — an issue more common when testing guidelines in many places like Ontario were initially tied to travel abroad, which now represents the transmission source for less than six per cent of all confirmed cases to date in the province.

Test came back negative

Some now question how many cases are flying under the radar, amid additional concerns over false negatives from COVID-19 tests, which detect the active virus circulating in someone’s body, and a lack of access to antibody testing to see if someone previously had the virus, which wasn’t approved for use in Canada until May and isn’t widely available.

For Pasma, it wasn’t until after her symptoms worsened, flaring up a previous bout of pneumonia, that she went to a local hospital and got tested.

The test came back negative. Pasma believes that’s because it came so late in her illness — not that she wasn’t infected.

“There seems to be zero followup,” she said. “I don’t know if there would be more follow up if we were acknowledged cases.”

Pasma also worries both the media and medical community have painted COVID-19 as far too binary, either on or off.

“You get better in two weeks, or you die,” she said. “There’s no talk at all about what happens to the people who do not get better in two weeks.”

600+ people surveyed about symptoms

Hannah Wei, a Toronto-based design and qualitative researcher who helped launch the Slack channel where COVID-positive people are swapping recovery stories, said most people are lacking “clarity” about how COVID-19 plays out beyond the most critical cases.

Like Pasma, Wei also believes she got the illness back in March, likely after travelling abroad to Taiwan. But she didn’t get tested after she returned to Canada because she said hospital staff in Vancouver, where she was staying for a client meeting, told her they were short on nasal swabs.

Wei said she was sent back to her Airbnb room with just a sheet of paper featuring COVID-19 information from the hospital’s website. She wound up stuck there with no followup until she tested negative weeks later before finally flying back home to Toronto.

“There’s no centralized way to track and monitor how we’re all doing,” she said.

Hannah Wei, a Toronto-based design and qualitative researcher, helped launch the Slack channel Body Politic where COVID-positive people are swapping recovery stories. (Supplied by Hannah Wei)

To give sufferers more insight into the spectrum of symptoms and recovery time frames, Wei’s team surveyed around 640 people from both their online channel, which is primarily younger adult COVID-19 sufferers, and other social media platforms.

Many respondents shared similar experiences of weeks-long recoveries, with some stretching beyond a month, and featuring a range of symptoms — including respiratory issues, gastrointestinal problems, and sometimes neurological symptoms like dizziness, trouble concentrating, insomnia, or just a general feeling of “brain fog.”  

“When we ran the survey, people were on, on average, their 40th day,” Wei said. “A lot of these people, they’re getting to the point where they’re not quite recovering, but they’re not severely sick in the bed either. They just can’t get back to their normal life.”

Patients calling for more followup

Wei and Pasma both say the medical community needs to focus more on these under-the-radar patients.

Ontario family physicians who spoke to CBC News say thanks to the rise of telemedicine, it’s easier to keep in touch with COVID-19 patients who don’t need hospital care. Still, treating them remains a challenge given the wide range of symptoms and length of illness.

It’s a mixed bag, according to Markham-based family physician Allan Grill.

“You can have patients with mild symptoms that recover in a few days, like less than a week,” said Grill, who is chief of family medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital and lead physician at the Markham family health team.

“You can have other people where the symptoms last two or three weeks.”

WATCH | Physical distancing advice for those who have recovered from COVID-19:

An infectious disease specialist answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether someone who has recovered from COVID-19 can stop physical distancing. 2:46

Pasma said the digital divide between patients and care providers can leave people feeling isolated as they recover at home.

As she and her family slowly get their lives back, she’s hoping more physicians grow aware of the challenging recovery process many COVID-19 sufferers are experiencing — so they can give newly diagnosed patients a heads up on what to expect, and help them manage the possible weeks ahead.

“Just because you’re well and don’t die from pneumonia doesn’t mean you won’t spend three or four months of your life trying to recover from this virus,” she said.

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