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Doug Ford blasts 'unacceptable' level of COVID-19 testing as Ontario cases top 5,000 – CBC.ca

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Premier Doug Ford blasted the “unacceptable” number of daily COVID-19 tests being done in Ontario as the province confirmed 550 new cases of the virus and the number of dead surpassing 200.

“What’s unacceptable is the number of tests we are doing,” Ford said at a news conference Wednesday. “My patience is running thin.” 

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said Tuesday Ontario currently has the capacity to run as many as 13,000 tests daily, but the province’s 100 dedicated testing centres have not been submitting that many swabs each day. 

At first there weren’t enough assessment centres, then there was not enough lab capacity, then the supplies of reagent — key for testing — were low, but those issues have been dealt with, Ford said.

Now, he says, the province needs to “get a move on it.” 

‘No more excuses’ 

“We need to start testing everybody possible,” Ford said, especially front-line health workers including those working in hospitals and long-term care homes, as well as first responders, police and paramedics.

Ford also said all seniors at long-term care homes should be tested, as well as all vulnerable people across the province.

Doug Ford says his patience has ‘run thin’ over the unacceptably low number of tests being done in Ontario. 1:44

“We have to keep testing the public too, it’s all hands on deck now,” Ford added. “There’s no more excuses, we need to get it done, bottom line.”

The premier added that he will be following up with his team later today to make sure there’s a clear plan in place to boost the daily tests to 13,000, but did not say if any accountability measures might be in place if the testing does fall short.

Total of deaths in Ontario tops 200 

The  number of confirmed cases of the virus jumped by 11.6 per cent on Wednesday, bringing the provincial total to 5,276.

It is the largest single-day increase in cases since the outbreak began.

The official tally includes 174 deaths, though CBC News has compiled data from regional public health units across the province and counted at least 215 COVID-19-linked deaths.

Some 1,102 people are awaiting test results. 

Data from the Ministry of Health shows there were just 2,568 new test results provided on Tuesday. That’s roughly half the daily target of 5,000 that the government promised to achieve in late March, and far short of the 19,000 tests per day promised for the third week of April. 

The slower-than-promised pace continued Wednesday, with Ontario announcing 3,237 new test results.

Testing capacity has grown significantly, health officials say 

Public health officials acknowledged Wednesday that lab capacity has grown significantly and that the push is now on to get more people to take the test at community assessment centres.

“The bottom line is we want to do more testing, we’re working very hard now to increase the testing,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, when asked about guidelines that restrict tests, even for some who display COVID-19 symptoms.

Ontario is now dealing with more than 5,000 cases of COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said there’s an expert group that will report very shortly on a strategy to expand the number of tests and further increase the capacity of testing centres. 

Although Williams said the increased capacity will make long-term care workers and residents a priority, he added health officials also hope to expand testing within Indigenous populations, prisons and the province’s homeless population. 

Williams also said the fewer tests seems to coincide with fewer people using the province’s telehealth service and its online assessment tool, which tells people whether they meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing.

“It may be evidence of some flattening,” he suggested, admitting he preferred to “be optimistic” in believing it could be due to fewer travellers and fewer people with symptoms.

“We’re not trying to limit (testing),” he insisted.

Williams cautioned that testing too widely would produce “biased” data that skew too heavily toward negative results when the goal is to reflect the population-at-large.

He also said global demand for testing and laboratory supplies is still high, requiring continued rationing, even as criteria is expanded to include milder symptoms.

Province asks for 40% of federal 3M mask order 

At the press conference on Wednesday, Ford also said he’s more confident now than a few days ago when it comes to the province’s access to personal protective equipment. 

He also said he is expecting Ontario to receive 40 per cent of the federal government’s order of 500,000 3M masks.

Nearly 60 long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks

Health authorities are tracking 58 COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities across the province.

At the Seven Oaks long-term care home in Scarborough, Ont., there have now been 16 deaths related to COVID-19, Toronto public health officials said Tuesday.

There are also 45 confirmed cases among residents, 13 confirmed cases among staff, and an additional 56 probable cases at the home. 

In Bobcaygeon, Ont., another resident of Pinecrest Nursing Home has died, bringing the death toll there to 28.

Mary Carr, the facility’s administrator, confirmed the most recent fatality to CBC News. 

And in Oshawa, Ont., there have been seven deaths at Hillsdale Terraces long-term care centre, up from three deaths reported on Friday. 

Meanwhile, the virus continues to seriously sicken hundreds. 

The latest data shows that of the 605 people who have been hospitalized:

  • 246 are in intensive care units.
  • 195 are on ventilators.

The Ministry of Health also offered the following breakdown of total cases since Jan. 15:

  • 46.1 per cent of cases are male, while 53.3 per cent are female.
  • 36.4 per cent of cases are people 60 years of age and older.
  • Greater Toronto Area public health units account for nearly 52 per cent of cases.

Toronto to receive thousands of masks to replace faulty ones

The province will replace thousands of faulty masks the City of Toronto was forced to recall, Mayor John Tory said during the city’s daily COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

The city recalled some 240,000 poorly-made masks that had been given to front-line workers, which had already been used by over 200 long-term care staff.

Tory said the province will replace 200,000 of the faulty masks in “another example of the good cooperation between the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario.” 

Province announces new workplace safety measures 

Ford also announced the implementation of enhanced workplace safety measures for essential businesses during the outbreak.

Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s labour minister, said on Wednesday the province can expect more safety inspections  as well as a higher capacity for workers to voice concerns.

He also said the province is hiring retired inspectors to followup on those concerns. 

“Our government is working day and night to support you,” McNaughton told those working jobs deemed essential. 

Essential construction projects extended to 24 hours per day

The province is also extending construction hours for essential health-care construction projects to 24 hours per day. 

Those projects include building hospital expansions, COVID-19 assessment centres and temporary structures amid the pandemic.

New portal for health-care workers gets thousands of applications

Meanwhile, Ford said 8,000 people have already signed up for the province’s new online portal, which matches skilled front-line workers with employers.

The province says the Health Workforce Matching Portal will allow health-care providers with a range of experience —including retired or non-active health-care professionals, internationally educated health-care professionals, students, and volunteers with health-care experience — to join in the province’s fight against COVID-19. 

The portal, launched Tuesday, has already matched 1,000 people to potential jobs, Ford said. 

Dealership offers RVs to hospital staff who can’t go home 

The owner of several RV dealerships in Durham Region is offering up dozens of RVs to hospital staff who can’t go home. 

Although the dealerships are closed to the public, a small team has volunteered to stay and help frontline workers. 

“We are doing this in order to help support our first responders who need ways to get to work [and] home,” said Bob Verwey, president of the Owasco Group in Durham, Ont. 

Verwey said the dealership has as many as 70 RVs and trailers on offer to hospitals in Oshawa and Ajax for doctors and nurses to live in during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Trudeau positions Canada as champion of co-ordinated global recovery plan – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today to make the case for a co-ordinated global response to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest countries.

He’ll be among the leaders and heads of state to deliver remarks during a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).

Among other things, he is expected to promise that Canada will partner with developing countries, which stand to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and help to rally the world behind measures like debt relief to help them survive the crisis.

That is similar to the message Trudeau delivered last week while co-hosting a major United Nations summit, alongside UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Without a global co-ordinated recovery plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly $8.5 trillion US from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.

While no country has escaped the economic ravages of the deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, developing countries, already in debt distress before the pandemic, cannot afford the kinds of emergency benefits and economic stimulus measures undertaken in wealthy, industrialized countries like Canada.

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Bank of Canada holds rate steady, saying COVID-19 economic impact 'appears to have peaked' – CBC.ca

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The Bank of Canada held its benchmark interest rate steady at 0.25 per cent on Wednesday and said it thinks the economic impact of COVID-19 on the world’s economy “appears to have peaked.”

Canada’s central bank has dropped its rate dramatically since the pandemic began, cutting its rate from 1.75 per cent in late February to 0.25 per cent barely a month later.

The bank’s rate influences the rates that Canadian borrowers and savers get from their banks on things like mortgages and bank accounts. The central bank cut its rate in an attempt to encourage borrowing and investing to stimulate the economy, but those rate cuts weren’t the only thing it did to try to buttress the economy from the unprecedented hit of COVID-19.

The bank also started a number of bond and debt-buying programs in order to make sure there is enough cash in the system.

It announced on Wednesday it will tinker with two of them because things are starting to look up, but it is still buying up government bonds at a record-setting pace in order to make sure banks have enough cash on hand to lend to credit worthy borrowers.

“The Bank’s programs to improve market function are having their intended effect,” the bank said. “After significant strains in March, short-term funding conditions have improved. Therefore, the Bank is reducing the frequency of its term repo operations to once per week, and its program to purchase bankers’ acceptances to bi-weekly operations.”

Bond-buying

Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes noted that “both of these operations have seen much less take-up (or none at all) of late.”

“The bank stands ready to adjust these programs if market conditions warrant,” the central bank said. “Meanwhile, its other programs to purchase federal, provincial, and corporate debt are continuing at their present frequency and scope.”

In barely two months, the feverish pace of bond buying to buttress the economy has ballooned the bank’s balance sheet by $125 billion, Toronto-Dominion Bank economist James Orlando calculated. 

Slowing the frequency of new purchases is likely to bring that number down a little, but stimulus measures will remain in place for a while yet, CIBC economist Royce Mendes says.

“The bank had accumulated a large swath of short-term securities on its balance sheet, but now that those programs can wind down, the composition of the bank’s balance sheet is likely to change.”

Worst case scenario avoided for now

The reason for the bank’s cautious optimism is the bank’s belief that Canada has avoided the worst-case economic scenario that it painted in April.

The central bank now expects GDP to decline between 10 and 20 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, less than the 15 to 30 per cent decline forecast in April. 

“Massive policy responses in advanced economies have helped to replace lost income and cushion the effect of economic shutdowns,” the bank said in explaining its rate decision. “Financial conditions have improved, and commodity prices have risen in recent weeks after falling sharply earlier this year.

The rate decision means that Canadians with variable rate mortgages shouldn’t expect any changes to their lending rate any time soon.

Mortgage rates

“The historically low mortgage rates currently in the market are here to stay until the economy approaches the level it was at before the pandemic started,” said James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub.ca and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise Financial.

“This means that anyone with a variable rate can expect prime to remain unchanged. Fixed rates will stay near historic lows.”

Wednesday’s decision is the last one under the leadership of Stephen Poloz. Tiff Macklem was named to replace him. Macklem “participated as an observer in governing council’s deliberations for this policy interest rate decision and endorses the rate decision and measures announced in this press release,” the bank said Tuesday.

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Trump decries ‘lowlifes’ and racism in Canada; In The News for June 3 – CityNews Toronto

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of June 3 …

American anti-racism protests …

Undeterred by curfews, protesters streamed back into the nation’s streets Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump pressed governors to put down the violence set off by George Floyd’s death and demanded that New York call up the National Guard to stop the “lowlifes and losers.”

But most protests passed peacefully, and while there were scattered reports of looting in New York City, the country appeared calmer by late Tuesday than it did a day earlier, when violence swept through multiple cities.

The president, meanwhile, amplified his hard-line calls from Monday, when he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors didn’t do it.

“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he tweeted. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”

One day after a crackdown on peaceful protesters near the White House, thousands of demonstrators massed a block away from the presidential mansion, facing law enforcement personnel standing behind a black chain-link fence. The fence was put up overnight to block access to Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House.

“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a Floyd protest Tuesday for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.”

The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful. But the protest lacked the tension of the previous nights’ demonstrations. The crowd Tuesday was peaceful, even polite. At one point, the crowd booed when a protester climbed a light post and took down a street sign. A chant went up: “Peaceful protest!”

COVID-19 in Canada …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today to make the case for a co-ordinated global response to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest countries.

He’ll be among the leaders and heads of state to deliver remarks during a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).

Among other things, he is expected to promise that Canada will partner with developing countries, which stand to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and help to rally the world behind measures like debt relief to help them survive the crisis.

That is similar to the message Trudeau delivered last week while co-hosting a major United Nations summit, alongside UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Without a global co-ordinated recovery plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly US$8.5 trillion from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.

While no country has escaped the economic ravages of the deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, developing countries, already in debt distress before the pandemic, cannot afford the kinds of emergency benefits and economic stimulus measures undertaken in wealthy, industrialized countries like Canada.

And this …

Nova Scotia’s largest nursing home is planning for a future of private rooms to keep residents safe, but it has taken a wrenching pandemic death toll to create the shift — and it remains unclear whether government will fund a long-term fix.

“We’re currently down to fewer than 25 rooms with shared accommodations at the Halifax campus,” Janet Simm, the Northwood facility’s chief executive, said in a recent interview.

That’s a huge shift from before the pandemic when more than 240 residents lived in two- or three-person units. Now, fewer than 50 people remain in the shared spaces, some of whom are couples or others who specifically request a roommate, Simm said.

But the facility’s desire to create more space, which its board sought for years before the pandemic, unfolded through tragedy rather than design.

COVID-19 illnesses spread among the 485 residents after asymptomatic workers brought the virus there in early April, and Simm says the bulk of the 53 who had died, as of Tuesday, and the 240 infected were in shared units.

COVID-19 in sports …

Khari Jones doesn’t have to look far for a reminder that racism exists in Canada.

The Montreal Alouettes head coach divulged during a teleconference Tuesday he received death threats while he was the quarterback of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers because of his interracial marriage. Jones is black and his wife, Justine, is white.

An emotional Jones — speaking just over a week after a white policeman kneeled on the neck of a black man, resulting in a tragic death in Minneapolis — said the threats came in the form of letters that remain in his possession.

“It’s just a reminder you always have to be on alert a little bit,” Jones said. “It could’ve been one person but one is still too many and to do that on the basis of a person’s skin colour is horrible.

“Every once in a while, every blue moon I take a look at them. They never found the person who wrote the letters — he used a fake name — but he’s still out there, people like him are still out there. That was 20-something years ago and it’s still happening.”

Interest rate announcement looms …

The Bank of Canada is expected to keep its key interest rate unchanged this morning on the first day of governor Tiff Macklem’s tenure.

Economists expect the central bank will maintain its target for the overnight rate at 0.25 per cent, which former governor Stephen Poloz has repeatedly said is as low as it can go.

Poloz and the bank’s governing council would have met over the past few days and finalized the rate decision last night.

Macklem likely would have been part of the meetings, but it’s unlikely that the language of the rate announcement will fully capture his views.

Instead of focusing on the rate itself, experts say they will be paying close attention to the language used in the rate announcement about the expected path for the economy in the coming weeks and months.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020

The Canadian Press

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