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Here’s what happens when there are COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools

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With two million students, teachers and other education workers heading back to class this month, confirmed cases of COVID-19 will almost undoubtedly appear in the province’s school system.

The Ministry of Health has laid out detailed guidelines on what’s to happen when staff or students show symptoms of COVID-19, or test positive for the coronavirus. School administration, the school board and the local public health unit all play roles in a response that can — if there’s evidence that infections are spreading — include shutting down schools.

Here’s the plan in a nutshell.

When someone shows symptoms at school

Parents are being told not to send their kids to school if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. If a student starts showing symptoms during the school day, the principal is to contact the parents immediately to arrange a pickup as soon as possible. In the meantime, the child is to isolate, and staff caring for the child are to wear full personal protective equipment.

The school principal must ensure the space and materials used by the ill student are cleaned, that staff are informed of the situation, and the rest of the school population is monitored for symptoms.

 

Students, teachers or education workers who test positive are to self-isolate for at least 14 days and are not to return to school until cleared by their local public health unit or health-care provider. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

 

The parents of the ill student will be encouraged to get their child tested for COVID-19. The student must not return to school while waiting for test results, but can attend virtually if they feel well enough. Even if the test result is negative, the child is still not to return to school until 24 hours after their symptoms have resolved.

While the province doesn’t want schools to bombard public health units with a report on every student with the sniffles, the system will be keeping a close eye on rates of absenteeism. School attendance is to be reported daily to the local public health unit and the Ministry of Education.

When someone tests positive

If a case of COVID-19 is confirmed among a student or a staff member, the provincial guidelines say the public health unit handling the case will notify the school. The guidelines also say the school is responsible for reporting any confirmed or probable case to the local public health unit and to the Ministry of Education.

Information is to be posted publicly on the school board’s and school’s website, but the individual is not to be named.

“Parents, students and staff have an understandable interest in knowing when a COVID-19 positive case has been identified in their school,” the provincial guidelines say.

Those who had close contact with the confirmed case while infectious — whether by being in the same class, on the same school bus or attending the same after-school care program — are to be informed directly.

 

If a case is confirmed, public health units are to contact the parents of students who were potentially exposed, whether on a bus or in the classroom. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

 

Contacts of a confirmed case

The public health unit determines the risk that various students and staff were exposed to the virus according to their level of contact with the person who tested positive. To allow for tracing, the school is required to provide public health with such information as class lists, attendance records and parental contact details.

Anyone in the same classroom cohort as the confirmed case will generally be considered to be at high risk of transmission. Parents of those children are to be notified immediately.

Everyone considered at high risk of exposure will be directed to self-isolate, and will be encouraged to get tested for COVID-19. However, even if they test negative, they are still to self-isolate for 14 days from the last contact with the confirmed case.

Those considered to be at low risk of exposure are to self-monitor for symptoms and can return to school.

If a student or staff member clearly contracted COVID-19 from someone outside the school and was not at the school while contagious, their cohort will not be required to self-isolate.

 

If there are two or more confirmed cases among students and/or staff in a school within a 14-day period, public health must declare an outbreak. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

 

When multiple students or staff test positive

If there are two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases among students and/or staff in a school within a 14-day period, public health must declare an outbreak, provided that the cases appear to have “an epidemiological link,” such as being in the same class, the same after-school care group, or the same school bus.

The public health unit decides which cohorts in the school should self-isolate by being most at risk from the outbreak.

“If public health advises that a class, cohort or a school should be closed for a period of time, parents, students and staff will be notified immediately,” say the provincial guidelines.

The outbreak can be declared over once 14 days have passed with no evidence of school-related transmission, so long as no one who was exposed to the initial outbreak is still awaiting test results.

 

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is to remain in isolation for at least 14 days. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

 

When will school closures happen?

As a result of an outbreak, a school may be closed, but not necessarily. There is no firm threshold for a number of cases to trigger a closure. It’s a judgment call, and public health officials make that judgment.

The provincial guidance says closing a school “should be considered if there is evidence of potential widespread transmission.” That could include any number of cases among students and staff “with no known source of acquisition outside of the school.”

If a school is closed, public health may recommend testing for everyone from the school.

The school may be reopened even if the outbreak is not fully over. “Cohorts without evidence of transmission can be gradually brought back to school as additional information and test results become available,” say the province’s guidelines.

When can you return to school after testing positive?

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is to remain in isolation for at least 14 days. A student or staff member should not return to school until they are cleared by their local public health unit or health-care provider, the province says.

What if a parent or sibling tests positive?

Parents who contract COVID-19 are encouraged to tell their children’s school, but it’s not a legal requirement. However, the province advises that everyone living in the household with a person who tests positive should self-isolate, and the children should not come to school, for 14 days.

Source: – CBC.ca

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Spouse witnessed N.S. gunman torching their cottage, court documents say – CBC.ca

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The man responsible for April’s mass shootings in Nova Scotia took a leisurely drive around a community close to his rural cottage, stopped to chat with a fellow denturist and oversaw work being done on his property in the hours before the massacre began.

The details of a seemingly mundane day leading up to the shootings are contained in sections of court records that a provincial court judge ordered released Monday following a court hearing.

The documents also say that on the evening of April 18, the gunman’s spouse was present inside as he doused the floor of the cottage they shared with gasoline — before grabbing guns and igniting the log building he’d prized. The woman, whose name is redacted from the records, later told police he said, “I’m done, I’m done. It’s too late [redacted], I’m done.”

On April 18 and 19, Gabriel Wortman killed 22 neighbours, acquaintances and strangers in several communities in rural Nova Scotia. He torched his own cottage and garage, and three other homes over a 13-hour period before being shot dead by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S. after a lengthy search.

The faces of the 22 victims. The rampage that left 22 people dead unfolded over about 13 hours, before police shot and killed the gunman. (CBC)

A judge on Monday approved the release of six more of the approximately 23 judicial authorizations RCMP have obtained since the massacre — to search gunman’s properties in Portapique and Dartmouth, and for his financial records. Redacted copies of seven were previously released. 

Though the new documents are heavily redacted, each is about 90 pages long and includes information about how the gunman procured decommissioned RCMP cruisers and police equipment and about his financial transactions months prior to the attacks. All information related to the type of firearms used remains blacked out. 

Expected to head to Dartmouth

It’s unclear why the gunman “snapped,” as his spouse described it to police. The documents also offer little information about why Wortman targeted his victims, some of whom he knew. His partner told police she did not know their neighbours well. 

She also told police that, that night, she believed he was going to take her to Dartmouth, where they had another home and a clinic, to kill people or burn buildings, according to the documents. The specifics are blacked out. The woman has never spoken publicly about what she saw on April 18. Her lawyer has declined requests for comment from CBC News. 

A search warrant document says police recovered cash on the shooter’s property that he had stashed in an ammunition box. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

At some point after Wortman loaded guns and ammunition into his mock cruiser, the woman escaped. She told investigators she initially hid in a truck before spending hours in a wooded area in Portapique. Though she heard someone announcing they were police on a loudspeaker, she said she feared it was her partner. Around dawn she went to the home of a neighbour who called 911.

Large cash withdrawal

RCMP have previously said Wortman liquidated his assets and stockpiled gas and food due to COVID-19 fears. A warrant that the court released in May revealed people told the investigators the gunman was paranoid and had a history of abuse.

According to the new documents, his spouse also told police in the weeks prior to the attacks he was “consumed” by the pandemic, talking about it constantly and saying he “knew he was going to die.”

She also said he feared that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would find a way to control money and that prompted him to withdraw nearly half a million dollars from his own accounts. The RCMP interviewed officials from CIBC and Brinks about a March 30 withdrawal in Dartmouth.

The gunman’s cottage in Portapique was destroyed in a fire he set, but a large deck along the shore was mostly intact. Pictured is the area under the structure. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Officials from the bank told police that Wortman asked to liquidate investments and then transferred the money to his business accounts. On March 25 at a branch in Dartmouth, he asked the bank’s director that his $475,000 be paid out in $100 bills, according to the court documents. 

The records state the bank worked with Brinks to set up a pick-up on March 30. 

RCMP have not said how much cash police have recovered. The search warrant documents show that on April 22, investigators found cash folded in tinfoil packets inside an ammunition box discovered at the Portapique property. 

Suspicious transactions flagged 

Canada’s money-laundering watchdog, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Fintrac), reported on Wortman’s personal and professional financial activities after the massacre, according to the newly released documents.

The records say Wortman’s PayPal account was used to buy vehicle accessories labelled as being for police use on eBay. The court documents describe the purchases as “for items utilized in the facilitation of domestic terrorist activities.”

Police searched the Atlantic Denture Clinic in downtown Dartmouth on April 20. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

According to the court documents, the Fintrac review found that PayPal flagged suspicious transactions between March 22 and Dec. 5, 2019 — though it’s not clear from the records if that’s when they were reported as suspicious or if that’s when they occurred.

Those purchases included accessories for police vehicles such as:

  • A centre console for a 2013 Ford Taurus.
  • A ram for the front bumper of a Taurus sedan.
  • Siren lights. 
  • A dashcam.
  • Thin blue line vinyl decal.
  • Hubcaps.
  • A gun rack.

Other transactions listed as suspicious include $15,045 worth of items — including decommissioned cars — purchased with credit cards from GCSurplus in Ottawa. The site is run by Public Services and Procurement Canada.

There’s also reference to cash deposits payable to Wortman from Northumberland Investments, one of his companies. The Fintrac review found three questionable transactions: two cash deposits in 2010 totalling $200,000 and another for $246,000. The transactions happened in Fredericton and Dartmouth, but the documents don’t elaborate on the circumstances.

Border crossings

What is clear is that over the years, people around the gunman knew he had a penchant for acquiring car parts and collecting motorcycles. Some also knew he had guns and one car that he’d outfitted to resemble an actual cruiser.

The documents reference interviews with two people who responded to a Kijiji ad about an off-road vehicle in the weeks prior to April’s attacks. In both cases, Wortman showed off his replica cruiser inside the large garage he had in Portapique.

Using one of his companies, he purchased the 2017 Ford Taurus used in the attacks on July 3, 2019, from the RCMP, according to the search warrant records. 

A friend of Aaron Tuck, who was one of Wortman’s victims, told police that in August 2019, Tuck told him that Wortman’s mock cruiser was indistinguishable from an actual police vehicle and that he kept a holster for a gun in the back of it. Tuck was killed alongside his wife, Jolene Oliver, and his daughter, Emily, at their home in Portapique.

Gabriel Wortman carried out his rampage using a vehicle made to look like an RCMP cruiser in every way, with the exception of the numbers police circled in this photo. (Nova Scotia RCMP)

Peter Griffon, a neighbour who was on parole and who printed the decals for the cruiser, initially lied to police about his involvement but later showed investigators images of the vehicle he kept on his phone. He did odd jobs for Wortman and on April 18 had been splitting wood for him. He last saw him around noon that day, before Wortman headed out for a drive.

Wortman also stopped and talked with a fellow denturist, who is not identified, about work and COVID-19.  

The gunman’s spouse said Wortman was constantly scouring sites for police gear which he bought in both Canada and the U.S.

Records the RCMP obtained from Canada Border Services Agency showed that Wortman crossed the U.S.-Canada border in Woodstock, N.B., 15 times over a two-year period, with his last return to Canada on March 6. He did not have permits to import supplies for his denturist business, but the CBSA said he was personally importing car parts.

Wortman appears to have had a long history of threats and violence. A former neighbour has spoken out about being harassed by Wortman after reporting to RCMP that Wortman abused his spouse. The spouse and another relative relayed to police an account of Wortman’s vicious attack on his father during a trip to the Caribbean. In 2011, someone reported to Truro police that the denturist threatened to “kill a cop.”

The documents released Monday are the second batch of search warrant documents the court has agreed to release. CBC applied in April for access to the records and seven other media outlets joined the application.

David Coles, the lawyer representing the media organizations, has filed a request for a judicial review of decisions Judge Laurel Halfpenny MacQuarrie had made in the case. Halfpenny MacQuarrie will consider that request Oct. 2 in Halifax provincial court.

If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians. 

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Canada's biggest maker of paper towel concerned about supply amid COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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The head of Canada’s largest manufacturer of tissue products says he’s concerned about the industry’s supply of paper towel ahead of a potential second wave of COVID-19.

Kruger Products CEO Dino Bianco says demand for paper towel has soared as people stay at home and clean more frequently.

He says the industry is “very tight” on paper towel inventory across North America, despite efforts to build up supply.

Bianco says Kruger, which makes SpongeTowels paper towels, is pushing to open its new plant in Sherbrooke, Que., to add more capacity in Canada.

Although slated to open in February 2021, he said the company is trying to get the factory up and running faster. Some machines started over the summer, while more are set to come online in October.

Bianco said the plant will increase the company’s paper towel and toilet paper manufacturing capacity by 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, he says the company is also seeing a shortage of the recycled fibres used in about 25 per cent of its tissue products.

Bianco says Kruger recycles white paper used in offices, but that the market has dried up because people aren’t in offices printing.

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Woman suspected of mailing ricin to White House arrested at U.S.-Canada border – CBC.ca

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Three U.S. law enforcement officials say a woman suspected of sending an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to the White House and President Donald Trump, has been arrested at the New York-Canada border.

The officials say the woman was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and is expected to face federal charges. The officials were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Aaron Bowker of the CBP confirmed with CBC News that the arrest took place at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y., and that the individual was travelling from Canada into the United States.

The letter had been intercepted earlier this week before it reached the White House.

An RCMP spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday that it was assisting the FBI in the investigation and that “initial information from the investigation suggests that the letter originated in Canada.”

An official from the Western District of New York told CBC News on Monday they “don’t have a time yet for a court appearance.”

There have been several prior instances in which U.S. officials have been targeted with ricin, which can be derived from castor oil plants.

A navy veteran was arrested in 2018 and confessed to sending envelopes containing the substance from which ricin is derived to Trump, CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray and James Mattis, then the secretary of defence. At least two of the letters made it to a Pentagon mail sorting facility.

The Utah man has yet to be tried in the case and could face life in prison if found guilty.

In 2014, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 25 years in prison after sending letters dusted with ricin to then-president Barack Obama and other officials.

The previous year, a woman was accused of mailing ricin-laced letters to Obama and Michael Bloomberg, then the mayor of New York City. The woman, who tried to frame her husband for the scheme, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after reaching a plea deal.

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