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Hospitals in Canada face COVID-19 ‘storm’



To slow the spread of COVID-19, provinces have closed schools, urged people to stay home and shut businesses to varying degrees — responses that differ with the degree of community spread in each place.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director general, said Wednesday that staying home buys time and reduces pressure on health systems.

“Aggressive measures to find, isolate, test, treat and trace are not only the best and fastest way out of extreme social and economic restrictions — they’re also the best way to prevent them,” he said.

But the WHO doesn’t give specific recommendations on what businesses are essential, and because public health is a provincial responsibility, “essential” means different things in different parts of the country.

For example, Prince Edward Island originally ordered government-run liquor stores to close as part of social distancing efforts, while they remained open in Ontario. (And P.E.I. changed its decision on Wednesday.)

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta, called it a symptom of the Canadian system.

“I think it would be much better to have standardized understandings of what essential is and then people between provinces would not have to question, ‘Well, why do you consider a liquor store crucial?'”  Saxinger said. “It is, from the point of view of public messaging and consistency, a bit of a weakness.”


Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver has been particularly hard hit by a major outbreak of COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)


Doctors and public health officials are bracing for an onslaught of new cases from people exposed before the border and social distancing measures began.

“It’s this kind of calm before the storm,” she said. “In other areas, we see the storm is starting. We have a more mature epidemic happening in B.C.”

Dr. Stephanie Smith, director of infection prevention and control at U of A, said given that it takes up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear, it is too early to tell how much of an effect the physical distancing measures and closures are having in Canada.

“It’s become very clear that the earlier you can institute these measures, the better off you’re going to be,” Smith said.

Like trying to gather up water with your hands

In Toronto, Dr. Michael Gardam is concerned people who feel well will relax on physical distancing measures.

“This is not something that we can relax after two weeks,” he warned.

Gardam, the hospital’s chief of staff and infectious disease physician, is scrambling to stockpile masks to protect his staff at Humber River Hospital.

He’s also trying to source ventilators and juggle teleconferences as people question plans based on the results of the latest COVID-19 study from across the globe.

“It feels like you’re trying to gather up water with your hands,” Gardam said. “For those of us in health care its hell. We haven’t hit our surge yet. People are already tired and it hasn’t started.”


Lisa De Virgilio poses in a protective face mask with the phrase ‘andra tutto bene’ that means ‘everything will be ok’, sewn onto it, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Molfetta, southern Italy, on Wednesday. (Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters)


Dr. Saverio Stranges, a professor of epidemiology at Western University is watching the pandemic unfold in London, Ont., and his own birthplace — Italy.

“If we start from the assumption that everyone can be potentially infected now, then we will be able to embrace these measures of social distancing,” he said.

The Italian experience with COVID-19 is extremely dramatic, he said, with intensive care physicians facing agonizing life-and-death decisions in overrun hospitals. Morgues are piling up with victims of the pandemic.

By contrast, South Korea and Taiwan have been able to scale up testing and tracing contacts of those who are infected.

Stranges said such measures are crucial in containing an outbreak like COVID-19 that spreads in the community.

But in Western countries, the number of cases are underestimated because only those with clear symptoms are tested.

Compared with Italy, Stranges sees an advantage in Canada’s vast geography.

“A good number of people live in detached homes, as opposed to Italian or European countries where the vast majority of people live in apartment buildings,” he said. “That is an important difference.”

Stranges said he didn’t want to generalize, but noted that Italy and Canada also tend to differ in family structures in terms of grandparents living with their children.

Graph shows how new cases of COVID-19 can quickly overwhelm a health-care system if precautions aren’t taken 0:26

People over the age of 65 face an increased risk of death from COVID-19 compared with other age groups, although everyone is susceptible in a pandemic.

He estimated that as of a few days ago, Canada was about 17 days behind Italy in terms of the epidemic curve of growth of new illnesses.

That means the worst moments of the outbreak in Canada may still lie ahead.

“This is the time when we need to comply with this measure of social distancing,” Stranges said.

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Coronavirus: Canadians should expect weeks or months of social distancing, Trudeau says – Global News



Some provinces and health officials saw glimmers of hope in the country’s COVID-19 numbers on Monday, even as the prime minister warned that Canadians shouldn’t expect life to return to normal any time soon.

Speaking in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau said officials will have a better idea of how long the crisis will last once models and predictions are developed, but success will depend on how fully Canadians practise distancing habits.

“To stay at home, to continue this period of isolation and distance is the best way to get out as quickly as possible, but certainly it will be a case of several weeks, perhaps several months,” the prime minister said in his daily update from Ottawa.

Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

New infections and deaths continued to be reported across the country Monday, with 16,500 total cases and 321 deaths reported by 3 p.m.

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Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s top public health officer said she was especially concerned with recent outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care homes, which have been reported in several provinces.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau thanks big banks for cutting credit card rates ‘almost in half’

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau thanks big banks for cutting credit card rates ‘almost in half’

Among the worst of those outbreaks is the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., where three more residents died on Sunday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths at the facility to 26.

Tam said that while older people are at a higher risk for complications, people in their 20s have also died, and nobody should consider themselves immune.

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But Tam also said there was reason to be optimistic that distancing efforts were working.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says they expect equipment shipments from U.S. to be delivered

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says they expect equipment shipments from U.S. to be delivered

She said the case of British Columbia, which has seen its number of new cases decline in the past week, was a reason to believe that collective action could work to slow the pandemic.

“As Canadians, we may not outwardly demonstrate our pride, but our hearts are full of it and we are determined people,” she said. “When someone says flatten the curve, we say, ‘We’ll plank it.”’

Tam also updated guidelines on wearing non-medical masks, amid what she said was increasing evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by infected people who have not started to show symptoms or who never fall sick.

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As a result, public health authorities have concluded that simple cloth masks can help prevent the wearer from spreading the virus to others in places where physical distancing is difficult, she said.

She said masks worn this way have not been proven to protect the people wearing them, and they don’t exempt wearers from other measures they should take against COVID-19, including physical distancing and regular handwashing.

While deaths rose by 13 in Ontario and by 27 in Quebec, officials in both provinces also saw reasons for optimism.

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

Ontario reported 309 new COVID-19 cases Monday, for a total of 4,347 cases, including 132 deaths and 1,624 patients who have recovered.

The total number of cases reported Monday represented a 7.7 per cent increase over the previous day’s total — a lower percentage increase than in previous days.

Coronavirus outbreak: Ford considering charges for those caught breaking physical distancing advice

Coronavirus outbreak: Ford considering charges for those caught breaking physical distancing advice

In Quebec, Premier Francois Legault said there was “light at the end of the tunnel,” despite 27 new deaths and a total case count that rose to over 8,500.

While the province recorded 636 new cases, Legault noted that the numbers appeared to be stabilizing, and the total number of hospitalizations had increased by only eight over the day before.

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“If we can have this for a few days, that would mean we are approaching the peak,” he told reporters in Quebec City, regarding the rate of infection in the province. “I don’t want to speculate, but it’s just, the numbers are encouraging today.”

The leaders all stressed that now is not the time to back off on physical distancing measures, including staying home as much as possible.

Social distancing enforcement

Social distancing enforcement

Trudeau has himself been working from home since his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 13.

He said that while he expects to return to the office in the days to come, he will mainly keep working from home because “that’s what we ask of everyone.”

Meanwhile, Trudeau said more than 300,000 people successfully applied for emergency financial aid in the first few hours after the federal government opened the process on Monday. The benefit offers $500 weekly payments for workers who have lost their income due to the pandemic.

The prime minister suggested the 16-week program would be expanded to offer help for people whose hours have been reduced but not eliminated, and he promised help for those who earn less than the benefit provides.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Canadians applying for emergency benefit concerned for what comes next – Global News



Hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have lost their income due to COVID-19 are hoping to qualify for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a monthly stipend of $2,000 that will last up to four months. 

Within hours of the federal government accepting applications on Monday, more than 3.1 million people have successfully applied, according to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The Canadian Revenue Agency is processing around 1000 applications per minute, the PMO told Global News. 

He addressed criticism surrounding the benefit, as it currently isn’t available for gig workers, volunteer firefighters and other professions like contractors who work less than 10 hours per week.

University and college students are also part of multiple groups “falling between the cracks,” Trudeau said.

The new COVID-19 benefit for workers has launched: Here’s how to apply

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“If you are working reduced hours, down to 10 hours a week or less, we will soon announce how you will benefit from the CERB,” he said.

“We’ll also have more to say for those who are working, but making less than they would with the benefit.”

Those “fine tunings” will come in the next few days, explained Trudeau. The wage benefit is expected to cost the government $24 billion.

Global News spoke to several Canadians who have applied to CERB or are planning to apply to CERB about whether the benefit meets their needs. Many are relieved to have submitted an application, but are hesitant to feel at ease when unemployment holds many unknowns. 

‘Never been laid off from a job before’ 

A week ago Melina Morry of Toronto was employed and working as a fashion copywriter for Harry Rosen. She and around 20 others from her e-commerce team were temporarily laid off due to COVID-19.

Harry Rosen seemed to be doing well due to an uptick in online shopping, so Morry, 28, and others were shocked when they were told they no longer had a job.

“They said it’s temporary but they don’t have any idea when things may resume to normal,” she said. “But I’ve never been laid off from a job before. I felt really disappointed at first and a bit confused.

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“I kind of just thought my job would be secure through all of this. But it just goes to show that you don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

Morry already applied for employment insurance last week, which will now automatically be processed for CERB. 

Melina Morry was laid-off from her job as a copywriter last week. Photo provided by Melina Morry

Melina Morry was laid-off from her job as a copywriter last week. Photo provided by Melina Morry

Photo provided by Melina Morry

While she says it’s reassuring to know she isn’t alone in her predicament around 2.7 million Canadians have been laid off so far due to COVID-19, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives she’s concerned due to uncertainty about her future, she said.

“The $2,000 a month is enough for me to pay my living expenses, so that’s a huge relief,” she said.

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“The only thing that concerns me is that they say this benefit is going to be for the next four months… so I’m wondering how am I going to be supplemented if I’m still not able to find a job?”

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Her employer said she and others will know the status of their temporary layoff by December, leaving months in between where she will have missing income when the benefit runs out, she said.

New CERB to offer Canadians more money than EI

New CERB to offer Canadians more money than EI

Currently, she is trying to view the situation as one that’s out of her control and will continue to check government updates if she still requires financial assistance past the four-month window, she said.

“I think it’s a good time to really just re-evaluate what you want to do with your life,” she said. “Hopefully things will go back to normal eventually.”

Confusion, unanswered questions around the application process

Tara Maslowsky, 26, has already been laid off for three weeks due to COVID-19, after the massage therapy clinic she worked at closed. 

Her employer formally dismissed her and other staff members so they would be able to apply for employment insurance, said Maslowsky, who lives in Winnipeg.

At first, she says she was confused as to whether she was supposed to apply for unemployment insurance or whether she should wait until the CERB opens. In the last week, attempting to speak to someone who can help her with questions has been difficult, she said.

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Canadians apply for emergency benefit amid COVID-19 with few hiccups

“I’m very stressed, I feel like I’m getting myself worked up about it. Last week I set my alarm to get through to Service Canada, literally all day. That was almost 500 calls to speak to somebody,” she said. “But information is changing constantly.”

Now, she says, she understands her employment insurance claim will migrate over to CERB. But because of fears about paying her bills living without her own income, the ability to connect with the government more directly would be helpful, she explained.

Tara Maslowsky from Winnipeg says she’s been confused about the application process for the CERB. Photo provided by Tara Maslowsky.

Tara Maslowsky from Winnipeg says she’s been confused about the application process for the CERB. Photo provided by Tara Maslowsky.

Photo provided by Tara Maslowsky

“I just feel that there’s so many questions that people want answers to. Unfortunately you just have to wait it out, which is stressful in itself,” she said. 

While she waits for her first payment, connecting to other Canadians on social media who are going through a similar scenario now has been a source of comfort, said Maslowsky.

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“We’re all just trying to help each other…everybody’s coming together and trying to help and give each other as much information as they can,” she said.

Losing income, while sick 

Allyson Paynter, 50, hasn’t been dismissed from her job as a legal administrative assistant in Edmonton. But she has exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and has had to stay home in quarantine as a result, going on a temporary leave that has caused a loss of income, she said. 

Having her CERB application be approved today was a source of relief, as she was concerned she wouldn’t be able to pay her bills while she recovers.

“It’s really easing my worry, and I’m almost positive that my worry has been affecting my symptoms,” she said.

When she first spoke to Alberta Health Link, the health hotline in the province, they told her it may not be worth it to test her currently and to go to the hospital if her symptoms get worse, she said.

Coronavirus support package rejigs benefits for workers hit by pandemic

“Health-wise I’m not doing great. This is not the flu where you rest for a couple of days and then you feel better. This is much more serious, my chest really hurts. The symptoms are just really harsh,” she said. 

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Receiving the benefit would allow her to relax more while she is in quarantine, she said. Her landlord has already waived April’s rent, but she is concerned about paying her expenses next month.

“It’s been incredibly challenging dealing with my current health condition and uncertainty about my finances,” she said. 

Applying to the CERB was “very easy” because Paynter says she looked up the process beforehand and set her alarm for right when the applications opened. 

She said she found the process much more user-friendly than the Alberta finance relief benefit, which is a one-time payment of $1,142. 

“It took me less than a minute and my approval was automatic, which I must say has taken a lot of pressure off,” she said.

“I was surprised. I had been trying to apply to the Alberta one-time relief payment…and I haven’t been able to get through on that website.”

‘Very few people that are doing well’

Making sense of whether he qualifies for CERB has been “very confusing” for 32-year-old Mohammed Asaduallah from Toronto.

Asaduallah is the founder of start-up Benji, which helps freelancers by finding tax write-offs for them. As his clients are losing their source of income as well, they have to temporarily shut down, he explained.

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This has resulted in a complete loss of income for himself, he said.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says 240,000 people applied for emergency benefit

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says 240,000 people applied for emergency benefit

“I’ve been calling the CRA saying ‘hey do I qualify, how does this work’?” he said. CERB’s guidelines state that if you voluntarily stop working, you don’t qualify for the benefit which technically he has done by closing Benji for now, he said.

“It’s been very confusing to make sense of it,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m doing things in a compliant way and I’m not doing anything that is wrong or illegal.”

When Asaduallah applied for the benefit this morning, he said it only took a few minutes for him to complete the application.

It was so fast, it was almost “scary,” he said as he’s used to more red tape when navigating government applications and websites, he explained.

“I was just gobsmacked, that was so fast…but for me I’m relieved that there’s funding available as quickly as it is,” he said. He says he feels lucky he’s in a group that is able to qualify for CERB, when others aren’t.

Beyond the four-month period, Asaduallah says he’s also worried for himself and other unemployed Canadians as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the country. 

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“There are very few people that are doing well and have jobs…many other Canadians don’t have the same privilege at the moment,” he said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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

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Huawei donates medical supplies to Canada amid shortage concerns – CTV News



Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has quietly made a donation of medical supplies to Canada, CTV News has confirmed.

As reported first in The Globe and Mail, the donation includes more than a million masks, 30,000 goggles and 50,000 pair of gloves.

When CTV News contacted the telecommunications company, Huawei had no comment.

Huawei’s donation comes amid major concerns about Canada’s stockpile and supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes items like masks and gloves. Speaking to reporters on April 1, Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu confirmed that Canada’s stockpile appeared to fall short when the outbreak began.

“I think federal governments for decades have been underfunding things like public health preparedness and I would say that obviously governments all across the world are in the same exact situation,” Hajdu said, speaking at the daily cabinet ministers’ press conference at the time.

China produces a significant share of the world’s supply of PPE. When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and China closed many of its factories, the global supply chain was sent reeling.

As the drought of protective equipment became clear, hospitals including Toronto’s Mt. Sinai Hospital were forced to ration their equipment. Staff at the Toronto hospital were being told last week to limit their use to one mask per day, and were not changing their masks between seeing different patients.

“I have heard those stories myself from frontline workers; I know provinces and territories are developing different sets of rules for frontline workers around the dispersement and use of personal protective equipment,” Hajdu said, adding that the government is pushing hard to build up its supply of PPE.

However, the international market for the hotly-demanded items is proving to be extremely competitive. As Hajdu noted, many other countries also did not have sufficient stockpiles, and are therefore looking to gobble up the available PPE on the global market.

“We are working I would say 24 hours, around the clock, trying to procure equipment in a global situation where equipment is extremely tight,” Hajdu said.

“Our government has the money, we have the will, we have the workforce, and everybody’s focus is firmly on getting PPE.”

As of April 2, the government had secured more than 157 million surgical masks and had ordered an additional 65 million N95 masks. Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said on Tuesday that the government was pushing hard to beef up its supply — fast.

“We are taking a very aggressive and proactive approach to procurement every day. We are working 24/7. This country has never seen procurement like it is occurring now. It is broad-based and aggressive,” Anand said.

Meanwhile, the donation from Huawei comes as the company has been actively pushing for inclusion in Canada’s core advanced 5G network. The United States has been pushing for its allies to shut Huawei out of their 5G networks in order to keep Chinese intelligence officials away from highly sensitive information.

Canada has yet to make a decision on Huawei’s potential inclusion in its 5G network.

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