As new daily cases of COVID-19 continue to decline in Ontario, the Ford government is allowing people anywhere in the province to build “social circles” of up to 10 people that can include family and friends.
For the time being, a person can only be a part of one circle, in order to limit contact while still allowing individuals to see more of their family members or close contacts. Other provinces have referred to this as expanding social “bubbles,” but the concept is essentially the same.
Within any given circle, social distancing measures are not necessary.
“Think of your social circle as the people you can touch, hug and have close contact with as we continue the fight against COVID-19,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said at an afternoon news conference with Premier Doug Ford.
“Be true to your social circle. No one should be part of more than one circle,” she added.
Today’s announcement is different from the revised guidelines on “social gatherings” released as part of the next phase of Ontario’s reopening earlier this week. People can still gather in public spaces in groups of up to 10 with those outside of their expanded circle, but they have to stay two metres apart.
The province says that allowing Ontarians to expand their social circles to 10 could help families with child- or senior-care needs, for example, and help alleviate the mental health impacts of isolation.
But people in higher-risk groups should be discerning about who is part of their social circle, a public health official said at a morning briefing on the new policy. And if your current household already includes up to 10 people, then you cannot expand it further.
The new guidance takes effect today everywhere in Ontario, regardless of whether or not your region is moving into the next phase of reopening.
Ford said that his government is trusting Ontarians to expand their social circles responsibly, and that enforcement by police and municipal bylaw officers will not be a priority.
“The social circle police are not going to be knocking on your door. We’re trusting people,” he told reporters.
The province says that to form a safe social circle, Ontarians should follow these simple steps:
- Start with your current circle: the people you live with or who regularly come into your household.
- Step 2: If your current circle is under 10 people, you can add members to your circle, including another household, family members or friends.
- Step 3: Get agreement from everyone that they will join the circle.
- Step 4: Keep your social circle safe. Maintain physical distancing with anyone outside of your circle.
- Step 5: Be true to your social circle. No one should be part of more than one circle.
The maximum size of social circles might expand in the coming weeks and months, Ford said.
182 new COVID-19 cases today
Ontario reported 182 additional cases of COVID-19 — the lowest number of new cases on any day since March 28 — and another record number of tests today.
The 0.6 per cent increase brings the total number of cases in the province to 31,726, with 82.5 per cent of those are classified as resolved, including 302 marked resolved yesterday.
The five-day rolling average of new daily cases — a measure that helps smooth peaks and valleys in data — has been in consistent decline since June 4.
Twenty-eight of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported five or fewer new cases, and 17 of those reported no new cases at all; 90 of today’s new cases are in Toronto.
There are now 3,041 active COVID-19 cases province-wide, the fewest since new daily cases started to rise again in mid-May. The Greater Toronto Area accounts for about 75 per cent of all current active cases.
The province’s network of labs processed 28,335 tests for the novel coronavirus yesterday, by far the most in any 24-hour period since the outbreak began in late January. Some 18,512 test samples are currently waiting to be processed, meaning that more than 30,000 were added to the queue yesterday.
The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued its steady three-week decline and currently sits at 527, the fewest since April 5. Those being treated in intensive care units and with ventilators both decreased, as well.
Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll grew by 11 to 2,498 — the fourth straight day with fewer than 15 new deaths. A CBC News count based on data from regional public health, which avoids lag times in reporting, puts the real current death toll as of Friday evening at 2,553.
About 78.5 per cent of all COVID-19-linked deaths in the province were residents of long-term care homes. Public health officials are tracking 75 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
Earlier today, Sienna Senior Living, a private long-term care provider whose homes have seen dozens of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, said its president and CEO resigned. The company announced that Lois Cormack is leaving her job, effective immediately.
Meanwhile, most Ontario regions outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) will be allowed to reopen more businesses today, with some asking GTA residents to stay away.
The second stage of the province’s reopening includes restaurant patios, hair salons and swimming pools.
The limit on social gatherings will increase from five to 10 provincewide, but people must still stay two metres away from anyone outside their own household.
Child-care centres across Ontario will also be allowed to reopen, but it’s not yet clear how many will be able to implement new pandemic safety measures immediately.
The current pandemic restrictions will stay in place for the GTHA, which has a high concentration of COVID-19 cases, while border regions such as Windsor-Essex, Lambton County and Niagara, as well as Haldimand-Norfolk — which has seen an outbreak among migrant workers — will also not move to Stage 2 today.
Trudeau unsure about Washington trip, cites concern over tariffs
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday he was still unsure whether he would go to Washington D.C. next week to mark a new North American trade treaty, citing concern about possible U.S. tariffs on aluminum.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is due to meet U.S. President Donald Trump next week, has said he would like Trudeau to attend.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
Today's coronavirus news: Wasaga Beach to close main beach area after huge Canada Day crowds; WE group to stop running federal volunteer program – Toronto Star
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
11 a.m.: When COVID-19 hit, Paintbox Bistro, a restaurant located in Regent Park, quickly transformed into a store. Why? The goal was to keep her staff employed and continue providing a resource to feed lower-income residents.
10:20 a.m. (updated): Youth Minister Bardish Chagger says the WE organization won’t manage the federal government’s $900-million program to pay students and fresh graduates for volunteer work this summer.
In a statement this morning, Chagger says it’s a “mutually agreed upon decision.”
Since the charity founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger was announced as the manager of the program last week, the sole-sourced deal has been criticized because of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s close relationship with the group.
Trudeau and Chagger have said repeatedly that the recommendation to use WE for the work came from the public service, not politicians.
10 a.m.: All those warnings from small cottage country mayors to stay away this spring haven’t discouraged Torontonians from hunting for vacation homes, realtors say. In fact, the pandemic is boosting those real estate numbers.
9 a.m.: Outdoor patios at restaurants and bars have been given the green light to grow, allowing more people to dine or have a drink in the open air as summer gets into full swing.
Premier Doug Ford said the government has amended emergency orders to cut red tape and allow municipalities to quickly pass temporary bylaws clearing the way during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measure follows consultations with chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams and a push from Progressive Conservative MPP Gila Martow (Thornhill), who proposed the idea in May to help restaurants and bars struggling to stay afloat selling take-away food, beer, wine and spirits.
8:25 a.m.: The public’s “blatant disregard” for the rules of social distancing has resulted in Wasaga Beach laying out a plan to shut down the majority of the main beach area by July 9.
The only access permitted would be three walkways to reach the water, and so the public can access businesses along what was Beach Drive.
Anyone who chooses to flout the new rules by walking on the municipal portion of the beach will also face a hefty fine: $750.
The town’s emergency management co-ordinator and deputy fire chief, Craig Williams, called the disregard for social distancing and gathering recommendations on Canada Day, and the previous two weekends, “human behaviour at its worst.”
The beach area would be closed to the public by July 9 and “for the foreseeable future.”
The municipal lots would be reduced in capacity by half.
Mayor Nina Bifolchi said while the previous two weekends on the beach had been busy, the crowds on Canada Day “took it to a whole new level.”
7:18 a.m. The scale of coronavirus infections in English care homes was laid bare on Friday, adding to the pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his handling of the pandemic.
A survey of more than 9,000 institutions found that 56 per cent had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 since the outbreak began, according to the Office for National Statistics. In total, 11 per cent of all care-home residents tested positive for the disease, almost double the rate in the community as a whole.
The government has come under fire for its failure to shield vulnerable people in care homes, with the ONS now estimating that over 19,000 residents in England and Wales died from the virus as of June 12. In the initial stages of the outbreak, some hospitalized residents were discharged into the facilities without a negative test to show they weren’t carrying the disease.
Speaking on LBC Radio on Friday, Johnson described the significant loss of life in care homes as “absolutely tragic” and promised a “proper examination.”
“Far too many lives were lost in care homes and we mourn for everyone,” he said. “I bitterly, bitterly regret every single loss of life that we’ve had. Whether an earlier lockdown would have made the crucial difference is something we will have to look at.”
Staff working arrangements also influenced levels of infection. Those that employed more workers from agencies, or had staff working across multiple sites, showed a greater spread of the virus. There was also evidence that care homes that provide sick pay had lower levels of infection, as staff were more likely to take time off work.
7 a.m.: The pandemic has dinged the auto sector, but one part of the industry is faring better than it was before the crisis: used cars.
Sales of used vehicles in the U.S. have roared back after dropping 38 per cent in April, when states were shut down and some dealerships were forced to close. In June, used-vehicle sales rose 17 per cent above the pre-pandemic forecasts, according to research firm J.D. Power.
A confluence of factors is drawing buyers to the used-car lot. Some have used federal stimulus checks on their purchases, dealers and analysts say. Interest rates have fallen during the pandemic, to about 4.73 per cent on average for a 36-month used-car loan, from about 5 per cent in early March, according to Bankrate.com.
Meanwhile, many dealers are having trouble getting new vehicles from the factory, after the health crisis forced auto makers to close their plants for nearly two months this spring. That has led salespeople to more readily redirect customers to the used-car lot, dealers say.
The used-vehicle market’s swift recovery is a relief for dealers and auto makers, which have seen other areas of their businesses upended by the pandemic.
6:10 a.m. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to maintain alertness against the coronavirus, warning that complacency risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media said Friday.
Despite the warning, Kim reaffirmed North Korea’s claim to not have had a single case of COVID-19, telling a ruling party meeting Thursday that the country has “thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus” despite the worldwide health crisis.
Outsiders widely doubt North Korea escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and close trade and travel ties to China, where COVID-19 emerged late last year.
Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with similar symptoms to the disease.
Experts say the country’s self-imposed lockdown is hurting an economy already battered by stringent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.
The Korean Central News Agency said Kim during the politburo meeting of the Workers’ Party “stressed the need to maintain maximum alert without a slight self-complacence or relaxation” as the virus continues to spread in neighbouring countries.
The agency said Kim sharply criticized inattentiveness among officials and violations of emergency anti-virus rules and warned that a “hasty relief of anti-epidemic measures will result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis.”
The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published several photos of Kim at the meeting, which were the first state media images of him in weeks. Neither Kim nor the ruling party officials who participated were wearing masks.
5:01 a.m.: Toronto’s northwest corner — which has been hardest hit by COVID-19 — is part of a larger hot spot of vulnerability that extends beyond the edges of the city, suggesting a broader regional cluster of high infection rates that defies boundaries and is exploiting socioeconomic inequalities, according to experts and public health data.
Officials are still trying to puzzle out why Toronto’s northwest corner has seen the city’s highest infection rates, and who, exactly, has been impacted most.
Recent reporting from the Star found that these neighbourhoods have some of the highest concentrations of residents who are low-income, racialized and living in cramped housing while working in higher-risk sectors like manufacturing. These findings were echoed Thursday by newly released data from Toronto Public Health showing that neighbourhoods with these characteristics were correlated with higher case counts.
5 a.m.: The four Atlantic provinces are lifting travel restrictions within the region today, with an agreement that’s causing a mix of anxiety and excitement among people in the region.
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Residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island can now travel to any of the other three provinces without self-isolating for 14 days after arriving.
The premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick have hinted restrictions could soon be lifted for visitors from the rest of Canada if all goes well.
Some residents have criticized the so-called “Atlantic bubble” over fears the novel coronavirus could re-emerge in the region, but health officials are encouraging people to trust the science behind the decision and keep following health measures.
4:16 a.m.: South Africa’s reported coronavirus cases are surging.
Its hospitals are now bracing for an onslaught of patients, setting up temporary wards and hoping advances in treatment will help the country’s health facilities from becoming overwhelmed.
The spike comes as the country has allowed businesses to reopen in recent weeks to stave off economic disaster after a strict two-month stay-at-home order worsened already high unemployment and drastically increased hunger.
In Johannesburg, the largest city, health officials said they are considering reimposing some restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus.
4 a.m.: A group representing greenhouse growers in Ontario’s Windsor-Essex region says a work stoppage at a local farm due to a COVID-19 outbreak has escalated fears about testing for the virus.
The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers says in a statement that the public health order has contributed to anxiety among both farmers and workers.
On Wednesday, the region’s medical officer of health issued an order that required an unnamed farmer whose greenhouse has an active outbreak involving 191 workers to isolate those employees and stop work.
The medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex issued the order after a rash of positive tests over the weekend.
The growers group says it is working with the sector and the provincial government to address those fears as on-farm testing continues.
Premier Doug Ford said Thursday the work stoppage will not encourage local farmers to participate in efforts to combat the virus.
6 p.m.: Interest payments were already draining the bottom line at Cirque du Soleil Holdings LP before the pandemic froze its revenues, according to a report by the monitor in its bankruptcy protection case.
Ernst & Young, the firm overseeing Cirque’s restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act in Canada, said its net loss increased to $80 million last year from $10.2 million in 2017.
“During that period, the applicant’s financial position deteriorated as a result of the losses sustained and the increasingly debt heavy capital structure,” the monitor said in a report.
The pandemic hit the 36-year-old company just as it emerged from a string of acquisitions that helped it diversify from its original acrobat-based shows. The deals, which included Blue Man Productions Inc., help Cirque increase revenue to $1.04 billion last year from $882 million in 2017, but also put it deeper into debt.
As of March 31, Cirque owed its first lien creditors $901 million and its second lien creditors $154 million. It also owed $32 million to shareholder Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec and an equal amount to Fonds de solidarite des travailleurs du Quebec, the monitor’s report said.
Montreal-based Cirque filed for protection from creditors on Monday after the coronavirus forced it to close shows around the world. A creditors’ group has said a proposal by existing shareholders — TPG, the Caisse and China’s Fosun International Ltd. — to restructure the live performance company is “doomed to fail” and there is no chance they will accept it.
The shareholders’ group proposed refinancing the company with new capital and giving creditors a 45% equity stake in exchange for wiping out most of its debt. Now the company will go through a process to see if another investor can improve on that offer.
Cirque had $1.47 billion in liabilities at the end of 2019, about five times shareholders’ equity.
Thursday 5 p.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 37,389 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,728 deaths, up a total of 154 new cases since Wednesday evening, according to the Star’s latest count.
As has been the case in recent weeks, the vast majority of new cases reported Thursday came in a small handful of health units. Just Toronto (77 new cases), Peel Region (23 cases) and York Region (21 cases) reported increases in the double digits.
New infections are down sharply, even in these regions. In Toronto, for example, the long-term average rate of new infections has fallen from 196 per day in early June to just 53 daily as of Thursday.
Four more fatal cases were reported Thursday, all in Toronto.
The daily rate of deaths has also fallen sharply since peaking in early May when the health units reported as many as 94 deaths in a single day.
Earlier, the province reported the Canada Day holiday meant it had incomplete information on the number of Ontarians currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The most recent totals of patients hospitalized, in the ICU or ventilated in Ontario hospitals were near the lowest levels in records that were first made public in early April.
The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths, 2,680, may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system. In the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”
The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
Thursday 2:45 p.m.: More than three million Canadians either lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced due to COVID-19, according to Statistics Canada.
And now that economies across the country are reopening, some people are looking to change course, having realized their careers aren’t as viable as they may have been pre-pandemic.
Many are going back to school to pursue an entirely new profession — for example, Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education saw a 15 per cent jump in its spring enrolment, according to dean Gary Hepburn, even after the school’s in-person courses had to be cancelled.
What we know so far about the Rideau Hall intruder – CBC.ca
Details are beginning to emerge about the armed man from rural Manitoba who gained entry to the grounds of Rideau Hall Thursday morning.
On Thursday, several police vehicles swarmed Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s residence and the prime minister’s temporary home, after RCMP said Corey Hurren breached the Thomas Gate at around 6:30 a.m.
CBC has confirmed Hurren is a member of the Canadian Rangers, a component of the Canadian Army Reserve that serves in the remote and coastal regions, typically offering help with national security and public safety operations.
Hurren allegedly got out of his pickup truck and proceeded on foot to the greenhouse where patrolling RCMP officers stopped him. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family live at Rideau Cottage close to the greenhouse; however, they and Governor General Julie Payette were away at the time.
The RCMP said the National Division Emergency Response Team arrived shortly after 7 a.m., and Hurren was arrested “without any incident” and brought into police custody at about 8:30 a.m.
As a precaution, hazardous materials experts searched and secured Hurren’s truck, police said. The RCMP said it is collaborating closely with the Canadian Armed Forces in the investigation and charges are pending.
According to his LinkedIn page, Hurren lives in Bowsman, Man., about 390 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg near the Saskatchewan border, and is the owner of the small business, GrindHouse Fine Foods, which makes sausages.
According to a Bowsman Lions Club Facebook post, Hurren served with the Royal Canadian Artillery in the late 1990s out of Yorkton, Sask. A member told CBC News Manitoba that Hurren belonged to the club.
CBC News Manitoba also reported that roughly an hour before Hurren entered the Rideau Hall grounds, a Facebook page associated with his Grindhouse Fine Foods business posted a meme of a big outdoor party that would supposedly occur after the lockdown.
The post also directed people to look up “Event 201,” a conspiracy theory that suggests Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is behind COVID-19.
Other posts from Hurren’s business poke fun at the hardships and fears spawned by the pandemic. Some mention the work of the Rangers and the Canadian military.
Rangers serve as helpers in communities
Whitney Lackenbauer, a Canada Research Chair and professor at Trent University and author of The Canadian Rangers, A Living History, says he was startled to learn a member of the Canadian Rangers was arrested.
“I definitely am surprised because all the rangers who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the last 20 years have not struck me as the type of people who would take this kind of action,” he said.
Rangers are more likely to be at Rideau Hall accepting awards for heroism, he said, not being arrested there as alleged intruders. He said Canadian Rangers come from all walks of life but tend to be respected members of their communities with deep knowledge of the geographies where they serve.
“You’ll have everything from civil servants to fishers to lumberjacks to subsistence hunters to electrical engineers,” he said.
A key function of Rangers is supporting isolated coastal and northern communities by helping in search and rescue operations, serving as guides for visiting members of the military, and, on occasion, providing intelligence to the military about any unusual vessels or aircraft they see in remote areas.
Canadian Rangers are issued a C19, which is a firearm patterned after a hunting rifle, along with rounds of ammunition each year. The rifle is used mainly to help protect communities from bears and for hunting if food is scarce.
They are not provided basic training, like other members of the military, and are not expected to serve overseas, said Lackenbauer.
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