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Ontario confirms 446 new COVID-19 cases, Ford poised to extend state of emergency –



The Ontario legislature voted on Tuesday to extend the state of emergency until June 30.

The vote came after the Ontario health ministry reported 446 additional cases of COVID-19, a number that represents a 1.6 per cent increase in total cases.

Ontario’s network of about 20 labs, meanwhile, processed 15,244 test samples on Monday, a second straight day below its own target of 16,000.

The system has capacity to handle as many as 25,000 tests on any given day, according the Ministry of Health.The backlog of test samples waiting to be processed grew to 10,622.

Last week, Premier Doug Ford had expressed optimism that an increase in testing could help facilitate a regional reopening of Ontario. But the province failed to meet its testing benchmark more than half the time throughout May.

The new cases bring the total number since the outbreak began in late January to 28,709. Some 78.3 per cent of those are now resolved.

Yesterday, CBC News revealed that hundreds of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Toronto area were not flagged to public health officials because of a mixup between two hospitals. It meant that thousands of contacts of confirmed cases were not traced for weeks.

It’s not clear how many of those cases may have been included in today’s figures.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the mistake “has been rectified to make sure it won’t happen again,” but she added that everyone who gets tested can go online to receive their diagnosis without waiting for a call from a public health employee. 

Elliott said the province is following up now with contact tracing and case management services.

“This is something that has been dealt with, and this will not be happening again,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday. 

The Ministry of Health’s official death toll grew by 17 to 2,293. But the real COVID-19 death toll is at least 2,345, according to a CBC News count based on data from regional public health units.

About 79.5 per cent of all deaths were residents of long-term care homes. The province has tracked outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in 309 of Ontario’s 630 long-term care facilities.

Patient ombudsman starts new investigation into long-term care

This morning, the office of Ontario’s Patient Ombudsman said it would be investigating the “resident and caregiver experience” in long-term care homes after receiving 150 complaints. The announcement follows an investigation into provincial oversight at the facilities launched yesterday by the Ontario Ombudsman.

“Complaints from residents, family members and whistleblowers pointed to a crisis in Ontario’s long-term care homes,” the office said in a statement.

The Patient Ombudsman is not an independent officer of the legislature, but works for the government.

The role of patient ombudsman has been vacant for two years, since now-Health Minister Christine Elliott quit to return to politics.

The Ontario ombudsman investigation will look at systemic aspects of long-term care including complaint handling, emergency planning, data collection, infection and death rates and communication with residents, staff and the public.

Meanwhile, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by 20, up to 801, but remains at levels last seen in mid-April.

Hospital to take over Kitchener long-term care home

Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care on Tuesday issued a mandatory management order appointing St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener to temporarily manage Forest Heights Revera for 90 days. 

The order may be extended beyond the 90 days, if necessary, the ministry said in a news release.

The ministry noted that despite receiving hospital support for weeks, Forest Heights has been unable to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

Since April 1, the home has seen 175 positive cases in residents, 69 cases in staff members and 51 deaths.

State of emergency extended for another 28 days

Ontario’s emergency measure bans gatherings larger than five people. It also orders the closure of some businesses such as restaurants and bars, except if they offer takeout or delivery.

The vote on Tuesday means the state of emergency has been extended for another 28 days.

Independent legislator Randy Hillier said he was going to vote against the measure, saying it gives the government too much authority.

Ontario declared a state of emergency on March 17 as COVID-19 cases began to climb in the province.

At a news conference Tuesday, Premier Ford said the extension does not mean plans to reopen the province will remain on hold. Ford said his government is continuing to work on a plan for a regional, phased approach to reopening

“We need a plan that recognizes the reality on the ground, in different parts of our province,” Ford told reporters. 

He advocated for a “plan that will help us re-open safely without taking unnecessary risks,” adding that a second wave of the virus “is possible, so we must remain vigilant.”

Provincial health officials will not be holding their own news conference today. The Ministry of Health said yesterday that those briefings will now be held twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursday, as opposed to five times per week.

All Service Ontario locations to open ‘in the next couple of weeks’: Ford

Long lines have been seen outside many Service Ontario locations across the province because many have closed or drastically reduced their hours. 

Last month, the government was urging people to stay away unless absolutely necessary.

But on Tuesday, Ford said all locations should open up “in the next couple of weeks.” 

He urged people to go online until then.

“Beat the line up, and you can pretty well get everything online,” he said. 

To help ease the lineups, the province has extended expiry dates on a number of items, including driver’s licences, health cards and vehicle plate stickers. Many services can now be accessed online, including licence and health card renewals, as well as birth, death and marriage certificates.

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Ontario's top doctor speaks as province sees 170 new COVID-19 cases, most in Windsor-Essex –



Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams is providing an update on COVID-19 in the province starting at 3 p.m.

CBC News is carrying the news conference live above.

Ontario reported 170 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with 86 of those concentrated in Windsor Essex — a result of “targeted testing of temporary workers on farms,” the Minister of Health says.

At Thursday’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Premier Doug Ford said a complete team from Public Health Ontario remains in the region for support. He will also be visiting the area next week.

“The farmers are cooperating, the workers are cooperating,” he said.

The remaining cases were found mostly in Toronto and Peel Region, with the public health units reporting 27 and 28, respectively. 

The additional cases mark a 0.3 per cent total increase, and bring the total in Ontario since the outbreak began to 36,348. A full 88 per cent of all confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus in the province are considered resolved.

Thirty of Ontario’s 34 public health units confirmed five or fewer new COVID-19 cases today, and 20 of those 30 had no new cases at all, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a series of tweets.

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus remained steady at 123. Relatedly, those being treated in intensive care units and on ventilators both decreased slightly. 

The province reported another three COVID-19-linked deaths, bringing its official death toll to 2,703. But a CBC News count based on data provided directly by public health units puts the real toll at 2,740, with no new deaths confirmed yet today.

Emergency orders extension

Meanwhile, Ontario has extended its emergency orders for the COVID-19 pandemic until July 22.

Premier Doug Ford said the extension of the orders will help protect vulnerable people and support frontline workers as the economy continues to re-open.

Some of the measures will make it easier for public health units to redeploy staff for contact tracing efforts and ease restrictions for staffing at long-term care homes.

The extension comes as the provincial government tabled a motion on Wednesday to extend the province’s state of emergency until July 24.

Mucci Farms posted this image of temporary workers waiting to be voluntarily tested for COVID-19 at one of its locations in Kingsville late last month. (Mucci Farms/Facebook)

The current state of emergency is set to expire July 15.

The provincial government isn’t able to issue new emergency orders once the state of emergency ends, but it can extend existing orders.

Yesterday, Ford’s government introduced a sweeping new piece of legislation it says will help the province’s economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, as the province reports an additional 118 cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday.

The omnibus bill — dubbed the COVID-19 Recovery Act — proposes to change 20 pieces of current legislation that govern the province’s schools, municipalities, and justice system, some of which opposition critics say have little to do with the pandemic itself.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark says if passed, the bill would speed up environmental assessments, offer new consumer protections and help address unemployment.

NDP House leader Peggy Sattler said the bill is an abuse of the government’s power under the current state of emergency in the province.

Meanwhile, Liberal House leader John Fraser says some parts of it, such as changes to how justices of the peace are appointed, have nothing to do with pandemic recovery.

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Today’s coronavirus news: Canada isn’t prepared for second wave, Senate committee report says; Ontario extends emergency orders until July 22 – Toronto Star




  • 10:30 a.m.: Peel joins Toronto with mandatory mask bylaw

  • 7 a.m. Ontario extends emergency orders until July 22

  • 6:10 a.m.: Virus showing no signs of slowing in U.S., Brazil and India.

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

10:40 a.m.: A new report from a committee of senators says the country is ill-prepared to handle a second wave of COVID-19.

The Senate’s social affairs committee says the federal government needs to pay urgent attention to seniors in long-term care homes where outbreaks and deaths in the pandemic have been concentrated.

There are also concerns in the report about the vulnerability of low-income seniors should there be a second wave of the novel coronavirus later this year.

The document made public this morning is the committee’s first set of observations on the government’s response to the pandemic, with a final report expected later this year.

Senators on the committee say the national emergency stockpile of personal protective gear like masks, gowns and gloves, wasn’t managed well over the years, nor sufficiently stocked when the pandemic struck the country in March.

Committee members add concerns that military members could be deployed without sufficient personal protective equipment because of “inconsistencies from international procurement.”

10:30 a.m.: Masks will be mandatory in most indoor public spaces in Peel Region starting Friday after local councils passed a bylaw this week.

The move follows a June 30 recommendation by Peel Region’s medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh that Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon pass bylaws mandating use of non-medical masks in public places.

10:26 a.m.: A crowdsourced survey of Canadian parents finds that nearly three-quarters of respondents are concerned about their children’s social lives during the pandemic.

Statistics Canada published a report Thursday about the impact of COVID-19 on children and families.

Unlike most of the agency’s studies, the survey wasn’t randomly sampled and therefore isn’t statistically representative of the Canadian population.

The responses suggest that 71 per cent of parents who filled out the online questionnaire were very or extremely concerned about their children’s opportunities to socialize with friends, and more than half were very or extremely worried about their kids being lonely or socially isolated.

Participants’ top concern for their families was balancing the demands of childcare, school and work, while nearly two-thirds of parents were very or extremely concerned about managing their children’s behaviours, anxiety and emotion.

Excessive screen time was also a chief concern among participants, with nine in 10 reporting that their children use devices daily or almost daily.

More than 32,000 participants volunteered their responses to the online questionnaire between June 9 and June 22. Statistics Canada says a large proportion of participants were women who were born in Canada and had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

9:26 a.m.: More than 1.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, a historically high pace that shows that many employers are still laying people off in the face of a resurgent coronavirus.

The persistently elevated level of layoffs are occurring as a spike in virus cases has forced six states to reverse their move to reopen businesses. Those six — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Texas — make up one-third of the U.S. economy. Fifteen other states have suspended their re-openings. Collectively, the pullback has stalled a tentative recovery in the job market and is likely triggering additional layoffs.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that the number of applications for unemployment aid fell from 1.4 million in the previous week. The figure has now topped 1 million for 16 straight weeks. Before the pandemic, the record high for weekly unemployment applications was fewer than 700,000.

8:37 a.m.: The head of the World Health Organization says former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark will lead a new panel to give an “honest assessment” of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the appointments to the newly created Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

The announcement comes after the WHO’s general assembly in May called for a comprehensive evaluation of the WHO and the world response to the outbreak. It comes after repeated criticism by U.S. president Donald Trump’s administration of the U.N. health agency over its handling of the pandemic and alleged deference to China, where COVID-19 first emerged.

7:57 a.m.: Serbia mulled how to curb accelerating coronavirus infections following two nights of clashes involving anti-lockdown demonstrators, while the virus showed no sign of slowing Thursday in the countries with the highest caseloads — the United States, India and Brazil.

The three nations on separate continents are accounting for more than 60 per cent of new confirmed cases, according to recent tallies from Johns Hopkins University. India on Thursday reported 25,000 new cases; the United States on Wednesday reported just short of the record 60,000 cases set a day earlier, and Brazil reported nearly 45,000.

Much of Europe appeared to have put the worst of the crisis behind it, at least for now. But Serbia has emerged as a new focus of concern — and of unrest. The country’s crisis team was expected to reimpose a ban gatherings in the capital, Belgrade and to limit the cafe and night club operations following a spike in infections that officials say threatens the Serbian health system.

7:55 a.m.: As Premier Doug Ford moves to give the Progressive Conservative government more permanent powers, he has extended Ontario’s temporary COVID-19 emergency orders until July 22.

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Ford announced Thursday that he needed to so in order to “support our front-line care providers, protect our most vulnerable, and ensure we can rapidly respond to potential outbreaks or surges” of a virus that has killed more than 2,700 Ontarians since March.

“Our government is getting Ontario back on track and more people back to work, but at the same time taking steps to ensure we don’t undo the tremendous progress we have made together,” the premier said.

Read the full story by the Star’s Robert Benzie

7:55 a.m.: Indonesia reported a record jump in daily coronavirus infections as a military academy and an industrial area emerged as the nation’s newest clusters, which President Joko Widodo called a “red signal.”

There were 2,657 new cases confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 70,736, health ministry said Thursday, while 58 more people succumbed to the disease, raising the death toll to 3,414. Indonesia has the highest number of cases and fatalities in Southeast Asia.

West Java, adjoining capital Jakarta and the most-populous province, reported 962 new cases after authorities found two clusters of infections. Both the areas have been isolated and under control, according to Achmad Yurianto, spokesman for the government task force.

Indonesia has struggled to stem the spread of the pandemic after easing of social distancing rules to allow resumption of economic activities triggered a surge in infections. Jokowi said relaxing of mobility rules should be carefully weighed against health and economic considerations.

6:15 a.m.: The chair of Toronto’s Board of Health is urging the province to take swift action to fight COVID-19 in the city’s northwest corner, which has been hardest hit by the virus, and bridge the stark socioeconomic divide that is putting residents in these neighbourhoods at risk.

“The social determinants of health, like income, race and ethnicity, and housing, affect who gets sick and who does not,” Councillor Joe Cressy said in a letter on Wednesday to Ontario’s health minister and chief medical officer of health.

“Now is the time for partnership and collaboration,” Cressy said. “I am asking you to help us stop the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable and impacted communities, and to address the social determinants of health that have created deep health inequities.”

Click here to read the full story from the Star’s Rachel Mendleson.

6:12 a.m.: In Australia, which had initial success containing the outbreak, authorities on Thursday reported 179 new cases, most of them in the city of Melbourne, where authorities are battling a resurgence and have imposed a new six-week lockdown.

Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said six new cases were from a Melbourne high school which has become the state’s largest known cluster, with 113 people infected. More than 2,000 students and hundreds of staff are in quarantine.

6:10 a.m.: India on Thursday reported nearly 25,000 new coronavirus infections, as the disease continued its ominous spread through the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people.

The virus is showing no signs of slowing in the worst-affected countries: the United States, Brazil and India. The three nations are accounting for more than 60 per cent of new cases, according to recent tallies from Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. reported nearly 59,000 new daily cases, just short of the record 60,000 cases set a day earlier, as President Donald Trump insisted that schools reopen in the fall. Brazil reported nearly 45,000 new cases.

6:06 a.m.: The coronavirus pandemic in Africa is reaching “full speed” and it’s good to prepare for the worst-case scenario, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief said Thursday, after a South African official said a single province is preparing 1.5 million gravesites.

Just a day after confirmed virus cases across Africa surpassed the half-million milestone the total was over 522,000 and climbing, with more than 12,000 deaths. With testing levels low, the real numbers are unknown.

South Africa has the most confirmed cases with over 224,000, and for the first time Gauteng province — home to Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria — has the country’s most cases with over 75,000, or 33 per cent.

Click here to read Wednesday’s coverage.

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22 tonnes of ghost gear to be retrieved from Canada's richest fishing grounds –



Rope recycling bins are coming to select harbours in southwest Nova Scotia as part of an ambitious project to remove up to 22 tonnes of ghost fishing gear — including 2,000 trash lobster traps — over the next two years.

The $432,000 project led by the conservation group Coastal Action will use fishermen in Canada’s most lucrative inshore fishing grounds to retrieve lost rope, buoys and traps.

It’s one of 26 projects across Canada sharing $8.3 million from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to remove ghost gear.

The department announced the initiative last year. It identified the groups awarded funding on Wednesday.

Alexa Goodman is project co-ordinator for Coastal Action, which is based in Mahone Bay, N.S.

“This type of retrieval hasn’t happened in Nova Scotia and most places in Atlantic Canada. So this is really just an estimate at this point. I think anything that we remove from the water and anything that we can pilot for recycling is a huge win,” she said.

Project partners

The project involves a wide range of partners, including fishing captains in lobster fishing areas 33, 34 and 35 in southwestern Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy, two laboratories at Dalhousie University, the Ocean Tracking Network and the municipal waste recycling company, Sustane Technologies Inc.

Using local information from fishermen and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Ocean Tracking Network will deploy sidescan sonar to find the biggest concentrations of ghost gear on the ocean floor.

Ten harbours will have recycling bins for recovered rope.

Sustane Technologies of Chester, N.S., will try to convert the rope into synthetic diesel.

“Marine debris, regardless of its source, pollutes the marine environment. It degrades habitat and ultimately we should be trying to reduce it in any capacity possible,” said Goodman.

Recycling rope

The Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada is getting $361,000 to develop a voluntary rope recycling program for the fishing industry in Nova Scotia.

Group members include an aquaculture association, inshore fisheries associations, environmentalists and some manufacturers.

Co-ordinator Aaron Stevenson said a mechanism to pay for recycling has not been identified, so it’s not clear how much — or even if participating companies — will be expected to pay toward cleaning up end-of-life rope.

“What we are looking for is a program that will work, that will be cost effective and above all be accessible,” said Stevenson.

Here’s a breakdown of how much money each group in Atlantic Canada is receiving from DFO for the project:

Nova Scotia

  • Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association — $68,000.
  • Coastal Action — $432,000.
  • CSR GeoSurveys Ltd. — $362,000.
  • Eastern Nova Scotia Marine Stewardship Society — $121,000.
  • Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada — $352,500.

New Brunswick

  • Fundy North Fisherman’s Association — $96,000.
  • Maliseet Nation Conservation Council — $277,000.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Fish, Food, and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-UNIFOR) — $660,000.
  • Petty Harbour Fisherman’s Cooperative — $382,000.

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