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Ontario sees 302 new COVID-19 cases over 2 days as contact tracing app delayed – CBC.ca

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The Ontario government announced $150 million in new funding to improve homeless shelters and long-term care housing as the province saw 302 cases of the novel coronavirus over the last two days.

The new money is meant to allow municipalities and Indigenous community partners to renovate shelters and new facilities to make physical distancing easier amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as pay for longer-term solutions around homelessness.

The $150 million brings the province’s Social Services Relief fund to $350 million and is part of a package for municipalities to cope with COVID-19. The City of Toronto alone expects to lose more than $1.5 billion due to the pandemic.

Ford also called for the federal government to loosen its restrictions on funding for the provinces when it comes to reopening.

“Cut us a cheque, give us the flexibility,” said Ford. “They don’t know where every single province needs the money… We’re not going to go hog-wild, we’ll work within the parameters.”

Meanwhile on the issue of migrant workers, Ford said he would not name the farm where over 175 workers tested positive this week, saying, “I won’t throw hard-working farmers under the bus.”

The premier also said he worries the fact that farms could face shut-downs will only dissuade farmers from wanting to cooperate with public health officials.

Contact tracing app delayed

Of the province’s 302 new cases, 149 pertained to Wednesday’s total and 153 made up Thursday’s total, the Ministry of Health says.

The province did not release any COVID-19 data on Canada Day, and thus today’s update includes figures from both days.

The newly confirmed cases bring the total in Ontario since the outbreak began to 35,370. Nearly 87 per cent of those are now resolved. An additional 386 were marked resolved over the two-day period covered in today’s report.

Further, 29 of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported five or fewer confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus today. Twenty-three of those reported no new cases at all, according to Minister of Health Christine Elliott. 

The province’s network of community, commercial and hospital labs processed about 50,000 COVID-19 test samples over the last two days. If testing levels stay where they are, Ontario could hit a cumulative total of 1.5 million tests completed by the end of the week.

Moreover, Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll grew by eight, up to 2,680. A CBC News count based on data provided directly by public health units puts the real toll at 2,724.

Meanwhile, a new mobile app meant to help with contact tracing of COVID-19 cases won’t roll out across Ontario today as planned.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health says the province is still working with the federal government and the app is expected to launch soon.

The province will be the first to use the COVID Alert app, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said it should be ready for downloading in the rest of the country later this summer.

Premier Doug Ford says the app is meant to enhance the province’s contact tracing strategy.

He’s previously said it could play a key role in helping contain the spread of COVID-19 as more businesses reopen their doors.

The voluntary app will use anonymized Bluetooth signals between smartphones to keep track of a user’s contacts over two-week intervals. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

The Bluetooth-based app will be voluntary, and will notify users based on a number of criteria, including if they were within two metres of a person who tests positive for the virus and if that contact took place over an extended period of time.

The province didn’t give a new date for the app’s launch.

Leadership change at Public Health Ontario

Meanwhile, the one-time president and CEO of Public Health Ontario, Dr. Peter Donnelly, is stepping down from his role after five and a half years, the agency said this afternoon. 

Donnelly has been on medical leave since early April, as the COVID-19 outbreak was ramping up in the province. Public Health Ontario said he will not be returning to the position. 

“Having experienced cardiac symptoms over a number of weeks, it is now clear that it is important for me to return to the United Kingdom where all of my family are based,” Donnelly said in a news release.

“It has been a privilege to lead PHO over the last five and a half years. I am very grateful to have had that opportunity and I wish the organization and its hard-working and talented staff every success for the future.”

In the release, the PHO board said Donnelly played a critical part in the agency’s early response to the novel coronavirus.

Colleen Geiger, who has been serving as acting president and CEO since Donnelly left on medical leave, will continue in the role for the time being. 

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U.S. Thousand Islands businesses feel the loss of Canadian customers – CTV Edmonton

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KINGSTON, ONT. —
As the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel, business owners on the American side say they feeling the loss of their Canadian customers.

Kassi Pharoah is a server at Buster’s Restaurant in Ogdensburg, New York, located right near the Ogdensburg International Airport.

She says it’s common for people from places like Ottawa and eastern Ontario to treat the American city as their own.

“A lot of Canadian customers, taking their animals to the vet, coming in to catch a flight, getting their cars fixed,” explains Pharoah. “Sometimes the men would go golfing and the wives would go shopping. We don’t see that anymore.”

In fact, Pharoah says Canadians accounted for about 40 per cent of their business. Over the years, some even became friends.

“Our regular customers, when some of the girls have gone on to have kids, they’ve come over with baby shower gifts. We talk about different trips we know they’re going on, we see them on the way out for their vacations, we see them on the way back as well,” she explains. “We absolutely miss them.”

While she says she understands why they’re not visiting, the loss is felt, as hours and staff are cut.

Non-essential travel restrictions have been in place across the Canada-US border since March because of COVID-19.

Corey Fram, Director of Tourism with the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, says data from Statistics Canada show that in April of 2019, about 18,000 Canadians drove across the border for day trips.

This year, with the border closed, places like Ogdensburg, Watertown, and Syracuse are feeling the effects.

“It’s a little bit difficult to kind of continue to look at this region at this time as a truly bi-national area,” he says. “So many folks are relatives, cousins, teammates, and right now we’re separated.”

Fram says businesses understand why the closures are happening, but are hoping for a way to move forward.

“These two countries rely on each other and, in particular, these two regions rely on each other,” he says. “How are we going to get back there, and when?”

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Made-in-Canada vaccine passes animal testing hurdle, seeks government funding – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A Canadian drugmaker says it has produced “compelling” early results from animal testing of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, but the government hasn’t responded to its application for funding that would allow it to advance to human clinical trials.

Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics, which designs cancer drugs using a technique called mRNA, announced Wednesday that the “preclinical” data from testing in mice showed more promising results than other notable COVID-19 research conducted with mRNA vaccines.

“I would gladly test our vaccine head-to-head against any out there,” said Chief Scientific Officer Eric Marcusson in a press release. “It is always difficult to compare preclinical results, however, I believe our results compare extremely favorably to preclinical results reported by other companies.”

Researchers at the University of Toronto conducted tests on mice and found that the vaccine candidate PTX-COVID19-B produced “robust” neutralizing antibodies, which are needed to defend cells from invading pathogens such as the novel coronavirus.

“The results coming from our first animal experiment showed that the vaccines are resulting in a strong immune response,” said Dr. Mario Ostrowski, an immunology professor at the University of Toronto, in a press release. “In particular, the vaccine against the S protein produced neutralizing antibodies at higher titers than the results announced by other mRNA vaccine manufacturers.”

Brad Sorenson, president and CEO of Providence Therapeutics, told CTV News that these results show their vaccine has shown to be “equivalent or better” than those from much larger firms in the vaccine race. 

“We expected that it would work, but the results were even greater than we expected, so we were very pleased about that,” he said. “We’re very anxious to repeat this in real-life patients.”

Another notable mRNA vaccine is by U.S. biotechnology company Moderna, which has received hundreds of millions in funding from the U.S. government and entered final-stage testing last month when the first of some 30,000 Americans received the shot.

But Providence, which says it’s one of Canada’s leading mRNA vaccine producers, hasn’t heard from the government since late May and has yet to receive funding for the next stages of its testing after it submitted a $35-million proposal in April. That same month, the federal government committed more than $600 million to vaccine manufacturing and research in Canada, including clinical trials. Among projects already funded as part of that pledge is a partnership between China’s CanSino Biologics and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Sorenson said his company is expecting to be able to produce 5 million vaccines by next summer, but without help from the federal government, they are hamstrung.

“The challenge that we’re facing is, we’re not a large pharma company,” he said. “We have really good technology, fantastic scientists … but for us to go into human trials, we either need to raise more money — which we can do if we’ve got a government that is indicated that they’re interested in what we’re producing — or we need a government to sponsor those clinical trials.”

Sorenson added that if the Canadian government does not help fund their human trials, they might have to find another government that will.

“We’re at a point in a company that if the Canadian government doesn’t want to do it, we’re going to start looking elsewhere, and that’s just the reality,” he said. “We’ve got a world-class vaccine and if it’s not going to be for Canadians, it’s going to be for somebody else.”

Sorenson said he has already had “preliminary discussions” with other governments about their vaccine, primarily from individual provinces.

Meanwhile, health professionals and politicians alike are urging the government to speed its funding process for homegrown vaccines so that Canadians won’t have to wait in line for another country’s COVID-19 shot. Among those adding their voice was Alberta Sen. Doug Black, who said pressure should be kept on the government to act.

“I see the commitment that’s being made by the European and American governments to this identical technology and I’m saying, ‘Hmm, why in the name of goodness aren’t we pursuing this aggressively in Canada?’” he told The Canadian Press earlier this week. “No stone should be left unturned in pursuit of a made-in-Canada COVID solution.”

Industry Canada, which is charge of administering the $600 million to vaccine manufacturing and research in Canada, has not responded to a CTV News request for comment.

With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Ben Cousins

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Canada sending up to $5M in humanitarian aid to Lebanon after Beirut explosion – CBC.ca

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Canada will provide up to $5 million in humanitarian assistance to help Lebanon and its people recover from the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port.

An initial $1.5 million of that funding will go to the Lebanese Red Cross to provide emergency medical services, shelter and food for those affected.

In an interview with CBC News, International Development Minister Karina Gould said the money represents Canada’s initial commitment and that it could grow in the coming days and weeks as the scale of the disaster becomes more clear.

“This is about saving lives in the next 48 hours and then making sure that people have access to emergency shelter, food, health care and medicine,” Gould said.

The explosion happened Tuesday when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, which had been stored for years at the port, ignited, sending shock waves across the Lebanese capital. 

Around 135 people died, about 5,000 were injured and another 300,000 people have been left without a place to live. Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the injured.

Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud told Al Hadath TV that collective economic losses due to the blast might reach $13 billion to $20 billion, saying the estimate included both direct and indirect losses related to business.

Other countries have also mobilized to provide help. Germany has dispatched dozens of search and rescue specialists to help find survivors trapped beneath rubble while Russia sent a plane carrying relief teams, doctors and medical equipment.

France is sending two planes with aid and 55 workers, including disaster response experts, emergency nurses, doctors and firefighters.

Gould said it’s possible Canada may provide support in other forms other than humanitarian funding, but wouldn’t say whether Canada’s disaster response team, DART, will be mobilized.

“Nothing is off the table right now in terms of Canada’s response,” she said. “We want to make sure that what we’re sending is indeed what is needed.”

Lebanese government under fire

Experts say the need for rapid assistance and the complexities of Lebanon’s political system — which is characterized by widespread corruption, sectarianism and a weak state — mean that non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross are best placed to provide immediate help.

“There are a lot of local organizations — some small, some really large — who have the capacity to implement significant humanitarian assistance programs and who have the capacity to really help the population with no political manoeuvring, with no political consequences,” said Ruby Dagher, an international development professor at the University of Ottawa who immigrated to Canada from Lebanon.

“We should look at those first for the humanitarian assistance before we turn our attention to working through the government.”

Public anger against the Lebanese government was already at historic highs after months of sustained protests amid a long-running financial crisis intensified by the coronavirus pandemic. That anger has only grown since it emerged that the highly explosive fertilizer that caused Tuesday’s explosion had been stored at Beirut’s port for six years while port officials did nothing about it.

Lama Mourad, a professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said any aid provided through the Lebanese government will help legitimize a ruling class that has lost the trust of its people.

“[The government of Canada would] be effectively supporting a government that has no legitimacy in the eyes of citizens,” Mourad said. “Giving money to this government or any of the ruling elite… will only serve to support and strengthen their power, rather than necessarily go to the people who need it most.”

Rex Brynen, a political scientist at McGill University, said after the immediate humanitarian crisis is over, Canada could play a role in strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese government. 

He cited the possible negligence at the Beirut port as a sign that the Lebanese state has a regulatory management problem at the port.

“That’s an issue which in the longer term needs to be addressed in Lebanon and outside partners can play a role in trying to strengthen government capacity,” Brynen said.

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