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Ontario sees 5,839 new cases of COVID-19 and 95 deaths over 2 days – CBC.ca

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Ontario is reporting a two-day total of 5,839 new cases of COVID-19 and 95 additional deaths.

Ontario’s health ministry did not release COVID-19 daily figures on New Year’s Day.

The province saw 2,476 cases on Friday and 3,363 cases on Saturday. 

Saturday’s figure is a new single-day record for the province. The previous record was set on Thursday when the ministry reported 3,328 novel coronavirus cases.

Altogether, the new cases bring the seven-day average to 2,236.

Saturday’s numbers include 713 new cases in Peel, 700 in Toronto, 395 in York Region, 226 in Windsor-Essex County and 171 in Hamilton.

Friday’s numbers include 480 in Peel, 499 in Toronto, 200 in York Region , 175 in Windsor-Essex County and 111 in Hamilton.

A total of 61,401 tests were completed as of Saturday and 70, 570 as of Friday.

The health ministry noted that the increase in cases on Saturday may have been the result of over-reported numbers stemming from data reporting problems.

“Due to a data issue, cases for Toronto Public Health were underreported on December 31 and over-reported on January 1,” a spokesperson for the ministry said on Saturday.

There are currently 1,003 patients in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 322 are being treated in intensive care and 220 require ventilators to breathe.

The province’s COVID-19 death toll has now reached 4,626, with a combined 95 deaths reported in the last two days.

York Region begins administering vaccine to workers

York Region Public Health says it has begun the process of delivering Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines to long-term care homes in the region on Saturday. 

“This is an exciting and hopeful step forward in our fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s medical officer of health, said in a news release on Saturday.

“By prioritizing vaccines for residents of long-term care homes, we are protecting some of our most vulnerable York Region residents,” Kurji said.

Staff at the homes will administer the vaccine on-site to their residents, the news release said.

“The vaccine will help to protect approximately 3,700 York Region long-term care residents in 28 homes,” it notes. 

“Sadly, to date, York Region has lost 257 residents to COVID-19 within institutional settings.”

As of Saturday at 12 p.m., the province has administered  34,685 vaccines to Ontarians.

“We anticipate getting through the 90,000 doses at our 19 active hospital sites in the next several days as we await future shipments from the federal government,” the health ministry said in an email.

“In addition, Ontario has received its first delivery of approximately 35,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine from the federal government on December 30th. This first, small shipment will be used in Toronto, York, Peel and Windsor-Essex to vaccinate long-term care home residents and we began administering doses to long-term care residents the day after receiving.”

Last week, Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who is leading the province’s COVID-19 vaccination program, said the Moderna vaccine will be distributed to long-term care and retirement homes.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is already being administered to health-care workers.

Ontario currently has 187 long-term care homes in outbreak with 1,186 residents and 1,050 staff members who have tested positive. A total of 2,749 residents have died. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Groups call on province to bring in military

Ontario Health Coalition, a non-profit organization that represents health-care professionals and patients, called Friday for military intervention to help control outbreaks of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes.

Natalie Mehra, the group’s executive director, said redeploying the Canadian Armed Forces to the hard-hit facilities is not the coalition’s first choice, but short-term options are scarce.

“The issue is that we’re in such an emergency,” Mehra said. “There are so many homes with outbreaks that are growing extremely quickly, the death counts are mounting, and the hospitals are overstretched now.”

Mehra said hospitals are treating a worrying number of patients, and some are experiencing outbreaks of their own.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), meanwhile, joined the coalition in calling for military intervention to curb infection outbreaks in long-term care homes and manage current outbreaks.

“We are tragically losing the battle to protect long-term care residents. The homes and staff are on the verge of total crisis and collapse,” Candace Rennick, CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer, said in a news release on Saturday.

“But military assistance is just a temporary solution to the worsening crisis caused by the government’s failure to implement immediate and meaningful reforms needed months ago. This kind of crisis cannot continue to be met with half measures by the province.”

There are currently 187 homes in outbreak with 1,186 residents and 1,050 staff members who have tested positive. A total of 2,749 residents have died.

Eight of the 15 Ontario healthcare staff who have died of COVID-19 worked in long-term care, CUPE said.

On Saturday, an outbreak was declared at the Pembroke Regional Hospital after a second employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The outbreak has been contained to the emergency department, where a positive case was first identified on Dec. 27, according to a news release from the hospital. 

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Federal government settles lawsuit with Canada's former ambassador to Israel – CBC.ca

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A lawsuit launched against the Trudeau government by the former ambassador to Israel has reached a settlement — but neither party is willing to divulge the details. 

The federal government is refusing even to disclose the date the settlement was reached.

Vivian Bercovici was named ambassador to Israel by Stephen Harper before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced her with Deborah Lyons in 2016.

In 2018, Bercovici launched a lawsuit against the federal government alleging, among other things, that the Trudeau government acted in bad faith when it terminated her mandate and that she had not been properly compensated for her pension benefits.

The following year, the former ambassador succeeded in adding to her lawsuit the name of Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accusing her of intentional infliction of mental suffering.

A mysterious letter

Bercovici made an offer to halt her lawsuit against the Government of Canada and Katie Telford in a letter she wrote to Alan Bender, a Toronto businessman and Liberal supporter, on Nov. 5, 2019.

Radio-Canada spoke with Bender, who said Bercovici told him she wanted to do something to thank him after he had saved her life. Bender said he suggested dropping the lawsuit and Bercovici followed up with the offer in writing on Nov. 5.

The former ambassador wrote in the letter: “I would be prepared to end my lawsuit against the Government of Canada and Katie Telford, with no terms or conditions, at the earliest opportunity … This is the clearest and most emphatic expression of appreciation I can make for your compassion and recent tremendous help that has saved my life.”

A copy of the letter was sent by an anonymous source to many journalists and media. Radio-Canada was able to confirm that it was written by Bercovici.

Bender, a Kuwaiti-born Toronto businessman who works in the field of international mediation, told Radio-Canada that he mainly works for the ruling families of the Arab states in the Persian Gulf. 

He said he was asked by important political figures, including one from Israel, to intervene to help Bercovici, who lives in Tel Aviv. He said he saved Bercovici’s life along with her professional and personal reputation.

Bender said he doesn’t want to give any more details about how he saved Bercovici’s life and reputation without her permission; she does not wish to comment.

Bender told Radio-Canada he is an active member of the Liberal Party and that he acted on his own when he suggested that Bercovici drop the lawsuit. He said Telford and the government only learned of his involvement when he gave Telford Bercovici’s letter.

Bender made international headlines when Saudi Arabia’s authorities had him testify against a Saudi businessman, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who was detained following the so-called anti-corruption drive launched by the Crown Prince and leader of Saudi Arabia Mohammed Bin Salman in 2017.

Lawsuit remained active

According to court documents, Bercovici’s lawsuit remained active after the letter was given to Bender.

In December 2019, the month after the letter was sent, lawyers representing the Government of Canada were back in Ontario Superior Court seeking to have Telford’s name removed from the lawsuit.

In his January 2020 decision, the judge sided with the government on its request that Telford be removed from the lawsuit, and Bercovici was ordered to pay court fees incurred by the government.

After this date, nothing else appears on the court register in relation to Bercovici’s lawsuit against the Government of Canada.

Silence from the PMO

Sources first told Radio-Canada that there had been a settlement in the lawsuit. For three days, Radio-Canada tried to get information about the settlement and a comment from the government about the letter.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Justice referred those requests to Global Affairs Canada.

After directly contacting the department a few times and reaching out to the Foreign Affairs minister’s office, a spokesperson for Global Affairs sent this short response on Wednesday night:

“A settlement has been reached. We cannot comment on the details.”

It is still not known who leaked the letter to the media and why, or whether there is a link between the settlement and the letter. The email address the letter was sent from no longer exists.

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Canada's COVID-19 case numbers show early positive signs – CBC.ca

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Cases of COVID-19 are declining in many parts of Canada, but experts say those early positive signs are dependent on widespread restrictions. 

Quebec, now under a province-wide curfew, has seen new cases declineOntario has showed 10 consecutive declines in its seven-day average, a metric that helps to spot long-term trends compared to daily numbers that can spike up and down.

Caroline Colijn, an infectious disease modeller at Simon Fraser University, said most of the provinces seem to be declining.

“Ontario’s kind of uncertain, Saskatchewan’s growing still or again, but the rest are kind of flat or declining,” said Colijn, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in mathematics for evolution, infection and public health.

“That’s the first decline we’ve seen in Quebec and Ontario for quite a while,” she said. “In our models, it looks like a genuine decline.”

More tools needed

In B.C., for example, Colijn said the epidemic is stabilizing with strict measures such as telling people not to socialize outside their household.

But Colijn fears Ontario’s stay-at-home order, Quebec’s curfew and restrictions in other provinces aren’t solutions that people can sustain for months.

If people don’t limit their number of contacts with others then cases will start to climb again until vaccinations reach the general population. 

“Unless we want to do this for six months, we do need to be thinking about throwing other tools that we have available at this problem.”

WATCH | Researchers test new tools for COVID-19 surveillance:

Researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax are working on a 3D-printed ball that can collect a building’s sewage and test the water for coronavirus. They say the tool could be used to trace outbreaks and to test the effectiveness of vaccines. 4:05

Colijn said widespread restrictions, symptomatic testing and contact tracing remain cornerstone tools. But those tools should be supplemented with wider rapid testing technologies coming to the fore, which Colijn believes could support re-opening the economy.

Federal and provincial scientists are validating rapid tests, currently used at remote mines as well as the film and airline industries, for more widespread use. 

Sask. heading in the wrong direction

Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, divides the country’s into three main groups based on per-capita case counts:

  • The top: Atlantic Canada, which has the fewest cases.
  • The middle: Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., which have showed month-long improvements in COVID-19 activity following lockdowns. If trends in Ontario and Quebec continue, then they could be added to the middle group. 
  • The bottom: Saskatchewan, which Muhajarine said isn’t even heading in the right direction, with an average of 300 new cases daily.

Muhajarine is concerned about the steep climb in COVID-19 deaths in the Prairie province.

“On Dec. 1, we had 51 deaths and by Jan. 1 it tripled to 155,” he noted.

In the first 21 days of the month, another 84 people have died in Saskatchewan.

“We really need to reverse course,” Muhajarine said. “To do that, we need very strict measures with a stay-at-home order and enforcement of orders. When we see the case numbers reverse course, we have to get our testing, tracing and isolation regime back up.”

Restrictions on retail stores, restaurants and bars could help bring cases, hospitalizations and deaths down given how Saskatchewan is “stretched to the limit,” he said.

Even places with early signs of decline, like Ontario, will see hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb for a period because of the lag time from new infections in December, health experts say. 

Essential workplaces key for Ontario

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician with Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said the province’s seven-day averages are encouraging.

A worker at the Gateway Postal facility, in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday. Canada Post confirms a major outbreak of COVID-19 at the plant — the largest mail facility in the country that reflects how cases continue to occur among essential workers. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“We’re now more than two weeks past what would be the New Year’s surge,” Chakrabarti said, referencing people socializing over the holidays despite advice from public health officials and politicians to stay at home. 

Now that the holiday peak in new cases is over, regular winter transmission of the virus is happening in the population, he said.

Chakrabarti recalls how during the province’s first wave in the spring, cases came down and then were stuck at a plateau for months, which he said could happen again.

Driving case counts down further would ease pressure on health-care systems and protect vulnerable residents of long-term care homes.

The key, he says, is to tackle where transmission is still happening: essential workplaces.

“We were seeing people getting infected at work and then bringing it home to their family, where it was being amplified,” he said of the first wave. “That’s still happening and something a lockdown doesn’t address.”

It’s why Chakrabarti and others advocate for:

“Yes, there are some people who are breaking the rules,” Chakrabarti said. “But we also need to look at the very different industrial setups because these factors are huge, right? This is one of the reasons why things haven’t ever really turned quickly in Ontario.”

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Now hiring: StatCan needs 32000 Canadians to administer 2021 census – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Statistics Canada plans to hire 32,000 employees across Canada to conduct the next census in May 2021.

StatCan said in a press release on Thursday that individuals will be hired in “both big and small communities” to collect “crucial data that will be used to plan for the future.”

The agency says positions available include supervisory and non-supervisory roles between March and July 2021.

“Over the past 100 years, through the census, Statistics Canada has captured an ever-evolving snapshot of the country and its people. Canadians have relied on census data to tell them about how the country is changing and about what matters to them,” Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada at Statistics Canada, said in the release.

Arora noted that the data from the “large-scale nation project” holds even more significance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we all work to respond to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we collectively pursue data-driven solutions that work for families, businesses and diverse communities from coast to coast to coast,” Arora said.

With COVID-19 in mind, Statistics Canada said the census process has been adapted to ensure Canadians have the opportunity to be heard “in the best and safest way possible.”

According to the release, census procedures have been redesigned to limit the amount of contact required to participate, with the majority of Canadians being able to complete the questionnaire through a “user-friendly” online application.

StatCan said it will provide all equipment required to keep census employees safe while on the job, and will have employees work close to home in their local communities.

The agency says census staff will “identify dwellings on maps, follow up with respondents by phone and conduct physically distanced in-person interviews, when required.”

According to the press release, census workers will be paid between $17.83 to $21.77 per hour, depending on position. In select northern and remote communities, StatCan says the rate of pay ranges from $29.25 to $31.25 an hour. In addition, all employees will be paid for authorized expenses.

The agency said applicants must be 18 years or older, eligible to work in Canada and able to commit to a “flexible work schedule,” including on evenings and weekends.

“As we prepare for the 2021 Census, we thank all Canadians who have trusted Statistics Canada to tell their unique stories and capture the diverse and changing portrait of our nation as it grows and evolves,” Arora said.

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