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Ontario to release 'stark' COVID-19 projections Friday – CBC.ca

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Provincial health experts are expected to provide a briefing Friday on modelling projections for the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Premier Doug Ford promised health officials would explain “where this could go.” Ford said the people of the province “deserve to see” the same data about the pandemic that he sees.

“People are going to see some really stark figures,” Ford said.

“It’s going to be a real sobering discussion.”

It’s unclear exactly what time Friday the government will release this information.

The number of available intensive care beds in certain parts of the Greater Toronto Area is rapidly shrinking as the number of COVID-19 patients surges higher, according to data obtained by CBC News. 

Most ICU beds full

Just 13 critical care beds remain available among the 153 ICU beds in the hospitals of the Central Local Health Integration Network, which includes Mackenzie Richmond Hill, Markham Stouffville, Southlake, Humber River, and North York General hospitals. 

Those hospitals are caring for 28 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 — double the number they were four days earlier.  

The figures come from the latest available COVID-19 daily report from Critical Care Services Ontario, which was obtained by CBC News but has not been made public by the provincial health ministry. The report does not show a hospital-by-hospital breakdown of ICU bed occupancy rates. 

The reports also show just 22 ICU beds available among the 163 critical care beds among the hospitals in the Central East Health Integration Network — including the Scarborough Health Network, Lakeridge Health, and Peterborough Regional. 

The bulk of COVID-19 patients are cared for in what the province calls Level 3 critical care beds, the highest level of intensive care. In the Central East local health region, 89 per cent of those beds are full.

The reports also shows high demand for ventilators in the ICUs of the Central West Local Integrated Health Network, which includes the Etobicoke General and Brampton Civic hospitals of the William Osler Health System. 

There are 33 ICU patients on ventilators in those hospitals, but their total official capacity of ICU beds with ventilators is just 26. The Ministry of Health has previously said it can provide extra ventilators to hospitals that need them from a centralized provincial stockpile.

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Ford told reporters Thursday afternoon that with most snowbirds and Ontario residents who had been living outside of the province now back at home, experts have been able to more accurately measure the virus’s spread and project what may happen in the coming weeks.

“Now [we] have the proper measurements,” Ford said.

Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, cautioned the numbers are forecasts, as opposed to the information that’s currently being shared daily with Ontarians, which is based on firm data.

While Ford is releasing Ontario’s models, the federal government still hasn’t published its own projections for how hard COVID-19 could hit Canada.

However, B.C.’s government released projections last week that included details about the pressure the virus could put on ICU beds.

‘We should be doing more testing in Ontario’

Mona Nemer, Canada’s chief science adviser, was critical of Ontario’s testing levels Thursday.

”Based on what we are seeing and the number of tests, I have to say that I am a little bit preoccupied by the situation in Ontario because we should be doing more testing in Ontario,” she told Radio-Canada. “And I hope they’re going to be able to ramp this up.” 

A research team with experts from the University of Toronto, University Health Network and Sunnybrook Hospital has also published models looking at how COVID-19 might affect Ontario’s already strained medical system. 

One of that group’s models, which CBC News reported on in mid-March, found the province could run out of ICU beds and ventilators in just over a month, even if it cut the infection rate in half. 

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Trudeau positions Canada as champion of co-ordinated global recovery plan – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today to make the case for a co-ordinated global response to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest countries.

He’ll be among the leaders and heads of state to deliver remarks during a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).

Among other things, he is expected to promise that Canada will partner with developing countries, which stand to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and help to rally the world behind measures like debt relief to help them survive the crisis.

That is similar to the message Trudeau delivered last week while co-hosting a major United Nations summit, alongside UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Without a global co-ordinated recovery plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly $8.5 trillion US from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.

While no country has escaped the economic ravages of the deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, developing countries, already in debt distress before the pandemic, cannot afford the kinds of emergency benefits and economic stimulus measures undertaken in wealthy, industrialized countries like Canada.

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Bank of Canada holds rate steady, saying COVID-19 economic impact 'appears to have peaked' – CBC.ca

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The Bank of Canada held its benchmark interest rate steady at 0.25 per cent on Wednesday and said it thinks the economic impact of COVID-19 on the world’s economy “appears to have peaked.”

Canada’s central bank has dropped its rate dramatically since the pandemic began, cutting its rate from 1.75 per cent in late February to 0.25 per cent barely a month later.

The bank’s rate influences the rates that Canadian borrowers and savers get from their banks on things like mortgages and bank accounts. The central bank cut its rate in an attempt to encourage borrowing and investing to stimulate the economy, but those rate cuts weren’t the only thing it did to try to buttress the economy from the unprecedented hit of COVID-19.

The bank also started a number of bond and debt-buying programs in order to make sure there is enough cash in the system.

It announced on Wednesday it will tinker with two of them because things are starting to look up, but it is still buying up government bonds at a record-setting pace in order to make sure banks have enough cash on hand to lend to credit worthy borrowers.

“The Bank’s programs to improve market function are having their intended effect,” the bank said. “After significant strains in March, short-term funding conditions have improved. Therefore, the Bank is reducing the frequency of its term repo operations to once per week, and its program to purchase bankers’ acceptances to bi-weekly operations.”

Bond-buying

Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes noted that “both of these operations have seen much less take-up (or none at all) of late.”

“The bank stands ready to adjust these programs if market conditions warrant,” the central bank said. “Meanwhile, its other programs to purchase federal, provincial, and corporate debt are continuing at their present frequency and scope.”

In barely two months, the feverish pace of bond buying to buttress the economy has ballooned the bank’s balance sheet by $125 billion, Toronto-Dominion Bank economist James Orlando calculated. 

Slowing the frequency of new purchases is likely to bring that number down a little, but stimulus measures will remain in place for a while yet, CIBC economist Royce Mendes says.

“The bank had accumulated a large swath of short-term securities on its balance sheet, but now that those programs can wind down, the composition of the bank’s balance sheet is likely to change.”

Worst case scenario avoided for now

The reason for the bank’s cautious optimism is the bank’s belief that Canada has avoided the worst-case economic scenario that it painted in April.

The central bank now expects GDP to decline between 10 and 20 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, less than the 15 to 30 per cent decline forecast in April. 

“Massive policy responses in advanced economies have helped to replace lost income and cushion the effect of economic shutdowns,” the bank said in explaining its rate decision. “Financial conditions have improved, and commodity prices have risen in recent weeks after falling sharply earlier this year.

The rate decision means that Canadians with variable rate mortgages shouldn’t expect any changes to their lending rate any time soon.

Mortgage rates

“The historically low mortgage rates currently in the market are here to stay until the economy approaches the level it was at before the pandemic started,” said James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub.ca and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise Financial.

“This means that anyone with a variable rate can expect prime to remain unchanged. Fixed rates will stay near historic lows.”

Wednesday’s decision is the last one under the leadership of Stephen Poloz. Tiff Macklem was named to replace him. Macklem “participated as an observer in governing council’s deliberations for this policy interest rate decision and endorses the rate decision and measures announced in this press release,” the bank said Tuesday.

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Trump decries ‘lowlifes’ and racism in Canada; In The News for June 3 – CityNews Toronto

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of June 3 …

American anti-racism protests …

Undeterred by curfews, protesters streamed back into the nation’s streets Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump pressed governors to put down the violence set off by George Floyd’s death and demanded that New York call up the National Guard to stop the “lowlifes and losers.”

But most protests passed peacefully, and while there were scattered reports of looting in New York City, the country appeared calmer by late Tuesday than it did a day earlier, when violence swept through multiple cities.

The president, meanwhile, amplified his hard-line calls from Monday, when he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors didn’t do it.

“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he tweeted. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”

One day after a crackdown on peaceful protesters near the White House, thousands of demonstrators massed a block away from the presidential mansion, facing law enforcement personnel standing behind a black chain-link fence. The fence was put up overnight to block access to Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House.

“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a Floyd protest Tuesday for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.”

The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful. But the protest lacked the tension of the previous nights’ demonstrations. The crowd Tuesday was peaceful, even polite. At one point, the crowd booed when a protester climbed a light post and took down a street sign. A chant went up: “Peaceful protest!”

COVID-19 in Canada …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today to make the case for a co-ordinated global response to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest countries.

He’ll be among the leaders and heads of state to deliver remarks during a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).

Among other things, he is expected to promise that Canada will partner with developing countries, which stand to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and help to rally the world behind measures like debt relief to help them survive the crisis.

That is similar to the message Trudeau delivered last week while co-hosting a major United Nations summit, alongside UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Without a global co-ordinated recovery plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly US$8.5 trillion from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.

While no country has escaped the economic ravages of the deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, developing countries, already in debt distress before the pandemic, cannot afford the kinds of emergency benefits and economic stimulus measures undertaken in wealthy, industrialized countries like Canada.

And this …

Nova Scotia’s largest nursing home is planning for a future of private rooms to keep residents safe, but it has taken a wrenching pandemic death toll to create the shift — and it remains unclear whether government will fund a long-term fix.

“We’re currently down to fewer than 25 rooms with shared accommodations at the Halifax campus,” Janet Simm, the Northwood facility’s chief executive, said in a recent interview.

That’s a huge shift from before the pandemic when more than 240 residents lived in two- or three-person units. Now, fewer than 50 people remain in the shared spaces, some of whom are couples or others who specifically request a roommate, Simm said.

But the facility’s desire to create more space, which its board sought for years before the pandemic, unfolded through tragedy rather than design.

COVID-19 illnesses spread among the 485 residents after asymptomatic workers brought the virus there in early April, and Simm says the bulk of the 53 who had died, as of Tuesday, and the 240 infected were in shared units.

COVID-19 in sports …

Khari Jones doesn’t have to look far for a reminder that racism exists in Canada.

The Montreal Alouettes head coach divulged during a teleconference Tuesday he received death threats while he was the quarterback of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers because of his interracial marriage. Jones is black and his wife, Justine, is white.

An emotional Jones — speaking just over a week after a white policeman kneeled on the neck of a black man, resulting in a tragic death in Minneapolis — said the threats came in the form of letters that remain in his possession.

“It’s just a reminder you always have to be on alert a little bit,” Jones said. “It could’ve been one person but one is still too many and to do that on the basis of a person’s skin colour is horrible.

“Every once in a while, every blue moon I take a look at them. They never found the person who wrote the letters — he used a fake name — but he’s still out there, people like him are still out there. That was 20-something years ago and it’s still happening.”

Interest rate announcement looms …

The Bank of Canada is expected to keep its key interest rate unchanged this morning on the first day of governor Tiff Macklem’s tenure.

Economists expect the central bank will maintain its target for the overnight rate at 0.25 per cent, which former governor Stephen Poloz has repeatedly said is as low as it can go.

Poloz and the bank’s governing council would have met over the past few days and finalized the rate decision last night.

Macklem likely would have been part of the meetings, but it’s unlikely that the language of the rate announcement will fully capture his views.

Instead of focusing on the rate itself, experts say they will be paying close attention to the language used in the rate announcement about the expected path for the economy in the coming weeks and months.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020

The Canadian Press

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