As job losses mount and self-isolation continues, half of Canadians say their mental health has gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 10 per cent reporting it has deteriorated “a lot,” according to a new survey.
Less than 20 per cent of Canadians polled reported being optimistic when asked to survey their life in the past couple of weeks, and 16 per cent described themselves as depressed, according to the online survey released Monday by the Angus Reid Institute.
Eleven per cent said they were untroubled, 14 per cent reported feeling normal and nine per cent felt numb. Six per cent were happy, according to the survey conducted between April 15 and 17. The survey was conducted among a representative randomized sample of 1,912 Canadian adults carrying a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
“The conversation around mental health has been percolating since the shutdown occurred,” Angus Reid Institute’s executive director Shachi Kurl told CBC News.
“When you have half of Canadians saying that their own mental health has deteriorated in the past several weeks and a significant segment of that group saying it has worsened a lot, that finding really jumps out.”
Despite reporting a decline in mental health, three-quarters of Canadians believe it’s too soon to begin lifting restrictions on businesses and public gatherings, the survey said.
Angus Red’s COVID-19 Impact Index places Canadians into four categories: those who are managing well mentally and financially, those who are mentally struggling, those who are financially struggling and people who are hardest hit feeling severe effects in both the mentally and financially struggling categories.
At least 20 per cent of Canadians from all regions fall into the hardest hit category, with Alberta having the highest number at 32 per cent and Quebec the lowest at 20 per cent.
Alberta’s economy has been battered by low oil prices leading to “financial instability and uncertainty” for households, Kurl said, which could explain why people in the province have been particularly impacted by worsening mental health during the pandemic.
About one-quarter of people in the hardest hit group said their relationships at home have suffered since the COVID-19 outbreak began, compared to six per cent in the managing well group.
While two-in-five Canadians report feeling worried or anxious, one-in-three also say they felt grateful.
“This likely speaks to the overwhelming praise Canadians have offered for their public health officials and front-line workers,” Angus Reid reported.
30% are simply bored
Of the emotions associated with the pandemic, about 30 per cent of Canadians say they’re simply bored.
While mental health effects from the pandemic are common among every age group and gender, men age 55 and over said they were least affected, while women between 18 and 54 were most likely to report mental health impacts.
“Women are among those most likely to say their own mental health is deteriorating,” Kurl said, citing increased emotional work in the household caring for kids or parents due to the pandemic as possible explanations.
Isolation has also affected relations between housemates, although for the most part cabin fever is not leading roommates to turn on each other.
One-quarter of respondents said their relations with roommates have improved, and 14 per cent say these relationships have worsened. A majority reported no change at all.
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Students upset as some Canadian universities hike tuition fees – CTV News
Some Canadian universities are raising tuition fees for the new school year much to the consternation of students, who argue their costs should be going down, not up in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While schools argue they need an infusion of cash to deal in part with higher costs of remote teaching and learning, students say they already face challenges, such as difficulty in finding summer employment.
“Students are struggling more than ever with skyrocketing tuition increases they have faced over the years,” Sofia Descalzi, national chairwoman the Canadian Federation of Students said on Friday. “It really is disappointing to see that in a time of crisis, universities and colleges are not ensuring affordability and accessibility of their education and reducing tuition fees, but they are going the opposite way.”
For example, the University of Manitoba announced last week it would be raising tuition by an average of 3.75 per cent. Most undergrads will be paying about $250 more a year for a full course load but others will pay $640 more.
The school said provincial grants have been falling while remote teaching and learning in light of the pandemic is adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to its costs. The university said it was setting aside another $600,000 in student aid.
“We know that cost is a barrier to many, even in the best of times,” said Janice Ristock, a vice-president.
Even in Ontario, where tuition was cut and then frozen for two years last year, the University of Guelph is among schools that have raised tuition for international students, who generally pay significantly more than their Canadian counterparts.
Horeen Hassan, with the Central Student Association at the university, said students were shocked at the increases, which the school estimates at between three and 15 per cent. International students already pay on average three times more than domestic students, she said, and COVID has wrecked their employment plans, too.
“Many international students are heartbroken that an institution they love so much is putting such a financial burden on them,” Hassan said in a release.
The university said the increase that took effect this spring was similar to hikes adopted by peer institutions although its overall rates were lower than theirs. At the same time, it said it would bolster supports available to students in need.
“We understand that the increases may represent a hardship for some continuing and returning international students, particularly amid challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the University of Guleph said.
Similarly, the University of Toronto said tuition for international undergrads has gone up for the summer session by an average of 5.4 per cent — 4.2 per cent for graduates — and will remain at that level in the fall. The school said it has also been providing emergency relief funding for those impacted by COVID.
Students, who have long complained about the cost of post-secondary education, said the pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Even with some emergency financial help from the federal government, many will have difficulty getting through the summer let alone being able to deal with more expensive education in the fall, Descalzi said.
A recent survey for the federation and the Canadian Association of University Teachers found a significant number of students were rethinking their plans. Among the reasons were lost income, limited support, and concerns about remote learning. In all, almost one-third of those asked said they might not go to school given the situation.
Descalzi said universities should resort to belt-tightening at the administration and executive levels or dip into reserves before placing a higher financial burden on those furthering their education.
“We are in times of crisis,” she said. “They should not be raising fees.”
Dalhousie University, which is raising tuition three per cent, said it was taking steps to cut costs and limit non-essential spending. The school noted that 41 per cent of its operating money comes directly from students and increases were necessary to maintain academic standards.
“This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic and is even more apparent today,” spokeswoman Janet Bryson said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 29, 2020
For 4th day in a row, Canada adds fewer than 1,000 new coronavirus cases – Global News
Canada’s daily coronavirus case count remained under 1,000 for the fourth consecutive day.
With 906 new cases and 102 deaths, Friday tipped the country over 89,000 cases. Close to 7,000 people have died and nearly 47,000 people have recovered.
Quebec, the hardest-hit part of the country, saw a spike in COVID-19 cases two weeks after reopening elementary schools. At least 41 students and staff tested positive, and the province saw its total case count rise by 530 cases Friday to more than 50,000 cases overall — more than half of Canada’s total number of infections.
Quebec also saw its death toll increase by 61, with fatalities now totalling 4,363. More than 15,600 people are considered recovered.
Ontario announced it is considering a regional approach to easing coronavirus restrictions. The province saw 344 new cases and 41 new deaths Friday, raising its figures to more than 27,000 cases and 2,230 deaths over all. More than 20,000 people are deemed recovered.
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario premier looking into possible regional reopenings
A doctor in New Brunswick who failed to self-isolate after visiting Quebec earlier this month has been linked to a growing cluster of eight cases — an unwelcome development after New Brunswick had recently cleared almost all of its cases of COVID-19.
The cluster includes three health-care workers and two cases in intensive care units. New Brunswick has seen zero deaths from COVID-19 so far, and a total of 128 cases, including 120 recoveries.
Nova Scotia reported no new cases, leaving it with a little more than 1,000 cases and 59 deaths. The majority of fatalities are linked to one long-term care home in Halifax. The province is now allowing 10-person gatherings.
There were no new deaths reported in Alberta. The province has opened up its testing to everyone, regardless of symptoms. Two dozen new cases brought the total caseload to nearly 7,000, including more than 6,200 recoveries and 143 deaths. A hundred of those who have died are aged 80 and up.
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health minister discusses launch of next phase of testing strategy
British Columbia also saw no new deaths. Four new cases brought provincial figures to 2,562 cases, including more than 2,100 recoveries, while the death toll remained 164.
Saskatchewan reported two new cases and no new deaths. Ten people have died so far, and the province has seen 641 cases in total. More than 500 people have recovered.
Manitoba reported no new cases. The province has seen seven people die out of 283 cases. More than 270 are recovered.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases, leaving it with 261 cases, including three deaths and more than 250 recoveries. Residents are now allowed to expand their social bubbles.
Coronavirus: Toronto asks businesses, institutions to remain working from home until September
All cases in Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon remain resolved, with no new information reported on Friday. Nunavut remains the one region in Canada without any confirmed cases so far.
Globally, the virus has resulted in close to 5.9 million cases and more than 363,000 deaths. The U.S. alone has seen more than 100,000 deaths.
— With files by The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ford considering regional reopening of Ontario
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s considering a regional, phased approach to reopening the province amid the COVID-19 pandemic — an option he had previously resisted.
“Everything is on the table,” Ford said at his daily briefing on Friday. “It’s an option that we are looking at. I know other jurisdictions have done this. I want to know how this has gone in other areas, what lessons we can learn.”
Ford said the province’s expanded testing guidelines, released this morning, will help public health officials better understand trends and hot spots.
“Now that our testing is getting to where we need it, I am now comfortable with asking our officials to look at a regional approach for a staged reopening.”
Ford has previously said he wouldn’t consider a regional reopening, opting instead for a blanket policy despite considerable differences in the number of active cases in various parts of the province. For example, a CBC News analysis found that the per capita rate of active cases is four times higher in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area than elsewhere in Ontario.
Ford cautioned that an ultimate decision will be based on advice from public health officials.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said a regional approach presents challenges with public messaging and how to safely delineate various regions.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said Friday afternoon that the reopening of any region needs to depend on public health numbers.
“We have a different situation here because of the size of the population,” Tory said, adding that the size of Toronto’s transit system alone makes it very different than the rest of the province.
344 new cases
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 344 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday and said it surpassed its testing benchmark for a second straight day.
The news comes as the province revealed its new testing strategy will focus on communities with relatively high numbers of cases and certain high-risk workplaces while also boosting Ontario’s contact-tracing work. (You can read the full provincial strategy at the bottom of this story.)
The new cases bring the total in the province since the COVID-19 outbreak began in January to 27,210. Slightly more than 77 per cent of those cases are now resolved.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s network of labs processed 18,525 tests yesterday, the most since May 15. The current daily target is 16,000, though the system has the capacity to handle more than 20,000 on any given day.
The backlog of samples waiting to be processed grew to 13,351, meaning more than 20,000 tests were added to the queue yesterday.
The overall number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 fell again — down seven to 826 — and remained at its lowest level seen in about a month.
The death toll from COVID-19 currently sits at 2,275, according to data compiled by CBC News. About 78.5 per cent of all deaths in the province were residents in long-term care homes.
Pop-up testing centres
Ontario’s Ministry of Health is helping to run pop-up COVID-19 assessment centres in one of the province’s hardest-hit areas.
In a news release issued Friday morning, the Scarborough Health Network said it is working in conjunction with the ministry and Toronto Public Health to operate the first of the pop-up facilities at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, in the northeastern part of the city.
Officials are encouraging anyone in those communities who thinks they may have been infected with the novel coronavirus, even if they are asymptomatic, to get tested.
The assessment centre will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET today. Two more days of pop-up testing are scheduled in Scarborough thus far, though the ministry says there will be a total of days at five different locations.
The next is scheduled for June 1 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, while a third will be held at Global Kingdom Ministries on June 2.
North Scarborough is among the three areas of Toronto with the most COVID-19 cases, according to data released by Toronto Public Health earlier this week. Northern Etobicoke and parts of North York also have a high number of cases. All three areas are home to relatively low-income neighbourhoods with dense multi-unit residences.
The pop-up assessment centres are part of the province’s updated testing strategy, which is set to ramp up in earnest next week.
Expanded testing strategy
The revised plan was detailed by public health officials at a technical briefing for media this morning. It aligns closely with what Ford has hinted at over the past several weeks.
The strategy includes a directive, outlined in a memo from the Ministry of Health last weekend, that anyone who is concerned they may have COVID-19 is not to be refused a test at any of the province’s 131 assessment centres.
There will be “targeted campaigns” aimed at testing employees in key sectors identified by the province, including the agri-food, auto and retail industries. Officials are working with individual employers to put those campaigns in motion in the coming weeks.
Ontario will also establish mobile testing units — buses or vans equipped with supplies and staffed by health-care workers — that could be used to test those living in particularly hard-hit communities.
There are currently more than 20 public, commercial and hospital labs processing testing samples. The revised strategy does not include any new targets for daily capacity, because the situation is too fluid to provide an accurate benchmark, officials said.
Some infectious disease experts have been critical of the province’s messaging on testing, saying it has thus far left room for confusion about who actually qualifies for an assessment.
The province has failed to reach its daily testing target more than half the time in May. Levels dropped sharply once a blitz of nearly all long-term care residents and staff was completed over the long weekend, but they have picked up again in recent days after Ontario relaxed criteria for members of the public to be tested.
Public health officials have said that ramping up testing in the general public will be essential as Ontario looks to further loosen restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Edited BY Harry Miller
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