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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Oct. 19 – CBC.ca

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A health worker waits to collect swab samples from residents to test for the novel coronavirus at a sample collection centre in Hyderabad, India, on Monday. (Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images)

Canada-U.S. border closure extended but Trump, Trudeau far apart on next steps 

Although Canada and the U.S. have agreed to close their shared land border to non-essential travel, they don’t appear to agree on several related issues — including what to do next. More than seven months after the border closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump have offered up contradictory messages about the border’s future.

The Canada-U.S. border closure agreement was set to expire on Oct. 21, but the Canadian government announced on Monday that the closure will be extended until at least Nov. 21. In an interview last Wednesday on Winnipeg podcast The Start, Trudeau said Canada plans to keep the border closed as long as COVID-19 case counts in the U.S. remain high. “We keep extending the border closures because the United States is not in a place where we would feel comfortable reopening those borders,” he said.

Four weeks prior, Trump offered a different prognosis for the Canada-U.S. border closure. “We’re looking at the border with Canada — Canada would like it open,” he said at the White House on Sept. 18. “So we’re gonna be opening the borders pretty soon…. We want to get back to normal business.”

Foreign affairs expert Edward Alden said the disconnect between the two leaders suggests there are currently no joint discussions about an eventual reopening plan. Alden said he understands why the border is closed for now, but that it’s important to start laying the groundwork for a reopening plan. “The problem of not having those negotiations is, when do we possibly have a sense of when it will be safe to reopen the border?”

Even though many Canadians support the border closure, which took effect in late March, it has devastated the tourism industry, separated loved ones and hurt border communities in both Canada and the U.S.

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Two infectious disease doctors answer viewer questions about high-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission and how data about transmission could help people make decisions about how to live their lives. 6:11

IN BRIEF

Ontario recommends against trick-or-treating in COVID-19 hot zones

The provincial government is recommending that kids not go out trick-or-treating in those parts of Ontario that have been hardest hit by a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. “Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region, traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate,” provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

The province says trick-or-treating is permissible outside of those regions, but with numerous safeguards in place, including only going out with members of your household, wearing a face covering other than a costume, and not leaving treats in buckets.

Some health professionals objected on Twitter to the ban. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and researcher based at Toronto General Hospital, said the “goal should be to find ways to do things safely rather than cancel. Halloween shouldn’t be too tough to do safely: Outside, wearing masks, restricted to family units, distant from others … is about as low-risk as it gets.” Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto who studies infectious diseases, asked why kids are allowed in classrooms, and outdoor unmasked dining is permitted in these regions, but trick-or-treating is not.

At his daily news conference Monday, Ford said these measures are necessary to “protect Christmas and the holiday season. “We’re trying to make it as safe and as simple as possible,” Ford said. “My friends, we all know this isn’t going to be a regular Halloween. We just can’t have hundreds of kids showing up at your door if you live in a hotspot.” Both Ford and Williams were asked about what specific benchmarks the province would need to see to allow for relaxed restrictions around the Christmas season. Neither provided specific answers, citing uncertainty around the world when it comes to the virus.

Commons installs plexiglass to protect pages as MPs accused of ignoring physical distancing rules 

The House of Commons is installing new plexiglass barriers by Monday because pages are reporting that MPs have been flouting COVID-19 pandemic public health rules, CBC News has learned. According to an internal Commons administration email, some pages have expressed concerns about their health and their families’ safety because some MPs and staffers are not physically distancing from others while their face masks are off in the lobbies — the lounges on Parliament Hill where MPs can hold meetings or grab food while monitoring events inside the Commons chamber next door.

“Specifically, some members and staff who are not wearing masks are sometimes in close proximity to you when you are posted in the lobbies,” Alexandre Jacques, procedural clerk and page program co-ordinator, wrote in an Oct. 1 email to House of Commons pages. “This is something that supervisors and I have noticed in the past few days and are concerned about this.”

MPs and staff do not have to wear masks while sitting in the House of Commons chamber or in the government or opposition lobbies — but they are supposed to physically distance themselves, according to rules from the governing body of the Commons. A House of Commons source told CBC News that the pages’ complaints are aimed at behaviour observed in the opposition lobby shared by the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois. Some MPs and staff from all three of those opposition parties have been seen breaking the rules, the source said.

Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May told CBC News she’s personally witnessed MPs in the opposition lobby ignoring physical distancing guidelines on multiple occasions. She said she’s seen both Conservatives and New Democrat MPs breaking the rules but thinks the Bloc caucus has been more careful. She said she has found the Liberal lobby to be “pretty well empty” lately. Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould said mask use indoors should be made mandatory for MPs throughout the House of Commons. “All MPs should wear masks when indoors, just as rules are set for all other indoor spaces in Ontario,” she said.

Companies wary of hiring and expanding because of COVID uncertainty, Bank of Canada survey finds 

The Bank of Canada says companies are hedging hiring plans and wage growth expectations in the coming months over heightened uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press reports. The central bank’s business outlook survey finds hiring intentions remain below their historical averages, suggesting modest hiring plans even as the overall outlook on employment edges up.

Almost one-third of businesses told the bank they expect their workforce numbers to remain below pre-pandemic levels for at least the next 12 months, or to never fully recover. The survey also finds that wage growth is widely expected to slow over the next year, mostly a result of the pandemic and ongoing uncertainty, with some firms reporting a wage freeze.

The bank also says that nearly half of firms surveyed used the federal wage subsidy program to avoid layoffs or quickly refill positions. About 100 firms took part in the bank’s regular survey out this morning, but did so between late August and mid-September when COVID-19 case counts were still low.

(CBC News)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world

THE SCIENCE

One-size-fits-all COVID-19 messaging falls flat, project suggests

Behavioural medicine suggests that moving away from a one-size-fits-all message for pandemic messaging to a more personalized approach would work better at motivating people to make important sacrifices.

Prof. Kim Lavoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Prof. Simon Bacon of Concordia University, have been surveying people throughout the pandemic about what motivates them as part of the iCARE (International COVID-19 Awareness and Responses Evaluation Study) project.

The findings suggest that younger people might be more motivated by the socio-economic fallout of reimposing restrictions rather than risk to their individual health from COVID-19, compared with people over the age of 65. “Show how long it’s going to take us to pay down the debt, this is how long it’s going to take, the longer we remain in this,” Lavoie said.

Individual goals matter, too. A common message from public health officials is: “We’re all going to get through this.” But to Lavoie, that doesn’t go far enough. Her version is: “We are going to get out of this only together. This is how and this is why, and this is what’s in store for us the quicker we achieve that,” she said. “We’re all going to benefit. Some of you will benefit by protecting your health. Some of you will benefit by protecting your business. Some of you will benefit by being able to have your dream wedding.”

AND FINALLY…

NHL could be forced to play next season in modified bubble

Tampa Bay Lightning players celebrate in front of empty stands after defeating the Dallas Stars to win the Stanley Cup in Edmonton last month. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

If the NHL hopes to start a new season in January, there probably won’t be any fans in the buildings and games could be played in some sort of modified bubble format, say some experts. The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association will begin meetings in the coming weeks to discuss a return to play, although there’s already been some dialogue between the two sides. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league hopes to begin Jan. 1 and wants to play a full 82-game season with fans in arenas.

But whatever plans are in place when the season opens could change over time. “It would be premature to speculate on what next season might look like at this point,” Gary Meagher, the NHL’s executive vice-president of communications, told CBC Sports in an email. “The league and the NHLPA are focused on what makes the most sense from a scheduling standpoint. We are going to be flexible and adaptable, but we also understand that important considerations like the status of the Canada-U.S. border and the state of COVID in the next few months are simply guesswork at this point.”

Earl Brown, a professor emeritus in biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at the University of Ottawa, said even if a vaccine were developed for COVID-19 in the next couple of months, it’s unlikely enough people would be immune by the beginning of the new year. “So given the way it is now, I would not put my money on [the] NHL [having fans] at the beginning of next year,” he said.

Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the economics of sports, gaming and gambling at Concordia University, also questioned the league’s suggested timetable. “I cannot see that all of the boxes are going to be checked for the NHL,” said Lander. “They’re not going to be able to start on Jan. 1 with fans [and] with free movement of teams. Something’s going to have to be sacrificed there.”

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here

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Trudeau expects most Canadians could be vaccinated by September 2021 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Cassanda Szklarski, The Canadian Press


Published Friday, November 27, 2020 12:34PM EST


Last Updated Friday, November 27, 2020 1:32PM EST

Beset by ongoing questions about Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to assuage the public with assurances most Canadians could be inoculated by September 2021, with distribution led by a former NATO commander.

Trudeau faced a barrage of questions about when and how such a rollout would unfold at a morning press conference on Friday, acknowledging public anxiety amid alarming infection rates and hospitalizations that have already scuttled holiday hopes for much of the country.

But while promising vaccine news offered “light at the end of the tunnel,” Trudeau said “we must hold on a little longer.”

“What really matters is when we get across the finish line … The fact that the doctors highlighted that if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September, puts us in very good stead,” he said, offering the government’s most specific timeline yet.

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to deliver for Canadians, listening to experts working with top people to make sure that we’re doing this right, and quickly and safely.”

Trudeau said Canada has turned to Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead distribution and handle logistics that include cold storage requirements, data sharing, and reaching Indigenous communities. He insisted Ottawa was committed to working with the provinces and territories on securing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible.

That wasn’t good enough for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who later Friday roasted Trudeau for failing to give provinces and territories specific information they need for a potential vaccine launch.

Ford said a conference call Trudeau held with premiers Thursday night was sorely lacking.

“I didn’t get the answer we wanted to hear, none of the premiers got the answer they wanted to hear,” said Ford, who appeared at a Friday press conference alongside the new head of the Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, retired Gen. Rick Hillier.

“I can’t emphasize enough to the prime minister: The clock is ticking. We’re going to be hopefully getting these vaccines sometime – again, hopefully – in January. I asked him the three simple questions: When are we getting it? What type of vaccine are we getting? And how much of that vaccine are we getting? To have Gen. Hillier make a proper plan, we need to know.”

Ontario called on the federal government to immediately disclose its allocation plan, noting reports that other countries have already announced plans to receive doses.

U.S. officials have said 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine could reach some priority citizens within 24 hours of regulatory clearance, while Moderna’s vaccine could be available by the end of the year, although the general public likely wouldn’t get doses until the spring.

No matter when a vaccine arrives in Canada, Hillier said Ontario’s vaccine distribution plans would be ready on Dec. 31.

In Ottawa, Procurement Minister Anita Anand also faced questions over a precise delivery date but insisted she is in constant contact with suppliers to make sure they can be deployed as soon as they are approved for use.

“This is a complex process. This is an uncertain environment. But we are on top of it,” said Anand.

“I personally will make sure that we have vaccines in place in Canada when Health Canada has provided the regulatory approval.”

Trudeau‘s September timeline was echoed by deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo, who had last week suggested the possibility of a fall goal line for vaccinating the majority of Canadians.

Njoo said Friday the Prime Minister’s prediction is “in the same ballpark” as previous rollout plans, and a good target to work towards.

But he cautioned there are still “a lot of unknowns.”

“Certainly we’ve always been sort of optimistic, cautiously optimistic, about what the vaccination rollout will look like,” said Njoo.

“Right now it’s a bit of a moving target. We have two vaccines which are very promising but they’re still in the process of going through the regulatory process. If all goes well, and they are approved, then they’re the first two out of the pipeline.”

The news follows more alarming daily COVID-19 case numbers from Ontario, which reported a record 1,855 new cases, and 20 more deaths on Friday.

Quebec reported 1,269 new COVID-19 infections and 38 more deaths linked to the virus, including nine that occurred in the past 24 hours.

Ottawa has finalized agreements with five vaccine makers and is in advanced negotiations with two more.

The deals would secure 194 million doses with the option to buy another 220 million, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.

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'The clock is ticking': Ontario calls on federal government to provide clear timelines for COVID-19 vaccines – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling on the federal government to provide a clear timeline on when the province will receive the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying that is “impossible” to plan distribution without that critical information.

The premier made the comments on Friday afternoon alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the new head of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

“Make no mistake, this will be a monumental effort,” Ford told reporters. “When you look at a province the size of Ontario, with as many variables as we’re facing, without proper planning or the proper information, this can be a logistical nightmare.”

“That’s why, as we continue planning, we need certainty from the federal government. We need to know which kind of vaccines we’ll be getting, because each vaccine will come with unique requirements and potential challenges. And we also need to know how many vaccines we will receive each week. We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments.”

Ford said it is “impossible” to plan distribution of the vaccine, including staffing and storage of doses, without that timeline and “the clock is ticking.”

“I asked (the prime minister) three simple questions. You know, when are we getting it, what type of vaccine are we getting, and how much of that vaccine are we getting,” he said. “To have General Hillier make a proper plan. We need to know.”

Doug Ford, Rick Hillier

The comments come hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to provide a clear timeline for when Canadians will have access to a vaccine, saying only that he hopes to have more than half of Canadians vaccinated by September 2021.

“We have continued to work with the provinces on vaccine delivery and logistics since last spring,” Trudeau said.

“I can understand the eagerness with which people want to know, ‘When is this going to be over? When are we going to get the vaccines?’ What we can say is, we are working extremely hard to deliver as quickly and as safely as possible… if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September,” Trudeau said.

Elliott has previously said the province is likely to roll out the first doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine between January and March of 2021, followed by a second batch from March until “about” July.

But since then the government has rolled back their vaccine rhetoric, saying that it is not clear if those targets will be achieved.

The COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but they could receive the stamp of approval as early as two weeks from now.

Doug Ford and Rick Hillier

Hillier said that while questions remain, the COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force is working to be ready for the new year.

“Our mission is clear,” Hillier said while speaking publicly for the first time since being named head of the task force. “The team is being built. It is largely present and in place and they’re building on the work that’s been done.”

“I’m not an over-the-top optimist, I’m the pragmatic person, but we’re going to be ready on 31 December for what the people of Ontario will need from us.”

Ontario health officials reported a new single-day record of COVID-19 cases on Friday, logging 1,855 new infections and 20 more deaths.

The total number of lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus now stands at 111,216, including deaths and recoveries.

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Top general to lead vaccine rollout, aims to immunize majority by September: PM – CTV News

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Canada has tapped former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead the national vaccine distribution effort, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced his target of immunizing more than half of all Canadians by September, 2021.

“Canadians can expect that if all goes well, to have more than half of us vaccinated by next September,” said the prime minister, adding this “significant positive news” comes straight from Canada’s federal health experts.

“I can understand the eagerness with which people want to know, ‘When is this going to be over? When are we going to get the vaccines?’ What we can say is, we are working extremely hard to deliver as quickly and as safely as possible… if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau also spoke more about the government’s vaccine strategy of procuring up to 414 million doses from seven different pharmaceutical companies — enough to vaccinate every person in this country more than a few times over. Because COVID-19 is a new disease and there are different approaches to tackling it, Canada wanted to keep its options open, he said.

“Some are going to work better than others, and some are going to be speed bumps along the way that cause extra challenges, and we knew that creating an array of opportunities for Canadians was one of the best ways of making sure that we would get through this the best possible way,” Trudeau said.

Asked what the biggest question on his mind is ahead of administering the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to a Canadian, Trudeau said it’s concerning safety.

“I think the question we all have is: is it going to be safe? Is it going to be effective? That’s what our scientists are looking at very, very carefully right now… There are jurisdictions and countries around the world that have banked everything on one or maybe two different vaccines… Whatever vaccines end up being the right ones to get through this pandemic, Canadians have a very good chance of having access to millions of doses of those,” Trudeau said.

Health Canada will need to evaluate each candidate before it can be administered to Canadians, and on Thursday that agency’s chief medical adviser said that the first COVID-19 vaccine approval could happen before Christmas, in line with expected approvals in the U.S. and Europe.

“We are expecting to make a final decision on the vaccines around the same time,” Dr. Supriya Sharma told reporters Thursday, during the first of what will be weekly public briefings on the status of procurement and rollout plans.

This means Canada could see first approvals in December, initial prioritized groups vaccinated between January and March, and expanding out to more Canadians over the following months.

“And then we’re going to have to figure out all of those shipments,” she said.

That’s when the military is expected to play a role.

TOP MILITARY GENERAL TAKES LEAD

As first reported by CTV News ahead of Trudeau’s Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Fortin will be in charge of overseeing what is set to be a massive logistics-heavy operation of delivering the vaccine.

Trudeau called it the “greatest mobilization effort Canada has seen since the Second World War.”

There are already Canadian Armed Forces military logistics teams working with the Public Health Agency of Canada on planning for the rollout of vaccines to millions of Canadians in the coming months. This work has quietly been underway for months but with positive vaccine trial news coming out in recent weeks, the country’s attention has been largely seized with assessing where Canada stands.

According to the military, there are currently 27 staff working out of the national public health agency, including operational planners, pharmacists, health-care administrators, engineers, and IT experts, with more expected to follow.

Known as the National Operations Centre, Fortin will head up the logistics and operations within the centre. He is being named Vice President Logistics and Operations at PHAC, and will be assisted by Brig.-Gen. Simon Bernard and Brig.-Gen. Krista Brodie with logistical planning and co-ordination.

“This will be the biggest immunization in the history of the country,” Trudeau said. “We must reach everyone who wants a vaccine, no matter where they live.”

Fortin most recently served as the Chief of Staff for the Canadian Joint Operations Command, but has also served as the commander of NATO’s Iraq mission between 2018-19. He graduated from the Royal Military College Saint-Jean in 1991, and has also spent time working for the U.S. Army and with the United Nations in Bosnia.

“The Canadian Armed Forces will assist on planning, including to meet challenges like cold storage requirements, data-sharing, and reaching Indigenous and rural communities,” Trudeau said.

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Further complicating the tall task of distributing millions of vials across the country, a number of the vaccine candidates being tested—including the Pfizer vaccine— require two doses and must be stored at very cold temperatures.

The government has begun procuring freezers that are able to stay cold enough to keep the vaccine supply stable, and the procurement process is underway for a contract tender to ship, fly, and drive doses to all regions of the country.

The military says it is helping “synchronize” vaccine deliveries, put in place “risk-mitigation tools” and conduct “a series of exercises” ahead of vaccines being administered.

Right now the military isn’t set to play a role in actually administering needles to the public, but Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said if the provinces indicate they need assistance, it could be considered.

The prime minister spoke with provinces again Thursday evening about the COVID-19 response and said the federal government is offering the latest information it can, after frustration and confusion about timelines and plans bubbled over this week.

“We have continued to work with the provinces on vaccine delivery logistics, since last spring. We’ve been engaged, understanding that a vaccine was the way we were going to get through this pandemic,” Trudeau said.

‘TOUGHEST DAYS OF THIS PANDEMIC’

Noting that Ontario hit a new record for the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day on Friday, and Canadians from coast to coast are adjusting to new levels of restrictions in the face of the second wave, Trudeau said that Canada is in “some of the toughest days of this pandemic.” Trudeau restated that as the country waits for vaccines, the standard public health measures still need to be taken.

As Tam reported on Friday, Canada is now averaging 5,300 new daily cases a day, with continued “rapid growth,” in many parts of the country. She said Canada is on track to double the new daily case counts within a week or two if Canadians don’t limit their outings and interactions to those that are essential.

“We’re in this together, and the more we work as a team, the better we’ll all do,” said the prime minister on Friday.

With files from CTV News’ Michel Boyer and Solarina Ho

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