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Today’s coronavirus news: Group warns Ontario substitute teachers left out of COVID-19 conversation; Iran surpasses 20,000 confirmed deaths – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 6:26 a.m.: South Korean health workers find more than 600 coronavirus infections linked to a Seoul church

  • 6:25 a.m.: Iran surpasses 20,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday.

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

9:05 a.m. At least one visitor to Toronto’s Brass Rail strip club has contracted COVID-19, say health officials who last week warned the public that an ill staff member had potentially exposed 550 people to the virus.

“To date, one person who was contacted by (Toronto Public Health) from the establishment’s contact tracing log who had attended the establishment, had symptoms and has tested positive for COVID-19,” Dr. Vinita Dubey, a senior TPH official, said in a statement Tuesday to the Star.

“This person lives outside of Toronto and TPH is working with the applicable health unit who will request information about possible sources of infection as part of their investigation.”

Read the full story by the Star’s David Rider

8:55 a.m. Hawaii Gov. David Ige has hinted about it for weeks as COVID-19 cases in the state surged, and on Tuesday he made it official: The state won’t reopen to tourism until October at the earliest.

The planned Sept. 1 start of a program that would allow out-of-state visitors to bypass Hawaii’s strict 14-day quarantine upon arrival by presenting a negative COVID-19 test at the airport has been delayed until at least Oct. 1, Ige said late Tuesday.

“We will continue to monitor the conditions here in Hawaii as well as key markets on the mainland to determine the appropriate start date for the pre-travel (COVID-19) testing program,” he said.

8:40 a.m. (updated) Statistics Canada says the consumer price index was up 0.1 per cent compared with a year ago as gasoline prices were down nearly 15 per cent.

The annual inflation rate compared with a reading of 0.7 per cent in June.

The average economist estimate had been for a year-over-year increase of 0.5 per cent for July, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

7:26 a.m. FIFA forecast the pandemic will cause a $120 million (U.S.) drop in its revenue plan through the 2022 World Cup in a revised four-year budget published Wednesday.

Cost-cutting is also predicted to help offset a $200 million (U.S.) hit from being unable to stage a revamped Club World Cup in June 2021, when Europe and South America stage their postponed continental championships.

Still, FIFA said most World Cup broadcast and sponsor deals were already signed and should keep the same profit in the 2019-22 financial cycle, even on reduced income of $6.44 billion (U.S.)

7:25 a.m. U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government is “working on” introducing tests for COVID-19 at airports, a move that would ease the requirement on travelers to self-isolate on arrival.

“This is one of the examples of why mass testing can help,” Hancock told BBC Radio on Wednesday. “If you can have a test technology where the test result comes back in a matter of minutes rather than the next day because you don’t have to send it to the lab, then you can check that people don’t have and aren’t transmitting the virus now.”

With many British schools on their summer vacations, the requirement for holidaymakers to isolate for two weeks on returning from abroad is one of the most prominent examples of the tension between the government’s desire to get life back to normal and its fear that infection levels will start to rise. Last week, the U.K. said people returning from France must self-isolate.

7 a.m. Statistics Canada will say Wednesday what the country’s inflation barometer read in July.

The consumer price index was up 0.7 per cent in June compared with a year earlier, following two months of negative readings.

The turnaround from May to June matched the fastest acceleration in the so-called headline inflation reading since March 2011, but still left the measure well below the Bank of Canada’s two per cent target.

The jump to July isn’t expected to be as sharp.

Financial data firm Refinitiv says the average economist estimate is for a year-over-year increase of 0.5 per cent.

The Bank of Canada forecast last month that annual inflation will be 0.6 per cent this year and vowed to maintain its key interest rate at the lower limit of 0.25 per cent until inflation hits the central bank’s two per cent target.

6:31 a.m.: Thousands of downtown workers won’t be cramming into Toronto’s subways and office tower elevators any time soon as the city continues to grapple with COVID-19.

A number of large firms and banks have asked employees to continue to work from home until at least the end of the year, leaving Toronto’s financial district a virtual ghost town heading into fall.

“Office towers are all those things that we don’t want with respect to COVID-19: bringing lots of people together in small spaces breathing recycled air,” said infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness. “It’s basically a high-density working environment, and from a public health standpoint and pandemic standpoint, really unsafe.”

Some of the country’s largest banks were among the first major companies with large downtown Toronto offices to announce that most of their employees won’t be returning to their desks until at least 2021.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jacques Gallant here.

6:30 a.m.: As Ontario’s eviction moratorium has lifted, new research shows that the Toronto neighbourhoods where tenants have faced the highest eviction filing rates in recent years mirror those where COVID-19 has hit hardest.

The findings, shared exclusively with the Star, suggest that if a wave of evictions follows the pandemic — as tenant advocates fear — residents of the same neighbourhoods will bear the brunt of a secondary crisis.

It’s a parallel that Scott Leon, who co-authored Wednesday’s study for the Wellesley Institute, called “troubling.”

Read the exclusive story from the Star’s Victoria Gibson here.

6:28 a.m.: Millions of women and girls globally have lost access to contraceptives and abortion services because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now the first widespread measure of the toll says India with its abrupt, months-long lockdown has been hit especially hard.

Several months into the pandemic, many women now have second-trimester pregnancies because they could not find care in time.

Across 37 countries, nearly 2 million fewer women received services between January and June than in the same period last year, Marie Stopes International says in a new report — 1.3 million in India alone. The organization expects 900,000 unintended pregnancies worldwide as a result, along with 1.5 million unsafe abortions and more than 3,000 maternal deaths.

Those numbers “will likely be greatly amplified” if services falter elsewhere in Latin America, Africa and Asia, Marie Stopes’ director of global evidence, Kathryn Church, has said.

6:27 a.m.: India reported 1,092 new fatalities from COVID-19 on Wednesday, its highest single-day total. The country has the fourth-most deaths in the world and the third-most cases, with over 2.7 million — including more than 64,000 new infections reported Wednesday.

The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to limited testing. Four of India’s 28 states now account for 63 per cent of total fatalities and 54.6 per cent of the caseload. The western state of Maharashtra and the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the country’s worst-hit regions.

6:26 a.m.: South Korean health workers have found more than 600 coronavirus infections linked to a Seoul church led by a vocal opponent of the country’s president as officials began restricting gatherings in the greater capital area amid fears that transmissions are getting out of control.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said Wednesday that health authorities are also seeking location data provided by cellphone carriers while trying to track thousands who participated in an anti-government protest on Saturday, which worsened the virus’s spread. The march was attended by members of the Sarang Jeil Church and its ultra-right pastor, Jun Kwang-hun, who has been hospitalized since Monday after testing positive.

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Kwon Jun-wook, director of South Korea’s National Health Institute, said 623 cases have been linked to church members after the completion of some 3,000 tests. Police are pursuing around 600 church members who remain out of contact.

6:26 a.m.: Finland says it will tighten travel restrictions and reintroduce and step up border checks for arrivals from 10 countries starting Monday due to the worsening pandemic situation in Europe and elsewhere.

The Finnish government says border checks will apply for passengers to and from Nordic neighbours Denmark, Iceland and Norway as well as Germany, Greece and Malta — all countries belonging to the European Union’s borderless Schengen area.

Outside the Schengen area, border checks will be stepped up for arrivals from Cyprus, Ireland, San Marino and Japan.

6:45 a.m.: Iran surpassed 20,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, the health ministry said — the highest death toll for any Middle East country so far in the pandemic.

The announcement came as the Islamic Republic, which has been struggling with both the region’s largest outbreak and the highest number of fatalities, went ahead with university entrance exams for over 1 million students. Iran is also preparing for mass Shiite commemorations later this month.

Iran suffered the region’s first major outbreak, seeing top politicians, health officials and religious leaders in its Shiite theocracy stricken with the virus. It has since struggled to contain the spread of the virus across this nation of 80 million people, initially beating it back only to see it spike again beginning in June.

6:23 a.m.: A coalition of Ontario educators says substitute teachers are concerned about health and safety risks related to working in multiple schools as they prepare to return to classrooms in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario Education Workers United, an organization made up of high school teachers, is the latest to sound the alarm over the Ontario government’s back-to-school plan, which has also drawn criticism from teachers’ unions as well as some parents and students.

The plan, announced weeks before the school year is set to begin, allows elementary students and many high school students to be in class five days a week in standard class sizes.

Occasional workers have been left out of the conversation on how to safely reopen schools, the coalition said.

“We have been hearing a lot from occasional workers that they are very worried and feel unseen in this whole process,” said James Campbell, one of the group’s organizers.

“They are often the most precarious of all educational workers because they are often earlier in their career and don’t always have permanent contracts.”

Wednesday 1:48 a.m. Japan’s exports in July plunged 19.2 per cent from a year ago, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to slam the world’s third largest economy.

The Finance Ministry’s provisional numbers showed Japan’s imports in July fell 22.3 per cent.

Exports to the U.S. especially suffered, declining 19.5 per cent last month. They include plastic goods, iron and steel and computer parts. But Japan recorded its first trade surplus in four months on the back of a recovery in China.

Japan’s export-reliant economy has been ailing since the outbreak caused some plant production to be temporarily halted, squelched tourism and generally hurt economic activity.

Japan has never imposed a lockdown but has encouraged people to work from home, wear masks and social distance. Some stores have closed or shortened their hours.

Tuesday 6 p.m.: As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 42,941 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,828 deaths, up another 115 cases in 24 hours, according to the Star’s latest count.

It was the first day since Aug. 1 that the province had reported a second day in a row with a jump into the triple digits.

Four health units reported 10 or more cases Tuesday: Windsor-Essex, with 25 cases, Toronto, with 22, Peel Region, with 15, and Huron-Perth, with 13.

In the last week, Huron-Perth, the smallest health unit in southern Ontario by population, has seen infections jump to the highest rate the region has seen since the beginning of the pandemic. (Even adjusting for population, the unit’s case average is still well below the worst levels seen in larger cities in April and May.)

The long-term average for daily case reports has been consistently below triple digits since the province saw a brief spike late last month, and the province remains near the lowest rate of new infections since before the pandemic first peaked in Ontario in the spring.  

That rate rose Tuesday to an average of 91 cases per day over the last week. At the pandemic’s worst, Ontario saw the same average reach a mid-April peak of nearly 600 daily.

A single new fatal case was reported Tuesday, in Ottawa; Ontario has averaged less than a single reported death per day over the last seven days.

The vast majority of the province’s COVID-19 patients have since recovered; the province lists fewer than 1,000 active cases of the disease. 

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

The province cautions its separate data, published daily at 10:30 a.m., may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

Read Tuesday’s rolling file

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Canada confirms 873 more coronavirus infections as cases continue to surge – Global News

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Canada has diagnosed 873 more people with the novel coronavirus, bringing the country’s surging case count to 143,527 on Sunday.

Provincial and territorial health authorities reported six more people had died from the virus, although those numbers are incomplete as British Columbia, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, the Yukon and Northwest Territories did not report updates over the weekend.

Since the pandemic began, 9,217 people have died from COVID-19 in Canada, while 124,691 have recovered from the virus after falling ill. So far, more than 7.8 million tests have been administered across the country.

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Twenty new cases and no new deaths were reported in Saskatchewan. A total of 1,807 infections have been diagnosed there since the pandemic began. Of those, 24 patients have died and 1,643 have recovered.

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Health officials have administered 171,945 tests so far.

In Manitoba, provincial health authorities detected 29 new confirmed cases of the virus, though one previously announced diagnosis was removed from the total. Overall, the province has recorded 1,586 cases.

As of Sunday, the province had administered 164,177 tests in total, while 1,216 people had recovered after becoming infected and 16 people had died.

Ontario has diagnosed 46,849 people with the the virus, including 365 announced Sunday along with one more death.

To date, 2,827 people have died throughout the province while more than 3.5 million tests for COVID-19 have been conducted and 40,968 people have recovered.

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In Quebec, the province hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials confirmed 462 new cases of the virus, bringing the provincial tally to 67,542.

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In total, the province has confirmed 5,802 people have died from the virus, including five deaths on Sunday. One of those deaths occurred within the last 24 hours, while the other four occurred earlier this month. So far, more than 2 million people in Quebec have been tested for the virus, while 58,796 have recovered.






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New Brunswick reported no new cases of COVID-19 or deaths relating to the virus, and only one case remains active. The provincial tally remains at 194 confirmed diagnoses and two deaths.

There have been 69,791 tests for the virus administered by the province.

Nova Scotia’s provincial cases numbers remained at 1,086 after health authorities detected no new infections or deaths. In total, 88,514 people have been tested, 65 have died and 1,021 are in recovery.

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Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday. The provincial total remains at 272, while health authorities said a total of three people had previously died from the virus.

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N.L. has conducted more than 37,738 tests for COVID-19, while 268 people have recovered from the virus.

Nunavut confirmed its first two cases of the virus on Saturday. However, a spokesperson from the territory said the cases will not be counted in Nunavut as the individuals who contracted COVID-19 were not residents.

“[The cases] will be counted in the jurisdiction where they contracted the virus,” they said.

So far, 2,593 tests have been administered in Nunavut.

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In British Columbia, provincial health officials reported a total of 7,720 cases on Friday and 223 deaths.

In Alberta provincial health officials recorded 107 new infections Friday for a cumulative total of 16,381 infections and 255 deaths.






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No new cases were diagnosed in Prince Edward Island during its most recent update on Wednesday, keeping the provincial tally at 57. The province has yet to see its first COVID-19-related death.

To date, 56 in the province have recovered from the virus.

All 15 confirmed cases in the Yukon have recovered. Nobody in the territory has died from the virus.

All five confirmed cases in the Northwest Territories have also recovered.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canadians are still flocking to parks and businesses as country braces for second wave – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Even though the back-to-school season has coincided with a steady rise in Canada’s active COVID-19 case count and fears that a second wave may soon be upon us, Canadians do not seem to be meaningfully adjusting their behaviour when it comes to leaving the house.

Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, said Sunday that a lot of Canadians seem to be taking a “we can do whatever we want” approach to their life in recent weeks.

“It feels to me like a lot of people just threw up their hands and said ‘I’m tired of this. I’m hugging, I’m going out, I’m seeing friends,'” he told Sunday on CTV News Channel.

That feeling is backed up by data compiled by Google and Apple, which shows that Canadians are spending more time in parks and at businesses than they were even in the first half of the summer, when the country first emerged from its various pandemic-imposed lockdowns.

Google bases its public mobility reports on information gleaned from users of its services who allow the company to keep track of the destinations they visit.

According to its most recent report for Canada, dated Sept. 11, Canadians are spending 151 per cent more time in parks than they were before the pandemic began.

This can be partially explained by the calendar; of course a park will be busier in September than it was in February. More telling, though, is that based on Google’s data, park usage has steadily increased over the past few months – from 80 per cent above the baseline level in early June to 140 per cent in mid-July to 150 per cent on Sept. 11.

SPENDING LESS TIME AT HOME

Also increasing has been Canadians’ activity in retail and recreation settings – what Google terms “places like restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, theme parks, museums, libraries, and movie theatres.”

At the height of the lockdown, in early April, activity at these establishments was as much as 80 per cent below Google’s pre-pandemic baseline. That number has slowly crept back up ever since, even surpassing it on Labour Day weekend before settling in for a longer stay just below the baseline.

Labour Day weekend also represents a peak in Apple’s mass-collected mobility trends report for Canada. Apple found that requests made for driving directions were 88 per cent higher on Sept. 4 than they were on Jan. 13 (their pre-pandemic baseline), while requests for walking directions were up by 80 per cent. Both numbers were at their highest points in 2020. (Requests for public transit directions were about two-thirds of their pre-pandemic levels, or about four times what they were at the height of the pandemic.)

Time spent in grocery stores and pharmacies has been slightly above Google’s baseline for the past month, suggesting Canadians may be doing more supermarket shopping to make up for the decreasing number of meals eaten out.

The amount of time spent at home, meanwhile, has fallen from 20 per cent in early May to 10 per cent in mid-July to eight per cent on Sept. 11.

Taken together, all of this implies Canadians feel safer leaving their homes now than they did not only early on in the pandemic, but also for most of the summer.

That would certainly make sense if the novel coronavirus was still slowing its spread across Canada – but aside from Atlantic Canada and the territories, that’s hardly been the case.

Canada’s active case count has been rising since early August and is more than double what it was one month ago, according to a CTV News tally. Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have all begun to re-enact some of the restrictions lifted earlier in the summer. All four provinces show similar patterns in the Google data, with their residents spending less time at home and more time out in public than they were even a month or two ago.

“We know what to do; we just aren’t necessarily doing it as well as we could,” Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, said Sunday on CTV News Channel.

“Certain individuals are making decisions … not to follow all of the public health recommendations, and this leads to an increase in cases.”

IS IT QUARANTINE FATIGUE?

Because of the increasing COVID-19 diagnosis numbers and rolling back of reopenings, there is a rising belief that Canada is on the precipice of a second wave of the pandemic.

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, told CTV News Channel on Sunday that she believes “some form of a second wave” is already underway in Ontario and Quebec.

“We don’t know yet if it’s going to be a big wave or one of those smaller waves that we can control. That really, really depends on how people manage themselves,” she said.

Dr. Theresa Tam said this week that “the time to act is now,” noting that the daily new case numbers more accurately reflect how society was responding to the virus two weeks ago than how it is responding today.

Of course, the rising numbers do not come as a surprise to Canada’s chief public health officer. She warned in July that Canada could see a “backslide” if too many Canadians continued to ignore public health advice, and cautioned in August that the fall would be a “period of challenge” due to cooling weather and the back-to-school period.

On the surface, something doesn’t add up. The warnings from authorities have been constant and consistent, and are starting to come true – and yet Canadians are still spending more time in public, where contact with the virus is more likely.

One possible explanation is that quarantine fatigue has set in.

Also known as pandemic fatigue, response fatigue and many other terms, quarantine fatigue is essentially the idea that citizens are tired of the pandemic and no longer take the necessary precautions to stop it.

This is why “we can’t let our guard down” is such a common refrain from political and medical leaders – both in Europe, where the World Health Organization is now warning about quarantine fatigue as cases skyrocket, and in Canada, where authorities hope to avoid the same scenario.

Barrett said that Canadians “really need to take to heart” the advice from public health leaders, spending less time outside the home and keeping their social circles to a small number.

“If people are able to do the things that have already been suggested, we may be able to keep a handle on things,” she said.

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Canada adds more than 800 new coronavirus cases, 6 deaths – Global News

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The number of Canadians who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus grew by 865 on Saturday, while the national death toll rose by six.

There have been 142,654 cases since COVID-19 was first diagnosed in Canada in late January and 9,211 deaths overall.

Across the country more than 7.7 million tests have been conducted throughout the pandemic, and 87 per cent of all cases are resolved.

The number of new cases being reported daily has increased by more than 60 per cent in the last two weeks, and demand for testing has increased sharply as well.

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Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said on average about 849 cases were reported per day in the last week.

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“I urge all Canadians to take action now to slow the spread of the virus. In addition to strict adherence with personal protective measures (e.g. physical distancing, handwashing and wearing non-medical masks where appropriate), we must all reduce our number of contacts to a minimum,” she said in a statement.

“Most importantly, stay home and isolate yourself from others if you are experiencing any symptoms, even if mild.”

The vast majority of the new cases occurred in Ontario and Quebec, though Saturday’s numbers are incomplete because the territories, Alberta, B.C. and P.E.I. do not release daily statistics on the weekend.






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Quebec announced 427 new infections, bringing its total to 67,080. Five deaths were recorded, three of which occurred earlier this month, officials said.

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Premier François Legault said Saturday he has tested negative for COVID-19 but would remain in isolation until Sept. 28.

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Legault and his wife were tested after meeting with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole — who has since tested positive.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be extending restrictions on private events to all areas of the province.

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Earlier in the week, new limits on the number of people allowed to gather were announced for virus hotspots such as Toronto and Ottawa.

“Over the past several days, we have seen alarming growth in the number of COVID cases in Ontario,” Ford said.

“The alarm bells are ringing. And too much of it has been tied to people who aren’t following the rules. People who think it’s OK to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.”






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Ontario added 407 new cases on Saturday and one new death was announced. The province has seen a cumulative total of 46,848 infections.

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Officials in Saskatchewan said they hit a record high in testing on Friday, with 2,873 samples taken. There were 11 cases discovered. Overall, the province has seen 1,787 cases and 24 fatalities.

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In Manitoba, 18 new cases were reported Saturday. The province has the lowest cumulative case total in Western Canada at 1,558, including some cases considered presumptive.

Nunavut reported its first two confirmed cases Saturday. The two people diagnosed are workers at the Hope Bay Mine, located southwest of Cambridge Bay, officials said. They are believed to have been exposed to the virus in their home province.

“Hope Bay Mine is an isolated location, and no Nunavut residents currently work there. The risk of COVID-19 spreading in our communities because of these cases remains very low,” Health Minister George Hickes said in a statement.

There are currently no other active cases in Canada’s North. The infections previously announced in Yukon and Northwest Territories — 20 in total — have long been resolved.

Three out of four provinces in Atlantic Canada provided updates on the pandemic Saturday but no new cases were announced. There are only a handful of active cases remaining in the region.

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On Friday, British Columbia added 179 new cases, though 40 of them dated back to early August, and Alberta reported 107 new positive tests.






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Coronavirus: Yaffe says Ontario is in a wave, but unclear if province has entered the ‘big second wave’


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On Saturday, the U.S. coronavirus death toll was poised to reach 200,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Around the world, more than 30 million people have been diagnosed with the illness, and nearly 954,000 people have lost their lives.

—With files from The Canadian Press, Mickey Djuric, Ryan Rocca and David Lao, Global News

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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