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'We are no longer comfortable': How Canada's rising COVID-19 cases have some abandoning back-to-school plans – CTV News

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TORONTO —
With the new school year beginning over the next few weeks in Canada, the recent rise in COVID-19 infections across the country has prompted many parents to reconsider whether to send their children for in-person at school this fall or keep them at home for online learning or home-schooling.

With daily new cases across Canada rising from a low of less than 300 in mid-July, to approximately 2,400 on Friday, CTVNews.ca asked Canadians whether they had recently changed their minds about their childrens’ schooling.

The responses were emailed to CTVNews.ca. Not all have been independently verified, though CTVNews.ca did contact several respondents for additional details.

The question of how parents plan to approach the school year is complicated by the fact that the availability and rules surrounding online learning vary across the provinces and by school board, as do the deadlines for choosing which stream parents want their children in this fall.

This means some parents have had to make their choice before parents in other jurisdictions, and in areas where online learning did not seem to be a viable option, some parents have elected to simply home-school their children.

Overall, the responses showed that, across the country, many parents share concerns about the recent rise in COVID-19 infections and have either recently reconsidered, or are now reconsidering whether to send their children back to school for in-person learning.

“A couple of months ago I was on the fence about sending my child to primary at a local school or home-school him. As the COVID cases started increasing across Canada and now in my province, we have decided he will be home-schooled this year,” Erin Macvicar of Sydney, N.S., a mother of four including a 5-year-old about to start primary school, emailed to CTVNews.ca.

For parents of young children, the decision is complicated by the fact that no vaccines are yet approved for children under 12.

While approximately 72 per cent of eligible Canadians are now fully vaccinated, according to the CTVNews.ca coronavirus vaccination tracker, some parents cited concerns about vaccination rates among teachers and other school personnel.

“With the way things are rapidly changing we are no longer comfortable sending our children back to the classroom this fall,” wrote Ashleigh Kannenberg Martin of Orangeville, Ont. “Prior to reconsidering a return, we would want to know what percentage of teachers and administrators are vaccinated in each facility.”

Kannenberg, who said she and her husband had been looking forward to sending their children back to in-person learning, also said she would like to see specific information on ventilation capabilities at schools.

“With what is unraveling in the U.S., we as parents feel that our best plan of action is to be more cautious than not,” she wrote.

WANTING A DO-OVER

Facing deadlines for choosing between online and in-person learning, some parents found themselves regretting decisions made earlier in the year.

“My school board requested in June that I made a decision, and I did decide to send my daughter back in person after a year of virtual school. Now I am struggling to switch her back to online given the fears of the fourth wave,” wrote Ahilia Singh Morales, whose anxiety is heightened by the fact that she works in a hospital emergency room.

A complicating factor for many has been different school boards’ varying deadlines for selecting in-person learning.

The Toronto District School Board, the country’s largest, had a deadline of Aug. 12, but other boards required parents to make their decisions much sooner.

“We had to let the school board know by April and we felt it was too soon to make a decision, so our children were automatically enrolled in physical school for their school board,” wrote Rachel Brethour-McMichael of Blenheim, Ont. Her daughters, aged 13 and 7, attend school in the Lambton-Kent District School Board, which imposed an April 21 deadline for choosing virtual learning.

Since then, they have attempted to switch to virtual learning, but have been told there is no room left, said Brethour-McMichael.

“My option now is to sit on a wait list, not knowing or being able to prepare my children for what type of schooling they’re taking in just a couple weeks,” she wrote.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL GUIDELINES

While the rising infection numbers were cited by the majority of respondents as a reason to reconsider keeping their children at home, some also mentioned dissatisfaction with provincial back-to-school guidelines.

Ellie Lo, a York Region mother of four, including two unvaccinated children going into Grades 3 and 5, said both the rising numbers and Ontario back-to school guidelines meant she was no longer comfortable sending her younger children back to class.

“Classrooms and buses could be at full capacity, and wind instruments/singing lessons would be permitted, but we all know schools cannot accommodate 2-metre distancing,” she wrote.

For Kim Tessier of Navan, Ontario, whose twins will be entering Grade 8 in the fall, a key issue is the lack of vaccine mandates at the school board level.

“If the Delta variant is of such great concern why are vaccines not being mandated for the staff and kids to help curb the spread?” she wrote. “I have issues with there being so many other mandatory vaccines for kids in school but this is not one of them.”

NO CHOICE IN THE MATTER

Some of the responses revealed the difficult situation faced by parents whose work situation means that they cannot stay home with their children.

“My 8-year-old daughter will be returning to school in person. I am a single mother than has to work full-time to pay the bills. I have no choice,” wrote Jess Wood of St. Catharines, Ontario.

“I’m scared and hesitant because my father passed away in January 2021 from COVID-19, but what else can I do? I just have to trust the guidelines and hope for the best,” she added.

Paulina, a mother of two boys who lives near Hamilton, Ontario, said she had kept her two sons at home for virtual learning last year and hoped to again, but that she had been told by her employer she would have to return to work in person.

“I don’t feel comfortable sending my kids to school but I do want to keep my job,” she wrote.

WAITING FOR VACCINE APPROVALS

For some parents who had hoped to send their children back to school, the current risks have now made the issue of in-person learning a non-starter until vaccines are approved and distributed to children under 12.

Stephanie Savoni and her husband had kept their 9-year-old son at home in Windsor, Ont. since the pandemic started, but had notified the local board ahead of a June 4 deadline that he would be attending in-person learning this year, as they were comforted by the rapid pace of vaccinations in early June.

“We watched as case counts went down in June and July, and felt confident in our decision,” Savoni wrote. “In recent weeks however, the case numbers are climbing in Windsor-Essex (County) and we are feeling extremely concerned about our decision.”

Complicating the matter for her is that her husband is a transplant recipient, which raises questions about the efficacy of his vaccination. She said stricter action should be taken to avoid a repeat of last year, when rising case counts saw schools sending students home.

“While it would be an unpopular decision, it would be reasonable in my view to have all children do remote learning until they are vaccinated,” she wrote.

Shannon Twiss of Langley B.C., a mother of a 10-year-old, agreed, in a response that was brief and to-the-point.

“We won’t be sending our child until there is a vaccine,” she wrote.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Surges in coronavirus cases in several U.S. states this week, along with staffing and equipment shortages, are exacting a mounting toll on hospitals and their workers even as the number of new admissions nationwide ebbs, leading to warnings at some facilities that care would be rationed.

Montana, Alaska, Ohio, Wisconsin and Kentucky experienced the biggest rises in new COVID-19 hospitalizations during the week ending Sept. 10 compared with the previous week, with Montana’s new hospitalizations rising by 26 per cent, according to the latest report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday.

In Alaska, the influx is so heavy that the state’s largest hospital is no longer able to provide life-saving care to every patient who needs it, according to an open letter from the medical executive committee of Providence Alaska Medical Center this week.

“If you or your loved one need specialty care at Providence, such as a cardiologist, trauma surgeon, or a neurosurgeon, we sadly may not have room now,” the letter read. “There are no more staffed beds left.”

Women run past an exhibition of white flags representing Americans who have died of COVID-19, placed over 20 acres of the National Mall, in Washington, on Friday. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Some hospital workers have become so overwhelmed by the fresh wave of COVID-19 cases — a year and half after the pandemic first reached the United States — that they have left for jobs at retailing and other non-medical fields, Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety the American Hospital Association, told Reuters.

At the same time, distribution and other issues are leaving some hospitals short of oxygen supplies desperately needed to help patients struggling to breathe, Foster said.

On Friday, the hospital association held a webinar for its members on how to conserve oxygen, an effort to address a 200 per cent jump in demand at many hospitals, she said.

“There is a shortage of drivers with the qualifications to transport oxygen, and a shortage of the tanks needed to transport it.”

While there are some breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, Foster said most of the hospitalizations were among the unvaccinated.

New hospital admissions are still surging in several mostly rural and Midwestern states, even as the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals daily in the entire United States slipped to about 10,685 on Tuesday after cresting around 13,028 in late August, according to the latest data from the CDC.


What’s happening across Canada

Calgary doctor worries about triage amid COVID-19 surge

2 days ago

Emergency room physician Dr. Joe Vipond says the crush of seriously ill people from COVID-19 may force doctors to make life or death decisions for patients. ‘We never wanted to be in this position,’ he said. (Nancy Walters/CBC) 1:09

  • Health authority, N.B. working to meet demand for COVID-19 tests amid surge in cases.
  • Outbreaks are ‘a weird moment’ for P.E.I. Here’s one expert’s advice on how to cope.
  • N.S. reports 18 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

What’s happening around the world

As of Friday afternoon, more than 227.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.

The British government announced a major simplification of its rules for international travel on Friday, heeding complaints from travellers and businesses that its regulations aimed at staving off the spread of COVID-19 were cumbersome and ineffective.

Testing requirements will be eased for fully vaccinated arrivals to England from open countries, who will no longer have to take a COVID-19 test before travelling. Travellers will still need a test after landing, but from the end of October an inexpensive lateral flow test will suffice, rather than a more sensitive — but pricier — polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The new rules apply to travellers from Canada.

In the Americas, an influential panel of expert outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted against approving COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans, but endorsing them for those 65 and over and for those at high risk of severe disease.

The decision marked a huge step back from the sweeping plan proposed by the Biden administration a month ago to offer booster shots of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to nearly all Americans eight months after they get their second dose.

In Asia, Cambodia is vaccinating children ages six to 11 so students can safely return to schools that have been closed for months due to the coronavirus. Prime Minister Hun Sen opened the campaign Friday, with his grandchildren and young family members of other senior officials getting their shots.

Children wait before they receive a shot of the Sinovac vaccine outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Friday. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the start of a nationwide campaign to give COVID-19 vaccinations to children between the ages of six and 11. (Heng Sinith/The Associated Press)

Cambodia already has been vaccinating older children, and Hun Sen says he ordered health officials to study if children ages three to five can be vaccinated. Nearly 72 per cent of Cambodia’s almost 17 million people have received at least one COVID-19 shot since vaccinations began in February. 

India gave a record 22.6 million vaccinations on Friday, three times the average daily total during the past month. The health minister called the vaccine milestone a birthday gift for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who turned 71 and was criticized heavily for India’s dramatic rise in infections and deaths in April and May.

India’s previous vaccination peak of 14.1 million was reached on Aug. 31, with a daily average of seven million doses in the last 30 days.

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'Trudeau is bad for Canada,' Singh says as Liberal leader asks progressives to unite – CBC.ca

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh launched his most pointed attack yet on his Liberal opponent today, saying Justin Trudeau is a failed leader who is “bad for Canada.”

Trudeau, meanwhile, dismissed the NDP as an unserious option, saying the NDP has presented a vague plan to spend $200 billion more over the next five years while offering few details.

“We think Mr. Trudeau is bad for Canada because he’s failed on the crises and made things worse, not better,” Singh said, condemning Trudeau for voting against non-binding NDP motions on pharmacare and long-term care homes.

Singh also pointed to higher greenhouse gas emissions and a tax system he said is skewed toward the “ultra rich.”

“He is bad for Canada. He was an abject failure,” Singh said of Trudeau.

WATCH: Singh says ‘Mr. Trudeau is bad for Canada’

Jagmeet Singh: ‘Mr. Trudeau is bad for Canada…Mr. O’Toole is also bad for Canada’

8 hours ago

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole are “bad for Canada.” He was asked by reporters if there’s any party he would not work with if Monday’s vote elects a minority government. 0:41

With just three days left in the 44th general election, Singh and Trudeau are scrambling to shore up support among the progressive voters who could decide which party governs the country after Monday’s vote.

Trudeau wants a majority government. Singh, meanwhile, is trying to avoid a repeat of the last election — which saw NDP support crater, leading to a loss of 15 seats.

Trudeau said a vote for the NDP would amount to a vote for the Conservatives because vote-splitting could put Erin O’Toole in the Prime Minister’s Office. Singh said left-wing voters shouldn’t fall for Liberal pressure tactics.

“The Liberal Party is not only the only party that can stop the Conservatives, but we’re also the only party with a real plan to get things done,” Trudeau said, pointing to experts who have criticized the NDP’s climate plan as unrealistic.

“Progressives are quite rightly worried. I know there are a lot of people out there who are torn. You don’t have to make an impossible choice and vote strategically. You can actually vote for the party that is going to stop the Conservatives and move forward with the strongest plan to get things done.”

Trudeau prompted this election last month, saying the opposition parties have blocked the Liberal agenda by delaying government bills and disrupting the work of parliamentary committees.

 WATCH: A roundup of where the leaders were on Day 34 of the campaign

A roundup of where the leaders were on Day 34 of the campaign

3 hours ago

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole were all in Ontario. People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier is headed to Alberta. Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet stayed in Quebec, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh toured Nova Scotia. 7:28

Since the election call, Trudeau has been asked over and over to explain why he’s sending Canadians to the polls during the fourth wave of the pandemic. The CBC Poll Tracker suggests some Liberal supporters soured on Trudeau after the campaign launch — and the majority government the party wanted may now be out of reach.

When asked Friday how he’d handle another minority government, Trudeau said he’s asking voters to return as many Liberal MPs as possible to prevent that outcome.

Singh dodged questions today about the concessions he’d try to extract from the next government in exchange for NDP support on confidence motions.

Singh said he hasn’t given this much thought because he’s running to be prime minister. Polls suggest the NDP will be hard pressed to do better than third place, let alone form a government.

Asked today why his campaign has failed to catch on with more voters, Singh said the election isn’t over.

“We’re working hard and the Liberals often take people’s votes for granted,” he said. “I’m always prepared to work hard.”

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U.S. senators push Biden to lift border closure with Canada – CBC.ca

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Four U.S. senators on Friday asked President Joe Biden to lift restrictions that have barred travel by Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020.

Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana and independent Angus King of Maine asked Biden to allow Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States before October.

The border state senators said in a letter the restrictions have led to “economic and emotional strain in our communities.”

The senators added: “A plan with some indication of when your administration would feel comfortable lifting border restrictions based on public health data would provide clarity to businesses and families along the northern border.”

They also noted that Canadians can fly to the United States. “We struggle to understand the public health rationale for the disparate treatment in modes of travel,” the senators wrote.

The White House did not immediately comment on Friday, but White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday that given the delta variant of the coronavirus, “we will maintain the existing travel restrictions at this point.”

U.S. officials and travel industry executives say the White House is set to renew the restrictions before the latest extension expires on Sept. 21.

In August, the United States again extended restrictions closing its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel such as tourism despite Ottawa’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans. Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.

The United States has continued to extend the extraordinary restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020, when they were imposed to address the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. land border restrictions do not bar U.S. citizens from returning home.

The United States separately bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

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