Apple to reopen a store in Shanghai on February 15

A closed Apple store is seen as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Shanghai

(Reuters) - Apple Inc <AAPL.O> said on Friday it would reopen one of the seven retail stores it has in Shanghai from Feb. 15 with reduced working hours, a day after the iPhone maker said a few retail stores in Beijing would start functioning from Feb. 14.

The company extended its retail store closures in conronavirus-hit China last week, while it worked towards opening its corporate offices and contact centers in the country.

Coronavirus has claimed 1,380 lives, infected 63,851 on the Chinese mainland, and has spread to at least 24 countries.

It has led to lockdown of cities, extended new year holidays and factory closures that have disrupted the supply chains of several companies.




(Reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

  • How doctors in Canada will decide who lives and dies if pandemic worsens
    News
    The Canadian Press

    How doctors in Canada will decide who lives and dies if pandemic worsens

    When there's only one ventilator but two patients who need it, how should a doctor decide who gets the chance to survive?Medical ethicists across the country are working to help frontline workers answer weighty questions should the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelm hospitals the way it has in northern Italy and New York City."These are not decisions we want to make," said Dr. Timothy Christie, who convenes an ethics committee that gives advice on pandemic response policy in New Brunswick."The planning that people are doing right now, they're doing the best to make it so we don't end up there."On Wednesday, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned that Canada's health-care system could be deluged in each of Ottawa's pandemic scenarios. The system is not designed to deal with a surge of COVID-19 cases, which could mean facing difficult decisions about how to allocate sparse resources, she said.Since the novel coronavirus was first confirmed in Canada, officials in several provinces have been developing guides so that doctors don't feel alone in making life and death decisions.British Columbia's ethical framework builds on work started during the H1N1 epidemic and Ebola crisis. It addresses specific ethical questions on everything from distributing personal protective equipment and ventilators to "decision making about who will get scarce treatment if that comes to pass," Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said last week."No single individual physician or clinician will have to make that decision on their own."In Ontario, officials have announced the formation of an "ethics table" led by the University of Toronto's joint centre for bioethics.Alberta is working on a framework too."The focus will be on ensuring as many patients as possible receive the care they need," Tom McMillan, a spokesman with Alberta Health, said in an email.In New Brunswick, clinicians will be given a principle to help them make decisions based on their expertise.Christie's committee is recommending a fundamental shift in the underlying principle that doctors use to make treatment decisions if there aren't enough hospital beds and ventilators."In cases where resources are limited, we would allocate the resources to people for whom we think will have the best outcome," said Christie, who is also regional director of ethics services for the Horizon Health Network, the province's anglophone health authority."That's fundamentally different than the way we'd do it in normal circumstances."Under normal circumstances, Christie said doctors ask patients what their goals are. A patient with terminal cancer might wish to spend one last Christmas with his family, and treatment plans can be adjusted to help reach that goal.COVID-19 could create a scenario where using a ventilator to keep someone alive for an extra few months comes at the expense of another person's life, he said.The challenge is determining how you define outcomes when comparing patients."There's a lot of debate about how you define the best outcome. Some people would say it's the amount of life you could live," Christie said. In other words, choosing to save the younger of two patients."We reject that approach," Christie said.A 20-year-old and a 55-year-old both have "significant" amounts of life left, so the difference between them is not morally relevant, he said.Age isn't the only factor being debated by the New Brunswick committee as it considers how to avoid discriminating against someone who develops COVID-19 after all ventilators are already in use.Rather than stockpiling ventilators in anticipation of future cases, Christie said they are advising that a new patient be assessed against those already being ventilated. If the new patient has a good chance of surviving, doctors could ethically end the treatment for another patient who isn't responding, he said.But an ethical framework won't help doctors who have to decide between two patients with nearly identical outcomes."In that circumstance you have an arbitrary decision. It's going to be tragic, it's going to be heartbreaking and it's going to be arbitrary — and there's no ethical principle that all of a sudden can make it better," Christie said. "That's no one's fault."This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

  • Ontario to shut down some construction sectors amid COVID-19 outbreak, premier says
    News
    CBC

    Ontario to shut down some construction sectors amid COVID-19 outbreak, premier says

    Recent developments: * Premier announces province will be shutting down some parts of the construction industry. * Province's top health officials reveal projections suggesting COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people. * Ontario confirmed 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Provincial total now at 3,255. * Official tally includes 67 deaths. * CBC News has accumulated data from local public health units and counted 81 deaths in the province. * Across the province, 1,023 cases are considered resolved. * A total of 66,753 tests have been administered province-wide and 1,245 people are awaiting test results. * Pinecrest Nursing Home reporting four more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there bringing the total to 20. * Health unit west of Toronto apologizes after mistakenly mailing letters to 16 people telling them that their COVID-19 tests were negative when they were in fact positive. * Minister of Health Christine Elliott announces new online site for the public to access their COVID-19 test results. * Province issues new order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to give health units more flexibility through hiring retired nurses, medical students and volunteers.Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will be shutting down some parts of the province's construction industry amid efforts to contain COVID-19. The changes come as the government updates its list of essential businesses and services in response to recommendations from public health officials to further restrict physical interactions between people.Private sector industrial, commercial and institutional projects will be affected, while public sector infrastructure work and some residential construction will be allowed to continue. Projects related to the health-care sector, including any work necessary to ensure the production of critical equipment and medical devices, as well those required to maintain the operations of petrochemical plants and refineries, will be exempted from the shut down.Ford said he'll continue to follow the advice of public health officials to determine whether the list of essential businesses needs to be further refined, but reaffirmed that supply chains for food and other essential items will remain in place, meaning grocery stores and pharmacies, for example, will remain open.Meanwhile, Ontario's retail cannabis outlets have been taken off the essential list and will be forced to close, although people can still order from the province's online store. Meanwhile, the province's top health officials revealed projections that suggest COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people in the province over the course of the pandemic, which could last up to two years. You can read more about that here, or review the province's presentation of that data for yourself at the bottom of this story."I think it's important that we're all robustly realistic about the scale of the challenge we face," Dr. Peter Donnelly, who heads Public Health Ontario, said at the news conference on Friday. But those projections also show that Ontario's actions so far to slow the spread of COVID-19 have prevented thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases, and that stricter action today would save hundreds more lives.Just two days ago Premier Doug Ford resisted calls to release the projections. Now, he says the move could also serve as a "wake-up call" to some Ontarians who aren't taking physical distancing measures seriously."These numbers are stark and sobering," Ford said at a news conference following the release of the projections on Friday. 'The numbers are real,' Williams saysOntario's chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams says he hopes the numbers will push people to continue observing the guidelines from the health authorities."The numbers are real, the numbers are challenging, they may for some people be a bit scary," Williams said at an afternoon news conference. "I think the need is to turn that apprehension into determination to do what we need to do, because we told you what you need to do. You can do it. We have made an impact. "You have made an impact and as the premier said, we know that the people of Ontario are up to the task of doing that and we ask you to focus hard on that for the next two-week period," Williams added.Non-Canadians with no health insurance will be treatedMeanwhile, Williams said non-Canadians with no insurance coverage should not hesitate to visit an assessment centre if they believe they are infected."We have tried to make it as easy as possible ... to advise and help them in their health condition and to confirm for them very quickly if they have a positive level or not," Williams said. "They often are with fellow international individuals, whether in a classroom setting or other ones, so they would not only want to protect themselves but those around them and to be advised accordingly."While noting that he's not aware of people failing to come forward, Williams emphasized that there are close to 100 assessment centres and they're more than willing to see those in need of testing. "You don't have to have the coverage or the citizenship. We want to identify you if you think you're at risk. We want to see you and we want to help you," Williams added.Provincial total of cases up to 3,255 Ontario confirmed 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 3,255.The official tally includes 67 deaths, however CBC News has accumulated data from local public health units and counted 97 deaths in the province.Another 1,023 cases are considered resolved — a roughly 30 per cent jump since the last update. Some 1,245 people are awaiting test results, more than 800 fewer than Thursday. A total of 66,753 tests have been administered provincewide.The newest data provides a snapshot of the situation in Ontario as of 4 p.m. ET yesterday.In terms of hospitalizations: * 462 cases of COVID-19 have been hospitalized. * 194 cases are in intensive care units. * 140 cases are on ventilators.The province also offered this breakdown of cases since Jan. 15, 2020: * 48.5 per cent are male, while 50.9 per cent are female.  * About 32 per cent of cases are 60 years of age and older.  * Greater Toronto Area public health units account for 53 per cent of cases. Meanwhile, a nursing home in central Ontario is reporting four more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there, bringing the total to 20.The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.False test results in PeelMeanwhile, a regional health unit west of Toronto has apologized after it mistakenly mailed letters to 16 people telling them that their COVID-19 tests were negative when they were in fact positive.Dr. Lawrence Loh, interim medical officer of health in Peel, said in a statement that the letters were mailed on Tuesday and Wednesday. His unit was made aware of the errors late Thursday, he added."I know the relief those residents felt for a few moments has sadly been transformed into feelings of fear and uncertainty. Our team is working quickly to notify these residents and make sure they have what they need to manage this difficult situation," Loh said.An investigation revealed that several positive test slips were mixed with a batch of negative results received from labs, according to Loh. Peel's health unit has changed its process to avoid repeating the mistakes again."On behalf of the Region of Peel, I extend apologies to those residents impacted by this error," Loh said.Online portal for test resultsMinister of Health Christine Elliott announced a new online site for the public to access their COVID-19 test results.The hope is that it will ease the burden on local public health units "so that they can better focus on containing COVID-19," Elliott said in a news release.Further, the province also issued a new order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to give health units more flexibility through hiring retired nurses, medical students and volunteers.The order comes after Ontario's top medical official recommended more aggressive contact tracing to track community spread of the coronavirus.You can read the full Ontario government model below:

  • Canadian passengers on virus-stricken Coral Princess cruise ship worry how they'll get home
    News
    CBC

    Canadian passengers on virus-stricken Coral Princess cruise ship worry how they'll get home

    Canadian passengers on the Coral Princess cruise ship nearing Fort Lauderdale, Fla., worry how they'll get home after at least a dozen COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed on board.Their fears are stoked by the recent experience of the MS Zaandam, a Holland America Line cruise ship that struggled to secure permission to dock in Fort Lauderdale because it, too, had a COVID-19 outbreak on board.There are 1,020 passengers — including 97 Canadians — and 878 crew members on board the Coral Princess.Passenger Frank Béchamp, of Nepean, Ont., said the ship announced the virus outbreak on Wednesday night."Our hearts sunk in momentary despair," said Béchamp, 71, in an interview conducted by phone and email. "All aboard pray that the U.S.A. authorities permit us to dock and provide us passage to the airport so that we may continue our journey home."The Coral Princess set sail on March 5 on a South American cruise — at a time when there were very few cases of COVID-19 in South America. It was set to dock in Fort Lauderdale on April 4, though it now appears those plans are on hold. On Thursday, Princess Cruises said in a statement that out of 13 passengers and crew tested for COVID-19 on board, 12 were positive for the illness. Passengers are confined to their cabins and have been given face masks. Regarding docking in Fort Lauderdale, the cruise line said that it "continues to seek approvals through multiple diplomatic channels" and work with local officials in the region. Port Everglades — the Fort Lauderdale port where the Coral Princess is scheduled to dock on Saturday — told CBC News that the ship no longer plans to arrive on that day. It said it had no further information at this time."Everyone's a bit on edge," said passenger Gary Lyon, 62, of Toronto, who has been communicating with fellow Canadians on board by email. "We're very eager to get home."'Let us off'The Coral Princess cut its cruise short in mid-March amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic. But the ship struggled to find a port to let passengers disembark and return home after nearby countries, such as Argentina and Brazil, shut their borders to foreigners.Many passengers — including some Canadians — were able to disembark on March 19 in Buenos Aires to catch a flight home. But other passengers who had a flight departing the following day stayed on the ship — and then were stuck there after Argentina decided to close its borders to foreigners at midnight."Complete disappointment, I mean, we were all packed," said Lyon, who, along with Béchamp, missed his March 20 flight home. After a series of rejections, the Coral Princess set its course for Fort Lauderdale. But the virus-stricken Zaandam, which was also scheduled to dock there, faced opposition because the region is already battling its own COVID-19 epidemic.After much debate and grumbling from local politicians, the Zaandam and its sister ship, the Rotterdam were finally granted permission to dock on Thursday. Lyon said he hopes that means local officials will also let in the Coral Princess. "Let us off and put us on the fastest bus possible to the airport," said Lyon, adding that Princess Cruises said it would book flights home for passengers. Béchamp said he hopes the Canadian government will assist in getting Canadian passengers home. "We pray that our government is exploring every possible avenue with the U.S.A. port authorities to get us back to Canada." Global Affairs Canada told CBC News that it is speaking with various U.S. officials, along with other partner countries, to determine a final docking location for the Coral Princess.According to GAC, there are currently 145 Canadians still at sea on a total of seven cruise ships.Carnival Corp. respondsBoth Princess Cruises and Holland America are owned by Carnival Corporation.Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Holland America's Zaandam and four Princess cruise ships — the Diamond Princess, the Grand Princess, the Ruby Princess and the Coral Princess — have had coronavirus outbreaks.Only the Coral Princess is still at sea. As a result of those outbreaks, at least 13 people have died and more than 900 passengers have contracted COVID-19.Cruise lines suspended their operations in mid-March as the global pandemic spread, but some ships that were still at sea were unable to find an immediate place to dock.Carnival Corp. told CBC News that in comparison to the number of COVID-19 cases on land — which now totals one million — the spread of the virus on cruise ships pales in comparison."Any case is unfortunate," spokesperson Roger Frizzell said in an email. "But while there have been a few very high-profile instances of guests on cruise ships testing positive, in reality, these situations have been at a far lower rate by comparison than the rate of spread of COVID-19 throughout communities around the world."Cruise ships have strict cleansing and sanitation protocols, he said, and adopted enhanced screenings during the COVID-19 outbreak. Fizzell said that Carnival Corp. is working with health authorities on additional health and safety measures to further protect passengers on cruises.

  • Wuhan official urges vigilance as China plans to mourn coronavirus 'martyrs'
    News
    Reuters

    Wuhan official urges vigilance as China plans to mourn coronavirus 'martyrs'

    The top official in China's coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan warned residents to stay vigilant and avoid going out, even as the latest data showed a decline in new cases in the mainland and no new infections in the central city. China appears to have curbed the epidemic with draconian curbs that paralysed the world's second-biggest economy for two months. On Friday, the National Health Commission reported 31 new cases, down from 35 a day earlier and dramatically lower than February's peak.

  • Ontario returns to table with last teachers' union as backdrop for talks changes
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Ontario returns to table with last teachers' union as backdrop for talks changes

    TORONTO — The Ontario government is attempting to close an ugly round of bargaining as it restarts talks with the only remaining teachers' union without a contract, and an expert says the COVID-19 pandemic may create a path to labour peace.University of Toronto professor and former deputy education minister Charles Pascal says the unprecedented crisis, and the dramatic response that has altered daily life, have also changed the tone coming from the government.Pascal said Premier Doug Ford's government has abandoned the inflammatory rhetoric and divisive public bargaining it had engaged in with the province's teachers' unions since last summer, focusing instead on calm, clear pandemic response.That new approach appears to have had an effect on the once-turbulent talks that led to near-daily walkouts and strikes, closing schools just weeks ago."It takes the pressure off so that people can sit at the table, quietly, while attention is being paid elsewhere," he said. "All of a sudden the government wants to appear genuine about being fair in every direction."In recent weeks, the province has secured tentative agreements with three of four teachers' unions that had been without contracts since August.On Thursday, the government returned to the bargaining table with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, which is the last union without a deal.But with schools now shuttered until at least May because of the pandemic, and the government and teachers working together to help students learn from home, Pascal said the tension built up between all parties appears to have diminished."There's a kind of fairness that's arisen on the scene that's led to deals with the other federations," he said. "That's a good thing."Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday the government is ready to work with the OSSTF to reach an agreement."The time is now to drive deals with all remaining union partners," Lecce said in a statement. "We will remain a positive and driving force at the bargaining table, advancing the priorities of parents and students."OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said the union, which has been engaged in only informal discussions with the government since December, is also ready to get back to the bargaining table.He acknowledged that the pandemic has affected talks, even on a logistical level, with all future bargaining taking place via teleconference."Negotiations never happen in a vacuum, they happen in an environment," Bischof said. "The environment has an effect on bargaining. What exactly that will be isn't something I'm prepared to pre-judge."Bischof said he's not concerned that the public support he felt the teachers had built over the past few months has disappeared."I'm not worried," he said. "I'm cognizant of the reality within which we find ourselves. I have to tell you, it's the reality in which my members are ... doing their very best to provide continuity of learning for students, have reached out to students and are worried for them and their well-being."In recent weeks, the province has reached agreements with the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

  • Cruise passengers to land soon and 'Jesus Christ Superstar' streamable; In The News for April 3
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Cruise passengers to land soon and 'Jesus Christ Superstar' streamable; In The News for April 3

    In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 3 ...COVID-19 in Canada ...Canadians should brace for some grim numbers today as Ontario reveals its projections for how bad the COVID-19 pandemic could get in the country's most populous province and how long it could last.Premier Doug Ford's decision to let Ontarians in on the "stark" best and worst-case scenarios will put pressure on the federal government to provide a national picture of the potential progression of the deadly virus, which by Thursday had already infected more than 11,000 Canadians and resulted in almost 200 deaths.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that such national modelling is coming "soon" but requires more data from provincial and territorial governments — a subject he discussed with premiers during a more than two-hour first ministers' conference call Thursday evening.Federal officials are hoping the national projections will be available within the next five days.Three weeks ago, Health Minister Patty Hajdu estimated that 30 to 70 per cent of Canadians could become infected — somewhere between 11 million and 26 million people.In an interview late Thursday with The Canadian Press, Hajdu said that estimate hasn't changed.\---Also this ...Passengers stranded aboard two COVID-19-stricken cruise ships said they're finally hopeful their ordeal is nearing its end as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged Thursday to ensure the Canadians would stay in isolation upon their return.Trudeau said a chartered plane would carry asymptomatic Canadian passengers aboard the MS Zaandam and the MS Rotterdam home in the coming days, though he didn't provide an exact timeline.But Catherine McLeod of Ottawa, who was on the Zaandam with her husband before they were transferred to the Rotterdam, said she was preparing to come home, even before American officials gave the ships the go-ahead to dock in Florida on Thursday afternoon."It's kind of a done deal we're getting off this pleasure cruise," McLeod said in a phone interview from her cabin. "So we're very, very hopeful. I will feel 100 per cent better once the plane lifts off the runway. It's going to be one hell of a Hallelujah hoot going up then."She said she and her husband were waiting for a medical check-up to make sure they remained asymptomatic before getting their "disembarkation" papers."I think what they're trying to do is get our fannies on a bus and outta here ASAP," McLeod said.\---COVID-19 in the U.S. ...The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, as the president is aggressively defending his response to the public health crisis.The recommendations, still being finalized Thursday, were expected to apply to those who live in areas hard-hit by community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force's discussion said officials would suggest that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home — for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy. Medical-grade masks, particularly short-in-supply N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposed guidance before its public release.President Donald Trump, who was tested again for coronavirus Thursday using a new rapid test, indicated he would support such a recommendation. "If people wanted to wear them, they can," he said."It's not a bad idea, at least for a period of time," Trump had said earlier in the week.The White House said Trump's latest test returned a negative result in 15 minutes, and said Trump was "healthy and without symptoms."\---COVID-19 around the world ...Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida see the coronavirus as a threat, but some of their fighters also see the upheaval from the pandemic as an opportunity to win over more supporters and strike harder than before.Messages from the Islamic extremist groups show concern about the virus mixed with bravado, asserting that it is punishment for non-Muslims while also urging followers to repent and take care of themselves.Al-Qaida suggested in a statement Tuesday that non-Muslims use their time in quarantine to learn about Islam. But in a sharp commentary in its al-Naba newsletter in mid-March, IS urged followers to show no mercy and launch attacks in this time of crisis.In a commentary Tuesday, the International Crisis Group warned that the pandemic threatens the global solidarity that is key to fighting extremists, "allowing the jihadists to better prepare spectacular terror attacks."Though analysts said it was too soon to say which attacks can be blamed on militants exploiting the coronavirus, Islamic extremists in late March carried out their deadliest assault yet against the military of Chad, a significant contributor to Africa's growing counterterrorism efforts, killing at least 92 soldiers near the border with Nigeria and Niger.\---COVID-19 in sportsThe Seattle Metropolitans were 20 minutes from a second Stanley Cup title in the spring of 1919, 20 minutes from adding their names to the trophy again.Odie Cleghorn's goal for the Montreal Canadiens early in the third period of Game 5 sparked a rally that ensured there would be no celebration that day — or ever. The 1919 series took a grim turn from there.Instead of ending with a title for Seattle, or with an epic comeback by Montreal, the series became known for being cancelled during the Spanish flu pandemic that sickened several players and eventually took the life of Montreal's Joe Hall.Some are drawing parallels to what's happening today with the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertain future for the NHL's current season."(A few) weeks ago, I didn't think that would ever happen again. It was just such a quirky little footnote in history, and it was a funny little story, and 'I can't believe this happened,'" said author Kevin Ticen, who has chronicled the Metropolitans, including in a book, "When It Mattered Most," about the 1917 season."Now we're sitting here and history has repeated itself. I mean, to me it's exactly the same."The abandoned 1919 finals were just one of two instances since 1893 where the championship trophy was not awarded.The only other time no champion was crowned was when the 2005 lockout wiped out the entire NHL season.\---COVID-19 in entertainmentIconic composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is making some of his filmed musicals available for free on YouTube nostalgic theatre goers wanting to be entertained while stuck at home.On Friday, the 2000 West End adaptation of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" starring Donny Osmond will be streamable.That will be followed a week later by the rock classic "Jesus Christ Superstar" from the 2012 arena show starring Tim Minchin.Further shows will be announced later, all hosted by the YouTube channel The Show Must Go On.Each show will be available at 2 p.m. Eastern/11 a.m. Pacific for a 48-hour period online, with no charge or sign up required.\---This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, April 3
    News
    CBC

    What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, April 3

    Recent developments:Here's what's happening todayNew projections from Ontario show COVID-19 could kill between 3,000 and 15,000 people and could affect the province for up to two years. Premier Doug Ford called the projections "a wake-up call" on Thursday.The federal government has yet to release its natonwide projections.WATCH: What if Ontario did nothing against COVID-19?Ottawa bylaw officers say after issuing dozens of warnings, they will start to fine people for breaking COVID-19 rules.Other communities such as Kingston, Ont. and Gatineau are in a similar boat.How many cases do we have?There are now 289 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa and more than 500 in the region, including seven deaths linked to the coronavirus. Confirmed cases are just a snapshot because of the limits of testing. There are likely thousands more.Distancing and isolatingPhysical distancing means avoiding non-essential trips, working from home, cancelling all gatherings and staying at least two metres away from others when out for a walk.WATCH: What good physical distancing will do to the pandemicTravellers who return to Canada must now self-isolate for 14-days: staying home and asking others to leave supplies at the door.Anyone who is older than 70, or who has a compromised immune system, or who has been in close contact with  someone who either has tested positive or has symptoms after recent travel should also self-isolate for 14 days.People who feel sick should self-isolate for 14 days or until their symptoms are gone for 24 hours, whichever is longer.How daily life is changingQuebec has banned non-essential travel into and through western Quebec, which police are enforcing with moving checkpoints.WATCH: Gatineau police explain what's not allowedParks are only open to walk through and authorities are watching for gatherings in many communities.WATCH: A how-to guide for Ottawa's park rulesOntario and Quebec schools are closed until May and all non-essential businesses should be closed. Public transit authorities are scaling back service. Essential services like waste collection continue. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?They range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection. The most common symptoms include fever, fatigue and a dry cough.Older people, those with compromised immune systems and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious problems.The coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.Ottawa Public Health says unless you need an N-95 mask for your job, only people with respiratory illnesses and those caring for sick people should wear them.Homemade masks may do little to stop the spread of the virus — aside from stopping people from touching their faces and muffling a cough or sneeze. Kingston General Hospital has banned staff from wearing them.WATCH: Is the advice on face masks changing?The germs can also spread through close, prolonged contact, such as handshaking, and via surfaces such as door handles, phones and light switches.Most people with mild symptoms can self-isolate and get better. If you have severe symptoms, call 911.Where to get testedAnyone concerned they have COVID-19 in Ontario can fill out its online assessment tool. Ottawans who have a new or worsening cough or fever and have left the country — or have spent time with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days — should visit the COVID-19 screening centre at the Brewer Arena.The centre is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 151 Brewer Way. You don't have to call ahead.Starting Monday a former school in Bells Corners will become a care centre for people with moderate symptoms from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.The assessment centre at the Kingston Memorial Centre at 303 York St. is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for anyone with symptoms.WATCH: Kingston teacher sets public health advice to Lady Gaga tune The public health unit in the Belleville area is asking people only call it at 613-966-5500 if they still have questions after the province's self-assessment.Same for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark's unit at 1-800-660-5853 extension 2499.It has testing sites by referral from a family doctor or the health unit only in Brockville, Almonte and Smiths Falls and a new home test service for people in care or with mobility challenges. Call the health unit to ask about one.There is a drive-thru test centre in Casselman, Ont. open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 872 Principale St. for people with worsening symptoms, like the test site at 750 Laurier St. in Hawkesbury, Ont., open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. No need to call ahead.WATCH: Firefighters, police show support for health-care workers in HawkesburyThere are others by appointment only in WInchester, Ont., by calling your family doctor or Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000, and Cornwall, Ont. Call 613-935-7762 if you have worsening symptoms.Only people older than age 70 in that area or who have chronic health problems or compromised immune systems can call 613-933-1375 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to ask about a home visit from paramedics.Renfrew County is providing home testing under some circumstances.Call Telehealth, your health care provider or it at 613-735-8654 if you still have more questions.Anyone who doesn't have or can't reach a family doctor can call its new primary health-care centre at 1-844-727-6404 if they have any health questions.In western Quebec:Outaouais residents should call 819-644-4545 if they have a cough or fever, whether they've travelled or not. You could be referred to Gatineau's testing centre.If your symptoms require a trip to the ER, call ahead if you can to let them know your travel history.First Nations communitiesAkwesasne, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) and Pikwakanagan have declared states of emergency..With a confirmed case in the American part of Akwesasne, anyone returning from farther than 80 kilometres away is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.Anyone in MBQ who has symptoms can call 613-967-3603 to talk to a nursePikwakanagan's new council has ordered all businesses to close.Kitigan Zibi has scaled back non-essential services.For more information, visit:

  • How to handle cash during the COVID-19 pandemic
    CBC

    How to handle cash during the COVID-19 pandemic

    With recent efforts to limit the spread of germs and reduce contact, a look at how to handle cash during a pandemic.

  • Cardboard cutouts pose as guests for wedding amid COVID-19
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Cardboard cutouts pose as guests for wedding amid COVID-19

    DOWAGIAC, Mich. — Cardboard cutout wedding guests will make for a not-so-cookie-cutter wedding as a Michigan couple prepares to tie the knot during the coronavirus pandemic.After Amy Simonson and Dan Stuglik’s wedding plans were disrupted amid the outbreak, a packaging company donated more than 100 cardboard cutouts to pose as stand-ins for the family and friends who couldn’t attend the wedding this Saturday because of Michigan’s stay-at-home order.Menasha Packaging Co. in Coloma made cutouts to resemble guests tall and short, young and old, with long hair, short hair and ponytails."(Stuglik) was just looking for a general person shape, but I was able to make a little bit more realistic audience for them,” Ted Harris, customer service and design manager at Menasha, told The Herald-Palladium.Stuglik, a Coloma Township police officer, said he’ll forever be thankful to Menasha for helping him do something special for his fiancée.“I wanted to do something (creative) so she wouldn’t walk down the aisle to an empty church,” he said. “That was a painful part, that her wedding was being stripped away from her, but Menasha helped bring a little back.”The Associated Press

  • News
    CBC

    Confirmed case of COVID-19 at Calgary women's shelter

    A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at the YW Sheriff King shelter for women and their children, representatives said Thursday.An employee at the facility developed symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 on March 21 and has been in self-isolation since the symptoms began, said Delia Popa, a spokesperson for YW."Keeping our employees and clients safe is our top priority. We are an essential service because the 200 women and children we serve in our shelters and housing facilities have nowhere else to go," Popa said in an email. Alberta Health Services reached out to everyone who came in contact with the employee, Popa said, and those individuals have been in self-isolation since March 21.During Thursday's daily news conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, confirmed the case, saying the safety of these facilities is a "serious issue.""It's one that is being faced across Canada," she said. "I know that residents and their families are concerned, and I want to stress that I hear their concerns."Please know that we are doing everything possible to protect them from COVID-19."Remaining a safe spaceKim Ruse, CEO of the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter, said that given the scope of the pandemic, it was only a matter of time before a case showed up in such a setting."I'm not surprised, because communal living situations are particularly at risk," Ruse said. "However, I also know that all the shelters in the city are following the protocols as laid out by Alberta Health Services and doing their very best to keep the environment very safe."Despite concern surrounding communal living facilities, Ruse said shelters were working hard to provide clean and safe conditions so they could continue to serve the community."There's a recognition that in times like these, family violence does increase. So we need to be able to be a safe space for women to be able to go to," Ruse said.

  • Mexican official says no plans for border closures, as death toll rises
    News
    Reuters

    Mexican official says no plans for border closures, as death toll rises

    Mexico's deputy health minister said on Thursday there are no plans for border closures even as the country's death toll from the coronavirus jumped to 50 from 37 a day earlier. "There's no plan, because there's no intention to use the border closure mechanism as if it were a useful mechanism for controlling the epidemic," the deputy minister, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said during his regular evening news conference.

  • News
    CBC

    Alberta to face its 'worst contraction' ever, ATB chief economist warns

    The COVID-19 pandemic and its related economic fallout is poised to change Alberta's economy permanently, says ATB chief economist Todd Hirsch."This pandemic and this economic fallout will permanently reshape our economy," Hirsch said during a webinar hosted Thursday by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce."I've had a hard time in the last couple of weeks being an optimist on this. I do think this is something very serious for our economy … I do expect this to be the worst contraction Alberta has ever seen."Hirsch acknowledged there are many unknowns in the coming months. There are questions surrounding how long physical distancing will last and how long it will take for global oil demand to return.He said Alberta's energy sector is being hit extra hard, and entered the intensifying stages of this pandemic "already in a compromised position."Hirsch said he's "not as convinced" oil demand will be back up by the end of this year, citing concerns with transporting oil."To be honest, I'm not really that optimistic in a quick rebound for this city," he said.As a result, a potential recession could be on par with or as bad as the Great Depression, Hirsch said.His views on the economy echo Premier Jason Kenney's statement last month that Alberta's oil and gas industry is "on life support."Though the global economy could recover from the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, Kenney said Alberta's finances could suffer if an oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia drags on.Potential opportunitiesWhile Hirsch acknowledged the present moment's downsides, he pointed out potential innovation and positive change during the pandemic.He said the downturn could encourage a higher value being placed on information and communication technology or a growing demand for locally-produced food products. Or perhaps the pandemic will help in developing innovative healthcare technology or an increase in innovation around clean technology."To me, success will be that we do take this opportunity to purposefully diversify our economy," Hirsch said."This does not mean that we abandon or move away from our hydrocarbon economy … that will remain a backbone, but that backbone is not in good shape at the moment."

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    'Thirsty, hungry, injured:' Two women sentenced for abuse of girls in basement

    EDMONTON — A mother of two young girls and her roommate have been sentenced to eight years in prison for beating, starving and confining the children in the basement of their Edmonton home.The 26-year-old mother and 25-year-old friend, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, entered guilty pleas in September to aggravated assault and confinement.Queen's Bench Justice Gaylene Kendell said in her sentencing decision Thursday that had a babysitter not rescued the two girls, they may have suffered more injuries."How much longer would the abuse have gone on?" Kendell said."Their actions were calculated, deliberate and were done to prevent (the girls) from coming up the stairs to obtain food, or to turn on the lights in an unfinished, unfurnished basement without water or bathroom facilities."Court heard the girls' mother moved to Edmonton from Calgary in the summer of 2017 to flee an abusive relationship. She moved in with her friend, who had three children of her own.An agreed statement of facts read out by the judge said that for weeks, the sisters, who were ages six and three at the time, were locked up in the basement with a single mattress and rug on the floor. At times, one girl was confined inside a cardboard box with the lid tapped shut and a rug placed on top so she could not escape.The roommate's children were not disciplined in this way, Kendell noted. The women had agreed to keep their children separate because an older daughter was acting out and allegedly touching the other children inappropriately.The women admitted that they both disciplined the two abused girls and were both present when they were hit with belts, court heard.In December 2017, the babysitter removed a dresser in front of the basement door and found the sisters injured and begging for food.A police officer who responded smelled urine and discovered the floor was soiled with feces.Medical examinations of the girls found they were undernourished, dehydrated and had bruises, scars and lacerations all over their bodies. One had to undergo plastic surgery so the skin around her hip and upper leg could heal. The other required dental surgery."One could only imagine how frightened the girls were to be placed in that situation — dark, hot, the odour of urine and feces, thirsty, hungry, injured, in pain and knowing that their mother and their auntie were responsible," Kendell said.In a submission to the court before the sentencing, the roommate said she was beaten by her stepmother as a child and was sexually assaulted by men who dated her mother."She reported that her addictions caused her to lose her priorities and robbed her of being a parent," Kendell said.But the judge noted that the roommate's own three children were well-fed and uninjured, indicating she knew right from wrong.A psychiatric assessment of the mother of the two abused girls noted that she often casted blame for the abuse on her roommate and likely minimized her actions out of shame and distress.She also drank and consumed cocaine on weekends, often relying on her friend to take care of the children.Kendell said the mother could have turned to family for support and noted she often said things in her assessment that contradicted the agreed facts."(Her counsel) argued that her low IQ and level of cognition should reduce her moral culpability. I disagree," Kendell said."The fact that neither child was taken to school or daycare for a number of weeks because of the fear third parties would become aware of the children's injuries speaks to her high level of knowledge and awareness."Both women were credited for the time they have already spent in custody, reducing their sentences to about half.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

  • Costume designers creating protective gowns for frontline workers
    News
    CBC

    Costume designers creating protective gowns for frontline workers

    The same hands that have designed costumes for films, movies and theatrical productions in Alberta are now hard at work making protective clothing for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.It's a project in Calgary being led by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 212.Alberta film and theatre employees were eager to help, especially considering the fact that filming on shows like Wynonna Earp and Black Summer are on hiatus due to provincial shutdowns."Our union builds everything. From modern-day clothing of every description you could imagine, to sci-fi, to period historical costuming … anything that a designer requires us to make," said Deborah Day with IATSE Local 212 in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener.And now, they're sewing protective gear based off of requests within Calgary.Led by the IATSE Local 212, organizers are collaborating with Costume Alchemy, a studio that offers workshops for a range of skills related to costume design, working out of that building as a base.The actual designers come from within the union and beyond. Social media posts have brought attention to the project, which has drawn in more workers.The goal is to make 150 gowns for employees and volunteers at the Calgary Drop-In Centre, following a request for the gowns to be used at their donation location.Though the effort is local, there are similar efforts by IATSE groups across North America to create items needed during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as masks.Gown breakdownDay said the group has been working non-stop to organize the effort.There was a list of designers to organize, a pattern for the gown to finalize and fabric to acquire.The protective gowns are designed to be worn over clothing, providing another washable layer of protection for employees and volunteers."They're classified as a protective gown. They're a long-sleeved, cuffed gown so that gloves can be pulled up overtop of the cuffing. And they tie at the neck and they tie in the back [and] there's a double layer that wraps in the front," Day said."They're pretty easy to replicate. I just took it apart and sent it to a cutter to create the first pattern."Kits of the pattern, fabric and other trimmings needed to get started on sewing are being assembled at the Costume Alchemy workshop. To date, 111 kits have already been sent out and are in the midst of creation.The project members are still looking for more fabric, as each gown takes about 3.5 metres of fabric to make.And it can't just be any fabric — it must be a wearable cotton, polyester or poly-cotton blend, Day said. It must be capable of being washed in very hot water with strong chemicals.The fabric the group is currently working with has come from union members' personal stores and donations from the public. Several bolts of fabric have also been donated by the Fabric Depot.While the project has been underway, Day said their union has received another request from a local women's charity for a number of gowns, which means they will need even more fabric to continue sewing.Day said people with suitable fabric can drop it off in a bin outside of Costume Alchemy.

  • Judge won't delay Wisconsin election but extends voting
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Judge won't delay Wisconsin election but extends voting

    MADISON, Wis. — A federal judge on Thursday declined to postpone Wisconsin's presidential primary as the coronavirus spreads, but he ordered that people be given an extra six days beyond Tuesday's election for absentee voting.U.S. District Judge William Conley blasted state leaders' decision not to delay the election to protect people's health but refused to postpone it himself, saying a federal judge shouldn't act as the state's health officer.“As much as the court would prefer that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor consider the public health ahead of any political considerations, that does not appear in the cards. Nor is it appropriate for a federal district court to act as the state’s chief health official by taking that step for them,” Conley wrote.The deadline for voters to get absentee ballots to local clerks had been 8 p.m. on Tuesday, but Conley's order shifted that to 4 p.m. on April 13. Conley also extended the deadline for voters to request ballots by a day to 5 p.m. this Friday.The judge also lifted a witness requirement for absentee ballot applications, writing that voters can provide a written affirmation that they could not safely obtain a witness signature due to coronavirus fears.The Republican Party of Wisconsin said it has appealed the ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to stay the order. The Republican National Committee and the party had urged Conley to allow the election to proceed as planned.In a statement, the GOP said the judge's decision to change the date which absentee ballots can be received without any limit on the postmarked date “effectively changes the date of the election” and needs to be reviewed by the appeals court.The ruling marks a partial victory for Democrats and liberal groups who argued that thousands of voters might be disenfranchised because time is running out to file absentee ballots. The party and the groups had filed three lawsuits demanding that Conley postpone in-person voting, extend the deadlines for filing absentee ballots and lift requirements that absentee voters supply photo IDs with their ballot applications and get a witness to sign the ballot before returning it.“Every voter must count, even during crises, and this ruling gives voters critical time to vote safely by mail,” state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler said.Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called it “great news” that people would have more time to request and submit absentee ballots.Several states have postponed elections or shifted to all mail in the face of the pandemic. But Evers and Republican leaders have been committed to Wisconsin's date. They argued there's no guarantee conditions will improve in a couple of months and postponing the election risks leaving many local offices unfilled for an extended period.Evers' position on the election has shifted over the last few weeks. During the early days of the outbreak he said he thought the election should go on, a stance that drew considerable criticism from Democratic allies. As it became clear that Evers lacked the authority to change election law he asked the Republican-controlled Legislature to mail absentee ballots to all registered voters, a request the GOP rejected. On Wednesday, he said for the first time that if he could move the election he would.The decision to press forward has drawn widespread criticism. Poll workers have been quitting in droves. The Wisconsin Election Commission reported Tuesday that more than 100 municipalities lack enough staff to run even one polling site, and requests for absentee ballots have been setting new records daily. As of Thursday, local clerks had issued 1.1 million ballots, with some clerks facing backlogs of requests. Meanwhile, they're bracing for an avalanche of returns that could take days to count.Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Wednesday called for the state to postpone the election. Rival Joe Biden said Thursday that it's up to Wisconsin courts to decide what to do but he didn't have a problem with voting proceeding.The Democratic National Committee announced Wednesday that it was pushing back its national convention in Milwaukee from mid-July to mid-August.___Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Todd Richmond, The Associated Press

  • Metis Hunters' Killings Not Racially Motivated, Say Alberta RCMP. Locals Aren't So Sure.
    News
    HuffPost Canada

    Metis Hunters' Killings Not Racially Motivated, Say Alberta RCMP. Locals Aren't So Sure.

    Jacob Sansom and Morris Cardinal were hunting on Crown land, which is a protected right.

  • Union pushes for outbreak protocol as 1 inmate tests positive for COVID-19 in Okanagan jail
    News
    CBC

    Union pushes for outbreak protocol as 1 inmate tests positive for COVID-19 in Okanagan jail

    An inmate at the Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver, B.C., has been diagnosed with COVID-19.Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made the announcement Thursday afternoon, adding B.C.attempted to prevent the virus' spread in prisons by requiring all new inmates to be placed in isolation for 14 days and by restricting visitor access.The high-security facility contains 378 cells and is located a thirty-minute drive south of Penticton in B.C.'s  southern Okanagan."Everything is being done at the highest possible level to make sure that our members who work there are going to be kept safe," said Stephanie Smith, president of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union.She says the union was informed of the inmate's diagnosis late Wednesday evening, however, she doesn't know the condition of the inmate.Smith says both the union and its members have been concerned about a possible outbreak at a correctional facility."We knew that jails were particularly vulnerable because of the way they are constructed," she said.WATCH: Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why correctional facilities are vulnerable to an outbreakThe union, she says, has been working for weeks with the correctional branch to prevent any infections."Unfortunately, now we have one jail where now we're asking what is the outbreak protocol?"She says the focus is now shifting to preventing the spread of COVID-19 among prisoners and guards. The union is working on a risk assessment, as well as pushing the facilities to provide clear guidelines on the use of personal protective equipment and to continue to enforce social distancing between inmates.Union members have also been reminded of their right to refuse unsafe work, she says."Everybody is concerned. People are concerned for their own health, they're concerned for the health of their families, they're concerned for the people they support," said Smith."There's general anxiety."  But because neither the union nor the correctional facilities have faced a virus like this before, Smith says "there's just no predicting what the future is going to look like."Investigation into direct contacts B.C. Corrections says it has been actively preparing for a confirmed case as part of its pandemic planning and it is actively working with the Provincial Health Services Authority correctional health team."At the onset of symptoms, this individual was isolated under medical observation and tested. No one else on this individual's unit is symptomatic at this time," said B.C. Corrections in a statement.It says an investigation is now underway to identify anyone who may have had exposure to this inmate and appropriate measures will be taken as directed by public health officials.

  • 25,000 Sask. food service sector jobs lost due to COVID-19: survey
    News
    CBC

    25,000 Sask. food service sector jobs lost due to COVID-19: survey

    COVID-19 has cost Saskatchewan's food service industry 25,000 jobs since March 1, according to a Restaurants Canada survey.The industry association pegs the nationwide loss at 800,000 — and it's feared many of the jobs lost amid mass business shutdowns may never return.Nearly one in 10 restaurants in Canada have already closed permanently because they cannot pay operating costs due to a lack of cash flow during the pandemic, according to the survey. Restaurants Canada polled 655 food service operators across Canada — representing more than 13,000 locations — between March 25 and 29 for the survey.More of those operators will likely have to close as public health orders limiting large gatherings and which businesses can open continue. In Saskatchewan, restaurants can currently only offer take-out or delivery.Dale MacKay—co-owner of Grassroots Restaurant Group, which oversees three restaurants in Saskatoon and one in Regina — has temporarily shut down all services and laid off all employees.While he is expecting to reopen his restaurants, MacKay worries about the effect food service sector closures will have not only on employment, but on the culture of Saskatchewan. "When the hospitality industry goes down it does have a trickle-down effect on a lot of things. It's not just jobs," MacKay said."Hospitality takes on a lot of real estate and employs a lot of people. And so when you lose all that ... you're losing your culture and you're losing your sense of community."MacKay says many food service sector businesses operate on modest profits, which are relied on to support the owner, their family and a small staff. "To me, a business like that can only take two or three months of hardship and then they're done. And that in itself is very scary given the fact that those businesses are all over our streets in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and in Canada," MacKay said. Leanne Bohay, co-owner of Naked Bean Espresso Bar and Cafe in Regina, shares the same concerns as MacKay. She temporarily shut down her café three weeks ago and laid off all her employees. While she is optimistic she can reopen once physical distancing rules are lifted, Bohay says Regina will be a very different city in six months. "Local businesses just are the heart of our provinces. And the franchises will be the franchises," she said."I'm hoping [the government] will kick in with something. My family is my staff. For all the small businesses out there ... it's the same."Expanding subsidy measuresThe federal government recently announced a 75 per cent wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses that have seen a drop in revenue of at least 30 per cent during the pandemic.But Restaurants Canada has found that its members are more concerned about receiving government support once they are permitted to reopen. "Urgent additional relief is required to help these businesses survive or there will be fewer jobs for the thousands of temporarily laid off restaurant employees to return to," said Mark von Schellwitz, the industry group's Western Canada vice-president.MacKay says that while he is pleased with federal government's new 75 per cent wage subsidy, more support will be needed to help the service industry recover."At the end of the day ...  it's not really going to save them," said MacKay.As most restaurants have laid off their employees and there is no revenue coming in, businesses are not yet in a place to take advantage of the 75 per cent wage subsidy, he said, and a larger stimulus package is necessary to support the industry. "I think [the wage subsidy] is going to need to be extended after the reopening given the fact that that's when we're really going to need it ... when we're going to be firing up our workforce again and rehiring the people we laid off, or new employees," said MacKay."That's when we're really going to need it ... not right now."The organization is also calling for the expansion of the qualifying conditions for the wage subsidy, as well as the time period for businesses to access it. That, the organization says, would help restaurants keep their workers on payroll and allow them to rehire those they had to lay off. On Thursday, the Saskatchewan NDP called on the federal government to provide emergency grants for small businesses experiencing cash flow issues.The provincial Opposition party also called for protections for small businesses, including a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and measures to support the forgiveness or deferral of payments on loans, business leases and contracts.

  • Mayor taps ex-Dallas chief to head Chicago police force
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Mayor taps ex-Dallas chief to head Chicago police force

    Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday named former Dallas police Chief David Brown to head the police force in the nation's third largest city, touting his humility and calling him “a leader who commands respect.”Lightfoot introduced Brown as the next superintendent of the Chicago Police Department during a news conference, saying he's the right man for the job."We are Chicago and we deserve the best. And in this time, this moment, David Brown is the absolute best."The announcement came hours after Lightfoot announced that a member of the police force had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The news conference was tinged with sadness with Lightfoot pointing out that, just as interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck had to deal with the loss of one of his officers this week, Brown knows the pain of losing a fellow officer.“Death has come directly to David Brown's doorstep,” said the mayor. Brown lost a former partner and other officers under his command, and even his son and a brother to gun violence.Brown, who was one of two African Americans named as a finalist, has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement. The 59-year-old, who retired from the Dallas force in 2016, drew widespread attention that year after five of his officers were killed in an ambush-style rifle attack and he directed officers to kill the suspect using a remote-controlled robot fixed with explosives.Brown was the only one of the three finalists with experience leading a large police force. Still, it will be an adjustment for him, coming from a department of about 3,500 officers to one with about 13,000.One of the other finalists was Kristen Ziman, the police chief in the Chicago suburb of Aurora. The third was Ernest Cato, a deputy chief on the Chicago police force. Cato, who is also African American, was only recently promoted to deputy chief by Beck.Brown's experience made him the logical choice for Lightfoot. The mayor said one of the things that most impressed her about Brown was that he implemented many reforms in Dallas that the Chicago department is now trying to introduce. But he's also an outsider who is far less familiar than the other two candidates. And he is coming to a police department where the rank-and-file has not always welcomed outsiders. Former superintendents Jody Weis, a former FBI special agent, and Garry McCarthy, a former high ranking member of the New York City Police Department, were not popular with the troops.Brown will also have to adjust to a system of government that gives him less independence. Chicago has a stronger mayor and police oversight body than in Dallas.Adjusting to “those are probably going to be some of his toughest tasks to overcome,” said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata.During his tenure in Dallas, Brown took steps that were controversial among officers, including making use-of-force data public. But he was also criticized by activists who thought he blocked needed reforms, such as empowering a civilian police review board.Brown said his experience and devotion to his job, along with the officers in his command, would help him as a leader.“My life and career has taken place in the city of Dallas but the call to service ... is one that is heard across the nation, and it is that call that has driven everything that I have done in my career as an officer and as a public servant,” he said.Beck and Eddie Johnson before him scrambled to regain public trust that was shattered in large part by the late-2015 release of a video of a white police officer shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted of murder and sent to prison, but the handling of the shooting by the department and City Hall led to the firing of McCarthy, a federal probe and a host of reforms.The department has faced a period of uncertainty since late last year. In December, just days after Johnson announced his retirement and Lightfoot named Beck as the interim superintendent, the mayor abruptly fired Johnson.Lightfoot said Johnson had lied to her about an incident in October in which he was found asleep at the wheel of his vehicle after having drinks. She said Johnson's explanation was fundamentally different than “what the facts show." Johnson had been recorded on surveillance video drinking with a woman who was not his wife at a downtown bar.Beck made it clear from the beginning that he did not want to be the permanent superintendent, and Lightfoot initiated a national search that led to 25 applications for the job. The police board whittled that number down to three.Lightfoot said she hopes the City Council will approve Brown's appointment and that he will be on the job by the end of the month.___AP reporter Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this story.Don Babwin, The Associated Press

  • NYC residents should cover face when in public, mayor says
    News
    The Canadian Press

    NYC residents should cover face when in public, mayor says

    ALBANY, N.Y. — As coronavirus cases soared, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio asked New Yorkers on Thursday to wear a face covering when they go outside to prevent the spread of the virus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that the state’s supply of breathing machines could be exhausted in six days. And the COVID-19 death toll climbed to at least 2,400. While New York City remained a hotspot, there were troublesome trends around the state as the outbreak spread to every county. Unemployment filings skyrocketed too, as the pandemic wreaked economic havoc.The latest developments in New York:___FACE COVERINGNew York City Mayor Bill De Blasio asked New Yorkers to wear a face covering when they go outside and will be near other people.He cited research showing asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus without realizing it.“When you put on that face covering, you’re protecting everyone else,” he said.The mayor said it could be a scarf or a bandanna or anything homemade, but it should not be a surgical mask needed by medical workers.A recent study by researchers in Singapore became the latest to estimate that somewhere around 10% of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have not yet suffered symptoms.A bandanna might not prevent someone from coming into contact with the virus, but it could help a person who has it not give it to others when the sneeze, cough or breathe.The mayor of Los Angeles also told everyone in the city to start wearing masks on Wednesday.____VENTILATORS RUNNING LOWCuomo warned New York could be six days away from exhausting its supply of ventilators as the state reported 432 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to nearly 2,400.More than 13,300 people were hospitalized statewide with about 3,400 in intensive care.Ventilators have become the crucial piece of equipment sought by state and city officials as hundreds of patients a day are admitted to intensive care units.The state sent 400 ventilators to New York City and another 200 to its suburbs. But the governor saw problems ahead.“At the current burn rate, we have about six days of ventilators in our stockpile,” the governor said at a briefing at the Capitol.If supplies run short, the state is ready to use anesthesia and converted BiPAP machines, usually used to treat sleep apnea, or put more than one patient on a single ventilator.More than 92,000 state residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. The true number is likely much higher because officials have rationed tests and encouraged all but the most seriously ill people not to seek treatment and instead ride it out at home.Most people who get the virus experience mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and cough. Others, though, develop pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.___UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMSMore than 464,000 people have filed for unemployment in New York state in the three weeks since the pandemic shattered the economy, an increase of over 1,000% from the same period last year, according to the state Department of Labor.Last week alone, more than 369,000 unemployment claims were filed, an increase of more than 2,600% from the same time last year.The Department of Labor’s unemployment filing system has seen a 16,000% increase in phone calls and a nearly 900% increase in web traffic in recent weeks.___OUTBREAK SPREADSCases have now been confirmed in every county, with worrisome trends in some regions.Cuomo said Thursday that there’s a “troubling rise” in suburban Long Island and Westchester County.At the other end of the state, Buffalo and surrounding Erie County reporting 19 deaths and about 730 cases as of Thursday.Among those infected in Buffalo is Common Council President Darius Pridgen, along with three of his adult children. His daughter was taken off a ventilator late Wednesday and began breathing on her own just before Pridgen went live on Facebook to offer an update from his own quarantine, frequently coughing and his voice hoarse.“It was pretty rough for a couple of days,” he said of his daughter.Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center could be used as an intensive-care hospital if needed during the projected peak in late April or early May.___TEACHER DIESSandra Santos-Vizcaino, who taught third grade at an elementary school in Brooklyn, is the first New York City school teacher reported to have died of COVID-19.“This is a devastating tragedy,” schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Thursday. “Sandra was a beloved teacher at P.S. 9.”Santos-Vizcaino, 54, was a more than 20-year veteran of the city’s school system. She was recognized for her contributions to education in the Dominican Republic and won a grant to study bird sanctuaries there in 2009.“The notion that we’ve lost a teacher is very painful,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We lost a principal last week, a young woman full of extraordinary promise.”Brooklyn principal Dez-Ann Romain was the first city education employee reported to have died of the virus.Students in New York City haven't been to school since March 13.___PRISON MASKSAdministrators of the state prison system said they will allow guards to wear masks on duty. Staff had been prohibited from wearing masks unless medically necessary.Also, inmates subject to quarantine will be issued a surgical-type mask to further reduce the risk of any secondary transmission, officials said.The state corrections department said Thursday that 176 employees and 24 inmates have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.That includes Harvey Weinstein, the film producer serving 23 years for rape and sexual assault.___OTHER DEVELOPMENTSThe virus hasn't spared any part of New York City, but new data shows that a few poorer neighbourhoods in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn are getting hit especially hard.Cuomo’s press briefing included a live video appearance by his younger brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who has tested positive for coronavirus.New York state is racing to roughly triple its hospital capacity as coronavirus cases surge. Officials worry the massive effort won't be enough in the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.___Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo and Mary Esch in Albany contributed to this report.Marina Villeneuve And Michael Hill, The Associated Press

  • Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

    The ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic could get a boost if Canadians paid more attention to the relative humidity levels in public and private spaces, according to a growing body of international research.Doctors, scientists and engineers agree that sufficient indoor air moisture levels can have a powerful but little-understood effect on the transmission of airborne diseases. While the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is currently treated as one that's transmitted through droplet infection rather than the air, research on exactly how it passes between humans is still underway. Most buildings, however, fall short of the recommended threshold of 40 to 60 per cent relative humidity, particularly in countries with colder, dryer climates such as Canada. Addressing the issue now, they contend, could confer some immediate short-term benefits and offer a powerful tool for warding off similar epidemics in the future."Transmission is greater in dry air, infectivity is higher in dry air, and the ability of a human being to fight infection is impaired," said Dr. Stephanie Taylor, a graduate of and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. "Any one of those would be important, but all three of them are in play."Taylor concedes that the notion may seem counter-intuitive, saying the idea of humidity conjures images of fetid swamps and disease-bearing mosquitoes. But she said a growing body of research has suggested that relative humidity levels that are much more comfortable for humans offer a host of benefits.She said airborne particles carrying viruses can travel farther in air that isn't sufficiently hydrated. For reasons researchers are still probing, she also said viruses seem to be more infectious in those dryer conditions as well.Dr. Samira Mubareka, a medical microbiologist at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital and a member of a team that isolated the novel coronavirus, previously helped conduct research on the effect of temperature and humidity on influenza strains.The research, which evaluated data from Toronto over a roughly five-year period, found higher humidity levels seemed to help create less favourable conditions for viruses to thrive, particularly in colder overall temperatures."It was in that range of 50 to 60 (per cent) where we saw the least amount of transmission," she said.Researchers also said relative humidity levels have an effect on the human body's natural infection-fighting functions.Karen Bartlett, a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health, said proper hydration is necessary to ensure the health of everything from mucus membranes to eyes and skin."If we are between that 40 and 60 (per cent) relative humidity, we are also protecting our buildings and making it more comfortable for us," she said.But according to the international body that sets standards for the built environment in many countries including Canada, those benefits can't be obtained in the majority of public and private buildings.Robert Bean, a Calgary-based indoor climate consultant and distinguished lecturer with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, said Canadian buildings are advised to maintain humidity levels between 35 and 55 per cent.But he said Canada's relatively cold, dry climate can make it difficult to sustain those levels, particularly in older buildings.The greater the difference between indoor and outdoor humidity levels, he said, the greater the tendency for the inside air to flow outward and cause condensation, which can in turn lead to mould and other potential hazards.This tendency is at its peak in older buildings such as schools, he said, but added poor understanding of building standards is also a risk factor.Bean said international research has shown that less than five per cent of buildings currently comply with ASHRAE's standard dictating the environmental conditions for human occupancy, which includes relative humidity as a factor."If you had any other industry with such low knowledge of their standards, that industry would collapse," he said. But Bean said the trend is slowly starting to change, in part due to a growing understanding of the overlap between the engineering and medical communities."This whole issue with the virus is bringing up the importance of the built environment," he said. "It exposes the weaknesses that we have in the relationship between the building sciences and the health sciences."Taylor said individuals coping with self-isolation or practising physical distancing could benefit from boosting relative humidity levels in their own environments and called on public spaces to make such efforts a priority moving forward.But Mubareka stopped short of echoing her recommendations, saying too much is unknown about COVID-19 at this point."I wouldn't be surprised if the conditions were very similar, but until it's properly tested, I personally would hesitate to recommend the general public start implementing things of that nature," she said.Mubareka said all evidence available to date suggests measures to protect against droplet infections remain the best line of defence against COVID-19, particularly regular hand-washing, the use of masks for health-care workers and those showing symptoms, and physical distancing for the rest of the public.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020. Michelle McQuuigge, The Canadian Press

  • Essential workers kept waiting for promised daycares
    News
    CBC

    Essential workers kept waiting for promised daycares

    Between surgeries at The Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Kerianne Boulva is trying to figure out how she and her husband can do their jobs and look after their two-and-a-half-year-old son. Boulva, a surgical oncology fellow at the hospital, had thought an emergency daycare plan for essential workers was imminent after the province announced on March 22 the facilities would be open by the end of that week.Now, 12 days later, police officers, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, government of Ontario employees and doctors like Boulva are still waiting to hear about any kind of plan. "Ever since that has been announced there essentially hasn't been anything made available in the Ottawa region, so it's been a little bit disappointing," Boulva said. CBC has put requests in to the city for answers almost daily since March 23. The repeated response is that the city is "actively working on establishing child care centres for essential workers," but no details have been provided.Open in other citiesEmergency daycare centres have opened in several Ontario cities including Toronto, Cornwall and Peterborough, according to this list published by the province. "When I tried to call the City of Ottawa's children's services branch, no one answers. So it's not super encouraging, and we don't know how long this is going to go on," Boulva said.If and when the emergency daycare centres do open up, she and other essential workers have questions about how they'll operate — the ratios and other protocols put in place to keep kids, staff and families safe, especially when it comes to the children of health-care workers who have potential exposure to COVID-19. ER doctor felt 'like a leper'Dr. Lesley Spencer, an emergency room doctor who works in hospitals in Kemptville and Smiths Falls, Ont., has been scrambling to arrange care for her two kids, ages six and two. When schools and daycare centres first closed, Spencer's mother-in-law was watching the children, but that was putting her at risk. "We heard about the health-care daycares that were supposed to open, but honestly that just sounds like everybody who's [at] high risk of contracting [COVID-19] sending all their undiagnosed children to the same place and then everybody getting it," Spencer said. She and her husband decided to look for a nanny to come into their home, but she said as soon as she told potential sitters she's an ER doctor, they weren't interested in taking the job. "I kind of felt a bit like a leper," Spencer said. She eventually did find someone to look after her kids, but Spencer knows not everyone can afford that option, and she's concerned about other essential workers who are still without child care."The grocery store workers, they're making what, 15, maybe 20 bucks an hour?" she said. "There needs to be that kind of centre, and if it's not heavily, heavily subsidized or free, then it's useless."

  • Health care workers call for help to prepare for surge of COVID-19 cases
    CBC

    Health care workers call for help to prepare for surge of COVID-19 cases

    The health care workforce across Canada questions whether they’re prepared for a surge of COVID-19 cases as more fall ill and protective equipment runs low.

  • Quebec restaurants facing uncertain future due to COVID-19 restrictions
    News
    CBC

    Quebec restaurants facing uncertain future due to COVID-19 restrictions

    Two weeks ago, Nicole Turcotte, the owner of Dinette Triple Crown, gathered together her employees in the kitchen of her restaurant in Montreal's Little Italy to help her make a tough decision. Should the diner remain open, despite growing signs that COVID-19 was spreading fast in the Montreal area?She and her 18 staff agreed it wasn't a good idea. They decided the risk of contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus was too high: most employees use public transit to get to work, and serving takeout "wasn't an option.""People were terrified," Turcotte said. "They were scared of contracting or of passing it on."Dinette Triple Crown closed its doors on March 16.Restaurants remain on the Quebec government's list of essential services that are allowed to stay open during the COVID-19 lockdown, for takeout only.Many have found ways to stay afloat by offering delivery service and thinning out menu options to increase efficiency.Poincaré, a restaurant in Chinatown, laid off about a dozen workers. Now it is canning gourmet meals and selling them online."The revenue and the business that we're seeing now with our online store is actually pretty OK, but it's not enough to pay ourselves to work," said owner Jeremiah Bullied.People 'still need to be fed'The restaurant industry has taken a major hit. According to Restaurants Canada, a national service industry association, up to 175,000 service-industry jobs in Quebec have been lost since the crisis began — about two-thirds of the industry's workforce.Restaurants are essential services because many people right now depend on them, especially seniors and people quarantined after returning from travel, said David Lefebvre, the association's vice-president of federal and Quebec affairs."They still need to be fed, and they cannot go to the grocery store, so the food service [industry] definitely has a place," Lefebvre said.The association is praising the government's decision to allow restaurants to remain open. It says that means its members can continue to make some revenue while the economy is essentially shut down."This is something that's helped a little bit to limit the blowback," said Lefebvre.Still, he says, the association expects about 10 per cent of the province's restaurants to go under due to the COVID-19 crisis.Dinette Triple Crown's Turcotte says the profit margin from takeout services is too slim to expect restaurants to stay above water. She wants restaurants to be taken off the essential services list, to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus."[Staying open] conflicts with the idea that we're all supposed to be staying home," she said.Still, Turcotte understands some restaurants will remain open because they simply can't afford to close.Measures in place to help business ownersThe restaurant owner said it helps that some municipalities, including Montreal, Laval and Quebec City, have decided to defer property taxes for the time being.The federal government has also put in place measures that will help the food industry. Many restaurants will qualify for small-business loans of $40,000, of which 25 per cent will be forgiven once the loan is repaid.As well, the federal government is offering a 75 per cent wage subsidy over a period of three months. Any business that can prove its profits are down 30 per cent compared to last year is eligible.Ottawa is also offering an emergency response benefit of $2,000 for up to 15 weeks to workers who are self-isolating and who are not eligible for employment insurance. People can apply starting April 6.Quebec is funnelling its emergency money for businesses into existing programs, with Investissement Québec making available $2.5 billion in loans.For now, Turcotte says her restaurant will remain closed. With numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases soaring, she's going to wait to see how things evolve."There was a bit of a rough last few days in Quebec with the numbers coming out, so we can only assume that the rest of the week is going to be the same."

  • As COVID-19 bailouts pile up, Canadians ask for relief on credit card rates
    News
    CBC

    As COVID-19 bailouts pile up, Canadians ask for relief on credit card rates

    As governments rush to offer financial relief packages to homeowners, renters, small businesses and employees impacted by COVID-19, some Canadians are wondering why credit card bills aren't included in those measures.Most Canadians pay an interest rate that's far higher on their credit cards than they do for other forms of debt, which can make them an even more onerous burden that they have to carry in these unprecedented economic times.Vicky Assad runs a small digital print shop in Ottawa. She has been in business for 23 years, and up until two weeks ago, 2020 was poised to be a decent year for her financially. But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that, just as it has for many Canadians. She says she's doing what she can to keep her business afloat and keep her staff of five on the payroll, but the interest rates between 13 and 23 per cent that she has on three different personal and business credit cards are making a hard job even harder. "I would like to make the minimum payment on my credit cards, but the interest rate is going to really hurt me," she told CBC News. "I am hearing a lot from the government about relief to the average Canadian, but I am not hearing anything about lowering credit card interest rates ... why [is that] not a priority?"Calgarian Mario Baggio finds himself asking the same question."Some credit cards charge 29 per cent, which seems ridiculous during these times," he told CBC News. "What are financial institutions and credit card companies doing to help out Canadians and seniors during this crisis?"Rates capped at 60%Unlike mortgage rates, which are largely priced based on what's happening at the Bank of Canada or the bond market, the rules concerning how much a lender can charge for a credit card are far more profitable.By law, interest rates of more than 60 per cent per year are forbidden, but most of Canada's 75 million active credit cards charge much less than that, around 20 per cent per year. The Canadian Bankers Association says there are 30 different credit cards available for Canadians right now that charge under 13 per cent per year.That's still much higher than rates for other forms of debt, including mortgages and business loans, and there are, indeed, many valid reasons why that's the case. Credit cards are known as "unsecured" debt because the credit on them isn't secured to any specific asset — there's no collateral against the loan.That differs from something like a mortgage, where the loan is secured against the house, which theoretically makes it easier for the lender to seize that asset should the borrower not pay their bills.Credit cards have higher rates in order to offset that higher risk, but the rates are still high considering how relatively low the default rate is. Credit monitoring firm TransUnion says that at the end of last year, less than three per cent of Canadians were more than 90 days behind on their credit card's minimum payment.The average Canadian credit card had about $4,326 on it as of the end of December.'Take action to alleviate the burden': TrudeauPrime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government is working with credit card providers to offer some sort of relief to customers."We recognize that they are a significant challenge for many Canadians at this point," Trudeau said at his daily press conference on March 26. "That is why we are encouraging them to take action to alleviate the burden for Canadians."Last month, Canada's five biggest banks — the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank and CIBC  — came out in unison with pledges to work with homeowners to offer interest-rate relief on their loans if necessary.They all say they are also working closely with customers who have business loans to make sure they can stay afloat.The joint statement said the banks would also offer "the opportunity for relief on other credit products" but have had scant details to add to that since. Bank association promises reliefThe Canadian Bankers Association told CBC News in an email that its members have "stepped up to help our country work through these challenging times."Its mortgage relief programs have been inundated with more than 213,000 requests for payments deferrals, the association said.The CBA says the big banks are willing to work with their customers who are having trouble with credit card debt to find solutions, but its statement did not give specifics of what that might look like."Banks will work with their customers to offer relief on other credit products, including credit cards and lines of credit," the CBA said."Many banks have programs to help their customers make their debt more manageable and structure the right solution, including rolling in credit card debt into term products with lower interest rates. Banks will work with Canadians to help them manage credit effectively during this difficult time."That pledge stops well short of an across-the-board rate cut, something some politicians have been pushing for.NDP finance critic Peter Julian and industry critic Brian Masse have been calling on the federal government for days to ask banks and credit card companies to lower interest rates."So far, the government has found ways to help corporations right away, but they are still making Canadians wait weeks," said Masse in a statement."Waiving the interest on credit cards for two months would immediately help Canadians get through until the federal programs kick in."NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also called on the government to mandate lower rates in an interview with the CBC's Power & Politics last week.Quebec-based credit union Desjardins has implemented an across the board rate cut to 10.9 per cent to all of its credit card holders during the current crisis, and PC Financial was set to increase the rate on its PC Financial MasterCard by one percentage point starting next month — from 19.97 per cent to 20.97 per cent per year — but has shelved that plan, citing the "unprecedented times." "We've been closely monitoring as this situation evolves and have decided to defer this change until further notice,"  PC Financial told CBC News in a statement."We've also been working with customers, case by case, who may be experiencing financial hardships during this time. We hope this can offer some relief for customers and their families."