Sora the dog repeatedly gets booped on the nose by Daisy the cat's tail. Priceless!
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
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 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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."
The news that bus operators in Metro Vancouver will not longer be able to assist wheelchair customers strapping into front-facing berths due to the provinces physical distancing requirements is a further blow to people with disabilities, according to an advocate. TransLink is now advising customers with mobility devices who want to travel by bus to bring someone with them to provide assistance.But Jocelyn Maffin with Spinal Cord Injury B.C. says that only puts a further burden on those who are already hard hit by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic."[The pandemic] happened so fast and it's even harder to find caregivers now because people have to look after their kids and are worried about exposure to the virus. So transit's request that they bring their caregiver is not really realistic," she said."And those [affected] are inherently more vulnerable and forced to travel on transit in their wheelchairs at a high-risk time because they don't have help at home."According to TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews, the announcement applies to approximately 20 per cent of the bus fleet with front-facing wheelchair berths.The remaining 80 per cent have a rear-facing accessible seat which can be secured independently by those in a wheelchair or scooter. "Due to the nature of operations it isn't possible to predict with accuracy what bus will be used on what route at any given time," said Drews. As per the existing TransLink policy, bus drivers will call for a taxi if a person in a wheelchair or scooter is unable to board the bus, she said.Maffin says it's been heartwarming to see neighbours and community members helping each other out, but doesn't see it as a replacement for bus travel. "I completely understand the abundance of caution here to protect their workers, but it really surprised me when I heard about this change because at this point we really talking about folks that don't have a lot of alternatives."On Feb. 20, TransLink made all buses free and moved to rear-door boarding for most passengers.The move was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for physical distancing between drivers and passengers.
The Ottawa Food Bank received over $170,000 in the span of 24 hours after a social media campaign netted some big-name donations, including from the hip hop collective Wu-Tang Clan.The surge in donations began with a webcast featuring Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein, and Ottawa Food Bank CEO Michael Maidment.Finkelstein said he and his wife would donate $1 for every retweet of a tweet announcing the fundraising initiative, up to $10,000.The challenge set off a flurry of social media activity that has resulted in seven donations of $10,000, and many more smaller contributions, said Maidment."I don't know how to react," said Maidment. "It's been incredible just to see it really catch fire."The co-founders of Ottawa-based cannabis company Hexo Corp., Adam Miron and Sébastien St-Louis, each chipped in $10,000, Miron said."I thought it was a heck of a good idea," he said. "So not wanting to bog myself down with too many retweets, I just decided, 'You know what? Let's do this."Miron responded to Finkelstein's tweet by saying "count me in for $10K," and tagged a number of other accounts and encouraged them to donate, including the Wu-Tang Clan — widely considered one of the most influential hip hop groups ever formed.Thursday afternoon, Wu-Tang Clan tweeted: "Just made a donation ourselves. Appreciate Canada holding us down all these years."Miron said he helped orchestrate the Wu-Tang Clan donation by reaching out to the group's management."They were really great about it," said Miron. "They're just so willing to help."Maidment, the food bank CEO, said he knew that something special was happening when the tweet came in from Wu-Tang Clan."All of a sudden it's like this new level," said Maidment. "Even my kids think I'm cool now."The money will help the food bank stock its shelves so that it can help people who have been hard hit by the economic downturn linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Maidment."We know that the economy is shedding jobs at a pretty alarming rate," said Maidment. "It's going to be tough times ahead but this is the kind of stuff that gives me hope."The Ottawa Food Bank distributes an average of 14 tons of food each day by working with over 100 local agencies, according to its website.
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
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
A Cape Breton couple fears for their future after the Business Development Bank of Canada refused to defer interest payments on their small business loan.Grant Haverstock and his partner, Jessica KleinHerenbrink, put everything they have on the line in order to open Iron Mountain Wilderness Cabins in Whycocomagh, N.S., last fall.They contacted BDC a few weeks ago to give warning that the business had to close due to COVID-19."We asked them to please defer our principal and interest payments until this thing cleared up, as we have no income whatsoever right now, and frankly we're a little panicked," said Haverstock.BDC agreed to defer the payments on the principal, but not the interest payments, which amount to almost $1,800, said Haverstock."So our payments come out on the first of the month.…I checked the bank and sure enough they bounced our interest payment."ACOA has deferred all paymentsHaverstock said he can't understand why a Crown corporation continues to charge and collect interest from businesses that are closed due to the virus at a time when the federal government is pledging billions in relief to help small businesses,"BDC has basically told us to go pound sand," he said. "And they also told us that they were taking note of our social media posts."The couple also received financing for the business through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. ACOA has deferred their payments for six months.In a written statement, BDC said the principal payment represents the majority of monthly payments made by its clients, and that's why it has implemented principal postponements for some clients as part of its relief measures."We understand that for certain clients who may be in a difficult financial situation, more flexibility could be required," said BDC spokesperson Jean Philippe Nadeau."Our teams assess each client's needs on a case-by-case basis and try to provide the best support they can, taking into consideration the business history and financial health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic."The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses has not received any similar complaints about BDC to date, said Louis-Philippe Gauthier, provincial affairs director for CFIB in New Brunswick and PEI.But he said some businesses have reported difficulty in getting through to BDC representatives.He said CFIB would raise the issue with government.In the meantime, he suggested Haverstock explore the provincial and federal business loan programs now on offer as part of the pandemic response.Concerned about credit ratingBut Haverstock is reluctant to take on additional debt."We can't pay the debt we have now," he said. "And now that they've bounced a payment, I'm sure that's going to show up on our credit report. So we probably won't even qualify for that."Despite several attempts to contact BDC by email, Haverstock hasn't had any reply since March 24."I just don't know how in the heck we're going to get out of this," he said. "It's a little scary right now."MORE TOP STORIES
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.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says New Brunswick may be just days away from running out of supplies to test for the COVID-19 virus, even though the province's test rate is among the lowest in the country."If we ramped up a bit we could be within like a week of running out of test supplies," Higgs told CBC's Power and Politics on Thursday. New Brunswick has been plagued by a shortage of testing supplies since the beginning of the pandemic and has struggled to match the hunt for the virus underway in other provinces As of Thursday, the province had completed just 4,520 COVID-19 tests. That's well below the national average per capita — and more than 3,000 tests behind neighbouring Nova Scotia that this week was testing two people for every one New Brunswick was managing.Higgs said New Brunwick intends to increase its efforts to find more cases of the virus but will be out of supplies quickly if it pushes too hard. "We are doing about 500 or 600 tests a day," he said. "We were going to ramp that up a bit but I'm looking in some cases we could have testing requirements where if we ramped it up we could be within like a week of running out of test supplies."Depleted stockpilesNew Brunswick has been challenged by a lack of testing supplies since the early days of the outbreak when it was caught flat-footed with depleted stockpiles of gear.A memo sent to all New Brunswick doctors March 10, the day before Atlantic Canada's first case was diagnosed in the Moncton area, shows alarm by then-acting chief medical health officer Dr. Cristin Muecke about the province's capacity to handle extensive testing.She instructed doctors not to test for COVID-19 without consulting one of the province's regional medical health officers and a medical microbiologist first to try and preserve scant supplies."The COVID-19 outbreak has profoundly affected the kits manufacturers and existing stocks," wrote Muecke. "The New Brunswick Diagnostic Virology Reference Center has stockpiled kits, but their current stock is progressively depleted without sufficient restocking to replenish it. In order to preserve the current stock, we ask for your cooperation as NB hospitals will not be supplied with the usual number of kits."The requirement to consult a regional medical officer of health before ordering a COVID-19 test remained in New Brunswick until March 16, but even after it was dropped doctors were reminded again that test kits for the virus in the province were in short supply and they should be selective in who they tested."It is expected that a very large number of diagnostic tests will be ordered in the coming days to weeks," wrote Muecke on March 16."Laboratory capacity and supplies are limited provincially and nationally … We need to be careful to choose wisely to maintain the integrity of our diagnostic system."Those restrictions left New Brunswick well behind other smaller provinces that were up and running with extensive testing programs that weekBy March 18, while New Brunswick had only completed only 381 COVID-19 test results, Nova Scotia already had 1,150 done and Saskatchewan 2,366.Where were supplies?It is unclear why other small provinces had more supplies to work with from the beginning, but New Brunswick associate deputy minister of health Rene Boudreau said this week the province restricted the amount of testing it did in mid-March out of necessity."We could have run 500 tests a day from the start and ran out of swabs halfway through and now we couldn't test anyone," said Boudreau about New Brunswick's slow start.New Brunswick has been behind other provinces in testing ever since.This week Nova Scotia, which has just 25 per cent more people than New Brunswick has conducted nearly 1,000 tests per day with New Brunswick performing 1,000 every two days. Higgs did not openly accuse other provinces of snapping up or hiding supplies to New Brunswick's peril, but said he wants to see the federal government acquire and distribute COVID-19 tests to achieve a distribution fairer than New Brunswick has had to date."I think the point is that the federal government has to be that sole sourcer for us and then providing supply to us throughout the country," said Higgs. "We don't need to be hoarding in our own province. That doesn't help our neighbours and our friends. We need to make sure we have enough supplies for our citizens and do that equally across this country. That's the way we work together. That's the way we survive together."
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
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."
It's hard to get to know a potential mate when you have to stay two metres apart. But singles and those in the dating industry say social distancing has set the stage for an interesting social experiment as romance moves online.Since the pandemic hit, Mandia Nantsios has seen a spike in her social media traffic, with potential suitors trying to make a connection.Nantsios, 23, is an Ottawa musician and influencer who doesn't use dating apps, but recently met someone through a group hangout platform called House Party. That's led to video dates, chatting over glasses of wine sipped in separate living rooms. "This is a good time to get to know people," Nantsios said. "Everybody has time to connect. It just forces you not to rush anything. I'm looking at it as a positive."From in-person to onlineDating companies are hoping to cash in on this new virtual market by pivoting from in-person to virtual matchmaking.When the virus hit, bookings for Dashing Date's speed-dating events came to halt. The company has now made the jump to hosting its events on Zoom, and offers Facebook Live talks on how best to date at a distance.CEO Kavita Ajwani said though some singles are opting to take a break right now, many are choosing to devote their extra hours to the pursuit of love."There is a silver lining for singles that they have a lot of options right now. You need to stay connected now more than ever," Ajwani said.Local app Wandure also scrambled to adjust to the new reality. Launched last December, Wandure is focused on getting people to meet in real life shortly after matching online. Now, for a flat fee of $5, Wandure will set you up on a home-based video date, with a member of their team facilitating a trivia night. Co-founder Chelsea Sauvé said they've actually seen an increase in their numbers."There are people who are quite stressed by the fact that their dating life is at a standstill for an indeterminate period. In these times it's especially clear how wonderful it would be to have someone to discuss this with — that emotional contact," Sauvé said.Virtual dating etiquetteNicole Soon, 36, said there's another advantage to virtual dating: it's easier to be confident when you're on home turf."It's more relaxing, there's less anxiety and you can be more yourself. I think everyone gets first date jitters, so it's nice to talk over a screen," Soon laughed.Soon has taken up online dating in a big way during her 14-day self-isolation in Vancouver — she recently cut short a five-month trip to Asia — and said she's struggling to keep up with the influx of messages she's now receiving from other bored singles.But for Sarah Martin, 23, who's been laid off from two of her three jobs, having more time to spend on dating doesn't necessarily make those connections more satisfying."You have all the time in the world but no motivation. I'm half into it because it doesn't feel like it's going to go anywhere," she said, noting that a few of her conversations have fizzled due to "pure boredom."Then there are questions about how to date virtually. Do you dress to impress, at least from the waist up? Do you drink alcohol? Should you worry about the lighting?Melissa Guenette is waiting to see the long-term consequences of this social experiment.The Ottawa social media marketer, 34, isn't currently dating, but is hearing from single friends who are using sites like zoomer.love to organize coffee or cooking dates, or even to watch a Netflix movie. She compares the situation to the Netflix series Love is Blind, where singles get to know each other without seeing each other. Guenette wonders if self-isolation might just influence people to start focusing on substance over surface."Because you're not looking for the guy with the six-pack who goes to the gym and eats boring chicken and quinoa. Now you might be looking for someone to hang out and enjoy pizza and Netflix with you, someone to hibernate with — your quarantine buddy. Or maybe somebody who you want to go through a doomsday scenario with — the next epidemic."
People in Chéticamp, N.S., are worried the upcoming fishing season could infect their community with COVID-19.The snow crab season on the west side of Cape Breton Island usually starts in mid-April and the lobster fishery opens shortly after that.Some Chéticamp residents say out-of-province workers are already in town looking for employment at the fish processing plant and those workers are exempt from the usual requirement to self-isolate for 14 days.Valerie LeBlanc, co-owner of the Trofel Health Foods store in Chéticamp, said it's not personal with the workers, it's the fact they are exempt from public health protocols under the province's state of emergency."If we're going to allow all these people coming into the area and not having to self-isolate, how can we keep this virus out of the community?" she said.Chéticamp's Sacred Heart Community Health Centre has 10 beds. LeBlanc said the fear is that out-of-town workers could bring the coronavirus in and swamp the health-care system.'Easy solution'"To me, the situation should be very easy," she said. "You come in, you self-isolate for two weeks and go ahead, do whatever you have to do."Leonard LeBlanc represents fishermen on the board of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fishermen's Coalition.He said if people coming from other provinces arrive at Nova Scotia's land border, airports and ferry terminals, they are told they have to self-isolate."If people are being quarantined when they reach the border for 14 days, you would think that it would apply the same to transient vessels that are going to come from various provinces," LeBlanc said."This affects the port of Chéticamp more so than any other harbour in Nova Scotia."LeBlanc said he asked the province two weeks ago to remove the self-isolation exemption for fish plant workers, but has not received a reply."The government needs to reflect on this very quickly and appease the fear that the community has, and rightfully so," he said.According to information posted on the provincial government website under the state of emergency: "Nova Scotia borders will tighten to travellers and all entry points (land, sea, air) will be closely managed. Anyone entering the province will be stopped, questioned, and told to self-isolate for 14 days."A spokesperson for the province says if fishery workers are healthy, they are exempt from the usual public health rules and there are no plans to expand border checks beyond the highway, airports and ferry terminals.On Friday, Bernadette Jordan, the minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton that she is looking into the concerns.Jordan said the topic was slated for discussion later on Friday during a weekly conference call with her provincial counterparts."These are all conversations that we're having, because … emergency measures are different in every province and they're regulated by the province, so this is something that is actually on the agenda to talk about today to see how we can best address that concern," she said.MORE TOP STORIES
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."
Cavendish Farms has advised the P.E.I. potato producers under contract to supply the company with spuds to "sell to other markets if they can," as the company deals with a sharp drop in demand for its product in the wake of COVID-19-related restaurant closures."These are unprecedented times," company spokesperson Mary Keith wrote to CBC via email."While food remains an essential item for everyone, we have seen a significant drop in the demand for french fries as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the closure of restaurants in favour of take out and drive-thru only," Keith said. "This has meant curtailments of production at Cavendish Farms in New Annan."The drop in production means the company has too many potatoes. Cavendish Farms operates two processing facilities in New Annan, and is the biggest private employer on P.E.I., with close to 700 employees when operating at peak capacity. According to the company's website it is the fourth-largest potato processor in North America, with facilities in Canada and the US.The company is currently in negotiations with Island potato growers through the P.E.I. Potato Board on a new contract.No word on layoffsKeith told CBC she would check on whether the drop in production in New Annan has resulted in layoffs. She said efforts were being made to relocate workers from one of the two New Annan plants to the other, and that "regrettably this situation is not unique to New Annan, the Island or Cavendish Farms."This week Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board, told CBC demand for fresh potatoes faced an initial surge as a result of COVID-19, but has since levelled off. Demand for processed potato products like french fries has fallen off, he said, as people across North America are ordered to stay home.Two years ago Cavendish Farms announced it was closing its facility for packaging fresh potatoes in O'Leary due to a lack of potatoes, affecting 40 jobs. At the time the company said it would focus on frozen potato processing at its plants in New Annan.In the past Cavendish Farms has talked about a lack of local potatoes for its P.E.I. processing operations, trucking spuds in from as far away as Alberta and Idaho.Industry Canada data shows that year after year, frozen potatoes make up the single biggest international export from the Island, worth an estimated $305 million in 2018. Safety measures at processing plantsOn its website, Cavendish Farms has outlined steps to protect staff in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, including: * enhanced sanitation and disinfection protocols; * new screening protocols at site entrances; * providing three paid emergency leave days for staff to provide time to manage "alternate childcare arrangements during school closures or to care for sick or vulnerable family members;" * introducing "pay continuation" for those ordered to self-isolate due to coronavirus; * stopping international travel and domestic air travel for staff, and encouraging meetings to be held by distance; * limiting the number of people on-site "to those team members required for the safe and reliable operation of our business."The coronavirus outbreak "is creating a rapidly changing environment," the company says on its website. "Governments have recognized food production as an essential service. During these challenging times, we are doing everything possible to ensure we keep producing food for our customers and your family."COVID-19: What you need to knowWhat are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.What should I do if I feel sick?Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.How can I protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.
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."