City of Regina introduces payment deferral measures for utilities, property tax

A number of new measures were introduced at the municipal level to help those affected by COVID-19. 

The Utility Deferral Program was approved by council on Friday. It will allow residents and businesses to defer utility payments for up to six months with no late payment charges or interest. 

Payment collection on overdue utility and property tax accounts will be suspended and water service will not be shut off for residents who have outstanding account balances, or who are unable to pay. 

The city asks that residents and businesses contact the city to discuss a payment plan that will allow the financial flexibility they need.

"The health and well-being of our community is of foremost concern," mayor Michael Fougere said in a news release. 

"That includes having added peace of mind that residents will have the essential services they need and that we will face these challenging times together."

Transit changes introduced

The city is now asking bus users to enter and exit the vehicles from the rear door in an effort to practice social distancing between passengers and drivers. 

As a result the fare boxes will be taken out of service and fares will be waived. Transit pass and ticket sales are suspended. 

Bryan Eneas/CBC

A city news release said increased cleaning measures will be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The transit schedule is also changing. Buses are now operating on the Saturday schedule during weekdays, which means they will be operating on a 30 minute schedule during peak periods. 

"Route 40 Albert Express and 60 Arcola Express will continue to run on weekdays," the release said. "Service on Saturdays will run on a Sunday service schedule. Sunday and holidays will remain at the same service level."

Between March 13 and March 20, transit ridership declined 60 per cent according to the city.

Regina Transit passengers are asked to observe the following best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • If the bus is empty, distance yourself from other passengers.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze using the inside of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Stay home if you feel sick.
  • Partisan divisions on COVID-19 exist in Canada but they're deeper — and more dangerous — in the U.S.
    News
    CBC

    Partisan divisions on COVID-19 exist in Canada but they're deeper — and more dangerous — in the U.S.

    In response to a reporter's question on Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford passed on a chance to take a shot at the federal government over the carbon tax — and instead thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his pandemic measures and called Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland "an absolute champion."Physical distancing may be keeping people apart to keep the novel coronavirus at bay, but in Canada some partisan divisions seem to be eroding as politicians of all stripes work together to fight the pandemic.Those divisions haven't gone away entirely, of course. Polls suggest that Liberal voters are much more likely than Conservative voters to approve of how Trudeau has handled the pandemic.But the split isn't as stark as it has been on other issues in less challenging times. And the split is also significantly smaller here than it is between ideological opponents in the United States.On average, Trudeau and his government received 63 per cent public approval of their handling of the health emergency in three recent surveys by EKOS Research, the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) and the Innovative Research Group (IRG).Among people who voted Liberal in the last election, or would vote for the party today, Trudeau and his government stood at 88 per cent approval. That's not an unusual level of approval for a political leader among supporters of his or her own party.Much less typical is the amount of support the federal government is getting for its management of the novel coronavirus outbreak among its political opponents. That support averaged 69 per cent among New Democrats, 45 per cent among Conservatives and 33 per cent among Bloc Québécois voters.So support for the federal government's performance is an average of 43 percentage points higher among Liberals than it is among Conservatives. The difference is 19 points for New Democrat supporters and 55 points for Bloc supporters.That margin between Liberals and Conservatives seems rather wide — until you put it in context. ARI's final pre-election poll last October found Liberals were more likely than Conservatives to say they had a favourable opinion of Trudeau by an 81-point margin.By comparison, partisanship is a far more significant source of division in the United States.Big partisan divide in the U.S. but not the U.K.Trump's job approval rating on the pandemic averaged 46 per cent in two recent polls by Pew Research and YouGov. Among Republicans, he averaged 83.5 per cent approval. Among Democrats, it was just 17.5 per cent.That puts the partisan division between Republicans and Democrats in the United States at 66 percentage points — greater than any partisan split in Canada.The size of that split stands out not only in comparison with Canada, but with other countries as well. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's job rating on the pandemic averaged 68.5 per cent in two recent polls by Opinium and Number Cruncher/Bloomberg.Among his own Conservative supporters, Johnson averaged 88.5 per cent. Among people who said they would vote Labour, the main opposition party in the U.K., his approval averaged 47.5 per cent. The margin between Conservative and Labour voters was 41 points — similar in size to the partisan division in Canada.With all three countries imposing restrictions on their citizens in order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, these partisan divisions could affect how seriously people take these measures.The messaging coming from U.S. President Donald Trump on the outbreak has been inconsistent. He has tweeted that the country couldn't let "the cure be worse than the problem itself" and voiced the hope that life and commerce could return to normal by Easter. He reversed course over the weekend, leaving the physical distancing guidelines in place until the end of April.But the YouGov poll shows that Republicans had heard the earlier message loud and clear. They were nearly three times as likely as Democrats to say the threat posed by COVID-19 was being exaggerated and were half as likely to say they were "very worried."Just 16 per cent of Democrats said COVID-19 was as dangerous as, or less dangerous than, the seasonal flu. That number was 43 per cent among Republicans. (COVID-19 is more contagious and more deadly than the seasonal flu.)By double-digit margins, Americans who voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election were less likely than those who voted for Hillary Clinton to say they were washing their hands more frequently or avoiding crowded public places.Partisanship less of a risk to public health in CanadaWhile this kind of partisan division is present in Canada, it does not appear to pose the same potential health risk.ARI found that Conservatives made up a disproportionate number of those who think the COVID-19 threat is overblown — but polling over time shows that those holding that opinion are making up less and less of the population. Overall, ARI found that Conservatives were just as likely as Liberals to say they were washing their hands more frequently, while the vast majority of them said they believe the outbreak poses a serious threat.EKOS found Conservatives were more likely than Liberals to say the federal government's measures haven't gone far enough — and were just as likely to say they had gone too far (for both Liberal and Conservative supporters, the percentage of those polled saying pandemic measures had overreached was less than six per cent).The widest partisan division in Canada — between Liberal and Bloc voters — has even fewer health implications. ARI found no difference at all between how seriously Liberal and Bloc voters are taking the threat or how they're changing their behaviour — and EKOS found Bloc supporters to be even less likely than Liberals to argue that the measures have gone too far.For the most part (and particularly when compared to our neighbours to the south) it seems that Canadians are not letting politics get much in the way of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The fact that formerly implacable foes like Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau can put their differences aside is perhaps the clearest sign of all.

  • Some health experts questioning advice against wider use of masks to slow spread of COVID-19
    News
    CBC

    Some health experts questioning advice against wider use of masks to slow spread of COVID-19

    Science magazine had been trying for days to speak to the elusive George Gao, head of China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.When the magazine asked him if he could point to any mistakes that might explain why Western countries were struggling to flatten the coronavirus curve, he didn't miss a beat."The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren't wearing masks," he said."You've got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth. Many people have asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others."That advice is contradicted by the World Health Organization, the government of Canada and federal public health officials like Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. On its webpage, the WHO says that "if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected [COVID-19] infection.""Putting a mask on an asymptomatic person is not beneficial, obviously, if you're not infected," Tam said Monday. Watch: Dr. Tam on why Canadians don't need to wear masksOnly medical masks such as those labelled N95 are designed and fitted to filter out particles that carry the COVID-19 virus. Other masks, such as surgical masks, are looser fitting and made of material that may reduce concentrations of some aerosol particles.A 2015 randomized clinical trial found that cloth masks, for example, did not block influenza and respiratory viruses and actually increased the rate of infections among health care workers, and even surgical masks blocked only slightly more than half of virus particles.Asymptomatic spreadersDr. K.K. Cheng, director of the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., said that Tam's advice makes a dangerous assumption — that an asymptomatic person is not a spreader."The important thing about this coronavirus is that some patients start to shed virus, and become infectious, even before they have symptoms," he said."In public health, a principle is we try to limit the source of harmful exposures rather than do mitigation, if we can. Hand-washing is a form of mitigation."I'm not suggesting in the least that people should stop washing hands. It's very important. But if you're out in public in a supermarket, or in a subway train or on the bus, I think it makes a lot of sense for everyone to wear a mask."While officials in the West caution that the explanations for Asian countries' greater success in controlling the pandemic are complex, officials from the countries themselves — such as Gao and Cheng as well as some South Korean specialists — often point to masks.Now some European governments are choosing to follow pro-mask policies.Austria on Monday banned members of the public from entering a supermarket without one. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that is only the first step toward wider adoption of masks.Next door, the Czech Republic requires everyone to wear a mask in public. The country has experienced a lower-than-average spread of COVID-19.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. is also reportedly considering whether it should revise its guidance on masks, according to the Washington Post. It, too, recommends that only those with symptoms and those caring for them wear masks.Masks or elbowsOf course, the fact that many countries where mask use is widespread have been more successful at flattening the curve does not necessarily mean that the masks themselves account for the difference. Most experts would point to a mix of factors, including more aggressive testing and tracing of infections and tight controls on movement of the population.But Cheng said much of the opposition to masks arises because officials in Europe and North America "have never really grasped the point that wearing masks is not primarily to protect the wearer. The original motivation is to protect others.""In a severe pandemic, the main objective of any public health intervention is to limit the source of infection, things that are coming out of our respiratory tract," he told CBC News.For Cheng, the concern expressed by some public health officials — that people will end up wearing masks that aren't up to the highest standards — is a red herring.He said any mouth and nose covering is superior to telling people to cough into their elbows, as the government of Canada does now."I just don't understand that. Really, it's a simple mechanical thing," Cheng said. "If people wear masks as a self-protective measure and want to protect themselves from others, then I think you really need a hi-spec mask, and no one has got an oversupply of those."But we don't really need that if everyone practices this."The most sophisticated masks must be saved for the health care workers who face the greatest exposure.Dr. Elaine Shuo Feng is part of an Oxford University team that studied different countries' approaches to masks. She agrees that health workers must get priority."But I don't think this is a good reason … to tell the public that a face mask is not effective and to work on the supply issue," she told CBC News. "I think there are a lot of things that you need to do."False sense of confidenceCanadian officials have cited the risk that people won't use masks properly and could expose themselves to greater danger as a result as one of the reasons not to recommend mask wearing for the general public."What we worry about is actually the potential negative aspects of wearing masks where people are not protecting their eyes, or you know, other aspects of where a virus could enter your body," said Tam."And that gives you a false sense of confidence, but also, it increases the touching of your face. If you think about it, if you've got a mask around your face, sometimes you can't help it, because you're just touching parts of your face."Cheng said masks, in fact, inhibit contact between the hand and the mouth, and people can be taught to wash their hands after touching them."Very few people before this pandemic knew how to wash their hands properly," he said. "But you don't go about telling people there's no point in washing your hands. You show them a video showing them how to wash their hands. "It's not a logical argument, really. It's not beyond the realm of most people's IQ to learn how to wear a mask properly."The WHO's guidance on the use of medical masks makes clear that their use alone is insufficient to prevent the spread of COVID-19 without proper hand-washing and other measures to protect against human to human transmission.Not everyone can self-isolateCheng agrees that people with symptoms should not be going out at all. But he said it's wrong to base advice on the assumption that everyone can self-isolate."During this phase when we're locked down, unfortunately, there are still heroes of our society who've got to go to work to keep the country going. Health care workers, bus drivers, supermarket workers," he said.Cheng said he doesn't agree with arguments about creating a false sense of security."People have raised the hypothesis that if you ask people to wear a mask, they'll feel invincible, and then they won't bother with handwashing, for example," he said."There's absolutely no evidence that this is the case. I would argue it's the opposite — that this would heighten one's sense of caution and hygiene, and it would stop people from touching the mouth."Shuo Feng stressed that she does not recommend using self-made masks, which do not block the virus. "I think people better stay at home if they could, stay as much as possible and do the best of social distancing," she said."However, there could be situations that people cannot avoid the crowded areas, and in that case, if they cannot get a surgical mask, then having a self-made mask might be better than not wearing a face mask … it might not be as effective as a surgical mask, but at least it provides some protection."Open to change?In her remarks Monday, Tam did seem to suggest that the government was open to reconsidering its advice."We are continuing to evaluate. Of course, we can be flexible if we find any new evidence."The Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. denied this weekend that it was about to reverse its advice on masks.But cracks are appearing in the North American public health establishment. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said the Centers for Disease Control "should be putting out guidelines ... on how you can develop a mask on your own."The WHO has advised against the use of cotton or gauze masks in any circumstance. Even for medical masks, the WHO provides strict advice on the correct disposal of used masks and recommends against the re-use of single-use masks.But Cheng said the wider use of masks can be part of the eventual unlocking of society."Maybe two months from now, if we're lucky, we may emerge from this, and we have to think about how we reopen the economy," he said. "We have to reduce social distancing."I think everyone wearing a mask for a period of time to be determined would actually help us to get back to normality. People would still have to practise social distancing but without all the schools being closed and so on."Shuo Feng said there's no single approach that will beat the virus, but "now is the right time to talk about face masks and to reconsider the recommendation of face masks to the general population."Watch: The National: Clearing up the confusion around whether masks protect against COVID-19

  • What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 31, 2020
    News
    CBC

    What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 31, 2020

    THE LATEST: * Forty-three more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in British Columbia. * As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 1,013 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province. * Five more people have died, for a total of 24 in B.C. * One hundred twenty eight are in hospital, including 61 in intensive care. * Just over half of all patients, 507 in total, have now recovered from the disease. * B.C.'s Interior region is experiencing its first COVID-19 outbreak, in a group of temporary foreign workers at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna. * New protocols are being putting in place to help non-paramedic first responders, such as police and firefighters.  * Premier John Horgan addresses British Columbians, extends state of emergencyOn Tuesday evening, Premier John Horgan spoke directly to British Columbians, and extended the province's state of emergency.In a televised address, Horgan emphasized how important the next 14 days are in the fight against the pandemic, and implored people to stay home, to physically distance, to wash hands, and to not gather in groups."What we do today will affect what our doctors, nurses and first responders face in the days and weeks ahead. It will determine how many of us stay healthy, and how much we can do to flatten the curve," he said. "You might not feel it in your living room, but everyone in B.C. Is pulling together and their early signs that our actions are making a difference. But we can't stop now."Horgan also thanked "every essential worker" including transit operators, truckers, grocery store workers, child care providers, gas station attendants, pharmacy workers and others. But the Premier reserved his strongest praise for health care workers, and said the province is working hard to secure personal protective equipment, or PPE."You are moving heaven and earth to help people who are sick, and we know you're stressed. We know you're exhausted. And we know you're being pushed to the very limit. We know you're putting yourself in harm's way to keep others safe," said Horgan. "And for that, you have our deepest gratitude.""We may be separated, but we're not alone," said Horgan, who asked British Columbians to recommit to the province's healthcare workers, and to each other."Do your part, stay home, stay safe and we'll bend this curve together."B.C.'s Interior region is experiencing its first outbreak of COVID-19, at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna.According to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, the outbreak occurred within a group of temporary foreign workers who arrived in Canada before international travel restrictions were put in place.At a briefing Tuesday, Henry said that some of the workers began experiencing respiratory symptoms, and public health officials performed tests and investigated the group's housing facilities last weekend.The officials found the workers could be safely housed on the site, and the infected individuals could be effectively quarantined."The business itself is being quarantined and everybody is able to be isolated effectively in the very good housing that is onsite there," said Henry."We want to thank both the workers themselves and the owners and operators of the nursery for being fully cooperative. And everybody is being cared for very well."Henry said the workers had stayed on the farm and not visited the local community, so there was little risk of the outbreak spreading beyond the agricultural facility.There have been 1,013 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. as of Tuesday, and five more deaths, for a total of 24 who have died from the virus in the province.Cases have been detected at 19 long-term care and assisted-living facilities, all of them in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions. Nearly all of the COVID deaths in the province are related to one of those facilities.Currently 128 people are in hospital as a result of the virus, with 61 patients in intensive care. Just over half of all patients — 507 in total — have fully recovered.Provincial officials have also changed the way first responders approach emergency calls during the COVID-19 crisis.Specifically, firefighters and police officers who might normally attend to medical emergencies along with paramedics will no longer be dispatched, unless their services are required.Henry says the move will help better protect non-paramedic first responders, and reduce unnecessary use of valuable personal protective equipment, or PPE, during the COVID pandemic."The protocol allows for paramedics to be dispatched only to most medical calls unless there's a need for backup from either police or fire services," said Henry Tuesday afternoon."So I think that's a really important measure that we want to make sure protects our non-paramedic first responders and ensures that our paramedics are able to respond effectively with the personal protective equipment that they need."B.C. is now into its third week of physical distancing, and arriving at a "critical" juncture in the provincewide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the peak of the outbreak is still to come in B.C., and it's crucial that people continue to keep their distance from others to minimize its impact."We know that, right now, it is still dangerous for us to be gathering in groups because that's where transmission can happen. We need to keep that firewall between us for the next couple weeks until we have a better idea of how this virus is moving through our community," Henry told CBC's The Early Edition on Tuesday."I think it's important for people to know that this does make a difference. It is important and it is working and we need to continue to do it for the next few weeks and then we can reassess and, hopefully, take a bit of a breath."Asked whether B.C. is nearing the point of shutting down non-essential businesses and ordering the public to stay home, Henry said the province could be approaching that phase."I think we are close to it now. We are at the point where we have closed all of those same businesses that they're calling for in many states, et cetera, and we're trying to find that balance," she said.19 hospitals designated as primary care sitesOn Monday, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that 19 major B.C. hospitals are now designated as COVID-19 primary care sites. According to Dix, an additional 200 beds are being made ready at the Vancouver Convention Centre.Henry said the convention centre is being prepared in case all of B.C.'s hospitals were to ever fill."My hope is that we will never have to use it," she said Tuesday.Henry said the overflow centre is being readied proactively to avoid situations seen in other jurisdictions like New York City, which has had to bring in a U.S. Navy Hospital ship to house patients after hospitals were overwhelmed.On Monday, B.C. also announced paid parking will be suspended for the public, staff and patients at all health authority sites as of April 1 to support physical distancing.Nationally, the federal government is moving forward with the private sector on agreements to purchase equipment for the response to COVID-19.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday production of ventilators, masks and test kits is now underway with companies in Ontario and Quebec. He said one company, Thornhill Medical, is making 500 ventilators and hopes to have them ready within weeks.Trudeau said the government has signed letters of intent with five other firms to bolster the national stockpiles of badly needed equipment and has allocated $2 billion to purchase personal protective equipment for health-care professionals.Important reminders:Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.What's happening elsewhere in CanadaAs of 3 a.m. PT on Tuesday, Canada had 7,474 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, with 92 deaths. Provinces and territories reported 1,114 cases as resolved, though it's important to note that data isn't available in all areas.The numbers, which are updated at least daily by the provinces and territories, are not a complete picture, as they don't account for people who haven't been tested, those being investigated as a potential case and people still waiting to learn the results of their test.For a look at what's happening in other provinces and the territories, check the CBC interactive case tracker.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep at least two metres away from people who are sick. * When outside the home, keep two metres away from other people. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Masks won't fully protect you from infection, but can help prevent you from infecting others.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

  • Romantic interlude between two octopus will sadly cause their deaths
    Rumble

    Romantic interlude between two octopus will sadly cause their deaths

    For scuba divers, it is a rare and wonderful treat to see an octopus out in the open. They are nocturnal hunters that prefer seclusion, and venturing out in the daylight is not a common occurrence. Incredibly intelligent and possessing surprising strength, they are adapted to be ferocious predators. Their problem solving and ability to learn is among the greatest in the animal kingdom. The sight of octopus mating is even more rare. This diver filmed a male octopus coming out from his lair under chunk of coral to cautiously approach a nearby female. He carefully extended one of his arms that has a specially adapted portion at the end, to place spermatophores into the female's oviduct. The octopus must always keep in mind that this close contact with the female may not be accepted and he could also be viewed as food. One of the reasons that it is rare to see octopus mating is that each will only do this once in their life. Shortly after mating, the male's metabolism changes and he will stop eating. He dies a few weeks or months after reproducing. The female will incubate the eggs for approximately 40 days. She then lays the eggs in a string under a crevice and tends to them daily for five months. This can be much longer in colder water. She must aerate and clean the eggs or they will not hatch. The female will not feed during this time. She will also die of starvation soon after the eggs hatch. As sad as this is, it is the natural life cycle of the octopus. Generally, they live approximately six months to five years. In scientific experiments, removal of the optic gland, responsible for reproductive maturity, will cause the lifespan of the octopus to be much longer.

  • Disinfect mail boxes and entertainment to 'feed and fuel' the soul; In The News for March 31
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Disinfect mail boxes and entertainment to 'feed and fuel' the soul; In The News for March 31

    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 March 31 ... COVID-19 in Canada ...Governments must be as transparent as possible with Canadians about response measures for COVID-19, says former Liberal public safety minister Ralph Goodale.The cascade of daily briefings from the prime minister all the way down to local health officials are essential to that process, but he said it's equally important that the government makes sure its being held accountable as it develops its response. "It's very important for them to be there and be present and visible and accessible in order for people to have the confidence that the system and the country is working," Goodale said in an interview.The Liberals faced major criticism last week when their emergency aid bill for COVID-19 contained broad powers to raise and spend money without Parliament's approval for the next 21 months.The Opposition demanded a change, and those provisions now expire at the end of September.Goodale said he's not sure why the government would have sought such extended authority. He doesn't believe they were trying to hide anything, given that they took the unusual step of giving opposition parties the bill ahead of time."The dispute was unfortunate, it set back that process of working together a bit," he said.\---Also this ...The union representing Canada Post employees is asking Canadians to disinfect their mail boxes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.And the post office itself is asking Canadians with dogs to keep their doors closed during deliveries, where possible.The Canadian Union of Postal Workers says daily washing and disinfecting of letter boxes, along with handrails and door knobs, will help keep mail carriers safe.CUPW national president Jan Simpson says Canadians are relying on the postal system to keep packages and letters flowing to them as they self-isolate in their homes.And she says they need to know their mail is safe.With so many people home during the day now, Canada Post says the number of interactions between postal carriers and dogs has been increasing, making physical distancing difficult and increasing the risk of dog bites.\---COVID-19 in the U.S. ...New York's governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers amid a "staggering" number of deaths from the coronavirus, as he and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other communities across the U.S. could soon face."Please come help us in New York now," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the state's death toll climbed by more than 250 in a single day to a total of more than 1,200 victims, most of them in the city. He said an additional 1 million health care workers are needed to tackle the crisis."We've lost over 1,000 New Yorkers," Cuomo said. "To me, we're beyond staggering already. We've reached staggering."Even before the governor's appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals in New York were stepping up to volunteer, and a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9-11, had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals."Whatever it is that they need, I'm willing to do," said Jerry Kops, a musician and former nurse whose tour with the show Blue Man Group was abruptly halted by the outbreak.\---COVID-19 around the world ...India is adding more resources to tackle its increase in coronavirus cases by announcing that private hospitals may be requisitioned to help treat virus patients, and turning railway cars and a motor racing circuit into makeshift quarantine facilities.The steps were taken after a nationwide lockdown announced last week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led to a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities to their villages, often on foot and without food and water, raising fears that the virus may have reached to the countryside, where health care facilities are limited.Indian health officials have confirmed more than 1,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 29 deaths.Experts say that local spreading is inevitable in a country where tens of millions of people live in dense urban areas with irregular access to clean water, and that the exodus of the migrants will burden the already strained health system.As India's under-resourced health care system prepares to confront a wave of coronavirus cases, some state governments have asked liquor factories and breweries to produce liquid sanitizer after the initial supply failed to match demand. Designers, non-profit groups and prisoners in various jails have stepped up to help overcome shortages of masks and other personal protective equipment.\---COVID-19 in entertainmentBillie Eilish, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys and Dave Grohl opened their doors — literally — as the musicians performed from their homes for an hour-long benefit concert to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus crisis.Keys kicked off the Sunday's event — which also honoured health professionals and first responders — singing her song "Underdog" from a piano in her home. She thanked those "risking their lives to keep us safe." Carey, one of the last performers, sang "Always Be My Baby" from her home studio in New York, then told the audience she was going to put on gloves.Elton John sang and also hosted the special that aired on Fox and iHeartMedia radio stations; he said he hoped "this entertainment will feed and fuel your soul."The homebound setting wasn't a stretch for the home-schooled Eilish, who typically performs live alongside her brother-producer Finneas, who is either on guitar or piano. On Sunday, he strummed along as Eilish sang her No. 1 hit "Bad Guy" from their couch. The concert special came on the one-year anniversary of Eilish's Grammy-winning debut album "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" — which Finneas and Eilish produced and recorded from their home in Los Angeles.Eilish told viewers she was happy she and her brother could provide "some sort of comfort during the crazy, crazy time."\---This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • Florida sheriff seeking tips in 'Tiger King' mystery
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    The Canadian Press

    Florida sheriff seeking tips in 'Tiger King' mystery

    TAMPA, Fla. — It might be the biggest diversion from the pandemic: binge-watching the luridly fascinating Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”Now a Florida sheriff is asking the public for tips regarding one of the lingering mysteries raised in the recently released show: What happened to Carole Baskin's husband?For those who aren't up to speed, here's a primer: Carole Baskin is the owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. Tiger King, the documentary, is about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic," a former Oklahoma zookeeper who loves guns, younger men, and big cats.Earlier this year, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot. He was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut him down, accusing the Oklahoma zoo of abusing animals and selling big cat cubs.In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Baskin's former husband, Jack “Don” Lewis, who disappeared in 1997. His often violent and expletive-filled rants about Baskin were not only broadcast on his web TV show, but also in the documentary. Since the show was released, speculation about Baskin and Lewis has run rampant — and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister wants to take advantage of all the attention.“Everyone’s home. They’re watching Netflix and they’re home,” Chronister said in a news conference Tuesday, adding that Lewis' case remains open and that he's recently assigned a detective supervisor to handle new leads.The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage's repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin has never been charged with any crime and released a statement refuting the accusations made in the series.“We hope the Sheriff’s plea for leads will result in new information about what happened to Don Lewis,” said Susan Bass, Big Cat Rescue's spokeswoman, in an email.Chronister said at least six new leads a day about Lewis have come in over the past week.“Nothing credible,” he said. “Most tips are more theories.”The sheriff debunked a few allegations raised by Maldonado-Passage in the documentary, including that Lewis is buried under the Big Cat Rescue septic tank (that wasn't put in until years after Lewis' disappearance) and that Lewis' body was put through the meat grinders used to process food for the tigers (those were removed several weeks before his disappearance, Chronister said).The documentary filmmakers “certainly spun it for entertainment purposes,” Chronister said, adding that he too binge-watched the series. “I think that’s why all of us were so intrigued and engaged.”Maldonado-Passage isn't giving up, either: From behind bars, he filed a federal lawsuit seeking nearly $94 million in damages, claiming among other things that he was convicted based on false and perjured testimony. He also says he was singled out for prosecution because he “is an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and cross breeds.”The Associated Press

  • News
    CBC

    With rent due April 1, both Quebec tenants and landlords hope for relief

    With much of Quebec's economy shut down to contain the spread of COVID-19, both landlords and tenants are hoping for more help ahead of the April 1 rent deadline.The Quebec rental board, the Régie du logement, has suspended all hearings and has put a moratorium on evictions and repossessions.But tenants' advocates want concrete measures to ensure tenants aren't evicted as soon as the crisis subsides."We're very, very worried that once that lifts there could be a wave of evictions in the neighborhood," Amy Darwish, a community organizer with Comité d'Action de Parc-Extention, said on Daybreak.Darwish said she has heard from a number of tenants concerned they will have "very little cushion" and be forced to choose between paying their rent and their groceries.A Quebec petition calling for a moratorium on rent payments has garnered thousands of signatures."While corporations and property owners are getting support and relief, tenants are being stretched to the breaking point and ignored," the petition says.There are 416,000 Quebecers renters in Quebec, according to Statistics Canada, and without a source of income, many don't have the savings to dip into to cover future rent payments.But the federal government has announced financial measures that will help renters, including speeding up employment insurance pay-outs.Hans Brouillette, the director of public affairs for CORPIQ, the largest association of landlords in Quebec, said landlords will be flexible when possible, but many face challenges of their own.He wants the federal government and province to set aside funding to ensure rents are paid."People think landlords are all millionaires," he said. "We have landlords who lost their jobs too."Premier François Legault has urged landlords to be accommodating with tenants, given the upheaval, but has not announced any specific measures.Québec Solidaire suggested the Legault government give tenants 30 days to pay their April rent.The opposition party also called on Ottawa to waive interest on mortgage payments over the same period."Keeping an impossible deadline will plunge many families into debt or precariousness," said co-spokesperson Manon Massé.

  • P.E.I. National Park cracks down on unwelcome visitors during COVID-19
    News
    CBC

    P.E.I. National Park cracks down on unwelcome visitors during COVID-19

    P.E.I. National Park announced Tuesday it will close access roads to park locations because too many people gathered there over the weekend.Officials are looking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they said in a written release.Last week officials said the parks would close to all but through traffic. It blocked off access to parking lots and put up large signs indicating no parking was allowed."This past weekend, many Islanders visited P.E.I. National Park, some of whom were in groups, disregarding parking restrictions and not applying the physical distancing recommendations provided by public health authorities to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus," the release said. "We know that many of you have a special connection to these places, but Parks Canada is asking Islanders to stay home to protect themselves, their loved ones and the collective Island community."'Stay home'The restrictions will close roads along the scenic North Shore to the public, effective 8 a.m. this coming Thursday, April 2.Access to the Covehead wharf will be maintained for local fishermen, the release said. "While Parks Canada recognizes that these temporary road closures will limit options for people to be outside to support their physical and mental health, we are implementing these closures to protect all Islanders, especially those who are most at risk," it said. "The government of Canada is asking Canadians to stay home."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 from CBC P.E.I.

  • 'He didn't get a death sentence': Living in fear of COVID-19 behind bars
    News
    CBC

    'He didn't get a death sentence': Living in fear of COVID-19 behind bars

    Deanna Henry panics if her husband doesn't phone her every day at the regular time. Jonathan Henry is serving a 10-year sentence at the Edmonton Institution. "It's literally consuming me every day," she said. "If I don't hear from him when I usually do, I get extra worried that maybe they've gone into a lockdown. And if they go into a lockdown, there's no telling when they would be out again." According to court records, Jonathan Henry, 32, has a lengthy criminal record, consisting mostly of drugs and weapons charges. In October 2017, Henry was sentenced after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking as well as a number of firearms counts.Henry is eligible to apply for parole and has a hearing scheduled for May, but he worries about spending any more time behind bars while the COVID-19 crisis grows."I have chronic asthma," he told CBC News during a telephone interview from the prison. "I take medication for high blood-pressure, so I'm more susceptible to catching whatever this thing is."Inmates are not given hand sanitizer and the only way to regularly wash their hands is to use dish soap, since buying a bar of soap is expensive behind bars and the soap is saved for showers, he said. Henry doesn't think all staff is taking the coronavirus threat seriously. "They think it's a big joke," Henry said. "You'll ask for something like a request form and he'll pretend to sneeze on the request form. Like, it isn't funny to me."For two days last week, he complained, inmates were without toilet paper and a shipment of cleaning supplies had been held up. In an email to CBC News, a Correctional Service Canada spokesperson said there is now a supply of toilet paper, soap and cleaning supplies at Edmonton Institution. "CSC has enhanced cleaning protocols, including disinfecting common areas of contact and increased prevention awareness in all workplaces," the spokesperson wrote. "CSC has been working with institutions to identify stock and determine the need for disinfectant cleaners and hand sanitizers.""Our cells are maybe a metre apart'That does little to comfort Jonathan Henry and his wife. "We know of some staff that actually had recently come from different parts of Canada," Jonathan Henry said. "So they travelled to Ontario, and they're back, and they're working right away."He pointed out that the prison designed to hold 324 maximum security inmates does not lend itself to social distancing. "It's basically a hallway with 12 cells," he said. "We eat together. Our cells are maybe a metre apart." Deanna Henry is also concerned about all the people coming and going from the maximum security prison. "They're doing transfers every day," she said. "Staff and the correctional officers all coming in and out. So it's not saying 'that' if they get this, it's 'when.'" 'We're all just sitting in limbo'  Deanna Henry said she's been frustrated with the lack of information being shared by the federal government and CSC. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday that the public safety minister would soon announce measures to mitigate the risk to inmates, adding his government is "very concerned" there could be greater vulnerability to COVID-19 in correctional facilities."He's just dancing around it, and he says that he's concerned," she said. "But we're all just sitting all in limbo just waiting for some kind of an answer." An answer of sorts was revealed Monday when CSC announced in a news release that two inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec. Even before that diagnosis, nine employees at the same prison had also tested positive. In response, the two inmates were medically isolated from the general inmate population and the prison has been put on lockdown. Staff members there are now wearing masks. Disinfecting has been done and all inmate transfers and programming has been suspended. The most recent statistics available on the CSC website indicate that as of Sunday, 44 inmates nation-wide had been tested for COVID-19. Twenty of those tests were conducted on Alberta inmates. Sixteen inmates at the Bowden medium security prison were tested and all results came back negative. Two inmates have been tested at the Edmonton Institution. Those test results have not been received. Jonathan Henry said he feels like a sitting duck. "It's only a matter of time before it comes in here," he said. "Once it comes in here, it's going to spread like wildfire."His wife agreed. "As soon as it gets onto the range, it will infect all of the inmates on the range," Deanna Henry said.  "When Jonathan got sentenced, he got a 10-year sentence. He didn't get a death sentence."

  • 'An amazing man': Young father identified as northern Alberta's 1st fatal case of COVID-19
    News
    CBC

    'An amazing man': Young father identified as northern Alberta's 1st fatal case of COVID-19

    The first person from northern Alberta to die of COVID-19, a 34-year-old man from Big Lakes County, Alta., is being remembered as a dedicated family man with an unflappable sense of humour.Shawn Auger was among five Albertans to die of COVID-19 in the province on Monday. Auger, who suffered from asthma, is the province's youngest victim of the disease to date.The five deaths were announced Monday by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, who called it "one of the hardest days yet" as the number of confirmed cases in Alberta reached a sobering 690. "Each death is a tragedy, and this many in one day is heartbreaking," Hinshaw said Monday during a news conference in Edmonton."Each of these individuals had a life that mattered and people who loved them."Auger was a government youth worker at the Youth Assessment Centre in High Prairie, about 370 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. He was also heavily involved in the community as a youth hockey coach and volunteer.He was married and had three children. Auger's sister, Kandace Auger, said her brother was a role model in every aspect of his life. He wanted to inspire young people in his community. "He was a fantastic father, husband and provider," Auger said in a statement to CBC News. "He went over and above for his family." And while Auger worked hard to serve to his family and his community, he always had time for a joke, she said.Auger was known as "the jokester," she said. "His favourite thing to do was to take pictures of people eating and post them on Facebook. This was one of the ways he liked to bug people." Auger said her family will work to preserve her brother's legacy in their home community and beyond. "My brother was an amazing man," she said. "His dream was to open a group home in our hamlet of Grouard which his wife and our family will continue to work on in his memory." 'Deeply saddened'A statement identifying Auger as a victim was issued Monday on Facebook by Big Lakes County, a municipal district on the western side of Lesser Slave Lake about 300 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.It urged community members to get support during their grief."Big Lakes County is deeply saddened by the news of our first COVID-19 death," the statement said."We are a close-knit community, and this news will be hard for everyone." A statement from the Valleyview Jets hockey club said Auger had been diagnosed on March 13.The team is asking people to place hockey sticks on their porches in a show of solidarity with Auger's friends and family. "Recently we lost a young man from High Prairie to COVID-19, he was fighting since first being tested positive on March 13. Today he lost his battle. "Let's put our sticks out in honour of Shawn and his hard, short battle. He left behind a wife and three teenage hockey players. RIP Shawn."'The biggest heart'Shane Farnham worked with Auger at the High Prairie Youth Assessment Centre from 2014 until 2017."He's been a friend of mine, he's been a mentor, he's been a brother to me and one of the guys I've always looked up to," Farnham told CBC News on Tuesday."I think everyone would tell you the same thing. He's got the biggest heart of anyone that you would ever meet, and he cared so much about what he did. He gave so much to the community and to all of the kids that he worked with. Everyone around him just really admired him and looked up to him."Farnham said he was "green" when he started with Auger, and learned a lot."He taught me so much about self-confidence, and backbones, and sticking up for people while always keeping people's best interests in mind. So many lessons," he said."I think a lot of the kids would tell you that even in the toughest situations, he could always bring in a lot of humour, and was so funny, yet at the same time so caring."There's kids that have worked with him years and years ago that still reach out to him just because of how well he was just able to be there for them in their time of need. That goes beyond his work, too, to his family and his friends and just anyone that he encountered."Alberta has now recorded eight deaths from COVID-19. The province reported 29 new cases on Monday, which came on top of 119 reported over the weekend. Up to 65 cases in the province are thought to have involved community transmission. Ninety-four people are listed as having recovered from the illness.The five people who died Monday included a woman in her 70s from the Calgary zone, a woman in her 50s from the Calgary zone and two men in their 80s from the Edmonton zone. "Although these individuals had risk factors like older age or chronic medical conditions, their lives mattered as much as any of ours," Hinshaw said.

  • Tenor Placido Domingo feels 'fine' after coronavirus
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Tenor Placido Domingo feels 'fine' after coronavirus

    MEXICO CITY — Tenor Placido Domingo said Monday he is resting at home after catching the new coronavirus.Domingo said in a statement that he is "at home and I feel fine."The 79-year-old was reportedly hospitalized in Mexico after publicly acknowledging on March 22 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and said he was going into isolation.Domingo, who has longstanding ties to Mexico, had suffered from a fever and a cough.Domingo wrote on Monday that “from the very first symptom I was, as usual, under medical supervision, given my age and my comorbidity.”“My thoughts right now are with those who suffer and with all those who are generously working to save lives,” he said. “I thank everyone for your affection and once again I recommend everyone to stay safe at home. See you soon.”For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.The opera singer's illness comes after his own glittering career had recently been stained by sexual misconduct revelations.Last year, multiple women accused Domingo of harassment and abusing his power while he held management positions at Los Angeles Opera and Washington National Opera in stories published by The Associated Press.After first denying any wrongdoing, Domingo issued an apology last month when the American Guild of Musical Artists and LA Opera found the sexual harassment allegations against him to be credible.He has since had a number of performances cancelled. He also resigned as the director of the LA Opera..The Associated Press

  • News
    CBC

    What Alberta renters and landlords need to know about the new pandemic rules

    Rent comes due on the first of the month, and for many left in precarious financial situations due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic, financial help has yet to arrive.On Friday, the Alberta government introduced new protections for renters. Here's what that means.What if I can't pay my rent, or what if my tenant can't pay?Tenants can't be evicted for non-payment of rent before May 1, the government of Alberta said. Instead, the province is asking landlords and tenants to communicate with each other and develop a payment plan while the public health state of emergency is in place."We are expecting landlords and tenants to work together to figure out payment plans that help everyone meet financial obligations as we manage COVID-19, and we are doing further policy work on support for renters during these tough times," Premier Jason Kenney said Friday.However, landlords can still evict tenants if the reason for eviction isn't related to not paying rent — for example, if there's a safety concern or a tenant is partaking in criminal activity. If rent isn't paid, can landlords charge a late fee? Starting April 1, landlords can't charge late fees on rent for the next three months, even if there's a signed agreement stating late fees can be applied. Those late fees can't be collected retroactively, either.Can landlords hike rent?No, rent cannot be increased while the province's state of emergency remains in effect — even if notice of a rent hike was already delivered. That counts for both residential properties and mobile home sites.Who do I contact if my landlord/tenant and I can't resolve an issue?In the event of a dispute, either party can turn to the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service. But, the dispute resolution service won't hear disputes about payments unless, the province says, a reasonable attempt has been made to work out the issue first.Because of COVID-19 concerns, all hearings are being conducted by telephone. "Non-urgent applications, such as for damages or return of the security deposit, are being received, but will not be scheduled for hearing while COVID-19 is being managed," the province said.The Consumer Contact Centre can provide information on many topics related to landlords and tenants. Call 780-427-4088 or toll free 1-877-427-4088.You can also refer to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) Handbook.What other financial supports are available?The province has unveiled a $7.7-billion package to help alleviate financial burdens brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.Here are some of the other supports included: * ATB customers can apply for deferrals on mortgages, loans and lines of credit, and other credit unions are also implementing supports. * Interest on student loans is waived for six months, and payments can be deferred for the same period of time.  * Utility payments can be deferred for 90 days.Albertans might also be eligible for federal supports like EI, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the increased Canada Child Benefit and the GST rebate increase.OK, so what about if I have a mortgage?Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau asked the heads of Canada's big banks to allow people to defer mortgage payments for up to six months.Banks responded by issuing a statement saying they "have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as pay disruption due to COVID-19; child-care disruption due to school closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19." Some credit unions have begun offering deferrals as well.But, not everyone has been able to access that support, and it's been unclear who qualifies for a mortgage deferral with each institution and what level of support they will receive.

  • COVID-19 forces B.C. authorities to change emergency response to wildfires and floods
    News
    CBC

    COVID-19 forces B.C. authorities to change emergency response to wildfires and floods

    Emergency officials in B.C. are modifying their usual preparations for the approaching flood and wildfire seasons to help stop the spread of COVID-19.Operations centres are having to plan how to carry out evacuations from at-risk areas while following the public health orders of maintaining physical distancing and self-isolation.The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is one district currently working with Emergency Management B.C. and other partners on procedures for spring, when high river levels can bring floods to the area.While the COVID-19 pandemic adds a new dimension to their plans, preparing for the unexpected goes hand in hand with the centres' missions, says Erick Thompson, information officer for the regional district."Our training and education has gone on throughout the winter and that really hasn't stopped, and this really is just one other incident to look at," he told Carolina de Ryk, host of CBC's Daybreak North.Physical distancing would have to be taken into consideration from the moment an evacuation order was issued, for example, with RCMP going door to door to alert affected homes.Evacuees are usually required to register at reception centres. Thompson says the district is looking at going digital with registration to avoid people having to stand around with pen and paperwork.The regional district is also stepping up cleaning in reception centres with COVID-19 cleaning kits."We would have to ensure physical distancing to protect not only folks who have been evacuated from their homes but also volunteers as well," Thompson said.When people are evacuated from their homes, they are at first settled in hotel rooms, which Thompson says makes self-isolation easier in that family units can be settled in the same room.Authorities not panickingThe provincial government confirmed advance preparations are in full swing for the spring's high river levels, often referred to as freshet. "That is something that we're really concerned about, and we have advanced planning units ... getting ready for preparations for the upcoming freshet," said parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness Jennifer Rice."It's going to be difficult. And it is challenging. And there are certain circumstances where we have to do the best that we can with what we have."Thompson says despite concerns at all levels of government, plans are going ahead as they normally would."I don't feel that anybody, whether it's at the local level, regional districts, or municipalities, or at the provincial, or federal Liberals, anyone is panicking by any means."Tips and planning for homeownersIn the meantime, Thompson says there are steps homeowners can take to prepare for spring and summer weather events in order to minimize their impact."We do want to always remind homeowners and business owners as well ... to start looking at what has happened in your area in the past," he said.That can include preparing sandbags around your home to protect it from flooding, or clearing your yard of debris, dead wood, and other waste that can fuel fire.Listen to the interview with Erick Thompson on CBC's Daybreak North:

  • Quebec's Indigenous leaders welcome checkpoints designed to limit COVID-19 spread
    News
    CBC

    Quebec's Indigenous leaders welcome checkpoints designed to limit COVID-19 spread

    Some First Nation leaders in Quebec say they are pleased with the province's decision to forbid non-essential travel to several regions considered especially at risk from novel coronavirus. Checkpoints to restrict access to eight regions — including many areas with high Indigenous populations, such as the Cree territory, Nunavik, Côte-Nord, and Abitibi-Témiscamingue — were put in place by the Quebec government Saturday, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. The regions are considered "at risk", according to Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault, because they are isolated, have a harder time accessing health services, or have an older population."It's an announcement that has been welcomed by many of our communities," said Grand Chief Ghislain Picard, of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador. He said the measure won't remove the threat to Indigenous communities, but it will help support the work already happening at the community level. Picard added that communities would also like to see in-community testing put in place. "There is a lot of ... people wanting to get their testing done in the community, even though the laboratories might be on the outside," said Picard.Concerns about policingSome Indigenous communities rely on the Sûreté du Québec for policing services. Picard said there is a concern that those duties will no longer be prioritized, as the officers are being called into action across the province to manage the checkpoints."I guess the fear is that our communities serviced by the SQ, maybe we'll be a last consideration," said Picard. Traffic being allowed past the checkpoints include essential service workers, such as health and humanitarian workers, food and fuel distribution workers, and residents either trying to get home or heading south for medical services or essential services such as grocery stores and pharmacies. "The objective is to better protect people who live in those area, which are considered more vulnerable," said Guilbault on Saturday.Checkpoints a welcome addition for Cree NationFor Cree Grand Chief Abel Bosum, news of the checkpoints was also welcomed. "I am very happy that the rest of Quebec will be helping us better protect our region," Bosum said in a Facebook post. He went on to say the Sûreté du Québec is working closely with the Eeyou-Eenou Police Force to make sure that Cree residents will "always be allowed to return home." For the Cree communities, main checkpoints are set up at the beginning of the James Bay Highway at the Matagami gate, near the non-Indigenous communities of Lebel-sur-Quévillon, and south of Chibougamau on Highway 167. Authorities in Nunavik put in place travel restrictions to the fly-in only territory last Wednesday, before Quebec's announcement.Since then, access to flights has been limited to essential workers and patients accessing essential medical care. All passengers are being screened before boarding a flight to Nunavik and if they have cold or flu-like symptoms they are being denied access. "Our priority is to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in Nunavik as much as possible," said Marie Rochette, director of public health, in a release. On Sunday, Nunavik also put in place a travel ban for everything except food deliveries and emergency medical travel to the community of Salluit, which saw its first case of COVID-19 confirmed on Saturday. A curfew has also been put in place.Nunavik Public Security is also recommending people not travel between communities in Nunavik by skidoo.

  • News
    CBC

    Work to begin on $5.3M Maple Leaf Pool in Regina

    Construction on Maple Leaf Pool in Regina will begin this week with some modified working conditions to limit the spread of COVID-19.Construction, considered an essential service, is among the services and industries allowed to operate during the current novel coronavirus pandemic."Construction on infrastructure has to continue on," Mayor Michael Fougere said. "We have to build our city and move forward but in a way that's safe for those working on site but also ensure we meet our commitment to actually have this pool built."The city unveiled its preferred plan for the pool in October: L-shaped with a zero-depth, beach-like entry designed to improve access for swimmers with mobility issues. Change room and washroom facilities will also feature an accessible lift and table.The city planned to close the pool but decided to rebuild it instead after residents rallied to keep the facility, which has been a fixture in the Heritage neighbourhood for more than 70 years.Increased safety measuresSafety measures being put in place are site monitoring, physical distancing, hand washing protocol, additional cleaning in shared services and personal protection equipment.City manager Chris Holden announced the City of Regina has implemented a distancing standard which has resulted in minimizing contact with other people both during work duties and during personal time."We're looking at no more than five people in work areas, meeting rooms, our shops, and maintaining that two metre distance," Holden said.Holden said workers will now have seating arrangements to maintain physical distancing in fleet vehicles.Workers who need to work side-by-side, there will be work place health and safety staff who will look at modifications to the work site and ensure PPE is available.Holden also asked residents to maintain distance if and when they engage city workers out in the city."There is still a city that is operating day in and day out," Holden said.Holden said contractors hired by the City of Regina have their own policies on distancing, including the company building Maple Leaf Pool, Westridge Construction, but that the city's distancing rules will be respected on the work site.

  • News
    CBC

    Long-haul drivers face challenges to keep on trucking during pandemic

    Different organizations, restaurants, city officials and government staff across B.C. are working to ensure long-haul drivers have access to food and clean bathrooms as many of their traditional pit-stops shutter due to the coronavirus.Dave Earle, president and CEO of the British Columbia Trucking Association, says truck drivers have an essential service designation, which means many truckers are putting in long hours to make sure essential supplies like groceries and medical supplies are getting where they need to be."It's been a tough journey over the past week ... [Some] companies are absolutely all hands on deck trying to get what's in distribution centres out to where it needs to be," Earle said. "[But] like every other industry, we do have people who are self-isolating."An additional strain, he says, is the fact that many of the traditional pit stops along trucking routes have shuttered, and at other locations, in order to increase physical distancing, truckers were being asked to stay in their vehicles and not use facilities at a delivery site, for example. Earle says so far, they've been working closely with restaurants along the routes. This can mean allowing drivers to order online through an app, or working with restaurants to keep their restrooms open for truck drivers. "Over the weekend, I saw [one location of] McDonald's post a sign saying the restaurant is closed except for truck drivers," he said. Earle said the association is also working with the Ministry of Transportation to get washroom facilities up and running at weigh and scale stations. These would be more substantial than a portable bathroom, with the goal of having hot and cold water and cleaning staff on hand to make sure the facilities are maintained.The town of Sidney on Vancouver Island took matters into its own hands, setting up what it calls a "critical supply chain rest stop" in an employee parking lot in its downtown core close the highway, with an area to rest and portable washrooms.  The nearly one-hectare site can hold about 10 to 12 freight trucks and is located close to amenities, including a 24-hour TIm Hortons which is working with the municipality to keep their washrooms open for truck drivers.  "This is a small gesture we can undertake and provide,"  said Randy Humble, the director of Sidney's Emergency Operations Centre.Earle says the pandemic has brought to light how our current economy and society depends on trucking."There is a consideration to realize and understand .. how important it really is."The Ministry of Transportation said it's exploring options for additional washroom facilities for commercial drivers throughout the province.In a statement, it also said keeping public rest areas clean and well supplied is the responsibility of its maintenance contractors, who are monitoring rest areas daily to ensure the facilities are clean, sanitary and well-stocked.Listen to the full interview with Dave Earle of the British Columbia Trucking Association:If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

  • Chinese oil company announces delay of Flemish Pass drilling campaign
    News
    CBC

    Chinese oil company announces delay of Flemish Pass drilling campaign

    In another blow to Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil industry, an exploration drilling campaign planned this year for the Flemish Pass has been delayed because of the global pandemic.That's a setback for an industry hoping to expand the province's oil industry into a new, deepwater basin.In a statement to CBC News, CNOOC International confirmed that plans to drill what's known as the Pelles well has been delayed."We have concluded that given that we are in the early stages of our exploration program, we cannot safely execute offshore in Atlantic Canada in the near term due to the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement reads.Spain battling a severe outbreakThe COVID-19 crisis in Europe is a big factor in the decision.That's because the drill ship Stena IceMax is in Spain, and it cannot sail for Newfoundland, said Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady."It would have to come across the ocean into Newfoundland and Labrador waters and that is not permissible at the time because of the COVID situation," said Coady.The IceMax recently underwent a workover in a Spanish shipyard, and was scheduled to start drilling the Pelles A-71 location in early April.But Spain is battling a severe outbreak of COVID-19, with hundreds of its citizens dying daily.The IceMax is also crewed by an international contingent of specialists, and sailing into Canadian waters during a pandemic is not a good idea, said Coady.So the three wildcat wells planned for this year — at a reported day rate of $299,000 — are now on hold but CNOOC says it remains committed to the campaign, and this is a delay.Coady says she believes the current wave of bad news will soon end. "I guess I'm cautiously optimistic that once we are through this pandemic, things will come back and surge again," she said.Bay du Nord not dead, says CoadyThe decision follows a similar move by Equinor and its partners to defer the Bay du Nord project, also located in the Flemish Pass.Equinor cited plummeting oil prices in its decision, but Coady is also confident that it will eventually get the green light."They still have their project team together, and are still working to advance it," she said.Meanwhile, two other drilling campaigns are either underway, or are about to begin.Coady said ExxonMobil is continuing its drilling work, while she's confident Equinor will proceed with its own campaign, with a drill rig anchored in Bay Bulls.CNOOC — which stands for China National Offshore Oil Corporation — did not reference challenging market conditions in its statement, and CBC has requested more information from the company."Like all organizations, we continue to respond to the evolving COVID-19 crisis. Maintaining the safety and well-being of our workforce remains our top priority," CNOOC wrote.The company called the decision to delay its drilling campaign "difficult but necessary."However, the company said it remains "fully committed to Newfoundland and Labrador.""We continue to assess appropriate timing and next steps to safely execute our exploration program in the Flemish Pass," reads the statement.CNOOC is one of the largest national oil companies in China.The Stena IceMax drill ship contracted to carry out its drilling campaign has never operated in Newfoundland's offshore, but has worked for Shell Canada in Nova Scotia's offshore.CBC has learned that workers began receiving messages early this morning, saying the exploration campaign was being postponed."CNOOC had mobilized people from all over the world for this project and now they are at a standstill," said a source close to the project.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • News
    CBC

    Mayor pleased with Norman Wells' COVID-19 response, for the most part

    The mayor of Norman Wells, N.W.T. wrote a letter to his Mackenzie River community Monday, thanking residents for pitching in and helping one another, and calling out those who are not observing physical distancing protocols in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.The letter, posted to the town's website, indicates that some people are still gathering at house parties, putting other residents at risk."We know there are a couple of homes in town where here may be parties or gatherings of larger groups of people than would be safe," said Frank Pope."By pointing this out in my letter I'm just hoping they may be picking up where we're coming from and maybe act a little more responsibly."Pope says people in Norman Wells — unlike those in Yellowknife and other larger centres — have not been panic-buying items."We've got lots of toilet paper," he said. "I notice when I have gone by the stores there's only one or two vehicles at any given time. As I said, the store shelves are full."Others are pitching in where they can and adapting to the new reality."We've got people like the fire department going around shovelling the roofs of the elders' homes," said Pope. "The stores are delivering to homes if you phone in and put in a grocery order. We have one hotel that's doing take-out meals and things."Imperial Oil's operation in Norman Wells has adjusted its procedures to ensure fly-in workers do not bring the virus north from their southern hometowns. Starting this week, the company is using charter planes instead of regularly scheduled flights for workers.Pope said once the workers arrive, they're immediately taken to the company camp, where they stay until they fly out.

  • Unifor recommends membership reject Co-op refinery's 'best and final offer'
    News
    CBC

    Unifor recommends membership reject Co-op refinery's 'best and final offer'

    The Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) has made a new offer to their locked-out Unifor members and has applied to force a vote on the proposal. The union's leadership is recommending its membership reject the offer.Workers have been locked out since Dec. 5, two days after issuing a 48-hour strike notice. The two sides went to mediation in February and March. The mediator, Vince Ready, made recommendations to both sides in mid-March. Unifor 594 voted to accept the recommendations, while the Co-op Refinery Complex said it could not accept them all. Co-op adjusted the recommendations and, on March 25, the refinery said it had given their "final offer" to the Unifor 594 bargaining committee. The refinery said the offer creates long-term certainty for employees. Unifor said its membership would not vote on the final offer because the members had already ratified the mediator's recommendations. On March 30, the refinery said it gave Unifor a new "best and final" offer. The refinery said it was disappointed the membership could not vote and has applied to the Labour Relations Board to order a vote under Section 6-35 of The Saskatchewan Employment Act. The vote will be supervised by the board. The refinery said the process should unfold over the next couple of weeks. Unifor said it cannot accept the March 30 offer and recommends its membership reject it when the forced vote happens. Unifor said it continues to only want the special mediator's recommendations. "The mediators' recommendations were thoughtfully crafted and balanced. They represent the best path forward for both oil and gas workers and the company," Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in a statement. One of the biggest changes between the mediator's recommendations and the Co-op Refinery Complex's March 30 offer is pensions. The special mediator suggested employees contribute eight per cent into their pensions as of Feb. 1, 2022. They don't currently contribute. On March 30, the CRC offer has employees paying eight per cent into their pensions a year earlier, on Feb. 1, 2021.Pensions are one of the sticking issues in the dispute. The CRC is also requesting a 50-50 share of current service costs beginning on Feb. 1, 2022. Unifor files with Saskatchewan Labour Board On Sunday, Unifor announced that it has filed two unfair labour practice applications with the Saskatchewan Labour Board against the Co-op Refinery Complex. The union said on its website that one was related to "industrial espionage" while the other is related to "surface bargaining," or negotiating in bad faith. No allegations are proven. The Co-op Refinery Complex said it is aware of the applications and has filed a response with the Labour Relations Board. The refinery is now awaiting possible hearing dates. Unifor alleges that after the lockout began, the CRC started a "campaign of psychological attacks" among other unfair practices.

  • Google Japan defends impartiality of search results amid lockdown rumors
    News
    Reuters

    Google Japan defends impartiality of search results amid lockdown rumors

    Google on Tuesday defended the impartiality of its search results after users in Japan seeking to corroborate rumors of an imminent state of emergency declaration by the government were met with no results on its website. The government on Monday denied it was preparing to lock down the country on April 1 as rumored earlier. Google users found that using the search term "state of emergency declaration April 2" in Japanese was returning no results - an unusual outcome on the world's top search site and sparking further speculation of censorship by the company.

  • Council to make 'gut-wrenching' choice on paying city staff who are not working amid pandemic
    News
    CBC

    Council to make 'gut-wrenching' choice on paying city staff who are not working amid pandemic

    Windsor City Council is expected to make a "real tough choice" this week — likely Wednesday afternoon — on whether or not to continue paying city staff who have been sent home and are not working during the COVID-19 pandemic."No one wants to be in this position," said Mayor Drew Dilkens. According to his chief of staff Andrew Teliszewsky, there are about 600 workers, represented by CUPE Local 543 and CUPE Local 82 who are currently not working and are being paid. "A lot of our revenues have dried up," Dilkens said, explaining that expenses are adding up as well. "This is a business decision as well."Dilkens said that the city has a good relationship with the bargaining groups that represent workers, and that this will be a "gut-wrenching" decision because he works with these individuals every day. Teliszewsky added that according to their collective agreement, CUPE normally doesn't allow workers with Local 543 to be deployed to Local 82 duties, and vice-versa, but that given the circumstances of the time, they've allowed staff members working at a facility that has closed to be re-deployed to another office that is still operational — wherever possible. "They have been tremendous to deal with since the outset of this," he said. Dilkens acknowledges this is not a "fair" situation but that council will effort to find a solution that's fair and reasonable for everyone, and is one that the tax payer can accept as well. The city first decided to close its public facilities in the middle of March, and the closure was expected to continue until at least Monday, April 6. Since then, about 100 to 120 employees have been able to work from home, and Teliszewsky said the city has been doing everything it can to equip as many people as possible with that ability.Meanwhile, another 600 employees are still working in their regular work environments. About 60 per cent of them work at Huron Lodge and as social support workers.At City Hall, 3-1-1 employees continue to operate the core function to provide social services for city residents. Teliszewsky said employees are "going above and beyond, doing amazing work for the most vulnerable during this time."City Hall 350 and 400 are at a 10 per cent occupancy right now.

  • Barrie, Ont. woman describes brutal wait to see if husband would survive COVID-19
    CBC

    Barrie, Ont. woman describes brutal wait to see if husband would survive COVID-19

    Tracy Segura asked doctors more than once, 'Am I going to see my husband again?' while Rene fought for his life.

  • Teachers reaching out to students with messages
    News
    CBC

    Teachers reaching out to students with messages

    Now in week three of no school, seven-year-old Ryan Haines sure is missing his friends at Dr. A.T. Leatherbarrow Primary School in Hampton.In fact, the list of things he's missing keeps growing — gym, art class, playing outside with his friends, the library, choir, Lego club.  "I miss everything," he said by phone from his Bloomfield home. He also misses his Grade 2 teacher, Mary Kierstead. That's why he was so happy to see her face and her message to students as part of a YouTube video from school staff. "It really brightened his day," said his mom, Katie Haines. "He had a huge grin on his face" as he called out the names of those he knew. Haines and other parents are praising teachers who are reaching out to home-bound students and re-establishing connections that were lost when schools were closed more than two weeks ago in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.  When Dr. Leatherbarrow teachers got together online last week, they tried to come up with a way to let the students know they were thinking about them. Principal Lisa Jardine said they decided on a video message on YouTube with each of them holding up a message. The teachers were so eager to get the message out that the video was ready to go the following day. Teachers let students know, in both official languages, that they miss them — with the occasional mention of being active, staying safe and even helping with household cleaning. At the end of the video, children were invited to send their own messages back to the teachers and there was such an overwhelming response, said Jardine, that vice-principal Sara Creighton put together an eight-minute video collage of them and posted it today. Jardine estimates that about half the students in the kindergarten-to-Grade-2 school sent in photos with their own messages for the teachers. They also let them know what they've been up to for the last two weeks. Some have been having lots of outdoor adventures, some are learning to bake, one helped build a deck and another learned to ride a bike. Jardine said teachers were grateful for the updates and to hear that students were keeping busy as best they can. "We certainly understand that not all learning takes place in the classroom," she said. "We're cognizant of that every day at all levels but particularly at K to 2, they need to be exploring and using their hands and being outside as much as possible to learn as well. So it's nice to see so many of the photos that we're receiving have children outside actually doing things like learning to ride a bike."Jardine said it's particularly important for younger children. "In many ways, we're kind of like a parent figure to them at that age. Sometimes they inadvertently call us mom in the classroom," she said. "But it's that kind of relationship. We teach them everything from how to eat independently at lunch time to tying their shoes and how to get dressed independently. It's a lot of life skills that have nothing to do with academics."She said every teacher in her school has reached out to their students' parents, and in many cases, they were able to speak directly to the students. "You can hear the smile in their voice on the telephone," said Jardine. While the primary purpose of those calls is to reconnect and check in on families, "it's also for our own mental health," she said.   The kindergarten teachers at Forest Hills Elementary School have been posting daily messages to their students online since school closed more than two weeks ago.  Teacher Bryan Raymond said he also uses an app called Remind, which is designed to help teachers stay in contact with students. He said he exchanges daily messages and photos with almost every one of his students, through their parents. On Monday morning, one of the parents asked if he could phone her son. Raymond said he was more than happy to reach out. "He was joyful," said Raymond of the exchange. "He and his family were all really appreciative." "There's no play dates right now, so it's just nice to have that phone call with a familiar voice, letting you know that there's still some normalcy in the world." \- Denise MillerIn fact, six-year-old Kendrick Bassey was so excited that he wanted to share the experience with the rest of the family. He passed the phone to his older sister Kayla, then his dad, Bassey, and finally to his mom, Atim, who said Kendrick's excitement lasted the entire day. "It was very heartwarming," she said and is grateful to Raymond for taking the time to reach out to the family. She said her son looks forward to his teacher's daily message, funny pictures, and other activities. But Raymond said he gets a lot out of it, too. He said hearing the boy's voice and his excitement also lifted his spirits. He's now working on a way to get his class together for a video chat so they can stay connected and lift each other's spirits. Denise Miller said a recent phone call from a Hampton High School teacher "meant the world" to her 14-year-old daughter, Hunter. The Kingston Peninsulas resident even tweeted about it."My daughter's teacher from Hampton High, Erin Duncan called her here at home the other day to check in. This meant the world to a freaked out Grade 9 student in these strange times. Just wanted to pass this on that they may not be on the clock, but are still awesome."Miller said the last three weeks of social isolation has been difficult for Hunter. "There's no play dates right now, so it's just nice to have that phone call with a familiar voice, letting you know that there's still some normalcy in the world."

  • News
    CBC

    Long wait times for grocery delivery and pickups in Ottawa

    Grocery stores and online delivery services are dealing with a surge in demand as online shopping increases with so many people staying at home and practising physical distancing, leading to long wait times for delivery and pickups.PC Express, the e-commerce service owned by Loblaw Companies, has seen its business more than double over the past few weeks, the company said in an email."Two weeks ago, we'd have an order ready in an hour. Now, it can take four days or more," Loblaw Companies CEO Galen Weston said in a statement posted on the company's website on Friday. Ken Rockburn, a former host of CBC Radio's All In A Day, is one customer who has experienced the backlog firsthand.Rockburn said he placed an order through PC Express for pickup at the Real Canadian Superstore on Richmond Road last week. While the service's website typically allows users to choose a time to pick their groceries up, Rockburn said he never received a confirmation email with his receipt.When he checked the website, it said his order wouldn't be available until April 8, almost two weeks away at the time. "Had I realized they were so backed up, I probably wouldn't have done that," he said. "I'm sure there's people out there in much more dire need than I am."Customers hoping to place an online order with IGA on Monday were placed into a virtual queue, an attempt to triage what the company said was "an extremely high volume of users." The estimated wait time to begin shopping was more than an hour.Grocery delivery services in demandEli Ilatov, owner of Ottawa-based grocery delivery service Fill My Fridge, said demand for home deliveries has taken off since public health officials began telling people to stay home.Ilatov said a 10-fold increase in orders from individuals has helped keep his business going after it lost all its business clients."Originally, it was scary because our main business dropped to zero," said Ilatov. "But two days after we started getting so many residential requests."Ilatov said he's had to hire five new employees to keep up with the demand.Fill My Fridge now has a daily cap on the number of orders it can handle, Ilatov said. Customers who do make an order can expect to wait between one and three days for their groceries to arrive.California-based Instacart, which delivers groceries in cities throughout most of Canada, has also seen its order volume and customer base grow over the past several weeks, the company said in an email.Over 250,000 new people signed up to become Instacart shoppers, and 50,000 have already started shopping on the platform, the company said.The company did not say how long the average wait time is, but said delivery times vary across stores and the availability of shoppers.

  • I'm A Landlord Who Waived April Rent. I'll Do It Until July If I Need To.
    News
    HuffPost Canada

    I'm A Landlord Who Waived April Rent. I'll Do It Until July If I Need To.

    Not every landlord can afford to reduce rent, but those that can, should.