COVID-19 in Canada: 'We need to do a better job of caring for seniors,' Trudeau urges after horrific care report

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As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread around the world, Canadians seem to be increasingly concerned about their health and safety

Currently, there are more than 85,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada and more than 6,400 deaths.

Check back for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Canada.

For a full archive of the first month of the pandemic, please check our archive of events.

May 27

11:40 a.m.: ‘We need to do a better job of caring for seniors’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented on a “troubling” report from the Canadians Armed Forces on 25 long-term care homes in Quebec.

The problems identified include inadequate staffing, issues about isolating COVID-19 positive residents and people not following the rules on personal protective equipment (PPE). 

“We need to do a better job of caring for seniors...they deserve better,” Trudeau said. “We will be there to help.”

Although the prime minister did not specify exactly how the federal government will assist in these settings, Trudeau said he will raise what is happening on a call with Canada’s premiers on Thursday.

“Coming out of this pandemic...we need to make sure we’re doing a better job of supporting our seniors,” he said. 

Trudeau said after reading the report about Quebec long-term care homes, just after a report about Ontario facilities was shared, he has pride and “even deeper respect” for the Canadian military, who assisted in these settings.

“Going forward, Canadians want to see us doing better by our elders,” the prime minister said. 

10:30 a.m.: Ontario extends emergency orders

The Ontario government has extended all emergency orders until June 9. 

“We are extending these emergency orders to protect the health and safety of all individuals and families as we begin to gradually and safely reopen our province,” premier Doug Ford said in a statement.

The current orders include the closure of outdoor playgrounds, bars and restaurants for in-person dining and social gatherings are restricted to five people.

“To build on the progress we have made to contain COVID-19, people should continue to follow these simple public health guidelines, practise physical distancing, wear a mask when it is a challenge to physical distance, and wash their hands regularly,” a statement from Ford reads.

‘Don't be like Toronto’

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is urging people in the city to keep their distance and avoid crowding in parks, saying “don’t be like Toronto.”

His comment comes after thousands of people gather at Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday, going against physical distancing rules.

“We have a beautiful city that is full of green spaces and there are great opportunities to get together in your own neighbourhood, in non-traditional spaces,” Nenshi said in his update on Tuesday. “A lot of this is going to be self regulating, people want to stay safe, they want to keep the physical distance.”

May 26

7:30 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: B.C. ‘not bending the rules’ for NHL

British Columbia's provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said although she is pleased Vancouver is being considered as a “hub city” for the NHL, the province does not intend to make exceptions to its public health measures for players.

“We have been very clear...that we’re not bending the rules in any way that would put what we have achieved here in B.C. at risk,” Dr. Henry said.

As the province continues to look into local spread of COVID-19, B.C. is actively looking at serology testing as a way to better understand the impact of the virus.

B.C. is currently conducting a survey of people in the province to find out more about citizen experiences throughout the pandemic. Of the more than 300,000 people who have taken the survey so far, more than 200,000 indicated they would be interested in participating in serology testing.  

COVID-19 fight heightened in Montreal with heat concerns

With the weather forecast predicting warmer temperatures in much of Quebec, the city of Montreal must balance preventing the spread of COVID-19 while battling a heat wave.

This is particularly difficult when public spaces with air conditioning, like shopping malls and libraries, are still closed due to the pandemic.

Regional public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin said a request has been made to open splash pad at municipal parks as soon as possible.

Seasonal residents of P.E.I. to undergo risk assessment

Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of Prince Edward Island, stressed anyone coming to the province must have pre-approval through public safety and a self-isolation plan in place before arrival.

Residents who are returning do not need pre-approved travel but their plans for self-isolation must be in place.

With increasing questions about seasonal residents, Dr. Morrison said more clarity will be provided later this week but there will be a risk assessment process that considers where people are coming from, the effectiveness of their isolation plan and if testing may be a requirement for them as well.

“We will not want to...jeopardize our capacity with operation isolation based on our intake of people coming into P.E.I.,” Dr. Morrison said.

People who travel off the island for essential work may be exempt from self-isolation. Those who are home for less than 14 days can be tested weekly for COVID-19 but the first time they are tested, they must be isolated waiting for the results.

“If they are still in P.E.I. seven days later they will be tested again,” Dr. Morrison said.

The provincial chief public health officer also reminded the public about how the virus can spread from person to person.

“It does not shoot across the room,” Dr. Morrison said. “It also doesn’t soak through your skin on your arm.”

“It’s really important we continue to use enhanced cleaning measures so these droplets don’t remain on surfaces another person can touch.”

4:00 p.m.: ‘We don’t want anyone left uncared for’

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, briefly commented on the report from the Canadian Armed Forces on long-term care facilities, released on Tuesday.

“We don’t want anyone left uncared for during this time of the outbreak,” Dr. Williams said.

When asked about the possibility of people in Ontario being allowed to see loved one in long-term care homes, in light of the recently released information, the chief medical officer of health said officials are looking at when Ontarians can be given the “green light,” but the direction will come from the Ministry of Long-term Care.

With the daily case count down to 287, Dr. Williams called this number “encouraging” but reminded the public to take the data “with a grain of salt” because it is only one day.

He said some areas have seen significantly fewer COVID-19 cases than other but the province has significant concerns about any regional restrictions in Ontario, with the assumption that people in an area with more public health measures in place will travel to other regions to access more services.

“By doing regional responses, can you restrict travel...especially to adjacent areas,” Dr. Williams said. “Intraprovincial blockage is a challenge.”

2:30 p.m.: Ontario Premier says reports from five long-term care homes is ‘appalling’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said a report from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) on long-term care homes in the province is “heartbreaking” and “horrific.”

“We knew these homes were having serious problems and needed help,” Ford said. “We didn’t know the full extent.”

“It’s gut wrenching and reading those reports was the hardest thing I’ve done as premier.”

The report claims there was fecal contamination, rotten food, cockroaches, and residents not being cleaned and bathed.

“It’s absolutely appalling,” Ford said. “These are just standard operating procedures to clean someone.”

“It’s so disturbing when I read this, it was heard to get though it.” 

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, said these facilities have been the government’s “top priority” throughout the pandemic.

“We will continue to be transparent with the people of Ontario,” Dr. Fullerton said. “We have said all along that our long-term care system needs to be repaired.”

She said there has been “significant improvement” in the five homes since the report was released.

“As our population aged, as the staffing became more problematic into a crisis, just before COVID, that had been on my radar and as a minister of long-term care, I was looking to address that,” Dr. Fullerton said. “This is a national issue, this is something that everyone has known about for years, our population was aging, long-term care was ignored.”

Premier Ford has now requested to extend their current mission in long-term care for 30 days and called for additional assistance from the federal government.

“Support us as we move forward...we can’t fix it alone,” Ford said.

1:30 p.m.: Deputy Prime Minister calls report on Ontario long-term care homes ‘serious and truly heart wrenching’

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Health Parry Hajdu both commented on the report from the Canadian Armed Forces about long-term care homes in Ontario.

Hajdu called the report “extremely disturbing” and said although these facilities are provincial jurisdiction, the federal government intends to support the province to ensure seniors can have a “dignified life.”

She added that as a result of the report being shared, the Minister of Defence “took appropriate action.”

Freeland said the government is “grateful” for the people who stepped forward to collect this information, calling the report “serious and truly heart wrenching.”

The Deputy Prime Minister also commented on the possibility of asylum seekers in Quebec working in long-term care facilities being able to stay in Canada through immigration applications. 

“We understand there is a very specific situation right now where many people in Canada and Quebec are particularly grateful to refugee claimants,” Freeland said. “We know also that it’s very important in all do things properly and carefully.”

She added that Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, is looking into this with the province “very carefully and closely.”

12:00 p.m.: Trudeau calls report on Ontario long-term care homes ‘deeply disturbing’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has read “deeply disturbing” information from a report by the Canadian Armed Forces about what was witnessed in Ontario long-term care facilities.

“There are things in there that are extremely troubling and we need to take action,” Trudeau said, also indicating he spoke to Ontario Premier Doug Ford earlier on Tuesday and offered federal support.

The prime minister went on to say that when he read the report he had emotions of anger, sadness, frustration and grief.

“We need to do a better job of supporting our seniors in long-term care right across the country through this pandemic and beyond,” Trudeau said. “This is a situation that has gone on for a long time, we need to take action as a country.”

More information on the report is expected to be released later on Tuesday.

The prime minister also announced the federal government has secured a contract with General Motors to produce 10 million face masks. A new contract has also been signed for 10,000 ventilators in partnership with Vexos.

May 25

7:30 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: No evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food or food packaging

British Columbia's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the province is continuing to try to prevent a second wave of the virus or a significant resurgence in the future.

“Whether we see a...seasonal-related second wave in the fall is another thing altogether,” she said. “I believe that a resurgence right now is not inevitable if we follow what we have been doing.”

“I suspect it’s going to happen because history tells us with every other pandemic that we’ve had...that we have seen a seasonally related second wave in the fall. Right now, we have to prepare for that.”

Dr. Henry commented on the recent outbreak at the frozen fruit processing plant in Abbotsford.

“There has not been any reported cases of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19,” Dr. Henry said. “It is safe and continues to be safe.”

in terms of COVID-19 in children, Dr. Henry said the province is still looking into any Kawasaki-like syndrome, a post-viral syndrome. B.C. has made it a reportable condition but there are no confirmed cases in the province yet.

“It is quite rare still,” Dr. Henry said. “It is clear around the world that they are less likely to be infected with COVID-19 than adults.”

Less than one percent of cases in B.C. are in children under the age of 10 and no one under the age of 19 has had to be in intensive care.

She also referenced research out of Australia and New Zealand indicating it is much more likely for children to be infected by an adult than vice versa.

No shortage of PPE in Alberta, chief medical officer says

Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the province has tweaked its distribution process for personal protective equipment (PPE). Moving forward, PPE will be prioritized for those at highest risk of exposure in the province.

“Private organizations can continue to access PPE through the government until June 30 but will need to pay a fair market price,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “After June 30, they will need to get PPE from their own suppliers.”

She went on to say N95 masks will be provided to dentists at a fee for emergency procedures only and for morticians for embalming procedures for the duration of global N95 shortages.

“I’d like to preemptively address any fear that Alberta is running out of PPE, we are not,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “However, as we continue to move forward with relaunch it’s important to have a long-term plan.”

Overall, Alberta's chief medical officer of health said she is “encouraged” by the results of the first 10 days of the province’s reopening strategy, but she is aware it can take some time to see the full impact of loosening restrictions.

She also confirmed there is no evidence the virus is spread through mosquitoes as people begin to spend more time outdoors.

Dr. Hinshaw was also asked if the province would be open to modifying restrictions if the NHL had a hub city in the province.

“The NHL would have to follow public health guidance,” she said. “We would have to...make sure that the specific requirements were able to be met.”

Quebec to reopen shopping malls

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said beginning June 1, shopping malls outside of Montreal will be able to resume operations.

As of Monday, retail businesses in Montreal were able to open their doors.

The premier also acknowledged that asylum seekers have been in long-term care homes throughout the pandemic in the province.

Legault said he is working with Immigration Minister Simon-Jolin Barrette to have them stay in the province by applying via immigration. He said this will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

This comes after protesters gathered outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s riding office in Montreal, calling on the government to grant permanent residency to asylum seekers working on the frontlines during the pandemic.

3:40 p.m.: Conflicting messages in Ontario about testing for crowd at Trinity Bellwoods

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate medical officer of health, said it was “disappointing” to see such a large crowd at Trinity Bellwoods Parks in Toronto on Saturday.

“It is disappointing...that people would be less than responsible,” Dr. Williams said, adding he can understand people have pent up urges to get outside but those individuals could have done so in a safer way.

“What we would advise for those people is to self monitor for signs and symptoms...for a period of 14 days after that exposure,” Dr. Yaffe said.

She said anyone who was at the park should also try to not mix with people who are at a higher risk of a more severe response to COVID-19. If these individuals are going out and may be closer than two metres away from others, they should wear a face covering.

Dr. Yaffe said she is “not recommending” they all get testing unless they become symptomatic, which is contradictory to the advice Ontario Premier Doug Ford gave earlier on Monday, asking everyone who was there to get tested.

Ontario pushes back increase to gatherings

With regards to the number of daily cases in Ontario jumping up above 400 for multiple days now, Dr. Williams said community cases have increased to make up around 60 per cent, with about 40 per cent still coming from outbreaks and close contacts.

“It has been disappointing that we’re seeing it in the level there,” he said.

Earlier in the day Ontario Minister of Health Christine Eliott said discussions to increase social gatherings from 5 people to higher have now been pushed back out of fear that individuals will cohort with bigger groups, similar to the Trinity Bellwoods controversy, as cases in Ontario continue to rise.

Dr. Williams indicated he would like to see tests increase to 20,000 but identified particular areas of concern are the Great Toronto Area, mostly Toronto and Peel regions, as well as Windsor-Essex. 

The provincial chief medical officer of health said Ontario and Quebec will like not see daily case numbers down to single digits “anytime soon.”

1:40 p.m.: Ontario identifying ‘hot spots’ for testing

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province plans on doing more general testing in certain “hot spots” of the province, identified by postal code.

Ford said some of these areas include certain communities in Peel, Toronto, Windsor-Essex, Brampton and Etobicoke.

“We’ll be going into hotspots, communities that are lighting up on our map,” the premier said. “Get people tested where the hot spots are.”

When asked about the crowd of people in Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto, Ford said he is “disappointed to say the least.”

“Why don’t you do us all a favour and get tested now,” the premier said. “How about their family members? Were they thinking of them when they went there?”

Despite identifying some areas with a larger collection of COVID-19 cases, Ford said he is not going to implement a regional approach to public health restrictions and future reopening.

 “It just doesn't make sense, the people of Toronto are going to go into rural areas,” the premier said.

After previous indications the province has been looking to increase the number of people who can gather in Ontario, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, said it has been “pushed back.”

She indicated Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, is “reluctant” to loosen additional restrictions following the recent increase in daily confirmed cases and circumstances like the group at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

1:00 p.m.: ‘We do have to prepare for potential for another wave’

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Canada should prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19.

“We do have to prepare for potential for another wave,” Dr. Tam said. “You always should prepare for the fact that the second weave could even be worse than the first wave.”

She stressed Canada did not exceed health system capacity with this initial wave of the virus but it is important to increase capacity to ensure it does not happen in the future.

In terms of areas for improvement, Dr. Tam highlighted some long-term care and senior facilities have not “completely extinguished” their outbreaks and more work can be done in these areas for infection prevention controls.

Treasury Board President, Jean-Yves Duclos, responded to questions about why the Liberal Party applied for the wage subsidy, speaking generally about the circumstance but supporting the decision.

“We are absolutely focused on workers and their families,” Duclos said. “Workers need that support, whoever they may work for.”

12:00 p.m.: All Canadians could get 10 day of paid sick leave

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is working with provinces on 10 days of paid sick leave for all Canadians.

“Nobody should have to choose between taking a day off work due to illness or being able to pay their bills,” Trudeau said. “Nobody should have to choose between staying home with COVID-19 symptoms of being able to afford rent or groceries.”

The prime minister added the government will work on additional mechanisms for a longer term to support sick leave for Canadian workers.

Earlier on Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for the federal government to make this commitment.

“This is vital, we’re in a pandemic,” Singh said. “No Canadian should have to choose between going to work sick or staying at home not knowing if they can pay the bills.”

Federal parties apply for wage subsidy

The prime minister was also asked about political parties, including the Liberals, applying for the federal wage subsidy.

He did not give a direct answer on his party’s use of the subsidy but reinforced the aid is available to small businesses, large businesses, nonprofits and charities to support people “who might otherwise be laid off.”

“We encourage companies to take on that wage subsidy because it is the best way of keeping a link between workers and the job they do that will ensure that our economy comes back when this is all done,” Trudeau said.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet has specifically called out the Liberal and Conservatives parties, saying it is “unacceptable” for them to being using the subsidy after raising million of dollars earlier in the year. The Bloc indicated they will not be applying for the financial support.

The NDP Leader was asked about his party applying for the subsidy, Singh said it came about after seeing loss of revenue and workers potentially being laid off.

“This is exactly what the wage subsidy is for,” Singh said. “To ensure workers stay connected to their jobs and we believe that’s important.”

“We have been transparent about it...and we’re going to top up the salary to ensure that there’s 100 per cent salary for all our workers.”

The prime minister was also asked about the large crowd of people at Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park over the weekend. He said Canadians have demonstrated how serious they are about preventing the spread of the virus but recognized there may be confusion about what people can and cannot do.

“I think it is natural, as we begin to see the economy reopening, for people to be a little confused about what it is they can do...what it is they shouldn’t do,” Trudeau said. “We’re really going to continue to press upon people the importance of making smart decisions.”

May 22

6:30 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:15 p.m.: Nova Scotia expands list of possible COVID-19 symptoms

Nova Scotia has expanded the list of symptoms that qualify for someone to get tested for COVID-19 in the province.

“We’ve learned over the last few months that COVID-19 can actually present in a more diverse way,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said.

The list of symptoms include:

  • Fever (i.e. chills, sweats)

  • Cough or worsening of a previous cough

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

  • Shortness of breath

  • Muscle aches

  • Sneezing

  • Nasal congestion/runny nose

  • Hoarse voice

  • Diarrhea

  • Unusual fatigue

  • Loss of sense of smell or taste

  • Red, purple or blueish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers without clear cause

Dr. Strang said many of these symptoms are very common so it is important to get tested to “rule out” COVID-19 as the cause.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health also said the general public should not be wearing gloves in a non-medical setting.

“What gloves do is give people a false sense of security and they’re much less likely to wash their hands,” Dr. Strang said. “The virus gets on gloves just like they get onto your hands.

Quebec to open museums, libraries next week

Museums, libraries and drive-in movie theatres will be able to reopen on May 29.

The borrowing services at libraries will be the only operations that can resume, while access inside the building will still be restricted, aside from service counters.

Drive-ins will be able to operate with physical distancing measures in place and any restaurants on site will only be able to operate for take-out orders.

Recording studios and the recording of concerts will be able to resume on June 1. They must maintain a two metre distance between the people on stage or in studios and technical teams must be five people at most.

4:30 p.m.: Greater Toronto Area seeing 64% of Ontario COVID-19 cases

Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said almost 64 per cent of cases in the province are in the Greater Toronto Area, primarily Toronto Peel, somewhat in York and Durham. She also identified Ottawa and Windsor as locations with higher case numbers.

“We are working closely with particularly those health units and looking at the geospatial distribution of the cases,” Dr. Yaffe said. “Trying to identify, if there is no obvious contact, whether there are some common places where people might have been.”

The chief medical officer of health in Ontario, Dr. David Williams, said the number of people going to assessment centres has not gone up since the province indicated that anyone with symptoms, even mild symptoms, can get tested.

He said he has been made aware that messaging from telehealth and the province’s self-assessment tool has been “less than consistent” to direct the public to get tested for COVID-19. Dr. Williams indicated the province is working to clarify and expand its public messaging, with the hope that more people will show up for testing.

Earlier on Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province will be testing asymptomatic frontline healthcare workers, staff and residents in senior homes and will go back to long-term care facilities.

Dr. Williams there have been discussions about sending memos out to the field this weekend about asymptomatic testing in different work locations, repeat testing in long-term care facilities, in addition to retirement homes and some acute care hospitals.

Calgary, Brooks begin reopening next week

At a press conference in Calgary, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the province will proceed with the next phases or reopening in that city and in Brooks.

As of Monday, hairstyling and barbershops can resume operations, and cafés, restaurants, pubs and bars can reopen for table service at 50 per cent capacity.

On June 1 day camps including summer school will be permitted with limits on occupancy, post-secondary institutions will be permitted more flexibility to include in-person delivery, and places of worship and funeral services can be expanded.

The premier warned people in the province that COVID-19 still poses a “very real risk” but he believes Alberta is still on track to begin Phase 2 on June 19.

“Experts want to continue keeping an eye on the numbers to make sure we don’t have sudden outbreaks and sudden surges in hospitalizations but if we continue with the current direction of the numbers...I think we’ll be moving forward with Phase 2 as planned,” Kenney said.

He went on to say the province “strongly encourages” people in Alberta wear a non-medical face covering in places where they can’t keep physical distance between others.

“Making it mandatory would create a huge enforcement problem and as a general rule, our approach has been more of an advisory approach than a heavy-handed restriction approach,” Kenney said.

2:00 p.m.: ‘We have to have the right app’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford commented on the possibility of implementing a contact tracing mobile app for people in the province, indicating one of the areas of particular concern is getting people to actually use it.

“Privacy is very important and any app that doesn’t have a privacy area in it, then that’s going to be difficult,” Ford said. “People believe in privacy, I believe in Privacy. We have to have the right app.”

He added that as the economy reopens and domestic travel resumes, the apps in each province and territory “have to be able to talk to each other.”

Health minister and deputy premier Christine Elliott said the province is “actively looking” for an app that can indicate if someone has been in contact with a COVID-19 case, but the contact management system in place in Ontario has allowed the province to reach over 92 per cent of people in 24 hours.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is willing and able to support provinces and territories with testing and contact tracing.

Ford confirmed the federal government has paid for test swabs and reagent, and sent 224 contact tracers about a week ago.

“We’ll take as much as we can get right now,” the premier said.

He was also asked about an initiative that will be implemented next week in Windsor, which will see random testing in the region through a “drive-thru type model.”

“We’re going to be rolling it out across Ontario,” premier Ford said. “Way to go Windsor and the public health unit out there...we’re going to expand that right across the province.”

Ford added that this weekend, the province will undertake “ongoing testing” of frontline healthcare workers, staff and residents in senior homes and long-term care facilities.

New program for hospitality workers, apprentices

The Ontario government also announced it is providing an Ontario Tools Grant of $2.5 million in 2020-21 and $7.5 million in 2021-22 and ongoing to help new eligible apprentices purchase equipment to start their careers. The funding includes, $1,000 for those in motive power sector trades, $600 for those in construction and industrial sector trade, and $400 for those in service sector trades.

The government is forgiving more than $10 million in outstanding loans owed by apprentices.

Ontario is also investing about $2 million to open a Virtual Action Centre, a virtual job training portal to provide unemployed workers in the hospitality sector with access to services, including technical skills and online training, stress management and mental health resources, and health and safety training for those who return to work.

"The programs that we are announcing today will leave more money in the pockets of our apprentices and support those hospitality workers who have been laid-off by providing access to the training and services they need to recover and rejoin the workforce,” Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development said in a statement.

1:00 p.m.: ‘It’s not just about getting people to go for a test so we hit this magic number’

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said as a whole Canada has “succeeded in flattening the curve” but there are still “hot spots” in Ontario and Quebec, primarily the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal.

“COVID-19 has changed our with COVID-19 means going out smartly, protecting yourself and others,” Dr. Njoo said.

The deputy chief public health officer said Toronto and Montreal might see greater difficulty with managing transmission due to the high population density in these areas, which can result in more complicated contact tracing work.

He said the “priority” for testing should be asymptomatic people in high-risk settings, including long-term care facilities, homeless shelters and meat packing plants.

“It’s all about testing the right people at the right time and the right place,” Dr. Njoo said. “It’s not just about getting people to go for a test so we hit this magic number.”

“If you truly are infected with COVID-19 and it’s very early in what we call the incubation period after your infection, it may well be that the virus has not replicated enough or you don’t have enough of what we call a viral load, so that the test is not actually able to detect it.”

Dr. Njoo went on to say the ideal time to test some is about “a week or so after they’ve actually been infected” or when they actually develop their symptoms.

He added that certain regions may want to undertake a pilot surveillance study to test a more general population of people in specific “hot zones,” but the deputy chief public health officer maintained that general mass testing is not particularly effective.

Dr. Njoo said one area where there could be improvement across Canada is related to a national testing and contact tracing strategy, and the ability to share that data between provinces and with the federal government.

He said a “common agreement on data” will allow for a quicker turnaround time to share and respond to transmission of COVID-19 in Canada, particularly with the threat of a second wave in the fall and winter seasons.

11:55 a.m.: Trudeau government ‘shutting down questions,’ Conservative Leader says

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said virtual committee meetings and daily press conferences from the prime minister are “not a replacement for Parliament.” 

“Instead of being open with Canadians, the government is shutting down questions they don’t like or don’t want to answer,” Scheer said.

Conservatives want to see 50 members of Parliament having normal sittings five days a week. The Conservative Leader said the party is “open to concerns or views that other parties have” as long as a normal parliamentary business cycle is a “core feature.”

Scheer indicated he could be open to a hybrid format but the Liberal government should have been determining what that would look like before this point, highlighting questions about how secure voting would work.

“We should have been using the last few weeks to arrive at solutions on this,” Scheer said. 

11:15 a.m.: Federal government working on digital contact tracing in Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said moving forward, the next phase of the government’s work with provincial and territorial leaders will be on testing, contact tracing and data collection, with the federal government offering to fund initiatives.

“We need to continue scaling up our testing capacity so we can quickly identify new cases,” Trudeau said.

He added that officials need to also get in touch with anyone who may have been exposed to the virus so they can monitor for symptoms or get tested.

The prime minister said 3,700 federal government workers have been trained to make 3,700 contact tracing calls seven days a week and Statistics Canada has made 1,700 interviewers available who can make 20,000 calls a day.

“We certainly hope to hear back from the province who could need this quickly,” the prime minister said, adding the federal government has been working with Ontario in particular on contact tracing.

When asked about digital tracing and the possibility of a national contact tracing app, Trudeau said the federal government is working with “a number of different partners” and “working closely” with Google and Apple on their notification technology for possible COVID-19 exposure, expected to be updated in June.

“It is our expectation that when the time comes for that to be released we will be able to recommend strongly to Canadians a particular app that will help us manage the spread of COVID-19,” the prime minister said.

Trudeau added jurisdictions across the country need to share data in order to effectively track and adapt responses accordingly.

Violence against Asian community

The prime minister also commented on discrimination again the Asian community in Canada, after businesses and statues have been vandalized, and people have been physically attacked.

“Hate, violence and discrimination have no place in Canada, this is not who we are as Canadians,” Trudeau said.

He went on to thank anyone in the country who has stood up against this violence and sent a message specifically to Asian Canadians, “know that we all stand with you, we will not have hate divide us.”

Resumption of Parliament

With Parliament set to resume on Monday, Trudeau said “there are certainly non-CVID things we could be moving forward on” but the focus will remain on the “exceptional circumstances” of the pandemic for the time being.

The prime minister said there will be in-person sittings in reduced numbers but conversations will continue between all party leaders on what the future of Parliament will look like. He did not reveal specifics on a hybrid virtual, in-person format, or any other possible arrangement.

10:15 a.m.: New Brunswick enters third phase of reopening

At a press conference on Friday, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs spoke about the province entering Phase 3, the yellow phase, of its reopening plan.

Effective Friday people in New Brunswick can:

  • Extend the “family and friends bubble” to 10 people or fewer

  • Non-regulated health professionals/businesses can resume operation

  • Personal services businesses can open, like hair salons, spas, estheticians and tattoo parlours 

Additional restrictions will be lifted on May 29, this includes low contact sports activities being allowed in the province, increasing elective surgeries and other non-emergency health care services, and gyms, yoga and dance studios can repen. On June 19, overnight camps will be allowed to open in the province. 

Next Friday, the province will also allow temporary foreign workers to reenter New Brunswick.

“We are still prioritizing the safety of New Brunswickers but as we start our economy we also have to find ways to meet the needs of the agriculture and seafood sectors,” premier Higgs said.

The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, warned the public that although restrictions are loosening, there is still a risk of transmitting and being infected with COVID-19

“This does not mean the pandemic is over and it doesn’t mean we would want to see a large number of people gathering and not social distancing,” Dr. Russell said. “People can be contagious and spread COVID-19 up to two days before you have symptoms and feel sick, that’s why everybody still needs to continue to act as if they have COVID-19.” 

Premier Higgs also responded to questions about allowing seasonal residents in the province in the future. He indicated public health officials are working with their counterparts in Prince Edward Island in particular to determine how to move forward.

“We have from the beginning allowed people to come through New Brunswick to get to other provinces, I think that’s an obligation we certainly would have,” he said. “As a province makes a decision in relation to seasonal residents, we should be able to ensure when they come to our borders they have a reason why they’re coming.”

May 21

7:00 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: B.C. health officer says ‘chances are’ a second wave will come in the fall

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, spoke about the possibility of a second wave of the virus and what could spark that resurgence. 

“We know this virus hasn’t left and it is circulating in our community” Dr. Henry said. “If we look at the modelling of what we’ve seen in other places and what we’ve seen here in B.C., there is a potential for it to start transmitting quite rapidly in our community.”

On a longer term perspective, she said “historically” there is some seasonality related to respiratory viruses, particularly influenza and other coronaviruses, which generally fade away around March or April, coming back in the fall.

“Chances are we are going to see that with this coronavirus as well,” Dr. Henry said. “Even if we’re able to control it well over the summer, the chances are that just the climatic conditions will naturally allow it to increase in prevalence during the fall.”

“Sometimes we have seen a bigger wave in the second wave, sometimes it’s been smaller, so we don't know what that’s going to look like but we need to watch very carefully.”

Dr Henry highlighted the public will also see more respiratory viruses and influenza in the fall, which have similar symptoms to COVID-19, and public health needs to be prepared to determine which illness is which.

Alberta on track for Calgary, Brooks reopening plan

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said the province is “not seeing a concerning increase” in cases in Calgary or Brooks and overall, “cases are stable.”

“Should we continue to see these encouraging results, we are hopeful that we will be able to move forward with the gradual reopening in Calgary and Brooks,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

In terms of testing, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health stressed tests are available to anyone with symptoms, including core symptoms like cough, fever, running nose, sore throat and shortness of breath. The province has extended the list to more general symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, loss of smell or taste, or a new onset of headaches, muscle aches or chills.

“We’re making testing available to anyone with symptoms, which is our highest priority for testing,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Testing many, many, many asymptomatic people is not necessary for us to be able to move out of the pandemic.”

Manitoba releases plan for second phase of reopening

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the province’s preliminary plan for Phase 2 of the reopening strategy, with no concrete target date at this point.

Others operations being examined for the second phase include:

  • Increasing child-care centre occupancy to up to 24 children plus staffing

  • Increasing day camp group sizes to 24

  • Resuming sports activities for children and adults

  • Lifting occupancy limits at outdoor recreation facilities and golf courses outdoors, as long as physical distancing can be maintained with limited access to indoor spaces

  • Allowing direct travel to northern parks, campgrounds, cabins, lodges and resorts while ensuring physical distancing

  • Allowing public/private swimming pools, spas, fitness clubs, gyms and community/service centres to reopen

  • Allowing religious or other organizations to hold outdoor services without limitation on numbers if people stay in their vehicles

  • Reopening manicurists and pedicurists, tattoo parlours, estheticians, cosmetologists, electrologists and tanning parlours at 50 per cent capacity

  • Allowing restaurants to reopen indoor spaces at 50 per cent capacity

  • Allowing bars, beverage rooms, micro-brewers and similar businesses that serve food and drinks to operate patio service and indoor spaces at 50 per cent capacity

  • Allowing the resumption of film productions while ensuring physical distancing

On Friday, gathering sizes can increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors in Manitoba. Residents of personal care homes and long-term care facilities will also be allowed to have outdoor visits.

The province is also suggesting to start school on Aug. 31 and “repurpose” some non-instructional days throughout the school year.

Mass gatherings in Manitoba such as concerts, festivals and major sporting events will not be considered before September 2020.

Saskatchewan sets target date for next phase of reopening 

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced June 8 is the target date for Phase 3 of the province’s reopening plan.

The following groups will be able to resume operations:

  • Restaurants and bars at 50 per cent capacity and table service only (recreation areas like dance floor and pool tables must remain closed)

  • Gyms and fitness facilities

  • Childcare facilities with a limit of 15 children per building space

  • Places of worship

  • Estheticians

  • Tattoo artists

  • Make-up applicators

  • Electrologists

  • Manicurists and pedicurists

  • Sun tanning parlours

  • Facilities in which body piercing, bone grafting or scarification services are provided

The size of indoor gatherings will increase from 10 to 15 people and size of outdoor gatherings will increase to 30.

“It would allow for such occasions as a small summer wedding ceremony or a small graveside memorial service for a loved one,” Moe said.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical officer of health, stressed just because the limits to gathering are increasing, all gathering may not be able to be this large.

“You still want to maintain physical distancing, you couldn’t go if you’re unwell, you still need special precautions around people who are elderly or may have other risk factors, in terms of hugging or having extremely close contact,” Dr. Shahab said. “If there’s food involved, I think we have already seen in the past that when there’s buffet-style food service that can be problematic.”

3:45 p.m.: ‘Disappointing’ case number in Ontario

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said the COVID-19 situation in the province is “plateauing” and it is “disappointing” the cases numbers are not coming down, as health officials were hoping for.

Dr. Williams said in an effort to determine why this is occurring, the province has connected with areas, like Toronto, that have more of the caseload. It was discovered there are still residual test results coming in from the long-term care survey that was completed at the end of last week.

“The tests done yesterday were collected a day or two before that,” Dr. Williams said.

With regards to businesses and services resuming some operations this week, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health highlighted the province has opened up restrictions on economic activity versus loosening social measures, which remain in place.

Dr. Williams said the province will have to continue to assess if there is good adherence to the public health measures with more economic openings but so far, it seems people in the province have been following the rules.

“We need everyone to stay at the task in our new COVID reality,” the chief medical officer of health said.

Dr. Williams was also asked about the use of face shields by the general public. He said there haven’t been any recommendations for public use but he will be asking federal counterparts about the use of this equipment.

The Ontario chief medical officer of health reinforced that wearing a mask properly is recommended but maintaining the two metre physical distance is a critically important component of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and cannot be replaced by a face covering.

Quebec will allow day camps to operate in June

Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced that on June 22, all day camps can open in the province.

He said there will be a variety of measures put in place, including smaller groups and physician distancing guidelines.

“It’s very important for kids to play outside, to play together,” the premier said. “I encourage teenagers and young adults to become’s a great experience.”

Quebec's public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said the the biggest group of campers will be for the older age group and will see 10 children to one camp counsellor.

1:40 p.m.: ‘The numbers haven’t been’s concerning’

With over 400 new COVID-19 cases in Ontario on Thursday and 10,506 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, premier Doug Ford commented on the multi-day trend of daily cases going up while testing has reduced from a week ago.

Ford said he “won’t hesitate” to roll back openings and loosened measures in the province if the cases continue to go up.

“The testing, the numbers haven’t been’s concerning,” the premier said.

Ford stressed he wants to see the testing capacity increase and “random testing” of people in the province, particularly in groups like frontline workers, taxi and Uber drivers, the automotive sector and food processing facilities.

“We have to do that, it’s absolutely critical,” the premier said. “How do we know how many asymptomatic people there are out there right now?”

Ford revealed it has been “frustrating” to demand for more testing but he will keep pushing the provincial health team, saying he will be “like an 800 pound gorilla on their back everyday.”

The premier said there could be a plan for broader testing established next week.

In terms of any future plans and measures in Ontario, Minister of Health and Deputy Premier of Ontario Christine Elliot said there are four issues that need to be evaluated. A downward trend in cases needs to be seen for “several weeks,” hospital capacity must be able to deal with any increases, contact tracing needs to happen in over 90 per cent of cases in 24 hours (currently being met) and adequate testing volumes need to be met, up to 20,000 a day.

The provincial government also announced it will move forward in the first phase of research to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19 by funding 15 proposals made for the $20 million  Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund.

These funds will cover costs associated with licensing and commercialization, including patenting of intellectual property.

The province is also working with 22 clinical trials investigating COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Eleven of clinical trials from hospitals, universities, colleges and research institutes have secured approvals by Health Canada.

1:00 p.m.: ‘We know that the numbers will be higher than the people who actually got tested’

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said as the virus spreads “we know that the numbers will be higher than the people who actually got tested.”

Dr. Tam indicated Canada’s strategy involves increasing testing in community settings but she has heard from different regions in the country that “people are not necessarily showing up to be tested” because they have very mild symptoms or are not symptomatic at all.

She said it’s known the virus “accelerates really quickly” and people in Canada should continue to be cautious.

“The key is to be able to jump on any increase in cases and do contact tracing really, really fast,” Dr. Tam said.

Canada’s ‘priority’ before fall and winter

Canada's chief public health officer added as we move into the fall and winter seasons, its known respiratory viruses usually increase during this time, although the specifics related to COVID-19 are not yet known. Making sure there is an adequate amount of influenza vaccine across Canada is also a priority at this point.

Dr. Tam said this time in the epidemic is particularly difficult because Canadians are feeling the “exuberance” of certain operations resuming and some measures being loosened locally, but “COVID-19 has not gone away and the struggle is not over.”

For anyone hoping to travel over the summer, Dr. Tam said this is a particular “active” discussion in the sector but the federal government will keep evaluating risks and public health measures in place related to travel, including the use of non-medical masks on planes and the 14-day quarantine period upon arrival. For anyone planning to leave Canada, she stressed that international governments have their own measures in place, which travelling Canadians would have to follow.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said the government “understand fully” the frustrations of Canadians who are still trying to get refunds from airlines, as well as the difficult situation airlines are in at the moment, which has required support to increase liquidity and pay emergency wages.

“We believe that they are best able and certainly expected to understand that if they want to have consumers in the future, they need to be treating them with respect,” Duclos said.

11:50 a.m.: ‘In pandemics there are usually second waves’

At a press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented on Canada’s preparation for a “second wave” of COVID-19 spread in the country.

“One of the things we know is that in pandemics there are usually second waves,” Trudeau said. “As that second wave begins or as we start to see quickly are we able to contain them and control them.”

The prime minister said the federal government plans to scale up testing and contact tracing across Canada as a core component of tackling future spread of the virus. He highlighted it is important to increase testing in Ontario and Quebec in particular at this time.

Fraud and compensation for air travellers

Trudeau responded to questions about fraud related to the federal financial aid program, particularly the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The prime minister said there are measures in place to detect and recover fraudulent applications as the COVID-19 progresses but the priority at the outset was to get the money out to Canadians as quickly as possible.

When asked about people in Canada who bought airline tickets and were not refunded, offered a voucher or credit instead, the prime minister said the federal government is working with the airlines and Canadians on these issues.

“We are working with all concerned parties to try to find a solution,” Trudeau said. “We’re looking at what other countries have done...and we’re looking to make sure that Canadians are supported financially through this time but that also, we’re going to come back with airlines that function here in Canada for the long term.”

Support for indigenous communities

The prime minister also announced the federal government will be providing $75 million for organizations supporting the needs of Indigenous people living off reserve. This includes addressing food insecurity, mental health resources and establishing services that are culturally appropriate.

On March 18, the government announced $305 million for a new, distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund to address needs in Indigenous communities, which included $15 million in support for Indigenous organizations that provide services to Indigenous peoples living in urban centres and off reserve.

“The everyday realities of this crisis are different for everyone,” Trudeau said. “We must adapt our approach and our programs to recognize and meet the particular needs of all Indigenous peoples, including those living in urban areas and off reserve.”

May 20

6:00 p.m. COVID-19 questions of the day

5:15 p.m.: ‘I don’t believe that ankle bracelets or electronic monitoring is the best way forward’

British Columbia Premier John Horgan held a press conference on the second day of the provincial reopening of the economy.

Horgan said British Columbians need to stay “kind and calm” as people go back to work and patrons go back to businesses, but overall he is satisfied with the beginning of the reopening plan.

The premier responded to questions about the possibility of a monitoring or tracking device to track movement of people returning to the province. Horgan said he is happy with the border efforts in place at the moment.

“That’s worked very, very well,” the premier said. “I don’t believe that ankle bracelets or electronic monitoring is the best way forward but I’ll leave those Dr. Henry.”

He added he is “grateful” restrictions at the border with the U.S. will remain in place at this time but as the summer goes by, the province will be in a better position to revisit concerns about uniting families on both sides of the border.

“It might seem incongruous to have the ability to go to Quebec where the caseloads are very high, the death counts are very high, and not being able to go to Washington state but that’s where we are at today,” the premier said.

Can Vancouver be a hub city for the NHL?

The question on professional hockey being played in the province continues to be raised and whether Vancouver is in a good position to become a “hub city” for the NHL.

“I would think we are,” the premier said. “Vancouver has the main arena that the Canucks play out of, we’ve got the Coliseum, which with a little bit of spit and polish could be brought back to an NHL standard, I believe, and we also have Langley and we have Abbotsford...that could be refurbished if need me.”

Horgan added the city is “very well placed” in terms of hotel capacity as well.

“What I’ve heard from those who represent players, the view is that if you have to spend a couple of months in one place for the summer, Vancouver would be the place to do it.” 

Horgan also commented on “the rise of racism” in the province throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to see this increase in people taking it out, their concerns, their frustrations, on people of colour, people of a different religious perspective, people of a different sexual orientation,” the premier said. “Within the law enforcement community, there is zero tolerance for racism.”

Manitoba increases gathering limits

With no new cases of COVID-19 to report on Wednesday, Manitoba's chief medical officer of health Dr. Brent Roussin announced as of Friday, the limits on gathering sizes will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people at outdoor locations.

“As we transition to larger group sizes, as we transition further along into Phase 2, it’s still a reminder that it’s not a return to normal, that we’re still dealing with this virus and we’re still going to need to deal with this virus for some time,” Roussin said.

He added it is “vitally important” for people to stay home and call their healthcare provider if they are ill.

4:15 p.m.: Quebec opens restrictions on outdoor gatherings

Beginning on Friday, people in Quebec will be able to gather outside in groups of 10, maximum, while keeping the two-metre physical distancing requirement in place as much as possible.

The province’s deputy premier Geneviève Guilbault said the 10 people can be from three different households, at most.

Guilbault said this allows people to gather in family’s backyard, including children from three families playing together.

She stressed people should avoid going inside during these gatherings unless it is absolutely necessary, like going to the washroom.

Guilbault also announced personal healthcare, like dentists, will are expected to open on June 1 in Quebec. Personal care services, like hairdressers, will be able to resume operation on the same date, outside of Montreal.

3:45 p.m.: Ontario’s chief medical officer of health doesn’t want to see people ‘jammed in’ on public transit

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, reiterated Wednesday’s messaging related to the use of non-medical masks as people “have more reason to be out and around” and it may be more difficult to maintain a two-metre physical distance.

Dr. Williams said we do not know the specifics on the risks of contracting COVID-19 on public transit but said he does not want to see people “jammed in” face to face like they were before.

“In those close would be biologically plausible that you’re increasing the potential for transmission,” Dr. Williams said.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said the province “could entertain” to implement a testing or screening program for companies to evaluate their employees as workplaces begin to reopen, possibly using serology in the future.

Associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said sentinel testing is “important” and the province is evaluating which groups are the best to do that.

“If we get a case in a workplace then generally speaking the public health unit would work with the workplace to get probably everyone tested,” Dr. Yaffe said. 

In the past 24 hours, over 7,300 tests were conducted in Ontario. Dr. Williams said the province is looking at a strategy to remove any barriers to public access to testing, including individuals in the province not being able to travel to one of these locations.

“We do want to increase our testing, and we do want to use that to drive our overall knowledge and base of the ongoing transmission within the province of Ontario,” the chief medical officer of health said.

Dr. Williams said the cases haven’t “come down as quickly as [he] would like” and the province wants to be cautious about any additional loosening on restrictions, in addition to assessing if there are particular areas of concern in the province. This includes gathering restrictions not being expected to change at this time.

2:20 p.m.: Alberta increases screening measures for international travellers

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the province will implement increased screening measures at airports and international land crossings.

“International travel obviously played a key role in the spread of the novel coronavirus,” Kenney said. “Almost everywhere that the virus took hold, the initial cases mainly involved international travellers.”

“Countries that most successfully avoided severe outbreaks...closed their borders from COVID-19 hotspots weeks before Canada did, months in some cases.”

Kenney said although international travel has decreased significantly, there are about 400 people a week arriving in Alberta from international locations, primarily at the Calgary airport.

International travellers arriving at the Calgary or Edmonton airports will be required to pass through a provincial check point where they will undergo a thermal temperature screening.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said there will be a thermal scanner screening that someone would walk through and then a handheld, touch-less thermometer, temperature check.

Travellers must also provide a detailed self-isolation plan, after they clear customs. The plan must detail how they will travel to the self-isolation location, how they will obtain food and medications, and who will support them during the isolation period. 

The premier said those who do not have access to private transportation, or transportation that does not meet physical distancing requirements, will be directed to temporary, on-site facilities until the transportation can be arranged. The province will be providing hotel accommodation for travellers who do not have adequate support.

There will also be enhanced cleaning requirements at high touch surfaces, including airport arrival lounges, hand sanitizer dispensers at every kiosk and touchscreen device, and physical distancing will be monitored at the customs areas.

In a couple of weeks, a provincial check point will be established at the Alberta-U.S. land border crossing at Coutts.

“All international travellers arriving in Alberta via the airports or at land crossing will receive a follow-up call from provincial officials within three days to confirm that they are following public health orders and they have the support that they need,” Kenney said.

The premier indicated this program will cost approximately $800,000 through to the end of August.

Kenney said the province has considered, at various times, the possibility of implementing similar measures at interprovincial borders but Alberta does not believe they are necessary at this point, while reinforcing travel between provinces is still discouraged. 

“It will be many months before we can expect effective antiviral treatments or a vaccine that ends the threat of COVID-19,” the premier said. “In the meantime, the new normal will involve protective protocols.”

Kenney said if the province is able to host NHL teams, all players will be subject to the same screening measures as other international travellers.

“Part of the idea of the Edmonton bid is this, we’ve got the most modern and best arena in the league...that is connected by walkway to a brand new hotel with hundreds of rooms,” the premier said. “There can be a self-isolation zone, in principle, between where they are staying, and where they might be practicing and playing.”

1:45 p.m.: Ontario makes specific recommendations for wearing a face covering on public transit

The Ontario government is recommending people in the province wear a non-medical face covering when physical distancing is not possible, specifically calling out people taking public transit.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health has released the following recommendations:

  • Wear your face covering safely and snugly to cover your nose and mouth, without any gaps. Ensure your face covering is made of at least two layers of tightly woven material and can be cleaned multiple times without losing its shape.

  • Medical masks, such as surgical and N95 masks, should be reserved for use by health care workers, those providing direct care, first responders and individuals who are ill and must leave their home for essential reasons such as seeking medical care, picking up medication or groceries.

  • Face coverings should not be placed on or used by children under the age of two, anyone who has trouble breathing and anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance.

On public transit, the province is also recommending a number measures be put in place, including admitting fewer passengers to help with physical distancing, ensuring alcohol-based hand sanitizer is available when entering and exiting the vehicle, and introducing plexiglass windows between drivers and passengers.

When asked about people who may have financial difficulties acquiring these supplies, premier Doug Ford said “any face covering is better than none at all.”

When asked about a possible timeframe for Stage 2 of the reopening plan, Ford said if cases continue to go up he “won’t hesitate to roll things back again.”

12:50 p.m.: Canada ‘recommending’ the use of non-medical masks

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, and Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, are making a “recommendation” that Canadians wear a non-medical mask when they cannot maintain a two-metre physical distance.

Dr. Tam said this recommendation is coming after increasing questions related to asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread continue to rise and communities are looking for added measures to prevent transmission to others.

“Although we don’t fully understand their role in transmission, it is an added layer of protection,” Dr. Tam said.

She added it is still only a recommendation because each region in Canada needs to be able to do a risk assessment on community transmission in their local area.

“The concept is one, I think, of reciprocal protection,” Dr. Tam said. “Thinking of it as I am protecting you and you are protecting me.”

Dr. Njoo said it is also important to look at the unintended consequences. Everyone in Canada must follow the other important public health measures, like hand washing, physical distancing and stay home if at all symptomatic, and a mask is not a replacement for those measures.

When asked if this should have been implemented sooner in Canada, Dr. Tam said the decision was made to have people stay as home as much as possible, which “decelerated that epidemic wave.”

She said the “tried and true” public health measures like case identification, contact tracing, physical distancing, frequent hand washing and isolating are still important but the wearing non-medical masks is “an added layer on top of that,” particularly as more people begin to go outside.

Dr. Tam said washing hands before and after taking the mask on and off is very important. No one else should be using your mask and if people are walking between stores, maybe adjusting the elastic on the mask, do not touch your face.

11:45 a.m.: Trudeau offers commercial rent relief, more federal guidance on masks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said beginning on May 25, commercial landlords can apply for the Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, which will provide forgivable loans to reduce rent for tenants by 75 per cent. Landlords are required to cover 25 per cent of rent costs, with the government taking on 50 per cent and an additional 25 per cent going to tenants.

“These are challenging times but together we can protect jobs and make sure our economy bounces back,” Trudeau said. 

The federal government also announced the application process for the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) has opened on Wednesday. 

Canadians ‘encouraged’ to wear masks

Trudeau said Canada’s health experts will make further recommendations on wearing a mask in public later in the day but indicated “the best thing for people to do is to stay socially distant.”

He said when Canadians cannot maintain a two-metre distance, they are “encouraged” to wear masks. The prime minister said he will be wearing a mask to the in-person sitting in Parliament today and will remove it once he arrives at his seat, putting it back on when he leaves.

With regards to future spread of the virus, Trudeau said the federal government is currently working with provincial leaders to make sure that as aspects of the economy reopen and travel restrictions loosen in the future, there are adequate measures in place to ensure new cases aren’t arriving and being spread throughout communities.

“A key part of reopening...will involve being very, very careful that we’re not importing new cases,” the prime minister said.

May 19

7:05 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: B.C.’s provincial health officer says we should reunite families across the Canada-U.S. border.

With only two new COVID-19 cases reported in British Columbia on Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed the importance of keeping a safe distance, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent hand washing.

She added as things begin to reopen, it’s important that everyone in the province stay home if they are feeling ill.

With regards to the Canada-U.S. border, Dr. Henry said she believes it is important to reunite families across the border, but stressed it shouldn’t be “a free for all.”

“What my recommendations are is that we continue to require isolation plans and that we have a process in place, but that we expand the people who are allowed to come across the border,” Dr. Henry said. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix went on to say he is “very pleased” about the extension of the closure to June 21 and the B.C. border with the U.S. shouldn’t be reopened to non-essential travel anytime soon.

“The situation is much less clear there,” Dix said. “I’m not convinced there’s much chance that it will clear sufficiently in the next month to change my mind about whether we should open the border. I think it’s going to be significantly longer than that.”

For businesses reopening, the provincial health officer said health and safety guidance is being provided and B.C. is requiring all businesses to post their plans publicly as a measure of accountability.

“It’s not a regulation but there will be an inspection process, based on priority,” Dr. Henry said.

The provincial health officer also commented on the “underlying racism” that has been exposed as some hate crimes targeting the Asian community locally during the COVID-19 pandemic have been reported.

“It continues to make me incredibly sad when I hear these stories,” Dr. Henry said. “There is no place for that in our society here in Canada and in British Columbia, and I know people in B.C. are better than that.”

“This virus is in well over 100 countries, it’s essential in all of the countries of the world, and this is something as a world we have to come together to deal with...and it seems to me that racism represents the opposite of what we need to do,” Minister Dix said.

Alberta reveals results from asymptomatic tests in Calgary

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province has received results from over 3,400 asymptomatic tests done in Calgary, with 430 done on close contacts of confirmed cases. In that group there were 75 positive results and 48 positive cases in the remaining people tested.

Dr. Hinshaw also commented on the decision to maintain the restrictions in place at the Canada-U.S. border, indicating the 14-day isolation requirement for anyone coming into the province will remain “for the near future.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro highlighted “enhanced screening procedures” are in place at airports and they will “soon” be implemented at land borders as well. 

When asked about choirs and other musical groups, Dr. Hinshaw said singing is an activity that “has a higher risk of spreading the virus” than talking to someone.

“The restrictions that are on religious gatherings with respect to no group singing would apply to choirs as well,” she said, adding they province is still looking at recommendations for any bands where musical instruments are played as well.

Dr. Hinshaw said she has received questions about Sweden’s approach, where the government put menial physical distancing order in place and made recommendations for people to take steps into consideration where possible.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said it’s important to note that more than half of all households in Sweden are single person households, versus less than a quarter of households in Alberta. She also highlighted as of Monday, 36 deaths per 100,00 in their population, twelve times Alberta’s rate.

“My point is not that there is one right or wrong way to deal with the pandemic but rather that there are costs to every choice,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “We continue to learn from the approaches other jurisdictions are taking and we must continue to protect each other.”

5:20 p.m.: Saskatchewan begins second phase of reopening plans

Tuesday is the first day of the second phase in Saskatchewan’s reopening plan. This includes the opening of:

  • Retail businesses;

  • Shopping malls;

  • Select personal services (hairstylist/barber, registered massage therapist, acupuncturist and acupressurist);

  • Public markets and farmers markets.

“As we move into the next phase of reopening we all have a responsibility to continue the good practices that have gotten us this far,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said.

Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is also resuming some health services that were on hold. This includes outpatient physiotherapy appointments, kidney health services, some laboratory services, home care (e.g. bathing services) and expanded immunizations.

The province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab answered questions about interprovincial travel at this time. He said as businesses and services reopen, the general principle to “enjoy the outdoors closer to home” still stands.

“Generally, all provinces, we don’t recommended unnecessary travel between provinces,” Dr. Saqib Shahab.

Premier Moe said this conversation continues to come up between provincial and territorial leaders, and stressed each province needs to be able to test and contact trace adequately if travel begins to increase.

“This is a conversation that we now need to work collaboratively on across the nation and ultimately, as a nation,” Moe said. 

‘Active transmission’ still occurring in Montreal

Quebec Premier Francois Legault stressed if COVID-19 significantly spreads in the province, businesses and services will have to be restricted once again.

Legault said everyone in the province needs to practise social distancing and wear a mask in more crowded areas, like public transportation and retail stores.

“It’s no time to let our guard down,” the premier said. “The virus is still there, not only in Montreal, and we must continue to protect ourselves and to protect others.”

“The best way to stop the contagion is to respect public health instructions.”

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s director of public health, said the community transmission situation in Montreal “is under control” but “very fragile.”

“There is, I would say, active transmission,” Dr. Arruda said. “Even if we are opening things...there [are] phases that are going to be done but it’s important to respect them.”

4:00 p.m.: More information on the possibility of “bubbling” families in Ontario could come this week

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, said to date, the long-term care data was based on integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS) outbreak data, reported in aggregate form. It included both lab confirmed and non-lab confirmed infections.

Starting Tuesday, the number of cases in long-term care facilities will be reported based on lab-confirmed cases only.

Dr. Yaffe was asked about why the daily case number went up when now, the data only includes lab confirmed infections. She said she asked herself that same questions this morning but the information now is more reflective of the actual number of cases in long-term care facilities.

“The original data was the aggregate data and it included cases that didn’t necessarily have lab confirmation,” Dr. Yaffe said. “However, we know that the outbreak data is not up to date.”

She added that health units “don’t even have to input all the data for an outbreak until two weeks after the outbreak is considered resolved.”

In the past 24 hours, there were only 5,813 tests conducted in Ontario with 427 positive cases confirmed, the first time in a number of days the daily case count has been over 400. Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said he hopes this higher case number is just a “blip” in the system.

Dr. Williams said he expects the percentage of community COVID-19 cases to be higher than those in long-term care following the survey of 97 per cent of residents and staff in those settings, which was completed on Friday with same samples still being assessed.

In terms of next steps, Dr. Williams said provincial health experts are looking at a possible “bubbling” of families in Ontario but recommendations are still being developed. He said the province could have something to announce “possibly later this week.”

1:50 p.m. Ontario schools to remain closed for rest of school year

The Ontario government has announced in-person learning will be cancelled for the rest of the school year.

“We cannot open schools at this time, I’m just not going to risk it,” premier Doug Ford said. “We’ve made the decision to put our kids’ safety first.”

The province has indicated all students who were on track to graduate from secondary school before the March closure will be able to graduate. Ford said all students completing the school year at home will receive their final report cards.

"Our plan will ensure students receive the best educational experience, both inside and outside the classroom, during this difficult time,” Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education said in a statement. “That is why we are strengthening summer learning opportunities, reopening summer day camps, and it is why we will continue to make the case for synchronous, live, and dynamic learning."

Later this summer, the government is expected to announce a plan for learning and safety protocols 2020-21 school year. A gradual reopening of child care is expected to begin when the province moves to Stage 2 of its reopening plan. Minister Lecce said the spacing of students will be “critical” when classroom learning resumes.

Independent commission into long-term care facilities

The province also revealed an independent commission into long-term care will begin in September.

“We have been clear the long-term care system in Ontario is broken,” Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, said in a statement. “We must act quickly and decisively, and that is why an independent non-partisan commission is the best way to conduct a thorough and expedited review.”

Ford said the government has been “fully transparent” when it comes to long-term care during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I was the first premier in this entire country and the first leader that I’ve seen right across North come out with my hand up saying I want a commission,” the premier said. “I’m not going to wait two and a half years like the Wettlaufer or SARS that took three and a half years to get answers while people are dying.”

“Anything I see...the people are going to see.”  

‘I’m going to come down on them like they’ve never seen before’

The premier also commented on small businesses who are asking for a commercial rent freeze. He said the province is waiting for the federal government to roll out aid for commercial rent and will wait for the response from landlords.

“Don’t force my hand, work things out because I’m trying to compromise here,” Ford said. “We’re giving you 75 per cent of what you’re asking for and like I said last week, nothing drives me more crazy than greedy landlords taking advantage of people and small business owners who are just trying to keep their head above water.”

“Don’t push me. These big landlords want to take advantage of small little companies and people who are struggling, I’m going to come down on them like they’ve never seen before.”

1:00 p.m.: ‘Our recommendation is that if hydroxychloroquine is being used, it should be part of a clinical trial’

Following the announcement of the extension in restriction to non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said there are a number of domestic measures that need to be evaluated before these regulations are lifted.

“We have to cautiously lift measure within our borders first just to see, slowly, what actually happens,” Dr. Tam said. “Mandatory quarantining remains a cornerstone as we go forward.”

She added both countries will be looking at the domestic and international epidemiology but Canada needs to make sure if the volume of cases increases, the system is still able to detect and cope with any new introductions of the virus.

She was also asked to comment on U.S. President Donald Trump taking hydroxychloroquine.

“We’re all wanting to look at viable treatments but i think that right now, a lot of the studies are very preliminary on different treatments and the results have been mixed,” Dr. Tam said. “However there’s some preliminary evidence from studies outside of Canada suggesting that hydroxychloroquine might have some role or may be effective in reducing some viral load.”

“Our recommendation is that if hydroxychloroquine is being used, it should be part of a clinical trial.”

She added that this medication must also be preserved for its current indicated medical treatment, which includes malaria and lupus.

11:45 a.m.: Canada-U.S. border restrictions extended

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada has made an agreement with the U.S. to extend border restrictions for an additional 30 days, until June 21.

Trudeau said there was a clear desire from provincial leaders to keep the border closed for non-essential travel and the Americans were open to keeping those restrictions in place.

When asked about the possibility of opening international borders, the prime minister said decisions are very much made “week to week.”

“We’re going to keep making those decisions as time goes on,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister also announced the eligibility for the Canada Emergency Business Account is being expanded to include business owners who are the sole employees, businesses that rely on contract workers and family businesses that pay family members through dividends.

When asked about Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s calls for more in-person sittings in the House, the prime minister said the virtual sittings have been working so far and he has concerns that if more people are expected to come to Ottawa, without virtual sittings, a large number will be unable or unwilling to do so due to COVID-19 concerns for their families.

Trudeau responds to Trump’s reaction to WHO

Trudeau was also asked about the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to pull funding from the organization. Canada’s prime minister said multilateral institutions like the WHO are extremely important, particularly during the global COVID-19 crisis.

“No global institution is perfect and there are obviously things we need to work on and things we need to improve about multilateralism, and that’s one of the reasons why Canada has been so incredibly active over these past weeks and months,” Trudeau said.

When asked about China’s $2 billion pledge to the WHO and criticism of the organization for its handling of information coming out of the country early on in the pandemic, the prime minister said “that balance does need to be looked at carefully.”

“There are always going to be reflections about the relationships between the largest donors to multilateral institutions and the functions of those multilateral institutions,” Trudeau said. “There will be some real questions around China, of course, in the coming months and year that need to be answered, and we will be part of that.” 

10:50 a.m.: ‘If I can take my dog to an animal groomer...members of Parliament should be able to show up for work’

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Tuesday morning, as businesses and services begin to reopen in various parts of the country, there is even more reason to have additional in-person sittings at the House of Commons.

“We believe that we could have been sitting more regularly, with a smaller number of MPs as far back as April 20,” Scheer said. “We believe that the justification for not sitting is even weaker today.”

“If I can take my dog to an animal groomer here in Ontario, certainly members of Parliament should be able to show up for work.”

In a recent interview on CTV's Question Period with Evan Solomon, Scheer said he ended up discontinuing the process of renouncing his U.S. citizenship after making the decision to step down as leader of the Conservative Party, once a replacement leader could be chosen.

During the press conference, Scheer was asked to provide additional information on why he decided to keep his American citizenship.

“I made the decision that as prime minister I would renounce my U.S. citizenship,” Scheer said. “Given the fact that I won’t be prime minister, I discontinued the process.”

“The decision to renounce it was linked with my goal to become prime minister.”

For a full archive of the first month of the pandemic, please check our archive of events.