Yahoo News Canada is committed to providing our readers with the most accurate and recent information on all things coronavirus. We know things change quickly, including some possible information in this story. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage our readers to consult online resources like Canada’s public health website, World Health Organization, as well as our own Yahoo Canada homepage.
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 118,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada and nearly 8,947 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.
6:00 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day
5:00 p.m.: ‘I don’t want us to go back to prison, it’s too difficult’
Quebec’s director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said the province is on the cusp of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He went on to stress the importance of people in Quebec need to continue to follow existing public health measure to curb the spread of the virus, with of a more devastating second wave.
“If we lower the transmission in the community, we’re going to lower the impact on healthcare systems,” Dr. Arruda said. “We are in...conditional liberty, but don’t break the conditions because you can go back to prison and I don’t want us to go back to prison, it’s too difficult.”
Quebec reported 108 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and no new deaths. There are 152 patients in hospital, 13 fewer the the previous day.
For a full look at the case counts across each province, check our daily cases blog.
2:00 p.m.: Federal health officials recommend masks as an ‘additional layer of protection’ in schools
Canada’s top doctors are recommending the use of non-medical masks in school settings for staff and students over the age of 10, given that physical distancing may not always be possible.
Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said masks can be used as an extra layer of protection but it is not the only measure that should be put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in school settings.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, indicated more information is required on how efficiently children may transmit COVID-19 to others and health officials need to “keep a close eye on the evolving evidence” as we head into the 2020-2021 school year.
Dr. Tam also commented on recent COVID-19 spread in B.C., a province that has recently seen an increase cases, particularly in Kelowna. Canada’s chief public health officer said that as businesses and services reopen, there is an expectation that there would be an increase in cases of the virus. She added that the goal is to keep the number of cases low and “manageable.”
“People got a little too enthusiastic, that cannot happen,” Dr. Tam said. “If we want schools to reopen safely...we have to, right now, keep the transmission down.”
1:00 p.m.: ‘A trade dispute is the last things anyone needs’
At a press conference on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland condemned the U.S. for re-imposing of 10 per cent on aluminum products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At a time when we are fighting a global pandemic, working on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border to prevent loss of life and preserve jobs, a trade dispute is the last things anyone needs,” Freeland said. “It will only hurt the economic recovery on both sides of the border.”
“However, this is what the U.S. administration has chosen to do.”
The Deputy Prime Minister went on to announce Canada will impose retaliatory tariffs on $3.6 billion worth of U.S. aluminum products.
“In imposing these tariffs, the United States has taken the absurd decision to harm its own people at a time when its economy is suffering the deepest crisis since the Great Depression,” Freeland said.
"We do not escalate and we do not back down," she said, about Canada’s efforts.
10:45 a.m.: Ontario government won’t budge on elementary school class sizes
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, continued to defend the province’s back to school plan, following calls from Toronto Public Health to reduce elementary school class sizes.
“As a father, I know there’s nothing more important than the safety of our [children],” Ford said. “My number one goal, what I lose sleep about, is making sure we have a safe environment for the kids to go back to class.”
The premier continued to call Ontario’s plan “the best plan in the entire country” and stressed that school boards were given $30 million to hire more staff.
Lecce added that the province has provided guidance to school boards about using spaces like gyms and cafeterias for instruction, and has encouraged them be “innovative” to look for solutions to repurpose areas for education.
The education minister highlighted that Ontario’s school framework is a “living document” that needs to be “responsive” to risks and emerging COVID-19 information.
7:52 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day
7:15 p.m.: ‘Enough, that’s enough now’
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C's provincial health officer, indicated that she is particularly concerned about people having larger, private parties, and people going to multiple, smaller private parties in the province.
B.C.’s health minister Adrian Dix had a stern message for people in the province who are hosting or attending these gatherings.
“Enough, that’s enough now,” Dix said. “Refusing to accept that COVID-19 must change everything puts all of us at risk.”
“Large groups, over an extended time period, are the biggest welcome mat there is for COVID-19...It’s time to stop putting out that welcome mat.”
Dr. Henry went on to comment on the resumption of in-class learning in B.C. schools in September, saying that although the virus is going to be around “for many months to come,” she also believes “the cost of keeping our schools closed is too high.”
B.C's provincial health officer went on to explain that school is much more than book learning, many children rely on these institutions for health care, a meal, and psychological support. Dr. Henry said parents need to look at the school environment very differently than it was back in March.
Earlier in the day, B.C. Premier John Horgan also commented on the provincial school plan, indicating he is aware that some parents, students and teachers want to resume in-class learning, but many are nervous about the whole process.
“We need to focus on getting back to as near to normal as we possibly can,” Horgan said. “We need to find a way for all of that to happen in a safe manner.”
“It’s August, we’re a month away, and what happens over the next 30 days is going to be critical...As we get into the first days or weeks of the school year, we will amend and adapt.”
6:00 p.m.: ‘Embrace the changes that are part of living with COVID-19’
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said she is “cautiously optimistic that Albertans are taking health measures more seriously” after the province only saw 56 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.
Dr. Hinshaw shared that about one in seven Alberta residents have been tested at some point during the pandemic.
She indicated Albertans between the ages of 20 and 29 remain the “largest driver of growth,” but the rate of growth in this particular age group has “slowed a little.”
“Everyone is still at risk of contracting COVID-19,” Dr. Hinshaw said, adding that COVID-19 “is not behind us.”
For anyone in the province who is hoping for a vaccine as soon as possible, Alberta's chief medical officer of health said we cannot know when or if an effective COVID-19 vaccine will be identified, so everyone must “embrace the changes that are part of living with COVID-19.”
3:45 p.m.: Ontario’s top doctor wants to see less than 50 daily COVID-19 cases next week
Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said he would like to see Ontario’s daily case counts get below 50, with the possibility of achieving this milestone sometime next week.
As influenza season approaches, Dr. Williams said the province has enhanced its capacity for flu vaccine for and he hopes parents will bring their children to get the flu shot this fall.
Ontario's chief medical officer of health indicated he would be “surprised” if the eventual COVID-19 vaccine is administered like an annual vaccine but any requirements from the manufacturer will need to be addressed.
In term of the upcoming school year, Dr. Williams suggested the province will be able to get a better understanding of class sizes once in-person instruction resumes, with the assumption that some parents will choose to keep their children in remote learning.
He stressed that if community transmission is high, it is more likely that children will be bring COVID-19 into schools, adding that people need to continue to be “vigilant” in all other settings.
2:00 p.m.: Ford says other Canadians provinces want Ontario’s back to school plan
At a press conference on Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford continued to defend the province’s school plan for the fall, primarily addressing concerns about class sizes in elementary school.s
“We have the best plan, bar none, over any province,” Ford said. “All the other provinces are shouting and screaming, saying we want Ontario’s plan.”
He added that he would like to see class sizes as small as possible, “within certain parameters” and Ontario has the “lowest number of kids in the classroom in the whole country” for Grade 1 to 3.
Ontario’s Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, stressed that the province has “the most comprehensive masking policy,” in addition to additional investment to hire custodians, and the implementation of additional safety and cleaning measures.
He added that the province’s one-metre distance rule in schools in “consistent with virtual every province that has a position with distancing.”
“In Grade 1 to 3, for example, Ontario for 90 per cent of classes are capped at 20 students, the next 10 per cent could vary up to 23,” Lecce said. “We have by far the smallest classroom size in the earliest years in the country, full stop.”
6:00 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day
3:00 p.m.: Alberta adds more funding to support homeless amid COVID-19
The Alberta government announced $48 million in funding for shelters and community organizations that have assisted homeless people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it’s unclear how the funding will be divided, it adds to the $25 million that the province announced for similar organizations in March.
The funds will help shelter people who are sick with, or have been exposed to COVID-19, throughout the winter, but don’t have anywhere else to go.
"We are confident that with this funding, shelters will be able to continue providing the compassionate care that all Albertans deserve," said community and Alberta’s social services minister Rajan Sawhney on Wednesday.
1:00 p.m.: Ontario announces $83M in funding through the Resilient Communities Fund
Premier Doug Ford announced that his government is investing $83 million through the Ontario Trillium Foundation to provide grants to eligible non-profit organizations.
The OTF's Resilient Communities Fund will provide grants of up to $150,000 for organizations such as food banks, child and youth programs and Royal Canadian Legion branches, which will allow them to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our local non-profits, including our local Legion branches and food banks, are the bedrock of our communities and their work will be absolutely critical in helping people to rebuild their lives as we restart our economy and reopen the province,” said Doug Ford.
The funding will also help organizations implement new approaches to deliver services amid the the upcoming stages of the pandemic.
Ford wants his share of federal government’s vaccine deal
Earlier on Wednesday, the federal government announced that they’ve entered into agreements with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna for supply of their vaccines in development.
Ford said that he hasn’t yet had in-depth talks with Ottawa, but that he expects Ontario to receive “38 per cent of anything the feds distribute throughout the country.”
The premier has held a similar stance throughout the pandemic, which has helped Ontario receive $7 billion of the $19 billion that was distributed to provinces and territories in a deal that was reached in July.
Smaller class sizes in Ontario?
At Wednesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, Ford was pressed multiple times about class sizes in Ontario, particular for those between kindergarten and Grade 8.
Those in Grade 9-12 will be cohorts of approximately 15 students, meaning that those individuals will only interact with people in their cohorts while in schools. However, Ford has been urged to reconsider implementing a similar approach for younger students, with many citing SickKids’ advice for smaller classrooms being imperative to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Some parents have expressed their discomfort about in-class learning amid COVID-19, and the remote learning option isn’t convenient for parents who can’t leave their kids at home during the day.
Ford said that for those in kindergarten, classrooms will be capped at 30, but that there will be two staff members. He said the ratio is the lowest in the country, since it would mean that there are 15 students for every staff member. But the ratio has been deemed unimportant to some, since there are still concerns about students being in the same classroom.
“We have the lowest amount of kids in J.K. in the country. We have the lowest kids from Grade 1-3. We have 15 kids... for every teacher or ECE. So we're doing pretty good. Let's give this a shot.
”And when I hear people from B.C. chanting they want the Ontario plan, it's not bad,” continued Ford, while mentioning an article he read. “You know, B.C. is doing well but they don't have half the guidelines that we have, we have some stringent guidelines, more than anyone else in the country. We're gonna give it everything we can, and make sure that we move forward and pray to God that everyone is safe.”
Ford touted that Ontario has rolled out “more money per student than anywhere else in the country” along with their guidelines in order to ensure a safe restart. He said that more funding might become available as scenarios arise, and that he “won't hesitate, if we have a second wave and it starts blowing up, to close schools, or whatever it takes to protect the kids.”
The premier also urged people to remember that Ontario’s reopening plan is not only applicable to Toronto.
“Everyone thinks one size fits all. And, you know, we live in a bubble to a certain degree in Toronto and we don't think anywhere else exists,” said Ford.
“I'm sorry, we're a fraction of the population, and an important part of the Ontario, but we’re 20 per cent. However, the 80 per cent, who live in the rural areas, they haven't seen cases in months.”
12:30 p.m.: P.E.I. releases its back-to-school plan with emphasis on ‘cohorts,’ optional mask usage
Prince Edward Island released its back-to-school plan on Wednesday, which sees all of its 62 schools returning full-time come Sept. 8.
“There's a lot to consider, and our plan will constantly evolve. But we can make the most of it,” said P.E.I.’s minister of education and lifelong learning Brad Trivers.
Mask use won’t be made mandatory in P.E.I. for students and staff, but will be encouraged in some cases.
School bus riders and drivers will be “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask, along with staff and those in Grades 7-12 when physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as in hallways, bathrooms, classrooms and emergency situations. Those in kindergarten to Grade 6 “may wear masks in school when physical distancing cannot be maintained.”
Students will be placed in “cohorts” in order to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Students will be grouped together and spend their time with other people in the same cohort. Staff such as teachers, educational assistants and cleaners will also be assigned designated cohorts, said Trivers.
The size of cohorts will be up to the 62 schools, who are expected to release customized plans by the end of next week. They’ve been given the mandate to make them as small as possible.
The creation of cohorts means that students will move throughout the school at different times of the day. That includes arrival and departure times, and also for recess and lunch breaks, which may cause delays. If possible, cohorts will use separate entrances to the building, while children will be screened for symptoms at the beginning of the day.
If someone does test positive, only close contacts will have to self-isolate and monitor for 14 days. The infected student will be able to return two weeks after their diagnosis, and at least 24 hours after showing their last symptom, other than a residual cough.
10:15 a.m. Canada secures vaccine candidates with Pfizer and Moderna
On Wednesday, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains announced that the Government of Canada had entered into agreements with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna for supply of their vaccines in development.
“We are increasingly focused on the next stage of our recovery,” said Anand.
Anand said that the government has been engaged with both domestic and international suppliers, in an effort to diversify the supply chain, much like they have done for PPE procurement throughout the pandemic.
“I am pleased to announce that the Government of Canada has entered into agreements with Pfizer and Moderna to secure millions of doses of their vaccines candidates,” said Anand. “We are among the first countries to enter into these agreements.”
Anand explained that trials for the Pfizer vaccine candidates are ongoing in Germany and the U.S., and the New England Journal of Medicine recently touted Moderna’s vaccine candidates.
“Studies continue in the United States, indicative of our aggressive approach to secure vaccines now, so Canadians are at the front of the line when vaccines become available,” said Anand.
Anand stressed that any potential vaccine candidate will take time to develop, properly test, and deploy, so the government wishes to expedite the process as much as is safely possible.
This also includes sourcing relevant supplies like syringes, alcohol swabs, and other supplies which will allow for the final stages of vaccine production and safe administration of the vaccine.
All vaccines will require approval from Health Canada before delivery. Anand says that if all goes well, delivery is expected in 2021. Anand said that further discussions are happening, but is not currently discussing any further contracts with other companies at this time.
“Canadians can rest assured that we will leave no stone unturned to keep them healthy and safe,” said Anand.
Country also exploring ‘Made-in-Canada’ options
Minister Bains also announced two key task forces for the country’s fight against COVID-19: a vaccine task force and a treatment task force. The vaccine task force is working to identify vaccine candidates outside of Canada, including the recent developments by Pfizer and Moderna, as well as “made-in-Canada” solutions.
Support for Canadian vaccines includes $56 million to support clinical studies and pre-clinical trials for Ottawa-based Variation Biotechnologies Inc. (VBI) Vaccines, and further funds for IMV, which is establishing a completely Canadian supply chain. Bains stressed that investment in Canadian solutions is critical.
“The strategy is focused on domestic production, supporting Canadian scientists, and pursuing promising international solutions,” said Bains.
The therapeutic task force will be focused on the treatment of COVID-19 for those who have contracted the virus.
Bains said his current focus is on building domestic production capabilities, and not on looking at whether the vaccine will be mandatory yet. The issue of whether the vaccine will be mandatory will be determined once a vaccine is secured, and discussed with Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Minister of Health Patty Hajdu.
Anand says her team is following the advice of the vaccine task force as well as Dr. Tam, and pursuing talks with companies on their recommendations.
“There’s not one single solution to carry Canadians out of the pandemic. Multiple efforts must be made, and followed.” Anand said that the vaccine will be an added protection against COVID-19, alongside wearing masks, social distancing and staying home.
“We all want a silver bullet, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” said Anand.
Anand said that additional prospects must be explored, and the therapeutic and vaccine task forces will help guide towards those answers.
7:15 p.m. COVID-19 questions of the day
7:00 p.m.: B.C. officials plead for the public to not attend private parties
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C's provincial health officer, expressed concern about the number of new cases in the province, totalling 146 over the past four days. She said this is a result of exposures that happened up to two weeks ago and the source of these cases is varied, including travel within the province, within Canada and internationally, and transmission between work colleagues.
B.C.’s health minister Adrian Dix stressed that people should not consider going to any private parties at this point in the pandemic.
“If you’re being invited to a private party and you don’t know who’s there, and you don’t know the guest list and you don’t know the numbers, [it’s] something I strongly urge you not to attend,” Dix said.
Dr. Henry said she has been looking for zero new case numbers “for a long time” but the bigger concern is about cases “popping up from nowhere,” where public health officials cannot effectively and efficiently determine the source of infection.
Students will not be required to wear a mask
B.C.’s provincial health officer said that masks may be important in “certain aspects of school” but the province has no intention of making masks mandatory in classrooms. Dr. Henry went on to say there is “no evidence” to support a mandatory masking rule in classrooms, contrary to the measures being put in place in other Canadian provinces.
For parents who may be apprehensive about sending their children back to school, she stressed that in-person education can provide lessons that children can only get in these settings.
“We know that some children will fall behind and will never catch up,” Dr. Henry said, adding that the 60 student “learning group” limit in elementary and middle schools will be “far less” for many children.
In terms of before and after school care, B.C.’s top doctor said each family will need to look at how these activities can happen on a “much smaller scale” for the time being.
5:20 p.m.: Saskatchewan will not require masks in schools
The Saskatchewan government revealed its school plan for fall, which will see students and staff return to the classroom in September.
The plan including assigned seating on school buses, with students from the same household seated together.
Parents and caregivers are being asked to monitor their children for any COVID-19 symptoms, and they should remain at home if any are present. There will also be a dedicated quarantine area in every school where a student who becomes symptomatic will wait to be picked up by a parent or caregiver.
Schools must implements staggered recess, lunch, and other class transition times, while physical contact will be limited “whenever possible,” including using outdoor spaces for instruction and changes to classroom configurations to minimize contact.
In-person assemblies will be prohibited and schools must reduce the number of shared supplies between students.
Deputy Premier and Minister of Education, Gordon Wyant, confirmed that masks will not be a mandatory measure when school initially resumes.
“We think that’s the best practice for Saskatchewan, at least at the beginning,” Wyant said.
Saskatchewan's chief medical health, officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, said the province needed to balance the benefits of mask use in schools with some of the potential challenges, particularly for younger students.
Both Shahab and Wyant stressed that additional measures can be added based on the evolution of community transmission in Saskatchewan.
Ahead of the restart of school, Wyant announced that effective Tuesday, capacity in child care centres will increase from a maximum of 15 children per space to 25 children per space.
4:30 p.m.: Ontario premier defends back to school plan
At a press conference on Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended the province’s back to school plan, including the decision to not restrict the number of students in each elementary school classroom.
“We went with some of the brightest minds in the world,” Ford said. “The number one concern is to make sure our kids are safe when they go back.”
The premier went on to compare the Ontario and B.C. back-to-school plans, highlighting that the western province has “learning groups” of 60 students in elementary and middle school, and 120 students in high school. Ontario will cohort high school students to up to 15 people, with no cohorts for younger students.
Masks are not required in B.C. schools but are mandatory for Grade 4 to 12 students and school staff in Ontario.
The premier also stressed that parents do not need to sent their children to school if they are not comfortable, opting for remote, online learning instead.
‘We’re going to be a lot more ready for the fall’
Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of Prince Edward Island, said conversations about the second wave of COVID-19 are “ongoing” but the provincial health system is prepared for an increase in cases.
“We’re going to be a lot more ready for the fall than we would have been in March,” Dr. Morrison said, adding that this time has enabled the province to make sure the “fundamental” measures are in place.
P.E.I. plans to release details on its back to school plans on Wednesday but the provincial chief public health officer said the goal is to minimize the impact additional COVID-19 case would have on the function of the school, while prioritizing the health of staff and students.
2:00 p.m.: Health officials are ‘planning for the longer term or the next two to three years’ with COVID-19
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said although there is hope that an effective vaccine for COVID-19 will be a “silver bullet solution,” using language from the World Health Organization’s director, there is still a lot to determine about the virus.
“We don’t know at this stage how effective the vaccine is going to be,” Dr. Tam said at a press conference on Tuesday.
She indicated there are many vaccine candidates globally that are in phase 3 of clinical trials, which looks at the safety and efficacy, or immune response, to the vaccine.
Dr. Tam said at this point, it is still not known if an effective vaccine will prevent someone from actually being infected or if it will just prevent serious illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19.
She also stressed that it’s “likely” there won’t be enough vaccine for the general population and prioritization will be required.
“The public health measures that we have in place, the sort of personal daily measures that we take, are going to have to continue,” Dr. Tam said. “We’re planning, as a public health community, that we’re going to have to manage this pandemic, certainly over the next year...planning for the longer term or the next two to three years, during which the vaccine may play a role but we don’t know yet.”
“I do agree with Dr. Fauci in the United States that we can be cautiously optimistic but...it’s one important layer of protection.”
Canada’s chief public health officer was also asked about any specific parameters that need to be met for officials to put more restrictions in place.
Dr. Tam said specific “triggers” have not been set yet but the positivity rate is one metric to look at. She indicated that a five per cent positivity rate is “a warning sign.” Dr. Tam also said the reproductive number is a key factor and if it goes beyond one and keep escalating “that’s not a good sign.”
11:30 a.m.: Masks mandatory for some students, all staff in Alberta schools
Adriana LaGrange, Alberta’s Minister of Education, announced that face masks will be mandatory for students in Grades 4-12 and all staff for the 2020-2021 school year.
Staff will be required to wear a mask in all settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Students must wear a mask in all shared and common areas, such as hallways, school buses.
“Masks are not required inside the classroom when students are seated and the teacher is distanced from the students, though they can still be worn if the student or teacher chooses,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health said at a press conference on Tuesday.
She added that desks should be “as far apart as possible” in classrooms and students should not be facing each other.
Masks are optional for younger students in Alberta, which Dr. Hinshaw indicated is because of emerging evidence that children who are 10 or older may be more likely to transit COVID-19 than younger children, in additional to compliance difficulties with younger students.
The Alberta government will be providing every student, from Kindergarten to Grade 12, with two reusable masks. The same number of reusable masks will also be provided to teachers, support staff, school staff and school bus drivers. Additional single-use masks will be available at schools.
Teachers, support staff, school staff and bus divers will also receive one reusable face shield, which can be used at the discretion of the individual.
“While face shields can help reduce exposure they are not equivalent to masks,” minister LaGrange said, adding that a mask must still be worn with a face shield.
Dr. Hinshaw stressed that masks are only one part of the public health approach put in place for the upcoming school years.
“Masks alone do not keep kids and schools safe from COVID-19,” she said. “Indeed, no single precaution or public health measure will eliminate all risks of exposure in schools or any other setting.”
10:20 a.m.: Windsor-Essex will stay in Stage 2
The Ontario government announced the Windsor-Essex region will remain in Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan, for the time being.
“We are working hard with our federal and local partners to provide the communities in Windsor-Essex with the support they need during their reopening,” Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, said in a statement. “With the health and safety of the people of Ontario our absolute top priority, Windsor-Essex will remain in Stage 2 until the data indicates they can safely move to Stage 3.”
The government indicated that outbreaks in the agriculture sector are a particular concern in the region and “pose unique challenges.”
The province has deployed the Emergency Medical Assistance Team (EMAT) to Windsor-Essex for incident management support and the government is also implementing a three-point plan to support the region’s health unit. This includes on-site testing, access to employment benefits and supports, and public health guidance specific to the agri-food setting.
“We continue to take action to address outbreaks in the region and provide our farmers and agribusinesses in Windsor-Essex with the help, tools and resources necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of their workers and employees,” Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said in a statement. “We are all working together to fight the spread of COVID-19 while protecting our vital food supply chain and the health and safety of the people who put food on our tables.”
3:00 p.m.: COVID-19 ‘just waiting for an invitation to a party’
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, reminded the public that “COVID-19 is all around us” just before the long weekend.
“Summer doesn’t make the virus go away,” Dr. Tam said. “It is right there, just waiting for an invitation to a party or gathering.”
She added that people should plan to keep their groups small and Canadians should “not let their guard down.”
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is also reminding the public that traveller restrictions are still in place across the country and will remain in place until at least Aug. 21.
These restrictions prevent foreign travellers, including Americans, from entering Canada for non-essential purposes like visiting friends, sightseeing and checking on a seasonal home.
$58.6 million for temporary foreign workers
More details were revealed about the $58.6 million the federal government is committing to strengthen the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.
It includes $6 million allocated for outreach to workers through support organizations and $16.2 million to strengthen inspections of farms. The federal government will invest $35 million to improve health and safety on farms, including improvement to living quarters, personal protective equipment and sanitation stations.
At a press conference on Friday, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, said most employers follow the rules, but indicated there are reported cases of inappropriate behaviour and unsafe working conditions.
Qualtrough went on to speak about Canadians being transitioned from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to EI in September. She said the change will happen as Canada moves into a different phase of the COVID-19 pandemic: the “recovery phase” and the “economic restart phase.”
“It will look and feel like the CERB, but it won’t be the CERB,” she said, adding that the new system will be have “less disincentive to work.”
1:45 p.m.: New measures for restaurants, bars in Ontario
The Ontario government announced that it is implementing additional measures for restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments, as Toronto and Peel move into Stage 3 of reopening.
All patrons of these settings will be required to be seated at all times in both indoor and outdoor areas with limited exceptions, like travelling to the washroom. Bars, restaurants and tour boat operators will be required to keep client logs for a period of 30 days, which must be shared with the medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on request.
I’ve sent a letter to Premier @fordnation with a request for additional measures to be implemented as part of Stage 3. These six recommendations will help protect our City from further spread of #COVID19 & help ensure we continue safely reopening. pic.twitter.com/k26BxDsDT4— John Tory (@JohnTory) July 19, 2020
These additional measures come after Toronto Mayor John Tory sent a letter to the province earlier this month requesting additional precautions for restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments.
“These additional measures will help reduce close contact between individuals in these settings, and support case and contact tracing, thereby limiting the spread of COVID-19,” Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, said in a statement.
What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19?
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate chief medical officer of health, provided additional information on the fall school plan, primarily concerns about classes being too large and students not being able to distance properly. She said maintaining a physical distance of two metres is “ideal,” but less crucial for younger students. Evidence shows that kids under the age of 10 don’t get infected as much, don’t usually have severe outcomes and don’t tend to spread the virus to others as much.
“We’ll have to monitor how we can improve things as we go along,” she said.
The associate chief medical officer of health said it will be an “extremely rare” situation where a whole school will need to be closed because of COVID-19 cases. She explained that if one student tests positive, the whole classroom, including the teacher, will get tested. People in that household, friends and other close contacts the student has been “around a lot” will be asked to stay home.
Dr. Yaffe said if there are two cases, each in a different class or cohort, public health will look to see if they are linked or if they were infected outside the school setting.
Staying safe over the long weekend
As Ontario prepares for a long weekend, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he doesn’t want people gathering in large groups, having parties and acting like COVID-19 is “over.”
Dr. Yaffe added that people should not mix in large gatherings, with regions like Ottawa reporting many cases linked to parties indoors.
She said if cases of this nature continue to come up, the province will have to look at what can be done to mitigate those situations.
12:30 p.m.: Case management app launches in Ontario, funds for temporary foreign workers
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made several announcements on Friday morning, including the launch of the COVID Alert app in Ontario.
Each user will be assigned a random code and the app “pings” other users via Bluetooth when phones come within a two-metre range. If someone tests positive for the virus, the code can be uploaded to a central server and stored for 15 days.
Trudeau stressed it is entirely voluntary to use, but the more people use it the better COVID-19 cases can be traced and it can help slow future spread of the virus. He added that the app does not collect names, addresses, locations or other personal information.
The prime minister said the goal is to have other provinces come on board in the “coming weeks.”
Trudeau also announced $59 million in funding to protect migrant workers on Canadian farms, including support to improve overall living conditions.
He added that in many cases Canada has “let those communities down,” including farmers who haven’t been living up to the standards and expectations for temporary foreign workers, stressing that there are “lots of changes we need to make.”
More details on Canada Emergency Response Benefit to come
The prime minister also said Canadians can expect to receive more details on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in the near future.
“For people who need this program, don’t worry, no one will be left behind,” Trudeau said.
He indicated the goal is to transfer everyone from the CERB to EI. For anyone who does not qualify for EI, the prime minister said a similar, parallel benefit will be implemented. There will also be a sickness and caregivers’ benefit for Canadians not covered at work if they, or their parents or children, get COVID-19 and need to stop working.
The prime minister also announced the commercial rent assistance program is being extended for the month of August.
‘That is the element that’s not happening’
A day after his testimony before the House of Commons finance committee on the WE Charity controversy, related to the Canada Student Service Grant, the prime minister said the federal government is still working to support young people during the COVID-19 pandemic but “unfortunately” they will not be able to get a credit for the current volunteer work taking place.
“That is the element that’s not happening so far,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister went on to reiterate his statements from Thursday afternoon, admitting he should have “removed [himself] entirely” from the discussion on the organization that would deliver the program.
7:45 p.m.: B.C. health officials ‘delighted’ to see action to stop ‘Alaska loophole’
At a press conference on Thursday, B.C.’s top health officials said they are “delighted” and it is a “great step” that the federal government have put stricter rules in place to prevent the “Alaska loophole” being used by travellers from the U.S.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced that as of Jul. 31 at 12:01 am PDT, additional measures will be put in place for in-transit foreign travellers. These individuals will be issued a “hang tag” for their vehicle to be attached to their rear view mirror for the duration of their trip to or from Alaska, which will show the date they must depart Canada. The back of the tag will have details on how to comply with the public health and safety measures to follow.
In-transit foreign nationals must enter Canada at one of five CBSA ports of entry:
North Portal, Saskatchewan
The CBSA stated in a release that travel will also be limited to use of “the most direct route,” which will avoid all parks, leisure sites and tourism activities.
B.C.’s health minister Adrian Dix said although he is thankful these measures are being put in place, travellers need to remember to not travel, either domestically or internationally, if they are sick.
“It’s just not appropriate ever,” he said.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C's provincial health officer, also spoke about the information the province is able to receive from people who fly into B.C. She indicated the way the systems work, the booking system and the system that captures flight manifests, can make things difficult
“What’s actually in the booking system and flight manifests don’t always line up,” Dr. Henry said.
She said it often takes days to receive the information and if someone organized their trip through an online aggregate system or a travel agent, there is a name but there isn’t always contact information for the individual.
‘This is going to be our COVID summer’
In advance of the long weekend, Dr. Henry said it’s important for people to “socialize safely.”
“This is going to be our COVID summer but we know how to do it,” she said. “This is how we can play safe and stay safe.”
The provincial health officer stressed it’s still important for everyone to follow the public health rules and keep groups small.
“We all know somebody who has bent the rules to make it work for them and that’s not a surprise,” Dr. Henry said, adding that people have a tendency to think they’re immune unless they personally see the impacts of the virus.
“Help them get back on track,” she said.
Dix said to anyone who is thinking of joining a large group or party this weekend, “this is not the weekend for that, next week isn’t either and the one after that isn’t either.”
2:00 p.m.: Ontario will bring students, teachers back to the classroom
The Ontario government announced its plan to reopen schools in September, which will allow students and teachers to return to in-personal instruction.
Hours of instruction, class sizes
Elementary school children will be able to return to school five days a week, with five hours of instruction a day, beginning on Sept. 8.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said most secondary schools will reopen under an adapted model and students will be in cohorts of up to 15 people. These groups will alternate between in-person and online learning with at least 50 per cent of instructional time spent in the classroom. Indirect and direct student contacts should be limited to about 100 students in the school.
Lecce said lower-risk schools will be able to reopen with a full return to class five days a week.
Ontario mask policy in schools a first for Canada
Masks will be mandatory for staff and students from Grades 4-12, with exceptions for anyone with a medical reasons to not wear a mask. Masks will be optional for younger students. The masking measure will be implemented in conjunction with maintaining a physical distance of one metre in schools.
What the province expects from schools, teachers
Ford said the province will be providing $309 million immediately to hire 500 new public health nurses, 900 custodians, funds for testing, health and safety training, and required personal protective equipment for students, staff and bus drivers.
The education minister said parents have the choice to send their children to school if and when they are comfortable. There is an expectation that live, online teacher-led and synchronized learning is available for all students.
Premier Ford indicated teachers and staff “always” have the right to not go into the classroom if they are not comfortable but “we all need the teachers to come into the class, when possible.”
Minister Lecce said that if any teachers cannot be in a classroom, there is an expectation that they can teach online.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said there is no plan to implement regular, formal testing of teachers because it will “complicate the picture” if there are no known or suspected cases in the environment.
“I think a lot of people think that testing is going to really solve the whole problem and it isn’t,” Dr. Yaffe said. “It’s one component of a response.”
“If you’re testing in a population that doesn’t have very much COVID, you’ll get false positives almost half the time...Testing will not actually achieve anything other than take resources away from other places they need to be.”
She added that everyone needs to be educated on the symptoms to look for so they don’t go to school or work if any are present.
The Ontario government will also allow licensed child care centres to open at full capacity as of Sept. 1, including before- and after-school programs. Staff must wear masks at all time, and students and staff will be screened before entering the facility.
Ontario vs. B.C. school plan
Ontario’s announcement comes after B.C. revealed its school plans for in-class instruction. B.C. will be limiting learning group in elementary and middle school to 60 students, increasing the limit to 120 students in secondary schools.
Self-directed learning will be provided in conjunction with in-class learning, if required, and parents who don’t want to send their children back to school can register for online or distributed learning, or home schooling.
Students, teachers and other school staff are not required to wear a mask but it is recommended that older students wear a non-medical mask when riding the bus.
Follow our province-by-province breakdown of the school plans as they are announced, here.
6:00 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day
3:30 p.m.: B.C. unveils back-to-school plan for the fall with focus on ‘learning groups’
British Columbia officials have announced that most students in the province will be returning back to school full-time come Sept. 8.
In order to limit and control the spread of COVID-19, schools will be tasked with creating cohorts or “learning groups” for the fall.
Kids and teachers in elementary and middle school will be in learning groups of no more than 60 people, while those in secondary school will be in groups of up to 120. Each cohort is expected to comprise of multiple classrooms.
Outside of the classroom, children will only be able to interact with those in their cohorts, such as during breaks and in commons areas like gyms, libraries, on school buses and playgrounds.
“The potential for transmission will be limited,” said B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on the learning groups. “The ability for public health to quickly complete contract racing will be far easier and far less disruptive.”
Schools and their boards will be responsible for organizing schedules that will help limit the number of interactions between different cohorts, such as with different bell schedules.
The elementary and middle school cohorts are smaller because younger children are less likely to be mindful of physical distancing. Even though younger children have a smaller chance of contracting and spreading the virus, older students are better able to better identify their symptoms, said Henry.
If COVID-19 does enter a cohort, in a worst case scenario everyone will be asked to self-isolate, be monitored and be tested.
“We were the only jurisdiction in Canada that brought students back into the classroom province-wide before the end of the school year and this has given us valuable information that we are using to develop our plans, ensuring health and safety at schools remain paramount,” said Education Minister Rob Fleming on Wednesday.
$45.6M in additional funding for schools
Fleming announced that an additional $45.6 million will be provided to schools in B.C. to enhance cleaning regimes, to hire more cleaning staff, to add more hand washing stations and to provide reusable face masks to teachers and students.
Students and staff won’t be required to wear masks, but it will be provided upon request to older students and staff when there’s interaction taking place outside of a learning group, or when social distancing isn’t possible, such as when riding the bus.
Opportunities for large gatherings, such as assemblies and sports tournaments, won’t be taking place. Students will also be screened before entering the school, a process in which they'll go through a list of possible symptoms. It’s a practice that Henry said was useful when they reopened schools in June.
For students who are immunocompromised, they’ll need to work with their family physician and school board to find the best approach come the fall.
Fleming also announced that $3 million of the additional funding will support remote learning, so students can have access to technologies that they need. Additional funding will also be made available for children with disabilities and those with complex learning needs.
Learning from June
Henry said that there is no “magic number” to look out for in the fall.
When B.C. opened schools in June, about 200,000 students voluntarily attended classes. At least two teachers were infected, but there was no transmission to students or wide-spread transmission in any school setting.
“I don't necessarily expect there to be no cases in schools. I think it's inevitable there probably will be some. But that's not the biggest concern, as we say, it's more as we're opening up society and having more context,” said Henry.
“One thing we have learned from this pandemic is we cannot predict the future. We are planning for a number of scenarios. And if we start to see community transmission that puts this at risk, we will need to adjust the school schedule as well.”
The return to school, Henry said, is especially important for the health of students and their families who have faced the burden of the pandemic. It might leave an impact that can last “many, many years,” because of how they might have fallen behind both economically and in terms of their education.
“We know that there's been an increase in anxiety, there's been an increase in mental health issues with young people, the number of people calling children helpline, and the families that have had challenges in managing with children at home,” said Henry.
“Schools are essential not only to our economy but to our society and our community. And this is our safest way that we can move forward.”
Parents who don’t want their child to attend in-person classes have the option to register their child for online and distributed learning (based on program availability) or home-schooling.
Teachers federation voices complaints
The B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the government’s announcement on Wednesday.
“Based on what the government released today their plan isn’t ready yet. It needs more work,” wrote Teri Mooring, the president of BCTF.
The teachers federals wants smaller class sizes to ensure all of the “children, youth, and adults that share our school spaces can adhere to the physical distancing protocols we have all been asked to maintain during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
They also requested more consultation with school districts and local unions, as well time in September for in-service training and health and safety orientations to help with the transition.
On Wednesday, a group of experts part of SickKids also released new proposed guidelines for reopening schools come September, including recommendations like staggered lunch times and mandatory masks for older students.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that his education minister will take the guidelines into consideration as he gets ready to unveil his back-to-school plan this week.
1:00 p.m.: ‘We can't take our eye off the ball for a second’: Ontario continues to reopen
On Friday, Toronto and Peel will be allowed to join 31 other public health units by moving into Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan. Windsor-Essex will remain the only region in Stage 2, as it continues to deal with agri-farm outbreaks.
Stage 3 allows businesses such as restaurants and bars to be able to provide dine-in services, while gyms and fitness centres can also reopen, among other services.
“For our friends in Windsor-Essex, we’re asking the people there for a little more time and patience. They entered stage 2 a little later than everyone else. So the health officials just need a bit more time to evaluate the numbers there. And I'm confident that we will get Windsor-Essex there very soon,” said Ford.
The news comes as Ontario reports 76 cases on Wednesday. It’s the first time that it has not reported a triple-digit case increase since March 24.
“Today's numbers should give us some hope we're on the right path,” said Ford.
“That's impressive. But again, we can't take our eye off the ball for a second. It will come back and bite us in the backside with a second wave like we've never seen before.”
Independent review of Ontario’s long-term care system underway
Premier Doug Ford’s government announced that they’ve launched the Independent Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commision to evaluate the shortcomings of the system throughout the pandemic.
“My friends, as I always say our government and create this problem, but I can promise you we're going to fix it,” said Ford.
The report will be due by April 30, 2021, and will be led by three commissioners. Frank N. Marrocco will serve as the chair, after practicing law for 33 years in a stretch that included being appointed to the Superior Court of Justice in 2005. Angela Coke is a former senior executive of the Ontario Public Service, while Dr. Jack Kitts served as President and CEO of the Ottawa Hospital from 2002 till his retirement in June 2020.
Ford and his government stressed that the review will be independent, but did not clarify if the recommendations that can be made by the Commision will be binding.
While the independent review can’t bring forward legal charges, Ford said there are a plethora of eyes that will be looking into situation, such as the the chief coroner, ombudsman, auditor general, and possibly the Ontario Provincial Police.
“If they find there's been neglect, then they should be charged. It's as simple as that,” said Ford, referring to long-term care homes that potentially failed their staff and residents.
As of Wednesday, there are currently 15 active outbreaks among long-term care facilities around the province, while 310 have been resolved, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
Throughout the pandemic, 1,844 residents have died in relation to COVID-19, along with eight staff members. The Canadian Armed Forces, after providing assistance in various LTCs across the province, also provided a report in May that included “horrific” claims of cockroaches and fecal contamination in some homes, among other problems.
Price gouging, differential treatment continues across Ontario
On Wednesday, Ford continued to respond to various regions in Ontario that have shown deferential treatment toward residents of other parts of the province.
Last week, Ford addressed reports of Barrie and Orillia issuing $50 in an additional parking fee to non-residents at waterfront locations.
After Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman doubled down on the higher parking prices, Ford on Wednesday said that the region is losing business as a result. He noted that one of his staff members said that he won’t return to the area until the prices go back to normal.
“I don't want to knock him. He thinks he's doing the right thing,” said Ford. “But overall in the big picture. It's hurting, it's hurting businesses. Usually these places like Barrie, Orillia, Huntsville... they want tourists there and want them to spend their money.”
On Tuesday, St. Catharines also decided to restrict access to some of its waterfront, such as beaches, to Niagara residents only.
“I don't think it's a fair thing, you know we're all paying taxes. Everyone's pitching and everyone's helping out,” said Ford.
“I understand the situation ... but everything's going to level off. One day, those regions are going to be begging for people to come, the businesses will be begging, restaurants will be begging for people to show up there. I think we have to work together and work through it. ... I just don't believe in this heavy handed approach all the time.”
8:45 a.m.: Toronto and Peel will move into Stage 3
The Ontario government has announced that Toronto and Peel will be moving to Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan on Friday.
Windsor-Essex will remain in Stage 2 as provincial health officials continue to evaluate when it is safe for the region to join the rest of the province in Stage 3.
“While more restaurants, theatres and businesses can hang up their Open for Business sign, we're asking everyone to follow public health advice and act responsibly,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “We have made tremendous progress that allows us to return to something a little closer to our normal lives this summer, but we are not out of the woods yet.”
The provincial government also indicated it is “supportive” of proposals by Toronto officials to limit close contact at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments.