Coronavirus outbreak: 60 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Ontario, total at 311 active cases

Ontario has seen the biggest single-day jump in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 60 cases on Friday, bringing the total number of active cases to 311. Erica Vella reports.

  • U.S. officials redistribute protective gear seized from alleged hoarder
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    Reuters

    U.S. officials redistribute protective gear seized from alleged hoarder

    U.S. officials said on Thursday they would distribute a stockpile of personal protective equipment, including 192,000 N95 respirator masks, which they seized this week from an alleged hoarder. The departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) said the equipment had been seized by a task force set up to crack down on coronavirus-related hoarding and price gouging. The material included 130,000 surgical masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels and bottles of hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant.

  • Now Isn’t The Time To Question Chinese Numbers On Coronavirus: Trudeau
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    HuffPost Canada

    Now Isn’t The Time To Question Chinese Numbers On Coronavirus: Trudeau

    The health minister chastised a reporter for “feeding into conspiracy theories.”

  • 'This has been a nightmare': Canadian passengers on virus-stricken cruise finally headed for home
    News
    CBC

    'This has been a nightmare': Canadian passengers on virus-stricken cruise finally headed for home

    An ill-fated cruise that has had a COVID-19 outbreak and four deaths has finally come to an end after politicians in Florida agreed to allow its passengers — including 247 Canadians — to disembark in Ft. Lauderdale."I couldn't begin to tell you how happy we are," said passenger Chris Joiner, 59, of Orleans, Ont.He and his wife, Anna are on board the MS Zaandam, a Holland America Line cruise ship that had been sailing off the coast of South America and in the Caribbean for more than two weeks, looking for a place to dock."It's been a long, long journey — the worst experience of our lives," said Joiner. "Thank God, it's finally over."The Zaandam and its sister ship, the Rotterdam, are carrying 1,243 passengers, including the 247 Canadian passengers and one Canadian crew member. They docked at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday afternoon.  Local officials previously resisted allowing the two ships to dock as the Zaandam has confirmed COVID-19 cases on board and several passengers in need of hospital care. Four passengers on the Zaandam have died after the ship was hit with a flu-like illness in mid-March. Two of the deceased later tested positive for COVID-19, and Holland America has not yet said how the other two died. Several others on board have tested positive for disease that is caused by the coronavirus.The Rotterdam and its crew joined the Zaandam last week, taking on more than half of its passengers to provide some relief. "Local Americans lined the canal waving and cheering us as we entered — an emotional moment to be sure," said passenger Catherine McLeod, 69, from Nepean, Ont., who is on the Rotterdam. "I'm relieved. I can't wait to get back to my own bed."Holland America said in a statement that passengers will undergo health screenings and clear customs and immigration in Port Everglades, then will disembark by Friday evening. Ten passengers will be taken to a local hospital for immediate care, while those deemed healthy will be bused directly to the airport for mainly charter flights home, said Holland America. The company said 45 passengers who are still showing symptoms will remain on board until they are cleared for travel.  'This has been a nightmare'The Zaandam began its South American cruise on March 7, but the trip was cut short a week later, on March 14, amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic. The plan was to allow passengers to quickly disembark and fly home. But Holland America struggled to secure a place to dock as nearby countries, such as Chile and Peru, closed their borders to foreigners in response to the pandemic.Following the illness outbreak, the ship's passengers were forced to spend the past 12 days confined to their cabins as a safety precaution. They've spent more than two weeks not knowing if and when they were going to get off the ship and be permitted to return home."This has been a nightmare from March 14, when the first port in Chile closed. [Then] all the ports in Chile closed and all of South America closed," said Joiner. After a series of rejections, the Zaandam and Rotterdam planned to dock in Fort Lauderdale. But as the COVID-19 outbreak in Florida worsened, concerns grew that the sick passengers would drain resources needed for local citizens."We have enough to deal with, with our folks in Florida," Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference on Monday. "We don't want [the ships] to come in."U.S. President Donald Trump, however, advocated for the passengers and their swift return home."We have to help the people — they're in big trouble no matter where they're from," he said during a news conference on Wednesday. "We have to do something; they're dying and the governor knows that, too."Joiner said he was surprised but pleased when Trump weighed in on the matter."We never thought Mr. Trump would come to our rescue," he said. "But, you know, you start to think, this is a humanitarian mission. Now, we have people that are sick, including Americans."Joiner's wife, Anna, has been suffering from a cold. But he's hoping they both pass their health check so they can leave the ship. He said he won't feel full relief until he and Anna are buckled in their seats on that flight home."Until we're on that plane … that's when we can relax," he said.

  • First Nations In Canada Left To Fend For Themselves During Coronavirus Pandemic
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    HuffPost Canada

    First Nations In Canada Left To Fend For Themselves During Coronavirus Pandemic

    An outbreak will have devastating consequences, especially to fly-in and remote communities.

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

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

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

  • Coronavirus outbreak: Cabinet ministers defend Trudeau's statement that COVID-19 modelling requires 'accurate data'
    Global News

    Coronavirus outbreak: Cabinet ministers defend Trudeau's statement that COVID-19 modelling requires 'accurate data'

    Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, defended Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's assertion that accurate modelling as far as predicting the eventual number of COVID-19 deaths in Canada requires more raw data than is currently available, asserting that any prediction made at this point would not have the full weight of scientific force and fact.

  • Chief medical officers are leading Canada through COVID-19 crisis — and many are women
    News
    CBC

    Chief medical officers are leading Canada through COVID-19 crisis — and many are women

    There they are on Canadian televisions and smartphones day after day — chief medical officers tirelessly updating the country on the COVID-19 pandemic and what needs to be done to fight it.Many of them are women who were unknown to most Canadians prior to the pandemic, but are becoming household names, earning respect and even fan clubs along the way.Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, is leading the charge to not just "flatten the curve" but "plank it." She provides the daily media briefings, and she's the one featured in the government's public awareness campaign, not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Health Minister Patty Hajdu.Indeed, several provinces have women leading their responses: Dr. Bonnie Henry in B.C., Dr. Deena Hinshaw in Alberta, Dr. Jennifer Russell in New Brunswick, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald in Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Heather Morrison in P.E.I., Dr. Kami Kandola in Northwest Territories and Dr. Barbara Yaffe in Ontario.At a more local level, Ottawa has Dr. Vera Etches, Toronto has Dr. Eileen de Villa and Vancouver has Dr. Patricia Daly.Women who work in medicine say these chief medical officers are points of pride and inspiration for their field."They all come across as fierce advocates for public health, but they are combining it with calm, expert, compassionate dispositions and that increases their ability to influence change," said Dr. Clover Hemans, president of the Federation of Medical Women in Canada.Hemans, a family doctor who is currently working in a COVID-19 assessment clinic, said it's unfortunate that it's taken a public health crisis to show these women can shine. But she said their skills are on full display."They represent something that now other women can aspire to, and young girls for that matter. I love it."Some people 'revere them' Dr. Sandra Landolt, president of a grassroots group called Canadian Women in Medicine, agreed these medical officers are role models and said her and her colleagues "feel proud" to share a profession with them. "They truly are inspirational."She's also happy that Canadians are taking note of their roles and are showing their gratitude."People are starting to almost revere them. They feel comfortable, they feel they can trust these women," Landolt said. "There is something really geeky-cool about these women becoming icons."Sarah Elder-Chamanara owns a Calgary-based clothing company called Madame Premier, which teamed up with artist Mandy Stobo, who created portraits of Tam, Hinshaw, Henry and de Villa that are featured on T-shirts. (Proceeds are going to food banks and charities.)The first batch of 400 quickly sold out online. Then another 800 sold out.Elder-Chamanara said that while Canadians seem to be rallying around the entire medical community, it's significant that so many women are guiding the country through this pandemic."I think we are so used to seeing men in these roles. There's never been a time like this, there's never been an experience like this and we've never had such incredible women at the forefront of something like this," she said.'She is so calm'Admiration through art is also on display in Vancouver, where murals of Tam and Henry were painted on a boarded-up store.Others are expressing their appreciation for the doctors online, especially on Twitter. There's a "Dr. Bonnie Henry Fan Club" account with more than 8,000 followers, and someone started an anonymous account to pay homage to de Villa's signature fashion accessory — scarves.Not all commentary online is favourable for the doctors. For example, some Canadians have questioned their decisions and found their messaging, especially on the use of face masks, confusing.Others, however, praise them and their communication styles."She is so calm. She makes me feel safe when I listen to her," one person tweeted about Hinshaw. Another called her "an Alberta Treasure."Henry a 'brilliant communicator'Henry, who worked in Toronto during the SARS crisis and has also battled against Ebola, H1N1 and polio, has been lauded for her calmness, honesty and humanity.Following an outbreak at a long-term care home in] B.C., tears welled in Henry's eyes during a media briefing when she talked about the risk of COVID-19 to seniors. People responded with appreciation that she showed compassion."Bonnie is a brilliant communicator," said Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.'s seniors advocate. Mackenzie emphasized that Henry's demeanour is low-key, but she's no pushover. "I admire her more and more all the time."Mackenzie also noted how elected officials are often deferring to these medical experts, and letting them communicate directly with Canadians.One of those politicians, Toronto Mayor John Tory, said in an interview that these top women doctors have helped Canadians understand the pandemic."They speak in a way that is obviously informed, is articulate, is straightforward," he said. "I think that is what people are looking for, people they can trust."WATCH | Dr. Eileen de Villa speaks to the public about the COVID-19 outlook for TorontoTory described de Villa, his city's top doctor, as smart, fair and collegial, but added that "she is the original iron fist in the velvet glove.""When it comes to speaking up for the public's interest, speaking up for public health … she does it, and she does it as firmly as anybody I've ever seen."

  • COVID-19 cases in First Nations spur leaders to call for field hospitals
    News
    CBC

    COVID-19 cases in First Nations spur leaders to call for field hospitals

    As COVID-19 cases rise on reserves, First Nations leaders are calling for "outside of the box" thinking to deal with the pandemic.Chief Jason Henry of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, near Sarnia, Ont., said he is in discussions with the Department of National Defence in the hopes of turning two arenas into a self-isolation centre and a regional field hospital to serve eight surrounding First Nations, along with the surrounding county and municipality."What I envision is a collaborative effort," Henry said."Thinking outside of the box, where we put our jurisdictional boundaries aside [instead] of arguing politically about who has responsibility for health care ... and we work collaboratively to battle this."Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Thursday there have been 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in First Nations across the country.Two of the cases are in Saskatchewan, four are in Ontario and nine are in Quebec, said the department. At least two patients required hospitalization, officials said.But the numbers on First Nations in Ontario appear low. Six Nations near Hamilton, Ont. said Thursday it has seven confirmed cases in its community, and Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation has one confirmed case. Henry said one of his members developed symptoms of COVID-19 while in hospital for an unrelated ailment. He said he is worried the hospital may release the patient in the coming days while still coronavirus-positive, with orders to self-isolate."For many Canadians, that might be OK," Henry said. "But on First Nations, with the chronic overcrowding, multi-generations living in single-family dwellings … it becomes very difficult to self-isolate and contain the virus."Ottawa exploring scenarios involving militaryThere have been several requests for military support to deal with the pandemic from other First Nations, including Pimicikamak, also referred to as Cross Lake, and Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.Miller said Thursday the federal government is looking at various scenarios which would see the Canadian Armed Forces deployed, and is engaging with communities and provinces about their needs."These are very, very grave requests that we need to consider as a country," he said."It would be foolish to exclude those scenarios, even though they would be ones we don't want to contemplate."Lloyd Phillips, commissioner of public safety for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake near Montreal, said his community doesn't want or need military assistance, given the still-fresh memories of the 1990 Oka Crisis."It's a very hard no," Phillips said."We have our ability to take care of what we need inside Kahnawake. Obviously, we have a history … That's still fresh in people's minds."Kahnawake has five confirmed cases of COVID-19. Phillips said those community members are on their way to recovery. "The overall situation in the community is obviously tense, like anywhere else," Phillips said. "But we are managing quite well."Phillips said Quebec has funded a drive-thru testing facility for the community in the parking lot of the hospital.Money coming, says ministerIndigenous Services Canada has set aside $305 million for the COVID-19 response in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.Miller said the money would be flowing within the next week. "We are continuing to be focused on supporting the most vulnerable of the vulnerable," he said."There is a historical mistrust of government in a number of Indigenous communities. This is a gap that needs to be filled by Indigenous leadership and they are filling it exceptionally well."Communities can apply for access to the $305 million COVID-19 fund through their regional offices. There is also a separate $100 million envelope that communities can qualify for to address short-term needs, get out public health messages and create or update pandemic plans.The pandemic isn't the only challenge facing Indigenous communities.Some First Nations, such as the Kashechewan along Ontario's side of the James Bay Coast, are preparing for the annual flood season.Miller said his department is working on flood mitigation plans that take COVID-19 into account. As part of his community's preparations, Henry has asked Indigenous Services Canada for testing kits, but has not heard back yet.Department officials said they are ordering swabs to send to those First Nations that want them.Henry said the situation is urgent. He has a message for other Indigenous leaders."Take this seriously," Henry said. "Don't look in the rearview mirror and say we should've done things ahead of time. Do them now."

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

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

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

  • Ottawa owes less than feds calculated in First Nations child welfare case: PBO
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Ottawa owes less than feds calculated in First Nations child welfare case: PBO

    OTTAWA — Canada's parliamentary budget officer says Ottawa will have to pay up to $2.9 billion in compensation to First Nations children and families torn apart by an underfunded child-welfare system — half the amount estimated by the federal government.Yves Giroux says his office estimates between 19,000 and 65,100 people would be eligible for compensation awarded by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling last fall. The tribunal found the federal government “wilfully and recklessly” discriminated against Indigenous children living on reserves by not properly funding child and family services for them.Using Giroux's estimates, Ottawa would have to pay compensation in the range of $900 million to $2.9 billion.The tribunal ordered Ottawa to pay $40,000 to every First Nations child who was inappropriately taken away from their parents after 2006, and to their parents and grandparents.The government has agreed its actions were discriminatory and has said compensation will be paid, but Ottawa is still challenging the ruling.In its legal filings, the federal Indigenous Services department estimated last October that satisfying the order could cost the federal government up to $7.9 billion. NDP MP Charlie Angus asked the budget office to do an independent analysis to determine whether that figure held water. In the report released Thursday, budget officer Giroux says Indigenous Services Canada provided information saying it expects 125,600 people are eligible for compensation totalling $5.4 billion — down from the amount quoted in its legal arguments to the tribunal but still much higher than the estimates from the PBO.The difference lies in the number of people expected to receive compensation. The PBO tallied fewer people as eligible mainly because it assumes children taken from their parents and placed within their extended families or communities are not eligible for compensation, as in the parameters set out in the tribunal's ruling, Giroux says in the report.The federal interpretation of the tribunal's ruling is broader and included more children, parents and grandparents in its estimates.Despite its legal challenges, Ottawa has said it will pay compensation, but wants those payments to come through a settlement in a separate but related class-action lawsuit filed in early 2019, which is seeking $6 billion in damages for Indigenous children. That case could cover all victims going back to 1991. The government’s lawyers argued in court that the tribunal's compensation plan doesn't allow for this because its order only includes victims and their families since 2006.A second, similar class action has also been filed by the Assembly of First Nations.But the PBO says Canada "cannot void the (tribunal's) order simply by settling a class action." Giroux also notes there could be significant barriers to a successful settlement in a class action due to the wide-ranging experiences of individual children and families in different provinces at different times. This could result in fewer families receiving compensation, the PBO says.In addition, after looking at other Indigenous settlement regimes including the Sixties Scoop and residential school settlements, the PBO estimates compensation for each child through a class-action settlement in this case would not necessarily be more than the $40,000 awarded by the tribunal.Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, which filed the human-rights complaint close to 13 years ago, says the findings in this report support what advocates like her have been arguing for years."It really defeats Canada's idea that this is way too complicated to be able to do," Blackstock said."The other thing is that it reinforces what we have been saying over the years, which is that the CHRT compensation is a 'yes, and' with the class actions. You can't replace a CHRT compensation amount by settling a class action."Work is ongoing between the parties involved in the tribunal decision to come to an agreement on how to proceed, but those discussions are confidential. Meanwhile, the federal government is still pursuing a judicial review of the tribunal's decision.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

  • News
    CBC

    Sharp increase in prescriptions for unproven drug to treat COVID-19 prompts rebuke

    The Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Alberta College of Pharmacy are calling out some of their own members over what they regard as questionable prescriptions.       And the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, is adding her voice to the message.Choloroquine is anti-malaria medication, but there was an early suggestion it might be used to treat COVID 19.      It's not approved for that use, but despite that, the College of Physicians and Surgeons says there has been a sharp increase in prescriptions for it and other medications.      "This isn't just happening here. Medical boards in the United States and all of our sister organizations are reporting the same thing happening," said Dr. Michael Caffaro, the complaints director for the college.The situation prompted the College of Physicians and Surgeons to issue a joint statement with the Alberta College of Pharmacy reminding everyone with prescribing powers of their professional responsibilities."During this challenging and unparalleled time, it's natural for patients to seek treatments they feel might be helpful. However, it is important for all health practitioners to remember the importance of evidence-based care and prescribing," the statement said."Medications must be prescribed and dispensed according to their approved use — and currently, there is no proven treatment for COVID-19."Hinshaw says there are reports of physicians prescribing the medicines to themselves and family members. "This is inappropriate," she said."These medications are used to treat patients suffering from things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and HIV."The College of Physicians and Surgeons says that despite the rise in prescription rates, there isn't a shortage of the medications, and so far patients who need them haven't been denied.

  • Taylor Swift donation will help Nashville record store
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Taylor Swift donation will help Nashville record store

    NASHVILLE — Pop superstar Taylor Swift is helping out a Nashville record store closed by the COVID-19 pandemic.Grimey's co-owner Doyle Davis said Thursday the store got a call last week from Swift's publicist asking how Swift could help. It was the just after Nashville's mayor issued a stay-at-home order and Davis was sending all the employees home.The store, which also serves as a small concert venue, has been a Nashville fixture for 20 years, working closely with local record labels and many up-and-coming artists.Swift's donation will provide direct relief to the store's 10 full time employees and three months of the health care costs for the store's group insurance plan.“It was completely out of the blue,” Davis said. “It gives me a sense of security, knowing we are solid. ...Now I know my people are taken care of."Davis said he's never seen Swift in the store but her publicist assured him she has purchased records there.The Associated Press

  • 'Don't Rush' Challenge Has Black Women Throwing At-Home Fashion Shows
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    HuffPost Canada

    'Don't Rush' Challenge Has Black Women Throwing At-Home Fashion Shows

    They're going from comfy to chic with the flick of a makeup brush.

  • Potential flooding issues have conservation authorities, city worried
    News
    CBC

    Potential flooding issues have conservation authorities, city worried

    The Essex Region Conservation Authority has issued a long-term flood watch.The watch is due to elevated lake levels in Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and other lakes in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River system. Tim Byrne, the director of watershed management service for the Essex Region Conservation Authority said today's levels are significantly higher than they were last year. He said don't be fooled by the pleasant weather this week."It would be nice if we have this type of calm wind and sunny day from now on in, but any change in weather could cause the lake to be brought on shore," Byrne said.If the lake comes on shore, the extent to how far it will spread will now be broader and deeper than have been historically planned for because our starting point is that much higher. Water levels are anywhere between 200 and 300 mm above last year's levels."Just after New Year's Eve we received 60 mm of precipitation, that amount of precipitation basically was more than we would typically receive for an entire January for water equivalency in snowfall or rainfall," he said.That event caused a dramatic jump in lake levels. As the year goes on, July and August tend to be where peak water levels are recorded."Well today we are at where we were in May of last year. So we're going to see levels likely exceed last year's levels by a significant amount," Byrne said.The potential high water levels mean serious issues for the shorelines on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. He said low lying areas like Pelee Island, southeast Leamington shoreline, Cedar Island, and Cedar Creek shorelines are in danger."The reason that we are threatened is that it will take a breath of wind to bring the lakes in on us," said Byrne. Last weekend Pelee Island Drive was flooded. He said there was a significant rainfall, but the winds were fairly light. Normally flooding would occur if there was very significant wind for a long duration of time."As it stands today with the level being as high as it is today, it doesn't take a lot of wind to create a setup and push it on shore," Byrne said.The City of Windsor and all county municipalities have been actively updating their emergency response plans."We most recently had further discussions with county personal to give consideration to deploying county equipment to assist municipalities should we see an event of a magnitude that we are unfortunately forecasting we could get," said Byrne.Windsor imposes 30 metre ban on Detroit RiverThe City of Windsor is once again temporarily creating a 30-day buffer zone of 30 metres along the Windsor shoreline of the Detroit River.All motorized watercrafts are not to operate within 30 metres of the shore unless its docking.The city did this at the request of Windsor Port Authority.The ban was in place during last year's high water levels.Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority standing April messageThe Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority sent out a press releasing saying the area is also at risk of shoreline flooding on both lakes as well as erosion and damage to shoreline protection work.Jason Wintermute, the manager of watershed and information services for LTVCA writes the difference between the current water levels and peak water levels last year are not significant. He said the current risk of flooding and shoreline damage are essentially the same as they were last year during the peak water level summer months.   He recommend that those living along the shoreline pay attention to local conditions and to prepare accordingly.   Wintermute said this is a standing message for the month of April, but he will upgrade the message should weather forecasts suggest a sustained wind event which could cause shoreline issues.Funding for Pelee Island shorelineThe province is providing the Township of Pelee up to $104,201.82 in financial support. Rick Nicholls, MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington said its to help with recovery efforts related to the flooding that happened in the spring of 2019.Funds will be directed toward shoreline repair. It's provided  through Ontario's Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program, which helps municipalities recover costs after a natural disaster.The government also launched another pilot project, called one million dollar Build Back Better, where communities can get up to 15 per cent above the estimated cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructure.  The press release said $14,757 of the total provincial funding being provided is going toward reinforcing shorelines infrastructure.

  • P.E.I. tenants advised to act quickly if they get an eviction notice during COVID-19 pandemic
    News
    CBC

    P.E.I. tenants advised to act quickly if they get an eviction notice during COVID-19 pandemic

    P.E.I.'s Office of Residential Rental Properties is urging tenants who get an eviction notice to act quickly if they want to challenge it. On Monday, the rental office announced it would be suspending rental hearings because of COVID-19, except in urgent cases where there are serious threats to the health and safety of tenants and landlords.However, the office said if a tenant gets an eviction notice, they need to contact the office within approximately 10 days.Andrew MacDonald, a rental property officer, said if tenants don't register their challenge of the eviction, in a few months time when the pandemic is hopefully over — they would have to leave."Even though they're not going to get forced out tomorrow or this month, they need to still challenge it in that timely manner or they're going to be deemed to have accepted it," he said.3 prior eviction ordersOn Thursday, the P.E.I. Supreme Court ruled that sheriffs would not have to enforce rental evictions in the province. That ruling was made at the request of P.E.I.'s attorney general's office. In its application, the province said the ban is necessary to protect the health and safety of anyone involved in an eviction, including tenants and sheriffs. They don't have a right to go in and use force to remove someone. — Andrew MacDonald, rental property officerThe P.E.I. Housing Corporation has suspended all evictions in government-run accommodations until the end of June.While private landlords can still issue eviction notices to tenants, MacDonald said it's important for landlords to realize they are not allowed to use force to remove someone from their premises."It doesn't matter what's going on, it doesn't matter if their building is getting damaged," he said."They don't have a right to go in and use force to remove someone."He said if a tenant is being harassed or bullied into leaving, they don't have to leave and should probably phone the police if the problem continues to escalate. MacDonald said the office issued three eviction orders for the month prior to the province declaring a public health emergency on March 16.MacDonald said when landlords serve a notice of eviction, they must state the reason for the tenant being asked to leave.He said the most common reasons are damage to property, not paying rent or the landlord's need to renovate a property.'The most stressful thing'Renovation was the reason Andrew Wood received when he was given an eviction notice in January after renting the same place for more than 10 years.Wood said his landlord adhered to all of the rules in P.E.I.'s Landlord and Tenant Act, but said it was difficult for him to find a new place to live in March amidst Charlottetown's housing crisis and a pandemic. We are taking every step that we possibly can. — Andrew MacDonald, rental property officer"The most stressful thing I've ever gone through," he said.Wood contested the notice, but said he didn't go through with the hearing because he had recently become a single father and was more concerned about finding a place for him and his son.Wood said he was lucky to have found new accommodations and moved in on Tuesday. Increase in call volumeMacDonald said on average the office receives 20 to 30 calls a day, but on March 24, the office had one of its busiest days with 95 calls. He said the office is intent on working with those who have problems accessing the online forms to contest an eviction notice."If you can get a picture on your phone, you can text it, you can email it," he said."There are people on the Island who still don't have access to internet, who don't have computers in their houses … so we are taking every step that we possibly can."The province has, however, announced a $1 million fund to help tenants who are on a reduced income because of the pandemic.But MacDonald said if tenants are able to pay their rent, they should."If they think that this has been forgiven and they don't pay because they need to put that money into somewhere else, they're really not going to be in the position in a month to pay two months [rent]," he said."And then going down the road that's going to be grounds for them to get evicted."MacDonald said tenants are encouraged to call 902-892-3501 or email rentalinquiries@irac.pe.ca if they have questions or need help filling out the form to contest their eviction.COVID-19: What you need to knowWhat are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

  • News
    CBC

    Not enough space, nowhere to go: Mustard Seed clients question pandemic response

    Some residents of the Mustard Seed are complaining about cramped conditions, fear of illness in large sleeping areas and being left with nowhere to go during Calgary's cold spring days. The shelter was quick out of the gate to open an overflow space — in the First Alliance Church in southeast Calgary — to spread out its clients during the pandemic.But each morning those residents are bused back downtown to eat at the main shelter and then sent outside for the rest of the day. And while some of the clients at a higher risk from COVID-19 are allowed to stay in the Beltline shelter through the day, according to Mustard Seed CEO Stephen Wile, the rest are not."You know, everyone from the prime minister is saying if you don't feel safe, stay inside, but they just don't care," said Jame Kaerne, who has been staying at the Beltline shelter. "They kick us out every day for eight hours a day."Forced to rent an officeKaerne says he is unable to spend the day on his feet due to a previous injury — a broken back — that landed him on AISH.He says he has spent his money on renting an office space for $600 a month in order to have somewhere to rest and use a washroom during the day. Most of the city spaces, including the library, malls and Plus-15s, are all shut down, leaving others without the resources to rent a space on their own. Kaerne says he feels stuck, with landlords unlikely to rent during the pandemic and under new rules that stymie evictions. He also says that, regardless, there is nowhere to go, like a computer room, to search for rentals. "I'm doing this because I need to have a bathroom available," he said, citing one of the side-effects of his injuries. "I need to have, you know, warm. Cold air, it makes my back spasm and it's extremely painful and I can fall from that."Not enough physical distanceKaerne says there is not enough physical distancing at the shelter, and when residents are bused between the church and the Beltline facility, they are crammed into the vehicle. He says people are on edge and unable to sleep, lying in fear as another resident coughs nearby."They're just doing enough to make it look they're trying to do something," he said. Another resident, who is staying at the First Alliance Church space and who CBC News agreed not to identify because he feared repercussions for speaking out, says they are loaded onto buses to the Beltline shelter starting at 4:30 a.m. and then left with nowhere to go. He says the older people are finding it particularly hard amidst the cold snap.In addition to having nowhere to go during the day, he says there are no laundry facilities at the church and that everyone has "got stinking clothing."CEO acknowledges situation isn't idealThe Mustard Seed CEO says the agency is doing what it can to maintain physical distancing, including meal times where only 100 are allowed to eat at once. Wile acknowledges the situation is far from perfect and that there are issues with busing clients downtown. "Well, we certainly try to space them. Right now, I would say that we're not necessarily providing that one or two metre distance," he said. Wile says the city offered the shelter 100 hotel rooms to use for their clients, but the Mustard Seed declined the offer. "There's a lot of other unknowns if we took hotel rooms. One of the major problems we have with our client population is bedbugs," he said. "And so if they go into a hotel room, there's a good chance that those rooms are going to get infested with bedbugs. There's also some questions around respect for the property in the hotel room. That sometimes becomes a challenge for some of our clients."Where to go?As for where clients of the Mustard Seed might go for the day?"To be honest, they're just basically wandering the streets," said Wile. "It's really unfortunate that we're getting such a late spring, because typically we would, we would just, you know, the weather would be nice enough that it wouldn't bother them to do that, but this is a cold week this week."Keeping people inside and spaced on transportation isn't the only issue where rules are different for the homeless population.The province also provided an exception to physical distancing rules when it comes to sleeping arrangements at overflow shelters, allowing beds to be one metre apart instead of the recommended two metres.Alberta's chief medical officer said on Wednesday that was the result of a balance between the need for distancing and the need to keep people off the streets.Hotels vs. sheltersThat's not good enough for NDP Leader Rachel Notley, whose party has been attacking the UCP government over its handling of homeless Albertans during the pandemic. She says her party favours housing them in hotels. "We believe these people, these people in Alberta who do not have homes, are entitled to the same dignity and the same rights as other Albertans. And we also believe that the kind of setup that we see these folks living in right now is bound to create a concentration of infections and disease spread."On Monday, Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney said one of the reasons the province opted to go for overflow shelter spaces over hotel rooms, as favoured by the city, is because it would take too long to retrofit hotel rooms for suicide prevention measures.Alpha House, a shelter near downtown Calgary, has already moved clients into a hotel and says it did not require those retrofits. The Calgary Drop-In Centre, meanwhile, started accepting clients at its new facility at the Telus Convention Centre on Thursday with cots set six feet apart. If you are staying in a shelter and would like to get in touch, contact Drew Anderson in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca.

  • Hockey players in the minors face uncertainty, job fears
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Hockey players in the minors face uncertainty, job fears

    Tim Harrison made the long drive from South Carolina to his home just south of Boston with a lot on his mind.The ECHL season had just been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the 26-year-old wondered if he’d need to dig for oysters on the beach or do odd jobs around the neighbourhood to make ends meet. He and many fellow minor hockey league players are struggling and don’t know how they will afford to get to next season.“I'm obviously going to try my best to do what I can to whip up some money, but it might take a couple weeks before I can even do that,” Harrison said. “Just not knowing what's going to happen and how I'm going to survive the next couple months is probably the biggest worry.”The 26-team ECHL — a developmental pro league just below the American Hockey League — cancelled its season in mid-March, three weeks before the playoffs. The final paychecks came March 16, a significant blow to more than 400 players on ECHL-only contracts who make an average of $700-725 per week, less than $3,000 per month.Players on NHL deals continue to be paid while the season is suspended, but ECHL teams couldn’t afford to follow the same path. Hockey players in the minors face an uncertain future and even off-season jobs could be hard to come by.“I kind of figured that I'd be able to just get maybe a labour or summer job at the end of the season,” said 29-year-old forward James Henry, a veteran of seven ECHL seasons. "With how everything's going and everything being closed, that seems like a more difficult job to obtain right now."Harrison and South Carolina Stingrays teammate Tom Parisi thought they’d be preparing for a playoff run that would have meant bonus checks deep into the spring. Instead, Parisi — who left hockey briefly to take a finance job — is considering hanging up his skates for good.“Honestly, I think everything's on the table,” Parisi said.He’s not alone. Blake Kessel, brother of Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel and Olympic gold-medal-winning forward Amanda Kessel, has bounced around to five different leagues and wondered if this season would be his last at age 30.“As you get a little older, if you're still in the (ECHL) obviously you're not making a ton of money,” Kessel said. “Some guys might have to just retire and take a more stable job, if they can find it."Professional Hockey Players Association executive director Larry Landon said the organization will contribute the first $200,000 into the COVID-19 ECHL Players Relief Fund, which launched Wednesday.“The creation of this fund is one of the next steps in coming together to help our players that are in the most need at this time," ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin said.Landon knows the fund won't be able to give players 100% of what they would have earned, but hopes members look into the career-enhancement program for ideas on life beyond the sport.Riley Weselowski, a 35-year-old defenceman for Wichita, counts himself fortunate that his wife has a full-time job in the medical field and the couple has enough savings to last a couple of months. Many players make money over the summer by running or helping out at hockey camps, but those are in doubt during the pandemic.“If this really drags on and we start looking into June, July, we're going to be hurt obviously a lot worse,” Weselowski said. “If it ever did come to that and it drags out that long, I think we'll have much bigger problems than just worrying about that and obviously the country being in a pretty bad spot if it does drag out that long.”ECHL players are quick to say there are others around the world with bigger problems. They are grateful to have health care paid for through June 30. And there are efforts underway to help.“A lot of us have been talking and trying to continue to find ways to help them out,” 32-year-old AHL forward Brett Sutter said. “Guys there have families, and there's how they make a living chasing their dreams.”Landon said some players are literally hurting because they can't get an elective surgery, such as repairing a torn labrum. He is also concerned about what the ECHL might look like when it returns, a sentiment a league spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on.“I think we had some teams on the edge of the cliff," Landon said “It's important for us to keep that in place for the players and the teams that actually endure this pandemic, and hopefully we salvage as many teams as possible for next year where the guys need to work.”___AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.___For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsStephen Whyno, The Associated Press

  • News
    CBC

    OPINION | It's time to act on rural internet access

    This column is an opinion from Dr. Barb Carra, the president and CEO of Cybera.As millions of Canadians turn to the internet for connection, information and work in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is easy to forget that hundreds of thousands of people in the country lack basic, high-speed access.Many of us don't necessarily think of connectivity as a finite resource, nor consider the limitations of the country's network infrastructure. But as we all adjust to our new physical-distance reality, rural Canadians are feeling the sting of Canada's "digital divide."   Our internet depends on many intricate layers of wired and wireless infrastructure that were built to handle predictable flows in human activity.In a typical week, Sundays and Mondays are when the greatest number of people are online concurrently. In a year, it's Christmas and Thanksgiving. Networks are built with these peaks in mind.Slower speeds, higher costsBut now, with millions of Canadians working and learning from home, these peaks will inevitably be longer, more frequent and less predictable, potentially resulting in lower speeds and additional costs.Cybera operates Alberta's research and education network, which connects all 26 of the province's post-secondary institutions to universities and researchers across Canada and around the world.Since physical distancing orders went into effect in mid-March, we have seen a drastic two-thirds decrease in our network use on campuses, from an average of 30-40 gigabits per second (Gbps), down to less than 10 Gbps.This is less than what we see during the summer break. It's safe to assume that this bandwidth, along with all the other regular office and commercial traffic, is now being dispersed over residential networks. The impact on consumersWhat does this mean for consumers?Traditionally, internet service providers manage network usage increases by either slowing down connection speeds or charging extra for additional bandwidth used.They can also ask streaming services to reduce the quality of content being transmitted (which is why Netflix and YouTube announced last week they would temporarily lower their video quality in Canada, reducing their data traffic by up to 25 per cent). So, should Canadian consumers be worried about lower quality internet and more overage charges? Frustratingly, the answer depends on where you live. While Canada's largest telcos — Bell, Telus, Rogers and Shaw — announced that they have temporarily suspended data caps on home internet connections, they have not applied this to all their internet plans.For example, Bell has offered an additional 10 GB and a $10 credit on their wireless hub devices, but this is a miniscule increase for the average family. Meanwhile, most smaller service providers operating in rural areas have not been able to offer extra bandwidth to consumers.In rural communities, fixed-wireless is a common internet setup. This type of connection offers a cost-effective solution for residents, businesses and internet service providers in rural areas, because it doesn't require the installation of wires or cables to each home.Problems likely to increaseHowever, for the people who live and work there, it does mean the cost of bandwidth is higher than DSL, and there are more frequent disruptions in service.These problems are likely to increase as entire families try to work and learn from home, especially as distance learning demands good connectivity.  Today, roughly 16 per cent of Canadian households do not have access to a broadband internet connection that the federal government deems sufficient to engage in the modern digital economy (50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload).In rural areas, that number rises to 63 per cent. In many areas, residents rely on local schools and libraries to access the internet.Pop up initiatives, like Wi-Fi hotspots in parking lots, are being set up on campuses across Canada to allow students and teachers to access the connectivity they need during the pandemic. But sitting in your car to do your homework is not an ideal solution.Addressing this issue will require significant public efforts in both the short and the long term.Governments must act aggressivelyWhile all levels of government should act aggressively to help rural communities upgrade their network infrastructure, in the short term, provincial governments must work with service providers to subsidize the increasing costs of bandwidth.Currently, provincial and federal governments fund or subsidize a few affordable internet plans for low-income families, including the Connecting Families program, and Telus's Internet for Good.But these programs are limited in who can access them. Canadians in rural communities need broader support. Like it did with the telephone in the 20th century, the Canadian government recently acknowledged that internet access is an essential service.The extraordinary ways in which Canadian communities have come together online for work, essential information and mental health speaks to the lifeline that the internet can be — for those who have access.Now, more than ever, we need to work together to make sure we don't leave our fellow citizens behind.This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

  • US eases blood donation limits for gay men due to shortage
    News
    The Canadian Press

    US eases blood donation limits for gay men due to shortage

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. government Thursday eased restrictions on blood donations from gay men and other key groups because of a drop in the nation's blood supply triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.The Food and Drug Administration's new policy aims to allow tens of thousands more Americans to give blood, including gay and bisexual men and people with recent tattoos and piercings."We want and we need healthy people — all healthy people — to give blood," said Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, who announced the changes in a media briefing with the FDA.Cancelled blood drives have decimated donations to the American Red Cross and other nonprofits that provide most of the blood supply. Last month, the Red Cross estimated there had been 86,000 fewer blood donations in recent weeks because blood drives were cancelled at workplaces, colleges and other locations.The FDA's previous rules barred donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year. The same policy applied to women who've had sex with gay or bisexual men and people who've received tattoos and piercings in the past year.Under the new policy, the disqualifying time period was reduced to three months. FDA officials said the move to three months matches recent changes in the United Kingdom and other developed countries.The FDA on Thursday made similar changes to restrictions for people who have recently travelled to countries where malaria exposure is a risk.The agency said it expects the changes to remain in place after the pandemic ends.The U.S. and many other countries have long restricted donations from gay and bisexual men and several other groups due to the risk of spreading HIV through the blood supply. In 2015, the FDA moved from a total ban to the one-year abstinence period for men who have sex with men.Gay rights groups have continued to challenge that policy, saying it's unnecessary given current testing technology and continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men.Donated blood is screened for a number of infectious diseases, including HIV. The new coronavirus can’t be spread through blood.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press

  • Unmanned border gate causing concerns for Fort Liard leadership
    News
    CBC

    Unmanned border gate causing concerns for Fort Liard leadership

    All that separates the Northwest Territories from one of the country's most active provinces for COVID-19 — British Columbia — is an unmanned gate, 30 minutes drive from the community of Fort Liard.Leaders in the community say that's a problem. "I don't believe people in the community are really taking it as seriously as they should be," said the hamlet's mayor, Hillary Deneron.The N.W.T. officially closed its borders to non-residents, with some exceptions, on March 21, becoming the first Canadian province or territory to do so. At the time, public safety director Ivan Russell said the government planned to enforce the order with point-of-entry controls at key highways and airports.Deneron said she's heard concerns that people are bootlegging alcohol at the border, and she wants to see someone placed there to stop people interacting at the border, "because stuff like that can also pass along the virus."Acho Dene Koe First Nation manager Boyd Clark agreed that the existing border setup "hasn't been a non-problematic situation.""We've heard the incidences of that happening, where individuals are finding ... means to proceed across the territorial border in both directions," said Clark. "And same thing with products."Clark said that there are keys to open the gate for essential workers and supplies.The N.W.T. government's Emergency Management Organization said the gate is locked and someone is designated to open it when needed. It also acknowledged that there have been concerns about "non-compliance" at the border."We are looking to both verify those concerns and responding appropriately. It is an evolving situation that is being addressed on an ongoing basis," said an emailed statement from the organization Thursday afternoon.Deneron said that in a discussion last week with the territorial government and other leaders of small communities, she called for a bigger police presence in the 500-person community."It seems like once the gate went up, it was kind of like: 'they're off the hook,'" she said. Deneron said since her complaint, she's seen some improvement, but she still wants to see the RCMP doing more roadside checks and community visits. In response to a question about Deneron's concerns, RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon wrote in an email that enforcement of border closures is the territorial government's job. She added that if people have concerns about policing in a community they should reach out to their local detachment commander.Residents adjusting, band manager saysBecause Fort Liard has a historic relationship with the B.C. community of Fort Nelson, and the Acho Dene Koe's traditional territory extends through B.C. and Alberta, the enforced border has led to some adjustments, Clark said. For example, Fort Nelson has two pharmacies that Fort Liard residents rely on. That makes prescriptions tougher to fill, but Clark said people can go through the health centre in Fort Liard to get their medications.He added that, traditionally, people often drove to the B.C. town to buy groceries, but the two Fort Liard stores — one of which Deneron owns — have also increased their supplies as demand went up. Drive to B.C. stirred up mayor's own border concerns earlyDeneron told CBC she welcomed the incoming travel ban when it was announced. The mayor said she started thinking travel between her community and northern B.C. was a bad idea as early as mid-March. That's when she went into Fort Nelson to get her truck serviced.While there, Deneron saw an unusual number of motor homes and holiday trailers from people in the mainland U.S."It was crazy," she said. "You see a lot of people from the lower 48 [states] ... in a mad rush to get up to Alaska, thinking that if they got up to Alaska, they would be safe from this virus." Deneron feared that people in Fort Liard could get COVID-19 while in the B.C. town, which is a popular stopping point on the Alaska Highway for travellers."We definitely don't have the proper medical equipment ... if someone was to get it here."

  • N.L. health minister urges safe use of dating apps during pandemic
    News
    The Canadian Press

    N.L. health minister urges safe use of dating apps during pandemic

    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister is urging people to think twice before meeting up with an online match as they swipe through dating apps during the COVID-19 pandemic.John Haggie added a plea for safe usage of digital dating tools Thursday as he stressed the importance of physical distancing to slow the spread of the disease.He said dating apps are seeing increased use as people spend more time at home and seek out company, but they come with risks.His comments attracted praise on social media, where he's become popular among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for his dry delivery of public health warnings at daily news conferences.This week, one artistic fan shared a photo of a cross-stitched version of Haggie's plea for parents to stop their children from licking shopping carts at the grocery store.Haggie said technology can keep people connected during a difficult time, but there are hazards that come with its use."Let me warn you, if you use Tinder or Grindr and you swipe right, you might get more than you bargained for," he said. "Please, be careful when you use these applications." This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • News
    CBC

    Stavanger Drive Dominion closes after employee tests positive for COVID-19

    The Dominion grocery store on Stavanger Drive in St. John's closed abruptly Thursday afternoon, after an employee recently tested positive for COVID-19. A company spokesperson told CBC News that the employee last worked on March 20 — which was 13 days ago. The incubation period, the time between when people are affected and when they develop symptoms from the virus is between five and 14 days. The store is shut down while cleaning is ongoing and is expected to reopen on Friday. Director of Loblaw Atlantic's corporate affairs Mark Boudreau said the store was not required to close, but it was done out of an abundance of caution. He added the employee would have had "minimal contact" with customers on the shift on March 20."We are reaching out to local public health officials and are taking a number of steps to minimize risk, including increased sanitization protocols and enforcing social distancing practices in the store," said Boudreau.Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • March home sales start out strong but slow right down as COVID-19 hits
    News
    CBC

    March home sales start out strong but slow right down as COVID-19 hits

    Metro Vancouver's housing market saw steady demand from people buying homes in March, but the small spike in sales was quickly flattened by COVID-19 concerns.The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) said home sales totalled 2,524 in March of this year, a 46.1 percent increase compared to March of 2019.But demand levelled off later in the month as fears and restrictions on gatherings began to mount."The first two weeks of the month were the busiest days of the year. The marketplace was feeling energized, but then of course by the middle of the month we started to see quite a slowdown," said Ashley Smith, the president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.By then physical distancing rules had begun to take effect as concerns in B.C. around the global COVID-19 outbreak intensified. Sales averaged 138 per day for the first 10 days of the month, but were down to an average of 93 a day for the last 10 days, while Smith noted that many sales recorded in the month were already in progress before the province declared a state of emergency.Steve Saretsky, a Realtor at Oakwyn Realty, said the slowdown in the second half of the month has continued and is expected to get worse in April."Activity's basically come to a standstill ... new listings are down close to 50 per cent, and sales are obviously way down. They'll probably keep falling because it's a bit of a lagging indicator,'' he said.Realtors were listed as an essential service under the provincial emergency plan to enable people to find shelter and to sell for financial reasons. Smith says there are some clients eager to restart the now essentially stalled sales system."Many of us are sitting at home anxiously trying to figure out how can we help our clients navigate this right now," said Smith.She says while virtual home tours remain viable and there are buyers who will purchase properties without seeing the property in person, that clientele is limited.The decline in sales left activity down 19.9 per cent from the 10-year average and put a hold on the recovery momentum the market had seen in recent months.More than 4,400 properties were listed in March in Metro Vancouver, down 10.4 per cent compared to the number of listing in March of 2019, and sales were 19.9 per cent below the 10-year average for the month.

  • Sask. dog adopted after more than 1,200 days in foster care
    News
    CBC

    Sask. dog adopted after more than 1,200 days in foster care

    A dog named Milo has found his forever home after more than 1,200 days in foster care. Milo's journey from abuse to love wasn't easy. He was picked up as a terrified, starving stray in Yorkton, Sask, in the summer of 2016.He was rescued by the Pack Project — a charity and non-profit organization based in Regina. "He was an animal who was abused and neglected — potentially left for dead," said Dave Forster, board chair at the Pack Project."So we were fortunate."The organization fostered Milo with Susan Pease, who specializes in dogs who have had past abuse. "I'm sure when she agreed I don't think she expected it to be 1,200 days," Forster said with a laugh. Sometimes taking in dogs that have been abused or neglected can be a gamble, he said. The organization doesn't know how they will turn out or what their health needs are.At first Milo was pretty much shut down, Forster said. "He was scared of the world and scared of everything in the world," Forster said.Pease spent a lot of time gaining Milo's trust, Forster said. His transformation was "remarkable," Forster said. "As he got on and his confidence built and his trust of people was built — he started to progress."Typically, puppies spend only two to four weeks in foster care, while adult dogs spend around six to ten weeks. Milo's 1,200 days was unusual, Forster said. It took some time, but Milo was eventually put up for adoption. The Pack Project posted his photo and story on Facebook. A man stepped forward, spent some time gaining Milo's trust, then took the dog to his forever home in Qu'Appelle, Sask. "The family loves him and he's doing amazing," Forster said.Forster said they still stay in touch and keep up with Milo and get the occasional picture. "There's a big smile on his face and toys all around him and he clearly is enjoying life."

  • Schools to remain closed in New Brunswick, exams cancelled in N.L.
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Schools to remain closed in New Brunswick, exams cancelled in N.L.

    FREDERICTON — Learning plans have been adjusted for Atlantic Canadian public school students who will not be returning to class for months, if at all this school year. New Brunswick's education minister said Thursday that barring drastic improvement in the situation, schools in the province will remain closed for the rest of the school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.Dominic Cardy said the immediate concern remains public health and safety, but his department is committed to helping students continue their education while schools are closed."To that end we have developed a plan to provide home-learning options to students here in New Brunswick," Cardy said. He said students will be asked to spend from one to two-and-a-half hours a day on home learning, depending on their grade level. The school year will not be extended."Anglophone and francophone sectors have developed their own delivery plan and supporting materials that reflect their unique approaches," he said.Information on home learning will be posted on a new family resources website, and schools will be in contact with parents in the coming days."Parents will have a key responsibility to encourage students to complete the provided material and continue learning, but it is important for families to understand we are not asking them to recreate a classroom in their home or to take on the full role of a teacher," Cardy said. Students are also encouraged to read for a minimum of 30 minutes and engage in 30 minutes of physical activity every day.Cardy said all students who were on track in January to continue to the next grade level or graduate will do so. He said decisions on graduation ceremonies will be made in the coming weeks."We will be working with post-secondary institutions to ensure this crisis does not prevent students from being eligible for admission to post-secondary studies in the upcoming school year, assuming things have returned to normal by that point," he said.Cardy said schools around the world have closed and it is a reality that will require everyone to work together to address.Earlier this week, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King announced plans to provide home-based learning for students during the closure of Island schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.All schools across the Island will remain closed for in-person classes until, at minimum, May 11.Education Minister Brad Trivers said, starting April 6, teachers will begin providing a variety of online and printed home learning materials to allow for learning, regardless of access to the internet."Regardless of your access to the internet you can continue learning. Most of these will require nothing more than a paper and a pencil at the kitchen table," Trivers said.The home learning activities range from 30 minutes per day for kindergarten students to 90 minutes for students in intermediate schools. High school students will get materials for up to two hours per course, per week.Both King and Trivers assured Grade 12 students they will have a graduation and a prom, but at a later date. In Newfoundland and Labrador, students in English and French school districts were informed Thursday that all public exams are cancelled. Minister of Education Brian Warr said if school resumes at some point, the remaining time will go towards instruction — not exams. A final grade reflecting work up until March 13, the last day of classes before schools were closed due to the pandemic, will be communicated by April 22.Warr said online learning opportunities will be made available and students are "encouraged" to engage with teachers and keep up with their curriculum."The cancellation of exams does not mean leaning is ending or the school year is over," Warr said, pointing to digital options like Google Classroom and a mathematics YouTube channel prepared by the English School district.High school students will be eligible to graduate with their final grades and Warr said options are being prepared for students who have failed a course or are in danger of failing.He said hardware and connectivity solutions are also in the works for students who do not have access to internet or computers home."We will do whatever it takes to make sure each child is given the opportunity to learn," he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.The Canadian Press