American government officials inside Donald Trump’s White House are actively discussing putting troops near the Canadian borders in light of U.S. border security concerns around the coronavirus pandemic, sources tell Global News.
When there's only one ventilator but two patients who need it, how should a doctor decide who gets the chance to survive?Medical ethicists across the country are working to help frontline workers answer weighty questions should the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelm hospitals the way it has in northern Italy and New York City."These are not decisions we want to make," said Dr. Timothy Christie, who convenes an ethics committee that gives advice on pandemic response policy in New Brunswick."The planning that people are doing right now, they're doing the best to make it so we don't end up there."On Wednesday, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned that Canada's health-care system could be deluged in each of Ottawa's pandemic scenarios. The system is not designed to deal with a surge of COVID-19 cases, which could mean facing difficult decisions about how to allocate sparse resources, she said.Since the novel coronavirus was first confirmed in Canada, officials in several provinces have been developing guides so that doctors don't feel alone in making life and death decisions.British Columbia's ethical framework builds on work started during the H1N1 epidemic and Ebola crisis. It addresses specific ethical questions on everything from distributing personal protective equipment and ventilators to "decision making about who will get scarce treatment if that comes to pass," Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said last week."No single individual physician or clinician will have to make that decision on their own."In Ontario, officials have announced the formation of an "ethics table" led by the University of Toronto's joint centre for bioethics.Alberta is working on a framework too."The focus will be on ensuring as many patients as possible receive the care they need," Tom McMillan, a spokesman with Alberta Health, said in an email.In New Brunswick, clinicians will be given a principle to help them make decisions based on their expertise.Christie's committee is recommending a fundamental shift in the underlying principle that doctors use to make treatment decisions if there aren't enough hospital beds and ventilators."In cases where resources are limited, we would allocate the resources to people for whom we think will have the best outcome," said Christie, who is also regional director of ethics services for the Horizon Health Network, the province's anglophone health authority."That's fundamentally different than the way we'd do it in normal circumstances."Under normal circumstances, Christie said doctors ask patients what their goals are. A patient with terminal cancer might wish to spend one last Christmas with his family, and treatment plans can be adjusted to help reach that goal.COVID-19 could create a scenario where using a ventilator to keep someone alive for an extra few months comes at the expense of another person's life, he said.The challenge is determining how you define outcomes when comparing patients."There's a lot of debate about how you define the best outcome. Some people would say it's the amount of life you could live," Christie said. In other words, choosing to save the younger of two patients."We reject that approach," Christie said.A 20-year-old and a 55-year-old both have "significant" amounts of life left, so the difference between them is not morally relevant, he said.Age isn't the only factor being debated by the New Brunswick committee as it considers how to avoid discriminating against someone who develops COVID-19 after all ventilators are already in use.Rather than stockpiling ventilators in anticipation of future cases, Christie said they are advising that a new patient be assessed against those already being ventilated. If the new patient has a good chance of surviving, doctors could ethically end the treatment for another patient who isn't responding, he said.But an ethical framework won't help doctors who have to decide between two patients with nearly identical outcomes."In that circumstance you have an arbitrary decision. It's going to be tragic, it's going to be heartbreaking and it's going to be arbitrary — and there's no ethical principle that all of a sudden can make it better," Christie said. "That's no one's fault."This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
Recent developments: * Premier announces province will be shutting down some parts of the construction industry. * Province's top health officials reveal projections suggesting COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people. * Ontario confirmed 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Provincial total now at 3,255. * Official tally includes 67 deaths. * CBC News has accumulated data from local public health units and counted 81 deaths in the province. * Across the province, 1,023 cases are considered resolved. * A total of 66,753 tests have been administered province-wide and 1,245 people are awaiting test results. * Pinecrest Nursing Home reporting four more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there bringing the total to 20. * Health unit west of Toronto apologizes after mistakenly mailing letters to 16 people telling them that their COVID-19 tests were negative when they were in fact positive. * Minister of Health Christine Elliott announces new online site for the public to access their COVID-19 test results. * Province issues new order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to give health units more flexibility through hiring retired nurses, medical students and volunteers.Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will be shutting down some parts of the province's construction industry amid efforts to contain COVID-19. The changes come as the government updates its list of essential businesses and services in response to recommendations from public health officials to further restrict physical interactions between people.Private sector industrial, commercial and institutional projects will be affected, while public sector infrastructure work and some residential construction will be allowed to continue. Projects related to the health-care sector, including any work necessary to ensure the production of critical equipment and medical devices, as well those required to maintain the operations of petrochemical plants and refineries, will be exempted from the shut down.Ford said he'll continue to follow the advice of public health officials to determine whether the list of essential businesses needs to be further refined, but reaffirmed that supply chains for food and other essential items will remain in place, meaning grocery stores and pharmacies, for example, will remain open.Meanwhile, Ontario's retail cannabis outlets have been taken off the essential list and will be forced to close, although people can still order from the province's online store. Meanwhile, the province's top health officials revealed projections that suggest COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people in the province over the course of the pandemic, which could last up to two years. You can read more about that here, or review the province's presentation of that data for yourself at the bottom of this story."I think it's important that we're all robustly realistic about the scale of the challenge we face," Dr. Peter Donnelly, who heads Public Health Ontario, said at the news conference on Friday. But those projections also show that Ontario's actions so far to slow the spread of COVID-19 have prevented thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases, and that stricter action today would save hundreds more lives.Just two days ago Premier Doug Ford resisted calls to release the projections. Now, he says the move could also serve as a "wake-up call" to some Ontarians who aren't taking physical distancing measures seriously."These numbers are stark and sobering," Ford said at a news conference following the release of the projections on Friday. 'The numbers are real,' Williams saysOntario's chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams says he hopes the numbers will push people to continue observing the guidelines from the health authorities."The numbers are real, the numbers are challenging, they may for some people be a bit scary," Williams said at an afternoon news conference. "I think the need is to turn that apprehension into determination to do what we need to do, because we told you what you need to do. You can do it. We have made an impact. "You have made an impact and as the premier said, we know that the people of Ontario are up to the task of doing that and we ask you to focus hard on that for the next two-week period," Williams added.Non-Canadians with no health insurance will be treatedMeanwhile, Williams said non-Canadians with no insurance coverage should not hesitate to visit an assessment centre if they believe they are infected."We have tried to make it as easy as possible ... to advise and help them in their health condition and to confirm for them very quickly if they have a positive level or not," Williams said. "They often are with fellow international individuals, whether in a classroom setting or other ones, so they would not only want to protect themselves but those around them and to be advised accordingly."While noting that he's not aware of people failing to come forward, Williams emphasized that there are close to 100 assessment centres and they're more than willing to see those in need of testing. "You don't have to have the coverage or the citizenship. We want to identify you if you think you're at risk. We want to see you and we want to help you," Williams added.Provincial total of cases up to 3,255 Ontario confirmed 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 3,255.The official tally includes 67 deaths, however CBC News has accumulated data from local public health units and counted 97 deaths in the province.Another 1,023 cases are considered resolved — a roughly 30 per cent jump since the last update. Some 1,245 people are awaiting test results, more than 800 fewer than Thursday. A total of 66,753 tests have been administered provincewide.The newest data provides a snapshot of the situation in Ontario as of 4 p.m. ET yesterday.In terms of hospitalizations: * 462 cases of COVID-19 have been hospitalized. * 194 cases are in intensive care units. * 140 cases are on ventilators.The province also offered this breakdown of cases since Jan. 15, 2020: * 48.5 per cent are male, while 50.9 per cent are female. * About 32 per cent of cases are 60 years of age and older. * Greater Toronto Area public health units account for 53 per cent of cases. Meanwhile, a nursing home in central Ontario is reporting four more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there, bringing the total to 20.The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.False test results in PeelMeanwhile, a regional health unit west of Toronto has apologized after it mistakenly mailed letters to 16 people telling them that their COVID-19 tests were negative when they were in fact positive.Dr. Lawrence Loh, interim medical officer of health in Peel, said in a statement that the letters were mailed on Tuesday and Wednesday. His unit was made aware of the errors late Thursday, he added."I know the relief those residents felt for a few moments has sadly been transformed into feelings of fear and uncertainty. Our team is working quickly to notify these residents and make sure they have what they need to manage this difficult situation," Loh said.An investigation revealed that several positive test slips were mixed with a batch of negative results received from labs, according to Loh. Peel's health unit has changed its process to avoid repeating the mistakes again."On behalf of the Region of Peel, I extend apologies to those residents impacted by this error," Loh said.Online portal for test resultsMinister of Health Christine Elliott announced a new online site for the public to access their COVID-19 test results.The hope is that it will ease the burden on local public health units "so that they can better focus on containing COVID-19," Elliott said in a news release.Further, the province also issued a new order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to give health units more flexibility through hiring retired nurses, medical students and volunteers.The order comes after Ontario's top medical official recommended more aggressive contact tracing to track community spread of the coronavirus.You can read the full Ontario government model below:
Canadian passengers on the Coral Princess cruise ship nearing Fort Lauderdale, Fla., worry how they'll get home after at least a dozen COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed on board.Their fears are stoked by the recent experience of the MS Zaandam, a Holland America Line cruise ship that struggled to secure permission to dock in Fort Lauderdale because it, too, had a COVID-19 outbreak on board.There are 1,020 passengers — including 97 Canadians — and 878 crew members on board the Coral Princess.Passenger Frank Béchamp, of Nepean, Ont., said the ship announced the virus outbreak on Wednesday night."Our hearts sunk in momentary despair," said Béchamp, 71, in an interview conducted by phone and email. "All aboard pray that the U.S.A. authorities permit us to dock and provide us passage to the airport so that we may continue our journey home."The Coral Princess set sail on March 5 on a South American cruise — at a time when there were very few cases of COVID-19 in South America. It was set to dock in Fort Lauderdale on April 4, though it now appears those plans are on hold. On Thursday, Princess Cruises said in a statement that out of 13 passengers and crew tested for COVID-19 on board, 12 were positive for the illness. Passengers are confined to their cabins and have been given face masks. Regarding docking in Fort Lauderdale, the cruise line said that it "continues to seek approvals through multiple diplomatic channels" and work with local officials in the region. Port Everglades — the Fort Lauderdale port where the Coral Princess is scheduled to dock on Saturday — told CBC News that the ship no longer plans to arrive on that day. It said it had no further information at this time."Everyone's a bit on edge," said passenger Gary Lyon, 62, of Toronto, who has been communicating with fellow Canadians on board by email. "We're very eager to get home."'Let us off'The Coral Princess cut its cruise short in mid-March amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic. But the ship struggled to find a port to let passengers disembark and return home after nearby countries, such as Argentina and Brazil, shut their borders to foreigners.Many passengers — including some Canadians — were able to disembark on March 19 in Buenos Aires to catch a flight home. But other passengers who had a flight departing the following day stayed on the ship — and then were stuck there after Argentina decided to close its borders to foreigners at midnight."Complete disappointment, I mean, we were all packed," said Lyon, who, along with Béchamp, missed his March 20 flight home. After a series of rejections, the Coral Princess set its course for Fort Lauderdale. But the virus-stricken Zaandam, which was also scheduled to dock there, faced opposition because the region is already battling its own COVID-19 epidemic.After much debate and grumbling from local politicians, the Zaandam and its sister ship, the Rotterdam were finally granted permission to dock on Thursday. Lyon said he hopes that means local officials will also let in the Coral Princess. "Let us off and put us on the fastest bus possible to the airport," said Lyon, adding that Princess Cruises said it would book flights home for passengers. Béchamp said he hopes the Canadian government will assist in getting Canadian passengers home. "We pray that our government is exploring every possible avenue with the U.S.A. port authorities to get us back to Canada." Global Affairs Canada told CBC News that it is speaking with various U.S. officials, along with other partner countries, to determine a final docking location for the Coral Princess.According to GAC, there are currently 145 Canadians still at sea on a total of seven cruise ships.Carnival Corp. respondsBoth Princess Cruises and Holland America are owned by Carnival Corporation.Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Holland America's Zaandam and four Princess cruise ships — the Diamond Princess, the Grand Princess, the Ruby Princess and the Coral Princess — have had coronavirus outbreaks.Only the Coral Princess is still at sea. As a result of those outbreaks, at least 13 people have died and more than 900 passengers have contracted COVID-19.Cruise lines suspended their operations in mid-March as the global pandemic spread, but some ships that were still at sea were unable to find an immediate place to dock.Carnival Corp. told CBC News that in comparison to the number of COVID-19 cases on land — which now totals one million — the spread of the virus on cruise ships pales in comparison."Any case is unfortunate," spokesperson Roger Frizzell said in an email. "But while there have been a few very high-profile instances of guests on cruise ships testing positive, in reality, these situations have been at a far lower rate by comparison than the rate of spread of COVID-19 throughout communities around the world."Cruise ships have strict cleansing and sanitation protocols, he said, and adopted enhanced screenings during the COVID-19 outbreak. Fizzell said that Carnival Corp. is working with health authorities on additional health and safety measures to further protect passengers on cruises.
The top official in China's coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan warned residents to stay vigilant and avoid going out, even as the latest data showed a decline in new cases in the mainland and no new infections in the central city. China appears to have curbed the epidemic with draconian curbs that paralysed the world's second-biggest economy for two months. On Friday, the National Health Commission reported 31 new cases, down from 35 a day earlier and dramatically lower than February's peak.
TORONTO — The Ontario government is attempting to close an ugly round of bargaining as it restarts talks with the only remaining teachers' union without a contract, and an expert says the COVID-19 pandemic may create a path to labour peace.University of Toronto professor and former deputy education minister Charles Pascal says the unprecedented crisis, and the dramatic response that has altered daily life, have also changed the tone coming from the government.Pascal said Premier Doug Ford's government has abandoned the inflammatory rhetoric and divisive public bargaining it had engaged in with the province's teachers' unions since last summer, focusing instead on calm, clear pandemic response.That new approach appears to have had an effect on the once-turbulent talks that led to near-daily walkouts and strikes, closing schools just weeks ago."It takes the pressure off so that people can sit at the table, quietly, while attention is being paid elsewhere," he said. "All of a sudden the government wants to appear genuine about being fair in every direction."In recent weeks, the province has secured tentative agreements with three of four teachers' unions that had been without contracts since August.On Thursday, the government returned to the bargaining table with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, which is the last union without a deal.But with schools now shuttered until at least May because of the pandemic, and the government and teachers working together to help students learn from home, Pascal said the tension built up between all parties appears to have diminished."There's a kind of fairness that's arisen on the scene that's led to deals with the other federations," he said. "That's a good thing."Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday the government is ready to work with the OSSTF to reach an agreement."The time is now to drive deals with all remaining union partners," Lecce said in a statement. "We will remain a positive and driving force at the bargaining table, advancing the priorities of parents and students."OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said the union, which has been engaged in only informal discussions with the government since December, is also ready to get back to the bargaining table.He acknowledged that the pandemic has affected talks, even on a logistical level, with all future bargaining taking place via teleconference."Negotiations never happen in a vacuum, they happen in an environment," Bischof said. "The environment has an effect on bargaining. What exactly that will be isn't something I'm prepared to pre-judge."Bischof said he's not concerned that the public support he felt the teachers had built over the past few months has disappeared."I'm not worried," he said. "I'm cognizant of the reality within which we find ourselves. I have to tell you, it's the reality in which my members are ... doing their very best to provide continuity of learning for students, have reached out to students and are worried for them and their well-being."In recent weeks, the province has reached agreements with the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Federal projections of the toll COVID-19 could take in Canada are not yet ready for public consumption but will be coming soon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday, just as Ontario announced it will be able to provide details of its provincial analysis on Friday.Canadian officials have acknowledged they are working on models for how the virus is impacting Canada and what may yet happen, but have refused thus far to make that information public. Trudeau said Thursday he understands how much Canadians want to get a better sense of where COVID-19 is going to take us, but said the data is just not ready yet."I know a lot of people are still wondering when this will get better or how much worse it might become," he said, in his daily briefing to Canadians outside his Ottawa home."You want to see the numbers and predictions. You want to plan. You want to prepare for the worst, you want to know what to be hopeful about. I know, and we will have more information ... soon."Trudeau spoke Thursday evening for more than two hours with premiers by teleconference, where data sharing and co-ordination and projections were critical items on the agenda.Prior to the call, he said in recent days provinces have been clearing a backlog of testing data which is providing more information that is helpful to guiding the projections."It's giving us more accurate images on how COVID-19 is spreading, on where it's spreading, on how it's being transmitted and on how the measures that we're putting into place are working," he said. "I'll be speaking tonight with premiers about this data, about the modelling and analysis that's going on and we look forward to being able to share more information soon."Trudeau stressed again that the number 1 factor that can influence the outcome for Canadians of COVID-19 is their own choice to listen to the experts and stay home unless it's absolutely essential to go out. When they do, he said, they must make sure they keep a distance of at least two metres from anyone they're not currently living with.Quebec Premier Francois Legault signalled Wednesday that Quebec modelling is coming shortly. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is the first to put a firm date on it, promising in his Thursday press conference that Ontario's predictions will be released to the public on Friday."You deserve to see what I see," Ford said.He cautioned that "many people will find it hard to hear" what the data is going to show.There are more than 11,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in Canada, but Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, frequently reminds Canadians that the number of positive tests does not provide the full picture of how many people have COVID-19.She also repeated Thursday that there is a delay between when people come into contact with the virus and when a test comes back positive. It generally takes five to six days after exposure to begin to show symptoms, and several days for test results to come back, if a test is actually done.As of Thursday morning, 111 deaths can be attributed to COVID-19 in Canada, Tam said.Globally, the death count due to the novel coronavirus passed 50,000 Thursday and the number of confirmed infections is nearing the one-million mark.Health Minister Patty Hajdu said March 11 that between 30 and 70 per cent of Canadians could be infected with COVID-19 but that was before the caseload in Canada began to soar. It was also two days before the biggest provinces began closing schools and tightening restrictions on public gatherings.Several other countries have released predictions for death counts and infection rates this week, including New Zealand, which has a population of nearly five million. That country said Thursday almost two in three people might contract COVID-19, and 14,000 to 18,000 people could die from it. A separate report said if the virus was left unchecked it would infect 89 per cent of the population and kill as many as 80,000, or 1.6 per cent of the entire population.Infectious disease experts in the United States said Tuesday COVID-19 could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, even with all the shelter-in-place orders and attempts at physical distancing. Their data also suggested about one-quarter of people who contract COVID-19 may not show any symptoms at all, making the spread of the virus easier since only people with symptoms are urged to go into quarantine.The Americans said without the physical distancing measures in place, the death toll will be much higher.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
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."First Nations are receiving $215 million, Inuit $45 million and Métis Nation communities $30 million under the $305 million Indigenous Community Support Fund.Each First Nation is being allocated a base amount of $50,000 plus additional funds based on a formula which factors in population, community well-being and remoteness.Regional and urban Indigenous organizations can apply for a portion of the remaining $15 million to help the off-reserve population through a call for proposals.There is also a separate $100 million envelope that communities can qualify for to address short-term needs, request personal protective equipment, 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."
Recent developments: * The Ottawa-Gatineau area has topped 500 reported COVID-19 cases.Here's what's happening todayNew projections from Ontario show COVID-19 could kill between 3,000 and 15,000 people and could affect the province for up to two years. Premier Doug Ford called the projections "a wake-up call" on Thursday.The federal government has yet to release its natonwide projections.WATCH: What if Ontario did nothing against COVID-19?Ottawa bylaw officers say after issuing dozens of warnings, they will start to fine people for breaking COVID-19 rules.Other communities such as Kingston, Ont. and Gatineau are in a similar boat.How many cases do we have?There are now 289 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa and more than 500 in the region, including seven deaths linked to the coronavirus. Confirmed cases are just a snapshot because of the limits of testing. There are likely thousands more.Distancing and isolatingPhysical distancing means avoiding non-essential trips, working from home, cancelling all gatherings and staying at least two metres away from others when out for a walk.WATCH: What good physical distancing will do to the pandemicTravellers who return to Canada must now self-isolate for 14-days: staying home and asking others to leave supplies at the door.Anyone who is older than 70, or who has a compromised immune system, or who has been in close contact with someone who either has tested positive or has symptoms after recent travel should also self-isolate for 14 days.People who feel sick should self-isolate for 14 days or until their symptoms are gone for 24 hours, whichever is longer.How daily life is changingQuebec has banned non-essential travel into and through western Quebec, which police are enforcing with moving checkpoints.WATCH: Gatineau police explain what's not allowedParks are only open to walk through and authorities are watching for gatherings in many communities.WATCH: A how-to guide for Ottawa's park rulesOntario and Quebec schools are closed until May and all non-essential businesses should be closed. Public transit authorities are scaling back service. Essential services like waste collection continue. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?They range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection. The most common symptoms include fever, fatigue and a dry cough.Older people, those with compromised immune systems and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious problems.The coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.Ottawa Public Health says unless you need an N-95 mask for your job, only people with respiratory illnesses and those caring for sick people should wear them.Homemade masks may do little to stop the spread of the virus — aside from stopping people from touching their faces and muffling a cough or sneeze. Kingston General Hospital has banned staff from wearing them.WATCH: Is the advice on face masks changing?The germs can also spread through close, prolonged contact, such as handshaking, and via surfaces such as door handles, phones and light switches.Most people with mild symptoms can self-isolate and get better. If you have severe symptoms, call 911.Where to get testedAnyone concerned they have COVID-19 in Ontario can fill out its online assessment tool. Ottawans who have a new or worsening cough or fever and have left the country — or have spent time with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days — should visit the COVID-19 screening centre at the Brewer Arena.The centre is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 151 Brewer Way. You don't have to call ahead.Starting Monday a former school in Bells Corners will become a care centre for people with moderate symptoms from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.The assessment centre at the Kingston Memorial Centre at 303 York St. is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for anyone with symptoms.WATCH: Kingston teacher sets public health advice to Lady Gaga tune The public health unit in the Belleville area is asking people only call it at 613-966-5500 if they still have questions after the province's self-assessment.Same for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark's unit at 1-800-660-5853 extension 2499.It has testing sites by referral from a family doctor or the health unit only in Brockville, Almonte and Smiths Falls and a new home test service for people in care or with mobility challenges. Call the health unit to ask about one.There is a drive-thru test centre in Casselman, Ont. open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 872 Principale St. for people with worsening symptoms, like the test site at 750 Laurier St. in Hawkesbury, Ont., open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. No need to call ahead.WATCH: Firefighters, police show support for health-care workers in HawkesburyThere are others by appointment only in WInchester, Ont., by calling your family doctor or Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000, and Cornwall, Ont. Call 613-935-7762 if you have worsening symptoms.Only people older than age 70 in that area or who have chronic health problems or compromised immune systems can call 613-933-1375 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to ask about a home visit from paramedics.Renfrew County is providing home testing under some circumstances.Call Telehealth, your health care provider or it at 613-735-8654 if you still have more questions.Anyone who doesn't have or can't reach a family doctor can call its new primary health-care centre at 1-844-727-6404 if they have any health questions.In western Quebec:Outaouais residents should call 819-644-4545 if they have a cough or fever, whether they've travelled or not. You could be referred to Gatineau's testing centre.If your symptoms require a trip to the ER, call ahead if you can to let them know your travel history.First Nations communitiesAkwesasne, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) and Pikwakanagan have declared states of emergency..With a confirmed case in the American part of Akwesasne, anyone returning from farther than 80 kilometres away is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.Anyone in MBQ who has symptoms can call 613-967-3603 to talk to a nursePikwakanagan's new council has ordered all businesses to close.Kitigan Zibi has scaled back non-essential services.For more information, visit:
The Yukon government is threatening to crack down on people who ignore public health orders that are aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.In a news conference on Thursday, Community Services Minister John Streicker and Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said people can now be punished with fines or jail time, under the Civil Emergency Measures Act, if they ignore orders.Those orders, some issued last month by Yukon's chief medical officer, include: * a requirement for people to immediately self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the territory, * a requirement for anybody arriving in Yukon to sign a declaration form, * a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, * closure of all bars and personal service establishments (such as hair salons and tattoo shops), * no dentistry services except in emergencies. "The message to Yukoners is clear — these are not suggestions, these are not guidelines, these are the law," said McPhee.She said enforcement of the current public health order or future orders could be done by police officers, and also conservation officers, sheriffs, bylaw officers, or First Nations land officers. Jail terms could be up to six months, and fines up to $500.McPhee said beefing up enforcement is a "first step." Next, she says, officials will set up a way for Yukoners to report any violations."We ask Yukoners to be vigilant, with their own behaviour, and reminding their friends and family to abide by these new laws."The Yukon government declared a state of emergency under the Civil Emergency Measures Act six days ago. As of Wednesday, there were three active cases of COVID-19 in the territory, and three people recovered from the illness.Streicker said Yukon is in a "good position" right now, and the new enforcement measures are meant to limit any community spread of the virus."Our medical system cannot afford widespread community transmission, and we must continue to fight hard against such a possibility," he said.Declaration forms for people arriving in YukonOfficials also announced on Thursday that anybody entering the territory, by land or air, will soon be met with an enforcement officer on entry.Travellers will have to fill out a declaration form on arrival, giving their address and phone number or explaining where they are going in the territory if they are not residents. They must also sign a declaration that they are symptom-free. Streicker said those measure will make it easier for officials to enforce self-isolation orders. Non-Yukoners transiting through the territory — for example, to their homes in Alaska or the N.W.T. — can spend no more than 24 hours in Yukon. Asked why Yukon doesn't simply close its borders, Streicker suggested that wouldn't make sense."Well, we would like to get food in. We would like to get fuel in. We would like to get doctors in, medevacs. We would like to be able to make sure that our telecommunications continues to work," he said."What we're doing is to make sure that the way that people come in, and the services that come in, are things that are essential, critical, or for people who are going home." Residents of some communities just outside Yukon's boundaries — such as Atlin, Lower Post, and Fraser, B.C., are exempt from the mandatory self-isolation period as long as they have not travelled beyond their community or Yukon in the previous 14 days.Also on Thursday, Yukon officials issued a list of what are considered essential services in the territory during the pandemic, with guidelines for the delivery of those services.The list of essential services includes health care, food, telecommunications, energy and utilities, and mining, among many others.
DOWAGIAC, Mich. — Cardboard cutout wedding guests will make for a not-so-cookie-cutter wedding as a Michigan couple prepares to tie the knot during the coronavirus pandemic.After Amy Simonson and Dan Stuglik’s wedding plans were disrupted amid the outbreak, a packaging company donated more than 100 cardboard cutouts to pose as stand-ins for the family and friends who couldn’t attend the wedding this Saturday because of Michigan’s stay-at-home order.Menasha Packaging Co. in Coloma made cutouts to resemble guests tall and short, young and old, with long hair, short hair and ponytails."(Stuglik) was just looking for a general person shape, but I was able to make a little bit more realistic audience for them,” Ted Harris, customer service and design manager at Menasha, told The Herald-Palladium.Stuglik, a Coloma Township police officer, said he’ll forever be thankful to Menasha for helping him do something special for his fiancée.“I wanted to do something (creative) so she wouldn’t walk down the aisle to an empty church,” he said. “That was a painful part, that her wedding was being stripped away from her, but Menasha helped bring a little back.”The Associated Press
Mexico's deputy health minister said on Thursday there are no plans for border closures even as the country's death toll from the coronavirus jumped to 50 from 37 a day earlier. "There's no plan, because there's no intention to use the border closure mechanism as if it were a useful mechanism for controlling the epidemic," the deputy minister, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said during his regular evening news conference.
Edmonton police officers could soon hand out fines to people or businesses that violate current public health orders. Alberta Health Services said those who breach the orders may be ticketed $1,000 per occurrence. For more serious violations, courts could administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence.The Edmonton Police Service is currently working through a backlog of complaints from the public, said Insp. Ray Akbar, operations chief for the police pandemic response team.Police and health officials have previously asked the public not to call 911 to report perceived violations of public health orders. "We've seen a reduction of calls for complaints with regards to compliance through the 911 line," Akbar said. "However, we do still see a few of them coming through."For the most part the public are being mindful, they're being respectful, and they recognize the risks around COVID-19 and the spread of the virus itself." An online system of reporting is being launched in partnership with Alberta Health Services, which will funnel information to public health inspectors so they can investigate complaints. "Enforcement is an option for us," Akbar said. "We will issue tickets if required."He said the updated legislation had just been sent to the office so he did not have any examples of tickets being issued as of Thursday. Police are also monitoring locations that could present a risk, especially to vulnerable populations. "We want to be sure that we use a lot of discretion," Akbar said. "We want to ensure that the public is adequately educated."In a release, EPS said it will be watching for gatherings of more than 15 people, indoors or outdoors, physical distancing adherence and facility closures.Akbar said two EPS members have confirmed cases of COVID-19. One is a sworn officer and the other is not.Several members are self-isolating, he said, either because they recently travelled or because they were showing symptoms of a cold or flu.
EDMONTON — A mother of two young girls and her roommate have been sentenced to eight years in prison for beating, starving and confining the children in the basement of their Edmonton home.The 26-year-old mother and 25-year-old friend, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, entered guilty pleas in September to aggravated assault and confinement.Queen's Bench Justice Gaylene Kendell said in her sentencing decision Thursday that had a babysitter not rescued the two girls, they may have suffered more injuries."How much longer would the abuse have gone on?" Kendell said."Their actions were calculated, deliberate and were done to prevent (the girls) from coming up the stairs to obtain food, or to turn on the lights in an unfinished, unfurnished basement without water or bathroom facilities."Court heard the girls' mother moved to Edmonton from Calgary in the summer of 2017 to flee an abusive relationship. She moved in with her friend, who had three children of her own.An agreed statement of facts read out by the judge said that for weeks, the sisters, who were ages six and three at the time, were locked up in the basement with a single mattress and rug on the floor. At times, one girl was confined inside a cardboard box with the lid tapped shut and a rug placed on top so she could not escape.The roommate's children were not disciplined in this way, Kendell noted. The women had agreed to keep their children separate because an older daughter was acting out and allegedly touching the other children inappropriately.The women admitted that they both disciplined the two abused girls and were both present when they were hit with belts, court heard.In December 2017, the babysitter removed a dresser in front of the basement door and found the sisters injured and begging for food.A police officer who responded smelled urine and discovered the floor was soiled with feces.Medical examinations of the girls found they were undernourished, dehydrated and had bruises, scars and lacerations all over their bodies. One had to undergo plastic surgery so the skin around her hip and upper leg could heal. The other required dental surgery."One could only imagine how frightened the girls were to be placed in that situation — dark, hot, the odour of urine and feces, thirsty, hungry, injured, in pain and knowing that their mother and their auntie were responsible," Kendell said.In a submission to the court before the sentencing, the roommate said she was beaten by her stepmother as a child and was sexually assaulted by men who dated her mother."She reported that her addictions caused her to lose her priorities and robbed her of being a parent," Kendell said.But the judge noted that the roommate's own three children were well-fed and uninjured, indicating she knew right from wrong.A psychiatric assessment of the mother of the two abused girls noted that she often casted blame for the abuse on her roommate and likely minimized her actions out of shame and distress.She also drank and consumed cocaine on weekends, often relying on her friend to take care of the children.Kendell said the mother could have turned to family for support and noted she often said things in her assessment that contradicted the agreed facts."(Her counsel) argued that her low IQ and level of cognition should reduce her moral culpability. I disagree," Kendell said."The fact that neither child was taken to school or daycare for a number of weeks because of the fear third parties would become aware of the children's injuries speaks to her high level of knowledge and awareness."Both women were credited for the time they have already spent in custody, reducing their sentences to about half.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press
The same hands that have designed costumes for films, movies and theatrical productions in Alberta are now hard at work making protective clothing for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.It's a project in Calgary being led by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 212.Alberta film and theatre employees were eager to help, especially considering the fact that filming on shows like Wynonna Earp and Black Summer are on hiatus due to provincial shutdowns."Our union builds everything. From modern-day clothing of every description you could imagine, to sci-fi, to period historical costuming … anything that a designer requires us to make," said Deborah Day with IATSE Local 212 in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener.And now, they're sewing protective gear based off of requests within Calgary.Led by the IATSE Local 212, organizers are collaborating with Costume Alchemy, a studio that offers workshops for a range of skills related to costume design, working out of that building as a base.The actual designers come from within the union and beyond. Social media posts have brought attention to the project, which has drawn in more workers.The goal is to make 150 gowns for employees and volunteers at the Calgary Drop-In Centre, following a request for the gowns to be used at their donation location.Though the effort is local, there are similar efforts by IATSE groups across North America to create items needed during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as masks.Gown breakdownDay said the group has been working non-stop to organize the effort.There was a list of designers to organize, a pattern for the gown to finalize and fabric to acquire.The protective gowns are designed to be worn over clothing, providing another washable layer of protection for employees and volunteers."They're classified as a protective gown. They're a long-sleeved, cuffed gown so that gloves can be pulled up overtop of the cuffing. And they tie at the neck and they tie in the back [and] there's a double layer that wraps in the front," Day said."They're pretty easy to replicate. I just took it apart and sent it to a cutter to create the first pattern."Kits of the pattern, fabric and other trimmings needed to get started on sewing are being assembled at the Costume Alchemy workshop. To date, 111 kits have already been sent out and are in the midst of creation.The project members are still looking for more fabric, as each gown takes about 3.5 metres of fabric to make.And it can't just be any fabric — it must be a wearable cotton, polyester or poly-cotton blend, Day said. It must be capable of being washed in very hot water with strong chemicals.The fabric the group is currently working with has come from union members' personal stores and donations from the public. Several bolts of fabric have also been donated by the Fabric Depot.While the project has been underway, Day said their union has received another request from a local women's charity for a number of gowns, which means they will need even more fabric to continue sewing.Day said people with suitable fabric can drop it off in a bin outside of Costume Alchemy.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday named former Dallas police Chief David Brown to head the police force in the nation's third largest city, touting his humility and calling him “a leader who commands respect.”Lightfoot introduced Brown as the next superintendent of the Chicago Police Department during a news conference, saying he's the right man for the job."We are Chicago and we deserve the best. And in this time, this moment, David Brown is the absolute best."The announcement came hours after Lightfoot announced that a member of the police force had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The news conference was tinged with sadness with Lightfoot pointing out that, just as interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck had to deal with the loss of one of his officers this week, Brown knows the pain of losing a fellow officer.“Death has come directly to David Brown's doorstep,” said the mayor. Brown lost a former partner and other officers under his command, and even his son and a brother to gun violence.Brown, who was one of two African Americans named as a finalist, has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement. The 59-year-old, who retired from the Dallas force in 2016, drew widespread attention that year after five of his officers were killed in an ambush-style rifle attack and he directed officers to kill the suspect using a remote-controlled robot fixed with explosives.Brown was the only one of the three finalists with experience leading a large police force. Still, it will be an adjustment for him, coming from a department of about 3,500 officers to one with about 13,000.One of the other finalists was Kristen Ziman, the police chief in the Chicago suburb of Aurora. The third was Ernest Cato, a deputy chief on the Chicago police force. Cato, who is also African American, was only recently promoted to deputy chief by Beck.Brown's experience made him the logical choice for Lightfoot. The mayor said one of the things that most impressed her about Brown was that he implemented many reforms in Dallas that the Chicago department is now trying to introduce. But he's also an outsider who is far less familiar than the other two candidates. And he is coming to a police department where the rank-and-file has not always welcomed outsiders. Former superintendents Jody Weis, a former FBI special agent, and Garry McCarthy, a former high ranking member of the New York City Police Department, were not popular with the troops.Brown will also have to adjust to a system of government that gives him less independence. Chicago has a stronger mayor and police oversight body than in Dallas.Adjusting to “those are probably going to be some of his toughest tasks to overcome,” said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata.During his tenure in Dallas, Brown took steps that were controversial among officers, including making use-of-force data public. But he was also criticized by activists who thought he blocked needed reforms, such as empowering a civilian police review board.Brown said his experience and devotion to his job, along with the officers in his command, would help him as a leader.“My life and career has taken place in the city of Dallas but the call to service ... is one that is heard across the nation, and it is that call that has driven everything that I have done in my career as an officer and as a public servant,” he said.Beck and Eddie Johnson before him scrambled to regain public trust that was shattered in large part by the late-2015 release of a video of a white police officer shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted of murder and sent to prison, but the handling of the shooting by the department and City Hall led to the firing of McCarthy, a federal probe and a host of reforms.The department has faced a period of uncertainty since late last year. In December, just days after Johnson announced his retirement and Lightfoot named Beck as the interim superintendent, the mayor abruptly fired Johnson.Lightfoot said Johnson had lied to her about an incident in October in which he was found asleep at the wheel of his vehicle after having drinks. She said Johnson's explanation was fundamentally different than “what the facts show." Johnson had been recorded on surveillance video drinking with a woman who was not his wife at a downtown bar.Beck made it clear from the beginning that he did not want to be the permanent superintendent, and Lightfoot initiated a national search that led to 25 applications for the job. The police board whittled that number down to three.Lightfoot said she hopes the City Council will approve Brown's appointment and that he will be on the job by the end of the month.___AP reporter Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this story.Don Babwin, The Associated Press
COVID-19 has cost Saskatchewan's food service industry 25,000 jobs since March 1, according to a Restaurants Canada survey.The industry association pegs the nationwide loss at 800,000 — and it's feared many of the jobs lost amid mass business shutdowns may never return.Nearly one in 10 restaurants in Canada have already closed permanently because they cannot pay operating costs due to a lack of cash flow during the pandemic, according to the survey. Restaurants Canada polled 655 food service operators across Canada — representing more than 13,000 locations — between March 25 and 29 for the survey.More of those operators will likely have to close as public health orders limiting large gatherings and which businesses can open continue. In Saskatchewan, restaurants can currently only offer take-out or delivery.Dale MacKay—co-owner of Grassroots Restaurant Group, which oversees three restaurants in Saskatoon and one in Regina — has temporarily shut down all services and laid off all employees.While he is expecting to reopen his restaurants, MacKay worries about the effect food service sector closures will have not only on employment, but on the culture of Saskatchewan. "When the hospitality industry goes down it does have a trickle-down effect on a lot of things. It's not just jobs," MacKay said."Hospitality takes on a lot of real estate and employs a lot of people. And so when you lose all that ... you're losing your culture and you're losing your sense of community."MacKay says many food service sector businesses operate on modest profits, which are relied on to support the owner, their family and a small staff. "To me, a business like that can only take two or three months of hardship and then they're done. And that in itself is very scary given the fact that those businesses are all over our streets in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and in Canada," MacKay said. Leanne Bohay, co-owner of Naked Bean Espresso Bar and Cafe in Regina, shares the same concerns as MacKay. She temporarily shut down her café three weeks ago and laid off all her employees. While she is optimistic she can reopen once physical distancing rules are lifted, Bohay says Regina will be a very different city in six months. "Local businesses just are the heart of our provinces. And the franchises will be the franchises," she said."I'm hoping [the government] will kick in with something. My family is my staff. For all the small businesses out there ... it's the same."Expanding subsidy measuresThe federal government recently announced a 75 per cent wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses that have seen a drop in revenue of at least 30 per cent during the pandemic.But Restaurants Canada has found that its members are more concerned about receiving government support once they are permitted to reopen. "Urgent additional relief is required to help these businesses survive or there will be fewer jobs for the thousands of temporarily laid off restaurant employees to return to," said Mark von Schellwitz, the industry group's Western Canada vice-president.MacKay says that while he is pleased with federal government's new 75 per cent wage subsidy, more support will be needed to help the service industry recover."At the end of the day ... it's not really going to save them," said MacKay.As most restaurants have laid off their employees and there is no revenue coming in, businesses are not yet in a place to take advantage of the 75 per cent wage subsidy, he said, and a larger stimulus package is necessary to support the industry. "I think [the wage subsidy] is going to need to be extended after the reopening given the fact that that's when we're really going to need it ... when we're going to be firing up our workforce again and rehiring the people we laid off, or new employees," said MacKay."That's when we're really going to need it ... not right now."The organization is also calling for the expansion of the qualifying conditions for the wage subsidy, as well as the time period for businesses to access it. That, the organization says, would help restaurants keep their workers on payroll and allow them to rehire those they had to lay off. On Thursday, the Saskatchewan NDP called on the federal government to provide emergency grants for small businesses experiencing cash flow issues.The provincial Opposition party also called for protections for small businesses, including a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and measures to support the forgiveness or deferral of payments on loans, business leases and contracts.
VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor says people who celebrate Easter, Passover, Ramadan and other religious holidays should plan now to safely participate virtually in their traditional ceremonies.Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that many communities have already been considering how they can practise their faith during the COVID-19 crisis, and she will speak with faith leaders next week to share ideas.The provincial health officer also announced six more deaths in British Columbia, where 31 people have now died and an additional 55 new cases of the virus have been recorded, for a total of 1,121 cases.Of the 149 people in hospital, 68 were in intensive care."It's a challenging time for us. We're in that phase where we need to be incredibly careful about what we're doing," Henry said, adding measures such as physical distancing are largely being followed and that is allowing the disease to be managed.She urged people to continue "standing united" in following regulations to reduce the spread of COVID-19."We must do all that we can to protect our families and communities across British Columbia."Residents in smaller communities are concerned that people visiting vacation homes and fishing lodges could potentially bring COVID-19 with them by making non-essential trips, Henry said.Resources may not be available to support visitors who become ill while they're away or for those who live in small towns if the virus is transmitted.Enforcement is complicated because provincial orders are enforced by bylaw officers and public health officials while the RCMP is responsible for policing the Quarantine Act, which the federal government introduced last week requiring everyone arriving from overseas to self-isolate for 14 days, Henry said."It has been a bit of a process to make sure how that is operational across the country," she said, adding the Mounties are working with Canada Border Services personnel and the Public Health Agency of Canada as part of their enforcement duties.Most of the cases that have been investigated in B.C. have involved people who don't understand what's expected of them, Henry said.''So that's step number one. And for the most part when we (are clear) people are compliant and that's the approach that we recommend taking."Health Minister Adrian Dix said more needs to be done at airports and at border crossings to enforce the Quarantine Act, which has been discussed with the federal government."The excuse of whether people were adequately contacted at the airport or not is not an excuse for people not to comply with the order," Dix said."This is especially true in these times where such enormous efforts are being made by the government of Canada to help people come home, setting up a series of flights, many flights that are going to bring people back to Canada from all around the globe."— By Camille Bains in Vancouver.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — As coronavirus cases soared, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio asked New Yorkers on Thursday to wear a face covering when they go outside to prevent the spread of the virus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that the state’s supply of breathing machines could be exhausted in six days. And the COVID-19 death toll climbed to at least 2,400. While New York City remained a hotspot, there were troublesome trends around the state as the outbreak spread to every county. Unemployment filings skyrocketed too, as the pandemic wreaked economic havoc.The latest developments in New York:___FACE COVERINGNew York City Mayor Bill De Blasio asked New Yorkers to wear a face covering when they go outside and will be near other people.He cited research showing asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus without realizing it.“When you put on that face covering, you’re protecting everyone else,” he said.The mayor said it could be a scarf or a bandanna or anything homemade, but it should not be a surgical mask needed by medical workers.A recent study by researchers in Singapore became the latest to estimate that somewhere around 10% of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have not yet suffered symptoms.A bandanna might not prevent someone from coming into contact with the virus, but it could help a person who has it not give it to others when the sneeze, cough or breathe.The mayor of Los Angeles also told everyone in the city to start wearing masks on Wednesday.____VENTILATORS RUNNING LOWCuomo warned New York could be six days away from exhausting its supply of ventilators as the state reported 432 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to nearly 2,400.More than 13,300 people were hospitalized statewide with about 3,400 in intensive care.Ventilators have become the crucial piece of equipment sought by state and city officials as hundreds of patients a day are admitted to intensive care units.The state sent 400 ventilators to New York City and another 200 to its suburbs. But the governor saw problems ahead.“At the current burn rate, we have about six days of ventilators in our stockpile,” the governor said at a briefing at the Capitol.If supplies run short, the state is ready to use anesthesia and converted BiPAP machines, usually used to treat sleep apnea, or put more than one patient on a single ventilator.More than 92,000 state residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. The true number is likely much higher because officials have rationed tests and encouraged all but the most seriously ill people not to seek treatment and instead ride it out at home.Most people who get the virus experience mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and cough. Others, though, develop pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.___UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMSMore than 464,000 people have filed for unemployment in New York state in the three weeks since the pandemic shattered the economy, an increase of over 1,000% from the same period last year, according to the state Department of Labor.Last week alone, more than 369,000 unemployment claims were filed, an increase of more than 2,600% from the same time last year.The Department of Labor’s unemployment filing system has seen a 16,000% increase in phone calls and a nearly 900% increase in web traffic in recent weeks.___OUTBREAK SPREADSCases have now been confirmed in every county, with worrisome trends in some regions.Cuomo said Thursday that there’s a “troubling rise” in suburban Long Island and Westchester County.At the other end of the state, Buffalo and surrounding Erie County reporting 19 deaths and about 730 cases as of Thursday.Among those infected in Buffalo is Common Council President Darius Pridgen, along with three of his adult children. His daughter was taken off a ventilator late Wednesday and began breathing on her own just before Pridgen went live on Facebook to offer an update from his own quarantine, frequently coughing and his voice hoarse.“It was pretty rough for a couple of days,” he said of his daughter.Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center could be used as an intensive-care hospital if needed during the projected peak in late April or early May.___TEACHER DIESSandra Santos-Vizcaino, who taught third grade at an elementary school in Brooklyn, is the first New York City school teacher reported to have died of COVID-19.“This is a devastating tragedy,” schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Thursday. “Sandra was a beloved teacher at P.S. 9.”Santos-Vizcaino, 54, was a more than 20-year veteran of the city’s school system. She was recognized for her contributions to education in the Dominican Republic and won a grant to study bird sanctuaries there in 2009.“The notion that we’ve lost a teacher is very painful,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We lost a principal last week, a young woman full of extraordinary promise.”Brooklyn principal Dez-Ann Romain was the first city education employee reported to have died of the virus.Students in New York City haven't been to school since March 13.___PRISON MASKSAdministrators of the state prison system said they will allow guards to wear masks on duty. Staff had been prohibited from wearing masks unless medically necessary.Also, inmates subject to quarantine will be issued a surgical-type mask to further reduce the risk of any secondary transmission, officials said.The state corrections department said Thursday that 176 employees and 24 inmates have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.That includes Harvey Weinstein, the film producer serving 23 years for rape and sexual assault.___OTHER DEVELOPMENTSThe virus hasn't spared any part of New York City, but new data shows that a few poorer neighbourhoods in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn are getting hit especially hard.Cuomo’s press briefing included a live video appearance by his younger brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who has tested positive for coronavirus.New York state is racing to roughly triple its hospital capacity as coronavirus cases surge. Officials worry the massive effort won't be enough in the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.___Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo and Mary Esch in Albany contributed to this report.Marina Villeneuve And Michael Hill, The Associated Press
The ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic could get a boost if Canadians paid more attention to the relative humidity levels in public and private spaces, according to a growing body of international research.Doctors, scientists and engineers agree that sufficient indoor air moisture levels can have a powerful but little-understood effect on the transmission of airborne diseases. While the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is currently treated as one that's transmitted through droplet infection rather than the air, research on exactly how it passes between humans is still underway. Most buildings, however, fall short of the recommended threshold of 40 to 60 per cent relative humidity, particularly in countries with colder, dryer climates such as Canada. Addressing the issue now, they contend, could confer some immediate short-term benefits and offer a powerful tool for warding off similar epidemics in the future."Transmission is greater in dry air, infectivity is higher in dry air, and the ability of a human being to fight infection is impaired," said Dr. Stephanie Taylor, a graduate of and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. "Any one of those would be important, but all three of them are in play."Taylor concedes that the notion may seem counter-intuitive, saying the idea of humidity conjures images of fetid swamps and disease-bearing mosquitoes. But she said a growing body of research has suggested that relative humidity levels that are much more comfortable for humans offer a host of benefits.She said airborne particles carrying viruses can travel farther in air that isn't sufficiently hydrated. For reasons researchers are still probing, she also said viruses seem to be more infectious in those dryer conditions as well.Dr. Samira Mubareka, a medical microbiologist at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital and a member of a team that isolated the novel coronavirus, previously helped conduct research on the effect of temperature and humidity on influenza strains.The research, which evaluated data from Toronto over a roughly five-year period, found higher humidity levels seemed to help create less favourable conditions for viruses to thrive, particularly in colder overall temperatures."It was in that range of 50 to 60 (per cent) where we saw the least amount of transmission," she said.Researchers also said relative humidity levels have an effect on the human body's natural infection-fighting functions.Karen Bartlett, a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health, said proper hydration is necessary to ensure the health of everything from mucus membranes to eyes and skin."If we are between that 40 and 60 (per cent) relative humidity, we are also protecting our buildings and making it more comfortable for us," she said.But according to the international body that sets standards for the built environment in many countries including Canada, those benefits can't be obtained in the majority of public and private buildings.Robert Bean, a Calgary-based indoor climate consultant and distinguished lecturer with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, said Canadian buildings are advised to maintain humidity levels between 35 and 55 per cent.But he said Canada's relatively cold, dry climate can make it difficult to sustain those levels, particularly in older buildings.The greater the difference between indoor and outdoor humidity levels, he said, the greater the tendency for the inside air to flow outward and cause condensation, which can in turn lead to mould and other potential hazards.This tendency is at its peak in older buildings such as schools, he said, but added poor understanding of building standards is also a risk factor.Bean said international research has shown that less than five per cent of buildings currently comply with ASHRAE's standard dictating the environmental conditions for human occupancy, which includes relative humidity as a factor."If you had any other industry with such low knowledge of their standards, that industry would collapse," he said. But Bean said the trend is slowly starting to change, in part due to a growing understanding of the overlap between the engineering and medical communities."This whole issue with the virus is bringing up the importance of the built environment," he said. "It exposes the weaknesses that we have in the relationship between the building sciences and the health sciences."Taylor said individuals coping with self-isolation or practising physical distancing could benefit from boosting relative humidity levels in their own environments and called on public spaces to make such efforts a priority moving forward.But Mubareka stopped short of echoing her recommendations, saying too much is unknown about COVID-19 at this point."I wouldn't be surprised if the conditions were very similar, but until it's properly tested, I personally would hesitate to recommend the general public start implementing things of that nature," she said.Mubareka said all evidence available to date suggests measures to protect against droplet infections remain the best line of defence against COVID-19, particularly regular hand-washing, the use of masks for health-care workers and those showing symptoms, and physical distancing for the rest of the public.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020. Michelle McQuuigge, The Canadian Press
The health care workforce across Canada questions whether they’re prepared for a surge of COVID-19 cases as more fall ill and protective equipment runs low.
Between surgeries at The Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Kerianne Boulva is trying to figure out how she and her husband can do their jobs and look after their two-and-a-half-year-old son. Boulva, a surgical oncology fellow at the hospital, had thought an emergency daycare plan for essential workers was imminent after the province announced on March 22 the facilities would be open by the end of that week.Now, 12 days later, police officers, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, government of Ontario employees and doctors like Boulva are still waiting to hear about any kind of plan. "Ever since that has been announced there essentially hasn't been anything made available in the Ottawa region, so it's been a little bit disappointing," Boulva said. CBC has put requests in to the city for answers almost daily since March 23. The repeated response is that the city is "actively working on establishing child care centres for essential workers," but no details have been provided.Open in other citiesEmergency daycare centres have opened in several Ontario cities including Toronto, Cornwall and Peterborough, according to this list published by the province. "When I tried to call the City of Ottawa's children's services branch, no one answers. So it's not super encouraging, and we don't know how long this is going to go on," Boulva said.If and when the emergency daycare centres do open up, she and other essential workers have questions about how they'll operate — the ratios and other protocols put in place to keep kids, staff and families safe, especially when it comes to the children of health-care workers who have potential exposure to COVID-19. ER doctor felt 'like a leper'Dr. Lesley Spencer, an emergency room doctor who works in hospitals in Kemptville and Smiths Falls, Ont., has been scrambling to arrange care for her two kids, ages six and two. When schools and daycare centres first closed, Spencer's mother-in-law was watching the children, but that was putting her at risk. "We heard about the health-care daycares that were supposed to open, but honestly that just sounds like everybody who's [at] high risk of contracting [COVID-19] sending all their undiagnosed children to the same place and then everybody getting it," Spencer said. She and her husband decided to look for a nanny to come into their home, but she said as soon as she told potential sitters she's an ER doctor, they weren't interested in taking the job. "I kind of felt a bit like a leper," Spencer said. She eventually did find someone to look after her kids, but Spencer knows not everyone can afford that option, and she's concerned about other essential workers who are still without child care."The grocery store workers, they're making what, 15, maybe 20 bucks an hour?" she said. "There needs to be that kind of centre, and if it's not heavily, heavily subsidized or free, then it's useless."
As governments rush to offer financial relief packages to homeowners, renters, small businesses and employees impacted by COVID-19, some Canadians are wondering why credit card bills aren't included in those measures.Most Canadians pay an interest rate that's far higher on their credit cards than they do for other forms of debt, which can make them an even more onerous burden that they have to carry in these unprecedented economic times.Vicky Assad runs a small digital print shop in Ottawa. She has been in business for 23 years, and up until two weeks ago, 2020 was poised to be a decent year for her financially. But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that, just as it has for many Canadians. She says she's doing what she can to keep her business afloat and keep her staff of five on the payroll, but the interest rates between 13 and 23 per cent that she has on three different personal and business credit cards are making a hard job even harder. "I would like to make the minimum payment on my credit cards, but the interest rate is going to really hurt me," she told CBC News. "I am hearing a lot from the government about relief to the average Canadian, but I am not hearing anything about lowering credit card interest rates ... why [is that] not a priority?"Calgarian Mario Baggio finds himself asking the same question."Some credit cards charge 29 per cent, which seems ridiculous during these times," he told CBC News. "What are financial institutions and credit card companies doing to help out Canadians and seniors during this crisis?"Rates capped at 60%Unlike mortgage rates, which are largely priced based on what's happening at the Bank of Canada or the bond market, the rules concerning how much a lender can charge for a credit card are far more profitable.By law, interest rates of more than 60 per cent per year are forbidden, but most of Canada's 75 million active credit cards charge much less than that, around 20 per cent per year. The Canadian Bankers Association says there are 30 different credit cards available for Canadians right now that charge under 13 per cent per year.That's still much higher than rates for other forms of debt, including mortgages and business loans, and there are, indeed, many valid reasons why that's the case. Credit cards are known as "unsecured" debt because the credit on them isn't secured to any specific asset — there's no collateral against the loan.That differs from something like a mortgage, where the loan is secured against the house, which theoretically makes it easier for the lender to seize that asset should the borrower not pay their bills.Credit cards have higher rates in order to offset that higher risk, but the rates are still high considering how relatively low the default rate is. Credit monitoring firm TransUnion says that at the end of last year, less than three per cent of Canadians were more than 90 days behind on their credit card's minimum payment.The average Canadian credit card had about $4,326 on it as of the end of December.'Take action to alleviate the burden': TrudeauPrime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government is working with credit card providers to offer some sort of relief to customers."We recognize that they are a significant challenge for many Canadians at this point," Trudeau said at his daily press conference on March 26. "That is why we are encouraging them to take action to alleviate the burden for Canadians."Last month, Canada's five biggest banks — the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank and CIBC — came out in unison with pledges to work with homeowners to offer interest-rate relief on their loans if necessary.They all say they are also working closely with customers who have business loans to make sure they can stay afloat.The joint statement said the banks would also offer "the opportunity for relief on other credit products" but have had scant details to add to that since. Bank association promises reliefThe Canadian Bankers Association told CBC News in an email that its members have "stepped up to help our country work through these challenging times."Its mortgage relief programs have been inundated with more than 213,000 requests for payments deferrals, the association said.The CBA says the big banks are willing to work with their customers who are having trouble with credit card debt to find solutions, but its statement did not give specifics of what that might look like."Banks will work with their customers to offer relief on other credit products, including credit cards and lines of credit," the CBA said."Many banks have programs to help their customers make their debt more manageable and structure the right solution, including rolling in credit card debt into term products with lower interest rates. Banks will work with Canadians to help them manage credit effectively during this difficult time."That pledge stops well short of an across-the-board rate cut, something some politicians have been pushing for.NDP finance critic Peter Julian and industry critic Brian Masse have been calling on the federal government for days to ask banks and credit card companies to lower interest rates."So far, the government has found ways to help corporations right away, but they are still making Canadians wait weeks," said Masse in a statement."Waiving the interest on credit cards for two months would immediately help Canadians get through until the federal programs kick in."NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also called on the government to mandate lower rates in an interview with the CBC's Power & Politics last week.Quebec-based credit union Desjardins has implemented an across the board rate cut to 10.9 per cent to all of its credit card holders during the current crisis, and PC Financial was set to increase the rate on its PC Financial MasterCard by one percentage point starting next month — from 19.97 per cent to 20.97 per cent per year — but has shelved that plan, citing the "unprecedented times." "We've been closely monitoring as this situation evolves and have decided to defer this change until further notice," PC Financial told CBC News in a statement."We've also been working with customers, case by case, who may be experiencing financial hardships during this time. We hope this can offer some relief for customers and their families."
Zoom has emerged as an indispensable video conferencing tool for remote work and study as millions of people are forced to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But a growing number of so-called Zoom-bombing incidents is prompting warnings from the FBI and from the victims themselves.People participating in meetings and lessons via video conference platforms like Zoom can find their screens hijacked by malicious actors who can put words and images on the screen and in the chat box or create havoc with the audio. Dennis Johnson said he was in the middle of a video conference defending his doctoral dissertation — about the struggles of African Americans in California's education system — when he started seeing profanity appear on the screen."I'm talking about ... students of colour, specifically black students," said Johnson, 28, in a Skype interview from Long Beach, Calif. " As I'm talking about this, I see a circle on my screen ... then another circle and then I see another shape. It's a penis."Then he saw letters spelling out the N-word.Johnson says he froze. Seconds later, pornographic images began appearing all over the shared screen. Eventually, someone on the call was able to remove the uninvited culprit from the group.WATCH | Dennis Johnson is helpless to stop an online attack during his doctoral defence (graphic images and language have been blurred)He is the first college graduate in his family, so his mother and 68-year-old grandmother were watching the presentation along with his professors. He says even after he regained his composure and was told he had passed, feelings of sadness replaced what should have been pride."I spent three years working on this paper, you know, working on this research," he said. "This moment was taken away from me in front of my family, in front of my friends. I was disrespected on a level that I could never imagine."Zoom-bombing is becoming more frequent in Canada, as well, with unidentified visitors entering private online meetings and classrooms to spew racial and sexist slurs.Russ Klein, the head of a Jewish high school in Vancouver, told CBC News that a community gathering the school was hosting on Zoom on Tuesday was infiltrated.Earlier this week, a 250-guest virtual town hall held by YWCA Canada to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on women was Zoom-bombed as well. "They started shouting racial epithets, they shouted the N-word," said YWCA Canada CEO, Maya Roy. "Two YWCA employees were sexually harassed. Comments were made about them in the chat function."FBI issues warning, tipsThe number of incidents, known among security experts as "video teleconferencing (VTC) hijacking," has been alarming enough that it prompted a warning from the FBI earlier this week."The best mitigation strategy at this point is just to let a lot of the users know that this is going on, because they're going to be the ones that are able to protect themselves best," Boston-based FBI special agent Doug Domin, who primarily works on cyber cases, told CBC News.The agency also released a tip sheet that included the following: * Keep VTC meetings private by issuing users a password or employing the "waiting room" function, which requires the host to invite each guest individually. * Don't share invitation links on social media. * Keep software updated to stay on top of any security patches provided by VTC companies.Response from ZoomBut both Roy and Johnson say they took precautions: Johnson says his faculty used the waiting room function to monitor who was part of the dissertation meeting, and Roy says while the YWCA town hall was promoted on Twitter, joining it was password-protected.They say Zoom — whose shares have doubled in price since the COVID-19 crisis erupted in January and has experienced record downloads — should take more responsibility.Johnson started an online petition to compel the VTC company to improve its security features. By Thursday night, it had amassed more than 30,000 signatures.Zoom, which has already been forced to apologize for not being forthcoming about its security limitations, says it's providing guidance to help virtual classrooms and meetings stay safe. But it hasn't specified any plans to offer additional controls for users to prevent harassment and online attacks."We strongly encourage hosts to review their settings, confirm that only the host can share their screen, and utilize features like host mute controls and 'Waiting Room,'" Zoom said in a statement to CBC News.A report released Friday by the Citizen Lab, a tech and security research group based at the University of Toronto, says there is a "vulnerability" associated with Zoom's "waiting room" function. But no details were provided in the research to ensure hackers don't take advantage of it.The report also says Zoom's encryption, which the company has previously claimed to be "end-to-end" and robust, does not meet industry-standard techniques and is not suitable for sensitive communications.Marginalized groups a targetJohnson and Roy say Zoom-bombing should be investigated as hate speech because marginalized groups appear to be the main targets."Women, people of colour, Jewish community groups and the queer community," said Roy. "The onus shouldn't be on us to protect ourselves against hate online."While Domin says the FBI is looking into a handful of incidents in Boston, "it's a difficult process to conduct an investigation over borders.""There's no accountability online," he said.The FBI also says it's hard to quantify how these types of security invasions can affect people personally, but children in particular who are exposed to graphic material or racist messages in an online classroom, for example, can have a tough time understanding what happened and why.Johnson says even as an adult, it's been difficult to process his own experience. He says the incident will have a lasting effect."Whenever somebody says 'Dr. Dennis Johnson,' I'm going to remember that moment and I'm going to be saddened a little," said Johnson. "But I'm also going to remember that you have to push and you have to continue and don't stop."