2 more deaths, 170 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario as officials warn number could 'go up again'

Ontario reported 170 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday morning, the largest single-day increase in the province since the outbreak began.

The additional cases bring the provincial tally to 858. That total includes 15 deaths and eight cases that are resolved.

Of the people infected, 29 are in ICU in hospital, 20 of them on ventilators. Two of the patients are in their 20s. Information for dozens more cases is listed as "pending."

Ontario saw six new deaths reported since Wednesday morning, when officials reported a total of nine.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said of the new deaths, one was in Ottawa, three were in Toronto and two were in Durham Region.

Yaffe added that of the cases that have had their public health investigation completed, exposure information is still missing for about 38 per cent. A quarter of the cases are believed to have taken place through community spread.

"We do know 60 per cent had travelled in the days prior to becoming ill, 15 per cent had a close contact with a close case, 25 per cent had neither a history of travel nor contact with a confirmed case, so they were likely acquired in the community," Yaffe said.

"Those who travelled outside of Canada, the United States and Europe remain the most popular destinations."

Pierre-Olivier Bernatchez/CBC

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams said at an afternoon news conference that the number of cases across the country are "going up rapidly," and he would not be surprised to see a further jump in Ontario.

He pointed out that social distancing and physical separation measures first kicked in about two weeks ago with the announcement of schools closing beyond the March break and people being told not to travel.

"At the same time on that weekend announcement, people started to return — having been away — in ever increasing numbers. It especially escalated during the week starting Monday the 16th and growing in that time," Williams said.

"I think if you look at the timelines … it's not surprising that we're going to see our numbers rising right now because the number of people that started to come back into Canada started to rise over the weekend after the 12th and 13th … and we knew that more and more came back during the week of the 16th up until this past weekend.

"So, it would not be surprising to me to see our numbers in the next few days go up again," Williams added.

He explained that there are two things that could impact the numbers — more people coming back from overseas and potentially incubating; and the province's lab testing capabilities starting to ramp up even further.

10,965 people awaiting test results

There are approximately 10,965 people awaiting test results. Some 2,439 tests were completed in the past 24 hours, and there remains a backlog of at least, on average, four days. That's despite Ontario's health minister Christine Elliott saying that she expects the province to be able to to process some 5,000 each day by the end of this week.

So far, a total of 38,550 people have been approved for testing, the province has said.

Premier Doug Ford spoke to reporters from Queen's Park Thursday afternoon, one day after his government introduced a multi-billion dollar support package intended to help ease the burden of the COVID-19 outbreak on health-care workers, businesses and families.

"It's an unprecedented plan for an unprecedented time," Ford said.

Elliott told reporters that $341 million of that funding will go toward creating 1,000 acute care and 500 critical care beds.

The number of resolved cases is likely to increase considerably in coming days, with public health officials changing the criteria for how cases are recorded. Until now, a case was not considered resolved until the infected person had two negative tests, performed at least 24 hours apart.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Yaffe said that the backlog on coronavirus tests has made that criteria untenable. Instead, a case will be marked resolved if the infected person feels fine after a two-week isolation period. 

Yaffe also said Wednesday that those with mild symptoms will no longer be tested for COVID-19, and will instead be told to immediately self-isolate.

Meanwhile, memos obtained by CBC News suggest that major Toronto hospitals are rationing surgical masks and in some cases, administrators are urging nurses to use just one mask for an entire shift.

Elliott has repeatedly said that there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line health-care workers, and on Thursday insisted there is no rationing.

"If they need the masks, they will get the masks," she said, adding that decisions about how masks are distributed are being "made by hospitals."

"As of today, we certainly have the supplies we need," she said.

The province has also asked business if they can provide key equipment and supplies.

CBC News

Temporary changes to alcohol sales

Also on Thursday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is temporarily allowing licensed restaurants and bars in the province to sell alcohol with food takeout and delivery orders between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.

The AGCO said the change was put into place because service industry businesses are among some of the hardest hit by the spread of COVID-19.

The alcohol can be transported by a third party, like a food delivery service. 

Similarly, authorized grocery stores and liquor retailers can start selling alcohol at 7 a.m., the AGCO said, "in order to support early shopping programs for vulnerable people and to provide greater flexibility to retail stores."

Ford said Thursday that retailers had been asking for this change.

"I think it's a good idea, if people don't have to leave their homes," he said.

Premier denounces price gouging

Ford also took aim at retailers who are reportedly jacking up their prices at his latest press conference, after he was asked about a company that was charging $30 for cleaning wipes.

"That's disgusting," Ford said.

He added that the province is going to make price gouging "illegal," and is planning an order to that effect.

He also had a message for any retailer that is found to be inflating its prices to an extreme: "We're going to come after you hard." 

More cases at long-term care homes

Additional cases of COVID-19 in long-term care homes are surfacing in the GTA.

Sienna Senior Living, which owns and operates a network of long-term care facilities and retirement homes throughout Ontario and B.C., says one of its staff members, as well as a resident, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The staff member works at the Altamont Care Community, while the resident lives at Rockcliffe Care Community. Both facilities are in Scarborough.

Evan Mitsui/CBC

In a statement, the company said that anti-coronavirus protocols were already in place by the time the tests were completed and that it is now working closely with Toronto Public Health to prevent any further spread inside its residences.

The news comes as public health officials in Durham Region work to contain an outbreak at the Hillsdale Terraces long-term care home in Oshawa. Five residents have tested positive — including one who died — while 28 others are in isolation.

Toronto's Luminato Festival cancelled because of COVID-19

Also Thursday, organizers announced that the Luminato Festival, which draws artists from around the world to Toronto, has been cancelled this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival was launched in 2007 to help revive the city's cultural scene in the wake of 2003's SARS outbreak.

Organizers said they were mindful of these origins in making the decision to cancel this June's festival to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"Everyone at Luminato is determined to do whatever we can to help ensure that Toronto's cultural community survives this critical period," CEO Anthony Sargent and artistic director Naomi Campbell said in a statement Thursday.

 "We will play our part to help rebuild all the things that will need rebuilding."

More than 40 cultural events were scheduled to take place across Toronto between June 11 and 28.

  • 'Worse' pandemic on horizon unless world deals with wildlife markets

    'Worse' pandemic on horizon unless world deals with wildlife markets

    The continued existence of wildlife markets, which are considered potential breeding grounds for the spread of harmful viruses, means it's just a matter of time before the world is hit with another deadly pandemic, some scientists suggest."If we do not deal with this, there is nothing to say that we could not in eighteen months' time have another outbreak, and it could be worse," said Kerry Bowman, an assistant professor and bioethicist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health.Scientists believe the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 emerged from one of these wildlife markets — also known as "wet markets" — in the Chinese city of Wuhan, possibly through an infected bat.Bats are just one of the animals that are sold at these markets, where customers come to purchase domestic livestock and wildlife, including pigs, chickens, civet cats, bamboo rats, porcupines and pangolins.But Bowman said shutting down such markets may prove extremely challenging, as these cultural practices date back thousands of years and have become part of a multi-billion-dollar global industry.Spillover eventBowman said the main concern with these markets is a spillover event, when viruses transfer from one species to another and then cross over to humans.On very rare occasions, humans will transmit that virus from one person to another, which is what occurred with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and, by all indications, is happening with COVID-19.WATCH | An explainer on where the coronavirus came from"Mathematically, this is not a common occurrence. But if you actually wanted to create a laboratory-like experiment to design the conditions for a spillover event, you would create the kind of wildlife market that you have in China," Bowman said.In a recent video message about COVID-19, famed primatologist Jane Goodall warned that the close relationship between people and wild animals in these markets "has unleashed the terror and misery of new viruses."SARS may have spread to humans through wild mammals. The Ebola epidemics in west and central Africa are thought to have originated from bats, while Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is suspected to have come from camels.All of these infected animals were in wildlife markets, where every day millions of people around the world still get their food.Not just in ChinaBowman emphasized that China is not the only culprit, nor is Asia "the only continent in the world that has this challenge.""But it's particularly tenacious in the Far East, and extends into Vietnam, a lot of Southeast Asia, Indonesia," he said.In February, China announced a ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals. But it also imposed tough restrictions following the SARS outbreak in 2003, only to see the industry slowly re-emerge. Many environmentalists say such bans contain loopholes.The selling of wild animals accounts for "a significant portion of the economy. And it has created an economic opportunity for a lot of people," Bowman said.There are different estimates, but Bowman said the size of the global wildlife trade is pegged at somewhere between $7 billion to $23 billion US a year.Animals in unsanitary conditionsBowman, who conducts research on this issue, said when he last visited a market in Wuhan, he counted 57 species of animals, about two-thirds of them wild, mostly of Asian origin. Cages were stacked on top of each other, in unsanitary conditions.He said operators had "high-powered hoses that are blasting around urine, feces, blood from one cage to another to another to another."In terms of the general concepts of infectious diseases, wildlife markets are "a perfect opportunity for the mixing of bacteria and viruses as well as transmission to other groups," said Jason Stull, assistant professor at the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College.Not only that, but stress and malnutrition reduce the immune system of animals and potentially exacerbate this problem, Stull said. For example, an animal under duress may be more likely to shed higher amounts of virus."All of these things likely can contribute to movement back and forth of diseases," Stull said.Many infectious diseases linked to wildlifeAccording to the EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based organization that conducts scientific research into emerging infectious diseases, about three-fourths of all such diseases are somehow linked to wildlife.William Karesh, executive vice president for health and policy at the EcoHealth Alliance, said the current coronavirus outbreak was likely spread in two possible ways. It could have been a wild animal being sold in the market that contaminated the market. It's also possible that a vendor in the market was infected somewhere else and then infected their customers.The animals that end up in the market are coming from two places — hunted in the wild or bred on farms.WATCH | How bats likely spread the novel coronavirusBowman said there are deep cultural roots with this industry — thousands of years of tradition of eating wild animals. As well, the animals are used for traditional Chinese medicine, luxury goods and the pet trade."What's really changed is that this has gone from occasional domestic use with emerging populations in combination with the burgeoning wealth to a massive commercial enterprise," Bowman said.Focus should be on educationKaresh said ending these practices will take time, likely generations, and can only be done through education and helping countries improve their food systems.He suggested that instead of banning all wildlife trade, countries should focus on those animals that are more likely to have viruses that can be transmitted to humans — like rodents, bats and non-human primates.He said the international community must come to grips with the growing and unsustainable use of wildlife, or we will "continue to see pandemics.""There are three to five emerging diseases every year, and only by luck and the grace of God ... they don't turn into pandemics each time."

  • A defiant Maduro threatens 'cowboy' Trump after drug charge
    The Canadian Press

    A defiant Maduro threatens 'cowboy' Trump after drug charge

    MIAMI — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro stood defiant in the face of a $15 million bounty by the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges, calling Donald Trump a “racist cowboy” and warning that he is ready to fight by whatever means necessary should the U.S. and neighbouring Colombia dare to invade.Maduro's bellicose remarks Thursday night came hours after the U.S. announced sweeping indictments against the socialist leader and several members of his inner circle for allegedly converting Venezuela into a criminal enterprise at the service of drug traffickers and terrorist groups.One indictment by prosecutors in New York accused Maduro and socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello, head of the rubber-stamp constitutional assembly, of conspiring with Colombian rebels and members of the military “to flood the United States with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America.”Maduro, a former bus driver who fashions himself an everyman icon of the Latin American left, said the charges were politically motivated. He said they ignore U.S. ally Colombia's role as the main source of the world's cocaine and his own role in facilitating peace talks between Colombia's government and that country''s rebels over the past decade.“Donald Trump, you are a miserable human being," Maduro railed during his televised address. “You manage international relations like a New York mafia extortion artist you once were as a real estate boss.”What was some of Maduro's most venomous rhetoric ever against Trump also came with a threat of military force: “If one day the imperialists and Colombian oligarchy dare to touch even a single hair, they will face the Bolivarian fury of an entire nation that will wipe them all out."Earlier, Venezuela's chief prosecutor opened an investigation against opposition leader Juan Guaidó for allegedly plotting a coup with retired army Gen. Cliver Alcalá, who after being named in the U.S. indictments said he had stockpiled assault weapons in Colombia for a cross-border incursion. Without offering evidence, Maduro said the Drug Enforcement Administration was behind a plan by Alcalá to assassinate him and other political leaders.The indictment of a functioning head of state is highly unusual and is bound to ratchet up tensions with Washington as the spread of the coronavirus threatens to collapse Venezuela’s shortage-plagued health system. Maduro has ordered Venezuelans to stay home in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which officials say has infected 107 people and claimed its first death Thursday.Criminal acts to advance a drug and weapons conspiracy that dates back to the start of Hugo Chavez's revolution in 1999 occurred as far afield as Syria, Mexico, Honduras and Iran, the indictment alleges. Attorney General William Barr estimated the conspiracy helped smuggle as much as 250 metric tons of cocaine a year out of South America.“The Maduro regime is awash in corruption and criminality,” Barr said in an online news conference from Washington. “While the Venezuelan people suffer, this cabal lines their pockets with drug money, and the proceeds of their corruption. And this has to come to an end.”The co-ordinated unsealing of indictments against 14 officials and government-connected individuals, along with the announcement of rewards of $55 million against Maduro and four others, attacked all the key planks of what Barr called the “corrupt Venezuelan regime," including the Maduro-dominated judiciary and the powerful armed forces.In Miami, prosecutors charged Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno with laundering in the U.S. at least $3 million in illegal proceeds from case fixing in Venezuela, including one involving a General Motors factory. Much of the money he spent on private aircraft, luxury watches and shopping at Prada, prosecutors allege.Maduro's defence minister, Gen. Vladimir Padrino, was charged with conspiracy to smuggle narcotics in a May 2019 indictment unsealed in Washington.“This announcement is a major blow for Maduro who has been running Venezuela like a mafia state, with rampant corruption and widespread atrocities, and absolute impunity," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director of Human Rights Watch. “With this indictment he may now lose his aura of invincibility, of being completely above the law, which is very welcome news.”But its unclear how it brings Venezuela any closer to ending a 15-month standoff between Maduro, who has the support of Russia and China, and the U.S.-backed Guaidó. It also could fragment the U.S.-led coalition against Maduro if European and Latin American allies think the Trump administration is overreaching. An estimated 5 million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years, fleeing hyperinflation and widespread food and medicine shortages.“It's an incredibly dangerous gamble to redouble the offensive against Maduro's regime when the priority must be to shore up the country's collapsing health system and prevent an even worse migrant exodus,” said Ivan Briscoe, the Latin America director for the Crisis Group. “These U.S. charges could spell doom for any thaw, expose Guaidó to grave risks, and appear high-handedly indifferent to the immediate suffering of Venezuela's people.”Maduro has long accused the U.S. "empire" of looking for any excuse to take control of the world’s largest oil reserves, likening its plotting to the 1989 invasion of Panama and the removal of strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega to face drug trafficking charges in Florida.Barr and Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s special envoy on Venezuela, are driving the hawkish U.S. stance toward Maduro, much as they pushed for Noriega’s ouster in the late 1980s — Barr as a senior Justice Department official and Abrams as assistant secretary of state for Latin America.U.S. officials see other parallels as well. Noriega transformed Panama into a playground for violent, international drug cartels, and the Trump administration has accused Maduro and his military henchmen of harbouring drug traffickers, guerrillas from Colombia and even Hezbollah, a designated terrorist group.They also have accused government officials together with well-connected businessmen of stealing hundreds of billions of dollars from the state coffers, much of it from state oil giant PDVSA, which has seen its production plunge to a seven-decade low.Still, charging Maduro was no easy task. Sitting foreign leaders normally enjoy immunity from prosecution under U.S. law and international norms.But the U.S. is among 60 countries that no longer consider Maduro a head of state even if he does hold de facto power. They instead recognize Guaidó, the head of the congress, as Venezuela’s rightful leader following the socialist’s re-election in a 2018 race marred by allegations of fraud and an opposition boycott.The evidence against Maduro was collected over several years by investigators in Miami, New York, Houston and Washington who have brought drug trafficking, foreign bribery and money-laundering charges against several senior Venezuelan officials, members of the military and government-connected businessmen.To the surprise of many, Maduro has stubbornly clung to power. The Trump administration raised the ante last fall, withdrawing support for a Norway-sponsored mediation effort and extending sanctions so that even foreign companies faced retaliation for extending Maduro a lifeline.Separately, Barr prioritized investigations into Maduro’s inner circle, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal Justice Department deliberations.The pressure to deliver, the people said, went into overdrive around the time Guaidó visited Washington in February and Trump praised him as his guest at the State of the Union address, calling him “a very brave man, who carries with him the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Venezuelans.”Frank Mora, a former Pentagon official, said the U.S. is right to condemn Maduro and others for repressing his people, stealing from state coffers and turning Venezuela into a criminal state.But he worries the indictments play more into the emotion of voters in Florida — a must-win state for Trump where Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans fleeing authoritarian governments have political muscle — than help address the country’s grinding crisis.“We’re not going to go in and capture him,” said Mora, who now heads the Latin America studies institute at Florida International University. “This isn’t about regime change or restoring democracy to Venezuela. It’s about electoral politics.”___Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman reported this story in Miami and AP writer Scott Smith reported from Caracas, Venezuela. AP writers Jim Mustian in New York and Michael Balsamo and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.Joshua Goodman And Scott Smith, The Associated Press

  • US cases now most in world, US capital sees more infections
    The Canadian Press

    US cases now most in world, US capital sees more infections

    TORONTO — The United States' caseload of coronavirus infections surged to the most in the world and its capital reported more infections, as Italy shut most of its industry and masses of Indian day labourers received food rations after a lockdown put them out of work.Increases in the number of cases have been expected as testing becomes more available. The U.S. passed China with more than 85,000 cases, and Italy also exceeded 80,000, the three countries together accounting for almost half of the world's infections from the new virus.Most of China's patients have recovered, while places where the virus arrived later are now dealing with overwhelmed hospitals and supply shortages and are rushing to convert public spaces for treating the sick.Washington, D.C., confirmed 36 new cases Thursday, raising its total to 267. The district is under a state of emergency, its major attractions like the Smithsonian museums and National Zoo closed and White House and Capitol tours cancelled. Police have blocked off streets, bridges and traffic circles to prevent crowds coming to see Washington’s blooming cherry blossom trees.The stay-home order for India's 1.3 billion people threw out of work the backbone of the nation’s economy — rickshaw drivers, fruit peddlers, cleaners and others who buy food from whatever they can earn in a day. The government announced a $22 billion stimulus to deliver monthly rations to 800 million people.In some parts of India, people got rice rations or bank deposits from local authorities, and aid groups were working to expand their reach. The nation's vital and massive train system was also halted, and jobless workers are now attempting to walk hundreds of miles to their home villages from India's major cities.Deaths from COVID-19 have surpassed 24,000, more than a third of them in Italy, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. The U.S. had about 1,300 deaths, almost a quarter of them in New York City, where hospitals are overwhelmed.In China, where the virus was first believed to have jumped from wild animals to humans, the National Health Commission on Friday reported 55 new cases, including 54 it said were imported infections in recent arrivals from overseas. Once again, there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the provincial capital where the coronavirus emerged in December. China is barring most foreigners from entering as it tries to curb imported cases.The economic damage of the pandemic was growing. Italy shut down most of its industry, and a record-shattering 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a single week.Companies in Europe are laying off workers at the fastest pace since 2009, according to surveys of business managers. And the U.S. is bleeding jobs as well: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week was nearly five times the old record, set in 1982.Dann Dykas, 37, of Portland, Oregon, was laid off from his job helping design and set up displays for trade shows.“Everything is so surreal," he said. "I can't even get an interview for another job, and we now have to worry more about being careful and taking care of ourselves.”Wall Street rallied for the third straight day after an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to help businesses, hospitals and ordinary Americans pull through the crisis won passage in the Senate. The rescue plan, which is expected to be voted on in the House on Friday, would dispense checks of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.Elsewhere around the world, South Africa, with the most industrialized economy in Africa, began a three-week lockdown Friday. The country is already in recession, with an unemployment rate of 29%.And Britain unveiled another relief effort, this time aimed at the gig economy, many of whose workers are facing financial ruin. The government will give the self-employed grants equal to 80% of their average profits, up to 2,500 pounds ($2,975) per month.The outbreak has put huge pressure on foreign students, especially those at universities in North America and Europe.Zoey Wang recently returned home to the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu after her in-person classes and exams at the University of Toronto in Canada were cancelled. Her parents' desire to have her home and the possibility of high medical costs if she became sick persuaded her to make the arduous return trip, she said.Some on Chinese social media have attacked returning students for bringing "poison" into the country after its months-long fight to contain the virus, but Wang said that was unfair."It's not like everyone is deliberately returning because they were infected," Wang said. "People should remember that when the outbreak happened in China, international students were sending masks and other items."Wang flew from Toronto to Taipei, Taiwan, then from Taipei to Chengdu. The Chengdu leg was packed; everyone wore masks, most people donned goggles and gloves, and a few were garbed in full-body protective suits.When she arrived in Chengdu, she was required to take a COVID-19 test and stay in a hotel for two nights until her results came back negative. Only then was she allowed to return to her own home for quarantine. Every day, a government neighbourhood committee worker comes to take her temperature.In other developments:— New York state’s death toll jumped by 100 in one day, pushing the number to 385. Gov. Andrew Cuomo added that the number will increase as critically ill patients who have been on ventilators for several days succumb. “That is a situation where people just deteriorate over time,” Cuomo said.— Saudi Arabia is locking down the capital, Riyadh, and Islam's two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, in addition to a nationwide curfew. In the United Arab Emirates, authorities announced an overnight weekend lockdown and used drones to tell people to stay home.— The leaders of the Group of 20 major industrialized nations met in a video summit and vowed to work together to confront the crisis but made no specific commitments.— In Brazil, the country's governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns is worse than the disease. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,500 cases and 59 deaths.— A U.S. soldier stationed at a camp near Seoul is the second case among U.S. service members in South Korea.— Singapore has begun penalizing people who refuse to adhere to social distancing in the latest bid to curb the virus. Anyone not maintaining a distance of 1 metre (3.3 feet) from another person in a public place such as a shopping centre or shopping mall can be jailed up to six months or fined up to Singapore dollars 10,000 ($7,000) or both.For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.Of the world's 532,000 confirmed cases, more than 122,000 people have recovered, according to the Johns Hopkins tally.___Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.Yanan Wang, The Associated Press

  • COVID-19 in Canada: 'Do not estimate the severity of this disease'
    Yahoo News Canada

    COVID-19 in Canada: 'Do not estimate the severity of this disease'

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

  • Leaders detail concerns about COVID-19 impacts on Indigenous populations
    The Canadian Press

    Leaders detail concerns about COVID-19 impacts on Indigenous populations

    OTTAWA — Indigenous leaders from across Canada say they are worried supports promised by the federal government to help First Nations, Inuit and Metis deal with the fallout of COVID-19 might not do enough to prevent the most vulnerable people from falling through the cracks.The Assembly of First Nations declared a state of emergency for its First Nations this week, saying the money Ottawa has committed to date will not go far enough to meet the unique needs of Indigenous populations facing this pandemic."This is about the health and safety of First Nations families and communities," said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. "We need to act now."The Liberal government has pledged $305 million for a new Indigenous community support fund to address immediate needs related to COVID-19.That includes $215 million for First Nations, to be allocated to communities based on their well-being, population, and how remote they are. There is also $45 million for Inuit and $30 million for Metis communities. Another $15 million will go to Indigenous organizations supporting people living away from their communities, as well as regional organizations.Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the money will flow directly to Indigenous communities, and be flexible so they can help them adapt their responses to local needs."We'll do this quickly and with a sense of urgency that this situation obviously necessitates," he said Wednesday in Ottawa. "I want to stress that this is only one of the financial measures that we are contemplating for First Nations, Inuit and Metis."David Chartrand, vice-president of the Metis National Council, said some of the money headed to Metis communities will help carry people as they wait for broader emergency support benefits to come through.But he wondered why Metis communities are not being given supplies like hand sanitizer and protective equipment that has been delivered to neighbouring First Nations."We live right next to reserves, they were dropping off supplies there, they should have been dropping off supplies to our communities," Chartrand said.In Canada's North, Inuit communities are especially vulnerable to severe outcomes from both illness and disruption of services, says Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.Not only are Inuit in the North already more susceptible to respiratory illnesses from overcrowded housing, poverty and food insecurity, they also rely on outside jurisdictions — mainly urban centres — for most health services."We have very vulnerable populations and the access to care and the crisis response that would need to be mobilized are all very challenging, tough, unique circumstances," Obed said.Inuit leaders and communities have received assurances from Ottawa the federal government will be there to help in the event of an outbreak, and Obed says he feels confident the government is being vigilant.But he still worries about the larger economic impact the pandemic is having on his homeland, the traditional territory known as Inuit Nunangat, especially since 49 of 51 communities can only be reached by air for much of the year."The incredible strain that COVID-19 is placing upon our airline industry is especially stark in relation to Inuit Nunangat," Obed said."There will have to be some very innovative solutions in short order to ensure our communities continue to get the perishable goods and services that they need," he said.Many Inuit women face additional challenges, especially in Nunavut where there are high rates of domestic violence. More than 70 per cent of Inuit communities currently lack safe shelters.The need to stay home and self-isolate while families could also be dealing with the stress of lost income due to the pandemic will only exacerbate the danger to women at risk, Rebecca Kudloo, president of the Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada."When people are isolated in their homes, family violence is going to go up, especially in the North where there is overcrowding and sometimes it's very difficult to distance yourself from others. That's a big concern," she said.Days before the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, Pauktuutit was calling on the federal government to "urgently" provide $20 million for shelters and second-stage transitional housing in Inuit Nunangat and in Ottawa for Inuit women and children fleeing violence.Since then, the government has announced $50 million for women's shelters to address this very concern, but Kudloo says this will be spread very thin across the country.Meanwhile, some Indigenous leaders are worried about how Indigenous Peoples outside distinct communities or reserves, including those living in urban centres, will get help in the event of a major outbreak.National Chief Robert Bertrand of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents off-reserve status and non-status Indigenous Peoples, said he is concerned about the homeless and those in prison who are unable to self-isolate at home."The people living in the streets ... those people are congregating just to keep warm all together. And the off-reserve in our prison system right now — once the coronavirus gets into the prison system it's going to spread like wildfire."Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women's Association, is concerned about mothers and families who do not live on reserves not getting the same supports as those who do.There is also worry about elders feeling lonely in self-isolation and questions about how traditional and cultural ceremonies and practices such as sweats, round dances and pipe ceremonies can continue safely with concerns about spreading the virus.That's why Whitman is encouraging people to drum, dance, sing and pray every Sunday at 1 p.m. and share their activities online."We can't hold our hands in this round dance, but what we can do is we can reach with our spirit and our soul and our prayers knowing that will reach another person."This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2020.Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

  • South Africa struggles with lockdown as it records first coronavirus death

    South Africa struggles with lockdown as it records first coronavirus death

    Bustling streets and long queues at supermarkets highlighted South Africa's struggle to adapt to a new lockdown on Friday, as the country recorded its first coronavirus death. In the poor township of Alexandra near Johannesburg's financial district, a group of men drank openly in the street until police intervened and ordered the supermarkets to close. South Africa's 21-day lockdown restricts people to their homes for most activities including exercise, only permitting them to go out to buy food or for health emergencies.

  • London erupts in applause for health-care workers

    London erupts in applause for health-care workers

    Londoners take part in the "Clap for Carers" tribute. People around the U.K. took to their doorsteps and windows at 8 p.m. local time to salute the front-line workers in the National Health Service who are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Taylor Swift surprises some of her fans with money donations
    The Canadian Press

    Taylor Swift surprises some of her fans with money donations

    From finding ways to help others cope to sheltering in place to cancelling events, here’s a look at some of the ways the entertainment industry is reacting to the spread of the coronavirus, which most people recover from but can cause severe illness in the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions.TAYLOR SWIFT SENDING MONEY TO FANSTaylor Swift is helping fill the blank space where incomes have gone for several of her fans. Some have gotten thousands of dollars from the “Lover” and “1989” hit maker.One fan, Holly Turner, got a cash infusion from Swift after the freelance music photographer and graphic designer wrote on Tumblr that her livelihood was threatened and she was considering whether to leave New York City.Swift sent $3,000 and wrote, “Holly, you've always been there for me. I want to be there for you right now. I hope this helps. Love, Taylor.” Turner was understandably shocked. Swift “literally single-handedly saved my ability to stay here. I cannot even believe my eyes right now,” Turner wrote.Swift also sent $3,000 to another fan who was stressed about bills piling up, prompting this response from the grateful recipient: “This beautiful magical unbelievable human. I don’t even know where to begin.”‘OUR COUNTRY’ LINEUP ANNOUNCEDThe Academy of Country Music announced an all-star list of performers for its an at-home country music special that is airing on CBS on April 5, in lieu of its delayed awards show. Shania Twain, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church are among 23 performers that will be featured in “ACM Presents: Our Country.”The ACMs delayed the scheduled awards show to Sept. 16, which will be hosted by Urban.Other stars who will be performing at home for the special include Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Kane Brown and John Legend, Luke Bryan, Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs, Sheryl Crow, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Tim McGraw, Old Dominion, Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker and Thomas Rhett.The show will also feature a tribute to the late country legend Kenny Rogers, who died March 20, by Bryan, Paisley and Rucker.BROADWAY MOURNS ANOTHER LOSSStage, movie and TV character actor Mark Blum, who had roles in the films “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Crocodile Dundee,” has died from complications from the coronavirus. He was 69.An executive with the labour union SAG-AFTRA and the off-Broadway theatre company Playwrights Horizons announced the death Thursday. Blum had been a fixture off-Broadway with recent roles in Playwrights Horizons' "Rancho Viejo" and “Fern Hill” at 59E59 Theaters. He was a SAG-AFTRA board member from 2007-2013.“Those of us lucky enough to have known him will treasure our memories of a gifted actor, a master teacher, a loyal friend, and a beautiful human,” Rebecca Damon, SAG-AFTRA executive vice-president and New York president, wrote in tribute.Blum's recent Broadway credits included “The Assembled Parties,” “Twelve Angry Men," “Gore Vidal's The Best Man” — twice — and Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers.”Blum played Rosanna Arquette’s husband in the 1985 comedy “Desperately Seeking Susan” and had a role in “Crocodile Dundee” as the newspaper editor. He was on the Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle” and was in the Netflix crime drama “You.”The virus has sickened some Broadway veterans, including the actors Gavin Creel, Aaron Tveit and Laura Bell Bundy and composer David Bryan. It also has claimed the life of four-time Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally.ALL FIVE TOP PUBLISHERS DROP OUT OF BOOKEXPOAll of the top five publishers have dropped out of BookExpo, the industry's annual national convention. Hachette Book Group and Macmillan became the fourth and fifth of the so-called “Big Five” to announce they would not attend the July gathering and the fan-based BookCon which immediately follows."With the impact of the coronavirus still an unknown, Hachette Book Group has decided to withdraw our participation in Book Expo and BookCon 2020 in the interest of the health and well-being of our employees and authors," according to a statement Thursday from the publisher. “We’ll miss having the opportunity to engage with booksellers, librarians, and readers but are committed to finding new ways to connect these audiences with our books and authors.”Penguin Random House, HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster had already cancelled. The convention's organizer, ReedPOP, had already postponed BookExpo and BookCon from May to July. The event is still scheduled to be held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, which New York state has converted to a medical facility.‘WASP’ ACTRESS WALKS BACK 'FREEDOM' TALKEvangeline Lilly is apologizing for downplaying the importance of isolation amid the coronavirus outbreak.The “Ant Man and the Wasp” and “Lost” actress had come under fire for a March 16 Instagram post in which she said she valued her freedom and was carrying on with business as usual.In a new post Thursday, she said at the time directives were not to congregate in large groups, and she believed people were overdoing social distancing, but once those directives changed she did too.“At the time of my Mar 16th post, the directives from the authorities here were that we not congregate in groups of more than 250ppl and that we wash our hands regularly, which we were doing,” Lilly said Thursday. "PLEASE KNOW I AM DOING MY PART TO FLATTEN THE CURVE, PRACTICING SOCIAL DISTANCING AND STAYING HOME WITH MY FAMILY,” she said emphatically in the new post.She went on to give “special apologies to those most affected by this pandemic," saying "I never meant to hurt you. When I wrote that post 10 days ago, I thought I was infusing calm into the hysteria. I can see now that I was projecting my own fears into an already fearful and traumatic situation.”TINASHE KICKS OFF ‘LIVEXLIVE’ IN-HOME PERFORMANCETinashe is turning her living room in Los Angeles into a live performance area with the help of LiveXLive.The digital media company announced Thursday that “LiveXLive Presents” will showcase weekly live-at-home performances kicking off with Tinashe. The R&B singer will perform from her Hollywood Hills home on Friday at 11 a.m. Pacific.Tinashe’s performance will be streamed in real time on LiveXLive’s website along with other social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitch and Twitter.The singer says the livestream show will be a good way to connect with fans in an “unfiltered and raw” manner.Vocalist Mitchy Collins' living room will be the stage for a lovelytheband in-home performance on April 7.___Associated Press Writers Mark Kennedy, Hillel Italie, Jonathan Landrum Jr. and Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.The Associated Press

  • Cherry blossoms must wait, Tokyo governor says, amid supply queues in coronavirus battle

    Cherry blossoms must wait, Tokyo governor says, amid supply queues in coronavirus battle

    Residents of the Japanese capital formed long queues at supermarkets and stores on Friday, in preparation for a weekend at home, after Tokyo's governor urged them to stay indoors in a bid to keep a coronavirus from spreading. "If convenience stores and supermarkets stay open, people will stay calm," said Yuri Inoue, a 31-year-old graphic designer, who admitted to being a "panic buyer". Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike appealed for calm, while repeating her request to avoid public gatherings at the weekend.

  • Former Astros star Jimmy 'The Toy Cannon' Wynn dies at 78
    The Canadian Press

    Former Astros star Jimmy 'The Toy Cannon' Wynn dies at 78

    Jimmy Wynn, the diminutive Houston slugger whose monster shots in the 1960s and '70s earned him the popular nickname “The Toy Cannon," has died. He was 78.The Astros said the three-time All-Star outfielder died Thursday in Houston, but did not provide further details.Just 5-foot-9, Wynn was packed with power. He hit more than 30 homers twice with Houston, including a career-high 37 in 1967 at the pitcher-friendly Astrodome.“Jimmy’s success on the field helped build our franchise from its beginnings," the Astros said in a statement. “After his retirement, his tireless work in the community impacted thousands of young people in Houston. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy will live on at Minute Maid Park, at the Astros Youth Academy and beyond."At the time of his death Wynn worked in the Astros' front office as a community outreach executive. Celebrated everywhere he went, Wynn often was seen around the ballpark interacting with players and fans alike.Wynn became known for his long home runs and two became particularly famous.The first came on June 10, 1967, when he knocked one out of Cincinnati's Crosley Field, over the scoreboard in left-centre and onto the highway outside of the stadium.Almost three years later, on April 12, 1970, he became the first player to hit a home run into the upper deck of the cavernous Astrodome when he sent a pitch from Phil Niekro more than 500 feet down the left field line.Wynn spent his first 11 seasons in Houston, first with the Colt .45s and then with the Astros before making stops with the Dodgers, Braves, Brewers and Yankees in a 15-year major league career.Wynn left the team as the franchise leader in hits, home runs, RBIs and walks. Overall, he finished with 291 homers with 964 RBIs and 225 stolen bases in his career.He led the majors with 148 walks in 1969 and stole a career-high 43 bases in 1965. Wynn scored 100 runs or more three times with Houston.Wynn's No. 24 jersey was retired by the Astros on June 25, 2005, and he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Astros Hall of Fame on Aug. 3, 2019.In June 2011, he was honoured by the franchise when the Astros and Minute Maid dedicated the Jimmy Wynn Training Center, a state-of-the-art baseball facility at the Astros Youth Academy.Born in Cincinnati on March 12, 1942, Wynn grew up there before attending Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. He made his MLB debut on July 10, 1963, at 21 and hit four homers with 27 RBIs in 70 games that season.Wynn had the first of his eight 20-HR seasons in 1965 when he hit 22. He hit 33 homers in 1969 with Houston and his last 30-home run season came in 1972 when he slugged 32 and had a career-high 108 RBIs for the Dodgers.Wynn played in his only World Series in 1974 and homered for the Dodgers in a five-game loss to Oakland.___More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsKristie Rieken, The Associated Press

  • Singapore threatens prison for close encounters in stringent virus measures

    Singapore threatens prison for close encounters in stringent virus measures

    Getting within a metre of another person at a restaurant or a shopping queue in Singapore can now land you in prison under some of the toughest punishments seen worldwide to implement social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Yukon bans residential evictions, offers paid sick leave during COVID-19 pandemic

    Yukon bans residential evictions, offers paid sick leave during COVID-19 pandemic

    The Yukon government announced a series of new measures on Thursday that it says will support businesses, workers, and residential tenants through the COVID-19 pandemic.Landlords are now unable to evict residential tenants over the next 90 days, if those tenants are self-isolating and unable to pay rent because of lost work. They also cannot evict tenants if anyone in the household is subject to a health protection measure. The new regulations were passed Thursday under the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.In a statement, Community Services Minister John Streicker said the government also recognizes that landlords need support right now."Now that these regulations are in place, we will reach out to work with them immediately," the statement reads in part.Also on Thursday, the government introduced a paid sick leave program to allow self-employed Yukoners or those without sick leave to stay home or self-isolate if they're sick, without giving up their income.The rebate is paid to employers or self-employed Yukoners to cover up to 10 days of an employee's wages, or 10 days of average daily earnings for self-employed people. It's meant to allow for a 14-day quarantine period.Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai also eased some regulations for laid-off workers under the Yukon Nominee Program. Nominees who are laid off, or see their work hours reduced, will not be given the standard 90-day notice to find a new job.Aviation fees waivedThe territorial government is also taking steps to help the aviation industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.Starting April 1, all airport landing fees, aircraft parking fees and loading fees in Yukon will be waived for the rest of the year.According to a government news release, that will save about $210,000 for businesses and tourism in Yukon, "and incentivize carriers of all sizes to visit and stay in Yukon."This week, Yukon-based Air North said it's taking a major hit from the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread travel restrictions. The airline expects to temporarily lay off more than half of its workforce.

  • News

    UBCIC, Fort St. John city councillors call for shutdown of Site C project during COVID-19

    Several leaders are calling for the shutdown of construction work camps associated with the Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia while the province deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.The camp, which has 864 people, currently has 12 workers at the site who are self-isolating as of March 26, according to BC Hydro. It says there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Site C. Fort St. John, the city closest to the campsites, declared a local state of emergency Tuesday, in part due to concerns infected workers at the site could overwhelm the local hospital. Local states of emergency were suspended by the province Thursday so it can implement a more systemic and uniform response to the pandemic across B.C."[If] there was an outbreak at Site C, our hospital would be inundated with patients that we could not handle, that our health system couldn't handle, with the seven ventilators that we have in the community," said Coun. Trevor Bolin, who advocated the site be temporarily shut down.Coun. Byron Stewart argued for a shutdown as well."In all honesty, Site C ... is not a vital thing to our society. It is not an emergency service. It is not a front-line service. It is a structure that is being built," said Stewart. "I personally would like the province to come in, shut it down and send everybody home." In a strongly worded letter, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs also asked for a shutdown, citing the risk of spread and the lack of adequate medical services in northeastern B.C."Given the close quarters and inevitable contact points at the [worker camp], an outbreak of COVID-19 would be disastrous and with dire implications for nearby communities, including First Nation communities," it read.BC Hydro says it has committed to not move any Site C worker in self-isolation at camp into the city. The utilities company says it has also implemented several safety measures at the site including scaling back on construction, restricting non-essential travel for employees and consultants and postponing non-essential site tours.Lori Ackerman, the mayor of Fort St. John, says BC Hydro has worked with Northern Health to build up specific protocols related to the outbreak. "What I have been told, and I have not been down there, is the camp has shrunk significantly," Ackerman said. "They have put in place protocols for social distancing and personal hygiene throughout the camp."Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also advocated for balance."There's a lot of essential pieces that need to move in our communities, in our province, in our country," she said. "[And] we have put in fairly strict requirements for things like [Site C]."If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

  • News

    B.C. teachers, employer reach tentative deal on new collective agreement

    A tentative agreement has been reached with British Columbia's 45,000 public school teachers.Details of the contract won't be released until after it's ratified, although the government says the deal was reached under the guidelines of its sustainable services negotiating mandate.In 2019, that mandate included a two-per-cent wage increase over each of three years.The contract covers teachers who work in 60 B.C. school districts.A tweet from the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) says the executive committee is recommending the agreement be accepted.The BCTF said in the tweet that the deal had been reached after "marathon" negotiating sessions this week.The last deal between the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) expired in June of 2019.In the year of negotiations that followed, the BCTF said it was focused on better wages to improve the province's ability to attract teachers, to make up a shortfall.It also wanted equitable student learning conditions across school districts, like having equal access to resources, including special needs staff for vulnerable children who require extra learning or behavioural support.Alan Chell, the chair of the BCPSEA board of directors, commended the two sides for working out a deal amid the coronavirus pandemic. Classes in B.C. are currently suspended.'Recognized need'"With the challenges, concerns and priorities arising from the global COVID-19 pandemic, we're very pleased that both parties recognized the need to bring this round of bargaining to conclusion," said Chell in a release.He is hopeful that education boards and teachers will ratify the agreement "and that we can work together to focus on continuity of student learning, as well as the health and safety of our school communities."The BCTF says it is emailing details of the agreement to its members Thursday night.In a tweet, it said that, "Given the current circumstances with COVID-19, our ratification vote will be different this time around and we are already working on what that will look like."Most B.C. teachers will be back on the job Monday — albeit from home — trying to figure out how to keep the learning going amid the social distancing demands brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • News

    Chamber of Commerce seeks higher wage subsidy from feds to help during pandemic

    The 10 per cent wage subsidy being offered by the federal government to help businesses and workers affected by COVID-19 shutdowns is "inadequate," according to the president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Regional Chamber of Commerce."What we are suggesting to them, to the government, [is] let us take it up to 50 per cent, because that will ensure that these businesses that we need badly to be operating will stay open," said Rakesh Naidu.He cited other countries, like Denmark, which are offering 75 per cent subsidies, but suggested that might be too much of a leap all at once.During a recent webinar with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, Naidu said the chamber has raised the issue with the government already.The government is currently offering to pay a 10 per cent wage subsidy for 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per business.Local businesses working to offset loses during pandemicNaidu said several local businesses are offsetting losses by manufacturing products like masks, hand sanitizer and other supplies to fight the ongoing pandemic.Using a webcam while continuing to self-isolate at home following a recent personal trip to Jordan, Dilkens told the chamber that the first batch of hand sanitizer produced by Hiram Walker & Sons — a Windsor company that usually distills alcoholic beverages, including whisky — is ready to go."It has to sit for 72 hours," said Dilkens, adding that Windsor's Laser Transport will deliver the sanitizer to various places in Windsor, Sarnia and Chatham.He added that members of Unifor Local 444 will also deliver some of the sanitizer to local long-term care homes."So a great community spirit. Pun intended," said Dilkens. ... Let us take it up to 50 per cent, because that will ensure that these businesses ... will stay open. \- Rakesh Naidu, President and CEO, Windsor-Essex County Regional Chamber of CommerceBorder issues were also on the minds of Dilkens and Naidu, particularly in regards to making sure that trade can continue between Canada and the U.S., as well as to ensure that health-care professionals who live in Michigan and work in Windsor are able to continue crossing.Dilkens added that there are efforts being taken to set up hotel accommodations on both sides of the border so health-care workers don't have to go back and forth.Windsor's mayor was also concerned about the U.S. possibly dropping restrictions on casual travel. He sent a letter on Thursday to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland asking the federal government to maintain restrictions on Americans wanting to come to Canada."Should the United States administration take any action to lift the important restrictions in place today, that the Canadian Government unilaterally move to maintain the current restrictions, until the best advice from public health officials suggests otherwise," wrote Dilkens.

  • 'A hero to me': Family honours 100-year-old WW II vet who died of COVID-19 in Toronto

    'A hero to me': Family honours 100-year-old WW II vet who died of COVID-19 in Toronto

    When Second World War veteran Zaima Rozenberg first immigrated to Toronto nearly 30 years ago, the first job he had was looking after an elderly man.It was a fitting role for Rozenberg, with his thoughtful and caring personality, but ironic too.He was 70 years old himself. Still, Rozenberg walked an hour to and from work and got paid $5 an hour."He was so proud that he could support his family," his eldest daughter Galina Svechinsky told CBC Toronto.Family was extremely important to Rozenberg, as he was to them. That's why not being by his bedside when he died of COVID-19 on Tuesday was one of the most difficult aspects of his death, his family said. Many hospitals have enacted a no visitor policy to keep patients, staff and others safe during the COVID-19 outbreak."It was heartbreaking," his youngest daughter, Inessa Olshansky, said. "Nobody could at least hold his hand and tell him, 'We are around you, we love you so much, keep fighting.'"Olshansky's son and Rozenberg's grandson, Gregory Olshansky, said Rozenberg was feeling fine before developing shortness of breath on Friday. His family took him to North York General Hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19.Four days later he died of the illness."It's so hard," Svechinsky said. "We cannot accept that he's not with us anymore."Rozenberg's family believes he got the virus through community transmission; he didn't go out much and wasn't around anyone who recently travelled, but he did come in contact with caregivers who would visit him at his seniors' living complex near Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue'Odd' but 'comforting': funeral held over video chat Practising the rules of social distancing, his family held his funeral through an online video chat on Thursday. A rabbi performed a traditional service through video and Rozenberg was buried next to his wife, who died 14 years prior. Had social distancing rules not applied, the family said the service would have been much bigger than the dozen family members online."It was definitely odd, but it was also kind of comforting that the whole family was on the call and we got to talk and share stories," Gregory said.Serving in the Second World WarRozenberg was born in May of 1919 in a small Ukrainian village. His exact birthdate is an estimate, but his daughters believe he would have turned 101 on May 20. He enlisted in the Soviet Red Army as a young adult and fought against Nazi Germany in the anti-air unit in Azerbaijan, according to his family.After the war ended, he moved around the Soviet Union looking for work as a general labourer. He eventually settled in Latvia, married his love, Fania, and had two daughters.Months before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the family immigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto and grew to include four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.Svechinsky said her father had very little education and would study her math lessons, beginning in Grade 1, so he could learn along with her.  "Life was so hard for him. But he raised us two daughters with all his love." Positive, humble, honourableEven at 100 years old, Rozenberg's mind stayed sharp, his family said. He remained inquisitive and liked to discuss politics and global events. They say he could speak with anybody about any topic, but always reminded his family to be diplomatic and respectful.WATCH | 100-year-old veteran dies of COVID-19; family unable to say goodbye:"He has always been a hero to me and he showed me how to be a real honourable man and champion in life, and to also be humble," Gregory said. "[He would say] 'you have to have a strong opinion, but always respect others' opinion and listen with open ears.'"His family said they'll remember Rozenberg as positive, always smiling, humble and honourable.He was popular in his seniors' home and the larger community. He carried candy and treats in his pocket in case he ran into children and dogs in the neighbourhood."The small things that make our world very special," Olshansky said.Olshansky said Rozenberg always thought about others and wanted to help. Although he used a wheelchair, he liked to keep busy and saw his family weekly. In his last few weeks of life he mentioned wanting to visit his grandson again, needing to congratulate his granddaughter on her new home and talked about getting his apartment repainted."[He had] this willingness to fight for life and to be well and to be around the dearest people in his life," she said."It's a great example for all of us."

  • News

    10 public health workers in the Eastern Townships test positive for COVID-19

    Ten public health employees in the Eastern Townships are among the 18 new patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the region.The CIUSSS de l'Estrie-CHUS issued a statement Thursday, saying it is looking to see who may have come into contact with the infected employees, but it appears no clients are at risk."Our infected staff are back home," the statement says. "This contamination, according to our investigation, is not related to travel, but originates from the community."The health agency's director, Dr. Alain Poirier, was in regular contact with several of the infected employees but is not showing symptoms, said spokesperson Annie-Andrée Émond.She said he is still coming into work, but wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance from colleagues and handling interviews by telephone only.The health agency says, despite the recent positive cases, epidemiological investigations and other activities are continuing and that this situation will not lead to a break in service.Radio-Canada reported earlier in the week that three of the CIUSSS de l'Estrie-CHUS employees who had tested positive were doctors.The agency has 20,000 employees and doctors, Émond said."It was foreseeable that members of the organization would be infected and this situation worries us," she said. "We strive to provide safe environments for both our employees and the users of our services."However, the local union says otherwise.In a statement sent out Wednesday, Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services said not enough is being done to protect employees."Do we wait for a death in the network to ensure the safety of professional and technical health and social services personnel?" Andrée Poirier, the union's president, said.The most recent assessment of COVID-19 reports 187 people infected and a second death in the Eastern Townships.Quebec now has 1,629 confirmed cases and eight deaths.

  • South Korea boy band BTS postpones U.S., Canada tour over coronavirus

    South Korea boy band BTS postpones U.S., Canada tour over coronavirus

    South Korea's boy band BTS will postpone a North America tour that had been scheduled to kick off in April, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, its management said on Friday. The seven-member K-pop hit group was due to begin its United States and Canada tour on April 25 in Santa Clara, with stops in Los Angeles, Dallas, Orlando, Atlanta, New Jersey, Washington and Toronto, before wrapping up in Chicago in June. Big Hit Entertainment said new dates had not been set but all reserved tickets remained valid.

  • Windsor is immediately closing playgrounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic

    Windsor is immediately closing playgrounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic

    The City of Windsor is immediately closing play structures, including swings and children's activity sets within parks in an effort to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, according to a Thursday media release.Parks, trails and open spaces will remain open, as they still allow people to practice social distancing.Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens continued to urge residents to practice social distancing.SIMILAR]Ontario Provincial Police announced last Friday that officers will fine individuals or businesses that break physical distancing rules.Public gatherings with more than 50 people are prohibited and individuals can be fined up to $1,000."What people need to understand is that this is really a serious situation and if police have to go out there, they are empowered," Dilkens said.Other towns and cities in Ontario — including Tecumseh, Amherstburg, Lakeshore and the Town of Essex — have already closed their own parks and playgrounds.'Not acceptable'Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Toronto, said playgrounds are "not acceptable" during this time."A playground has surfaces and you've got different kids who could be climbing over all those different surfaces," he said."When you look at the number of kids over the course of the last few days, there might be, you know, 20, 50 or 100, who knows?"A recent study by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that coronavirus could be detected on plastic or stainless steel for up to three days, cardboard for 24 hours and copper for four hours.People should avoid touching surfaces in public places. If they have to, Ottawa epidemiologist Dr. Rama Nair recommends using disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces that are touched frequently.

  • Edmonton settlement workers helping new immigrants, refugees through COVID-19 pandemic

    Edmonton settlement workers helping new immigrants, refugees through COVID-19 pandemic

    Settlement workers in Edmonton say they are trying their best to support new immigrants and refugees, some of whom arrived shortly before the Canadian border closed to non-essential travel.School and library closures, as well as social distancing, have forced the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association (EISA) to change the way it helps newcomers.EISA's main office in the Queen Mary Park neighbourhood remains open, serving clients by appointment, but 90 per cent of staff are now working from home.In a Thursday interview with CBC's Radio Active, Oliver Kamau said due to COVID-19, his clients have a heightened desire for quick and accurate information. Kamau is EISA's program manager of settlement services."The challenge we have right now is communicating to the clients, particularly the parents," he said.Settlement workers are busy answering questions about the spread of COVID-19, financial barriers, employment insurance and child care.Kamau expects questions from parents will increase when school resumes next week and K-12 students begin receiving online instruction and assignments.As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase, settlement workers are sharing translated health information with clients and warning of disinformation on social media.The association will also deliver free English classes online through the spring.Most staff at Catholic Social Services are also working from home and serving people virtually, but some services involved with settling government-assisted refugees are considered essential and still take place in person.The agency is helping refugees who are self-isolating because they recently arrived from another country or feel sick."We need to make sure that if they do need to self-isolate or quarantine, that they are able to still have food in their houses or have any of their essential needs, medications, that sort of thing," said Kathryn Friesen, CSS's director of immigration and settlement service.Over the weekend, the agency helped a family expecting a baby by assisting with transportation to the hospital, ensuring child care was in place and communicating new health protocols."The baby was born, the family is happy and we're excited Canada now has a new citizen!" Friesen said.Though the work can be challenging and more time-consuming than usual, Friesen said settlement workers are coming together to make sure people are supported and feel less isolated.Advocates say because of the pandemic, feeding children has become harder for new Canadians and refugees in Edmonton.Community groups, the Islamic Family Social Services Agency, and nonprofits are all trying to address that problem.

  • 'Not one dollar, not one bar of soap, not one pair of hands': Advocates for homeless grow desperate

    'Not one dollar, not one bar of soap, not one pair of hands': Advocates for homeless grow desperate

    People who work with Indigenous people living on the streets of Montreal say they're feeling abandoned by governments working to keep a lid on the spread of COVID-19."We have received nothing — not one dollar, not one bar of soap, not one extra pair of hands," said Allison Reid, executive director of the Montreal Indigenous Community NETWORK. Reid said she knows there are many people at all levels of government who are trying to address the needs of homeless Indigenous people.But two weeks after the World Health Organization declared the spread of the novel coronavirus a global pandemic, no help has come through.Resilience day centre overwhelmedWith service providers unable to enforce the directive that clients keep a safe distance from one another, some shelters have been left with little choice but to close or reduce the number of people they allow in. That's the situation at Resilience Montreal, a day centre that operates next to where many homeless people tend to congregate, at Cabot Square.With the province on pause, more and more people in need of services are showing up at Resilience, looking for help, said the co-manager, Nakuset."Nobody is allowed to enter buildings anymore. There's no place for these people to go," Nakuset said.Overwhelmed, Resilience Montreal has been forced to close, in order to avoid becoming a place where the novel coronavirus is spread.Staff moved tables and chairs into Cabot Square to serve food and warm drinks, and intervention workers provided counselling and information about the pandemic. But Nakuset said more has to happen."It's not enough to just hand someone a sandwich and tell them, 'Good luck with that.' But that's pretty much what is happening here."Many don't understand what's going on. Some are minimizing it, she said, while others think it's the end of the world. "We want someplace that they can go and self-isolate, that they can get out of the elements, that can be a safe place for them," Nakuset said.Volunteers not stepping upThe City of Montreal said finding ways to protect people living on the street is a major preoccupation."We are working to accompany the Resilience centre at Cabot Square, to respond to the basic needs of vulnerable people," said Laurence Houde-Roy, a spokesperson for Mayor Valérie Plante, in an emailed statement Thursday evening."We are working right now on opening other places in short order."She said 24 public washrooms have been installed around the city, so that people will have a place to wash up. Other measures are being worked on.In his daily briefing Thursday, Quebec Premier François Legault encouraged people in a position to volunteer in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis to come forward, providing the link to a website to get people with time on their hands to volunteer at places such as food banks.But advocates for the homeless say so far, volunteers are scarce.They are appealing for donations of blankets, warm clothes and food.Reid of Montreal Indigenous Community NETWORK said her group is looking for people to cook large pots of soups, chili, spaghetti sauce — even prepare peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made on soft bread.It's a call for help that Reid said she would never make in normal circumstances."We would never ask people to make food in their homes and donate to our centres," said Reid. "But the risks are far too great already, and we really just need any help we can get."

  • News

    Via Rial employee who worked in Quebec City-Windsor corridor tests positive for COVID-19

    A Via Rail employee who worked in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor has tested positive for COVID-19, the company announced Thursday.The employee worked most recently on March 14 and 15 — on board trains 61, 44, 643, 68 — and didn't begin experiencing symptoms until March 18, president and CEO Cynthia Garneau said in a statement. According to Garneau, the employee phoned health authorities on March 20, was tested on March 21, and Via received confirmation on March 23. The employee didn't report to work "at any time" while experiencing symptoms, she said. "The employee is being monitored by public health authorities, is in isolation and VIA Rail continues to follow up directly, hoping for a prompt recovery," she wrote. "All our thoughts are with our colleague."Via has informed all employees and crews that could have been exposed to the employee. "Although possible exposure remains minimal, we have made sure that all our employees and crews were notified as soon as we were made aware of the situation, and we will remain in contact with them through the following weeks," wrote Garneau."We continue to contact passengers who might have been in direct or indirect contact with our employee."

  • News

    Vancouver police report recent spike in commercial break-ins as businesses close

    Vancouver police say there's been an increase in thefts from commercial spaces in the last week as businesses closed down to stem the spread of COVID-19.In the week between March 16-24, there were 81 commercial break-ins reported to the Vancouver Police Department. For comparison, in the two weeks leading up to March 16, there were 86 commercial break-ins.Commercial break-ins are spiking, but overall property crime, which includes break-ins to residential as well as commercial properties, has decreased by 12 per cent compared to the weeks leading up to the pandemic.Police say they are staying vigilant amid business closures."It appears thieves are attempting to take advantage of commercial spaces that are closed due to social distancing measures," said VPD Chief Adam Palmer in a Thursday news release.On March 16, the City of Vancouver announced a one-day closure for all downtown bars and restaurants for St. Patrick's Day. A day later, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order saying any establishment that couldn't enforce physical distancing measures of two metres between customers had to close indefinitely. The VPD says it is deploying more overnight patrol officers and community safety personnel near hot spots in the city, like downtown where there were 35 break and enters in the last week.The department says property crime detectives are also investigating known offenders. "Overall, we have seen a reduction in calls for service for police over the last couple of weeks, and we will be ready to respond if this changes," said Palmer in the news release.Since March 12, the number of daily calls to the VPD has declined by an average of 10 per cent. Vancouver police are encouraging businesses to take additional security measures including: * Moving merchandise away from windows and out of view. * Using window shutters to minimize damage and reduce visibility. * Upgrading locks. * Increasing outdoor lighting levels to ensure the space around your business is visible and well-lit.

  • FBI chief pledges to find answers on ex-agent Levinson
    The Canadian Press

    FBI chief pledges to find answers on ex-agent Levinson

    WASHINGTON — The FBI won't give up on “finding out what happened" to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died in the custody of the Iranians after vanishing more than a decade ago, according to an email FBI Director Chris Wray sent to the FBI workforce on Thursday.Wray also writes in the email, which was obtained by The Associated Press, that he himself met with the Levinson family and “we explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity."“It pained me to deliver that news, but I believe that we owed Bob’s family a thorough and candid presentation of the information that we’ve collected," Wray wrote.Wray's message did not elaborate on the “credible evidence" he said the family had received.The email was sent a day after Levinson's family revealed that U.S. government officials had recently told them that they believed Levinson was dead. U.S. officials have not specified the nature or circumstances of Levinson's death, except to say they believe it happened some time ago.The death is believed to have occurred before the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak that has has gravely affected Iran, Levinson's family said.The email comes as Trump administration officials have called on Iran to provide a more complete accounting of Levinson's abduction and his time in captivity. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement Thursday that “only Iran knows for certain what happened" to Levinson.Levinson disappeared March 9, 2007, when he was scheduled to meet a source on the Iranian island of Kish. For years, U.S. officials would say only that Levinson was working independently on a private investigation. But a 2013 Associated Press investigation revealed that Levinson had been sent on a mission by CIA analysts who had no authority to run such an operation.In his email, Wray said the FBI would not give up trying to find out more information about Levinson's captivity.Though the FBI believes he is dead, “this does not mean that the FBI has given up on finding out what happened to Bob,” Wray wrote.“We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve," Wray said._____Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAPEric Tucker, The Associated Press

  • In Ontario, construction is an essential service, but some workers fear COVID-19 puts them at risk

    In Ontario, construction is an essential service, but some workers fear COVID-19 puts them at risk

    Construction is on Ontario's list of essential services that can keep operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are growing calls within the sector for a broad industry shutdown, such as the one Quebec instituted this week.Ontario workers on large job sites, unions and contractors who do smaller-scale residential and commercial projects are among the voices saying the province's definition of essential construction activities is too broad — putting workers and the public at risk.The construction work allowed under the list of essential services the province released this week includes transit projects, health-care facilities and basically everything else. The list allows "construction and work services, including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors.""If it's a hospital, you know, and medical facilities that we desperately needed, fine. I'm all for it," said Antonio Cruz, a Toronto-based general contractor and project manager. "But residential, especially residential, it makes no sense."While saws keep buzzing and hammers keep swinging in Ontario, that's not the case in Quebec, which has the country's strictest lockdowns.It shut down almost all businesses, including those employing its 250,000 construction labourers, and in doing so, prompted a debate about which construction jobs really are essential.'Shelter is at the top of the list': Premier Ford"When it comes to the necessities of life, shelter is at the top of the list," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said of his government's decision to keep residential construction going.Shelter is, indeed, high in the hierarchy of needs, but some in Ontario's construction industry are nevertheless shutting down their residential building operations as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the province and the country.Mattamy Homes temporarily suspended work at all its construction sites and sales offices as builders around the province assess the situation.In Toronto, Cruz's Greenfield Enterprises has shut down construction on a commercial project converting a former restaurant space into a bank.His company also shut down three custom-built home projects in the city, the first at the request of the client, who wanted the work stopped to protect workers on the job.Cruz, who also has a health safety consulting business, said hygiene on construction sites was a serious problem even before the pandemic.For him, there's too much at stake to justify keeping infrastructure projects going, particularly in an industry where delays are already common."Do we have to kill people just because we gotta open the subway?" said Cruz. "I mean, we've lived for the last 50 years with the subway lines we have."Unions raising red flag as workers keep goingThe Carpenters' Union and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades,  which represent about 35,000 workers combined, are calling on Ontario to shut down the construction industry because of COVID-19.Both unions are giving their members safety tips, and the website of the former includes instructions for members who want to stop working on how to collect vacation pay.The Ontario chapter of the Labourers' International Union of North America, which represents 90,000 members, is not calling for a shutdown, but union leader Jack Oliveira wrote a pointed letter to the province's Ministry of Labour.In it, he demanded more frequent visits by health and safety inspectors.He also passed on a number of concerns from union members, including one employer telling workers to bring their own protective equipment to the job and gathering up masks and locking them away.Bradley Metlin, press secretary for the ministry, told CBC News that Ontario's government is in close contact with labour leaders and industry executives. Some companies have said that they're committed to keeping their projects going and protecting their workers.In a statement, Metlin said companies must "take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of workers."Provincial inspectors will investigate all health and safety concerns, "including those related to COVID-19 in a timely manner," he said.Building controversyAs work goes on, so does the controversy around it.A video of a Toronto construction worker complaining about working conditions circulated on social media Wednesday.In it, the man tells a crowd of co-workers "I've got an 86-year-old at home … My wife is crying every time I go home because she doesn't know [if] I'm going to kill her father if I have something."An online petition to halt construction in Ontario has racked up more than 41,000 signatures, some accompanied by strongly worded comments. "The government is trying to say that construction workers are the peasants of the industry," wrote Victor Z."That's why they won't shut us down. We are the slaves. They will never let us stop."WATCH | Flattening the curve: How to slow down spread of coronavirus:Construction workers sacrificing their health and safety for the benefit of developers was a concern raised in a recent New York Times article about the ongoing building in the city, amid its own coronavirus lockdown.Many comments in the Ontario online petition highlighted work site conditions.Diana Marques of Toronto said the same rationale for shutting down schools should apply to construction sites because of the large number of people sharing the same space. "My husband is exposed every day to well over 50 people," she said."He has to share a hoist with at least 20 different trades. The exposure to sharing a hoist alone is dangerous to health and well-being and not to mention they have no proper handwashing stations."Some have it betterSome workers in the Toronto area have better conditions than others but are still concerned.Anthony Paglia is one of about 15 electricians at Musical Electric — all still working. The firm does commercial, industrial and residential jobs.Paglia picks up his supplies daily at the company shop, so he doesn't need to visit stores. He said there have only been a small number of people on his job sites, well spread out, with hand sanitizer and masks provided.He knows that's not the norm, and his boss has told him not to work if he's worried about where he's working or how many people are there. Paglia weighs his wage against the possibility of bringing the virus back to his family. If I don't think the job site is safe, I probably won't go. I've refused unsafe work in the past. \- Anthony Paglia, electrician at Musical Electric"If I don't think the job site is safe, I probably won't go," he said. "I've refused unsafe work in the past."Breaking the news to customersThe contractors who have put safety first and shut down their businesses for now because of COVID-19 have to explain their decision to clients who may have jobs that are incomplete or projects they are desperate to get done.Chris Ashton and his brother run Ashton Renovations and work across the Greater Toronto Area. They decided to stop working on March 17, a week before Ontario's lockdown. The pair emailed their clients and put up a blog post explaining their position. Still, some customers required phone calls."We had some clients who weren't processing it, like they're saying, 'Oh, we trust you. You know, we'll let you in the door still.'"Ashton told them the coronavirus doesn't discriminate and can infect anyone."We had to put a foot down," he said. 'A safety issue'Contractor Derek Meulendyks didn't have to let any clients down because he's been working on his own house in Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood for several months.He recently tore half of his roof off to create a new bedroom and is relieved not to be confronting the challenges of trades people on big sites.He hopes the reality of COVID-19 will resonate with an industry that demands a certain grit from everybody it employs."You're just so used to putting your boots on and going to work no matter what — pain, difficult and dangerous things to do," Meulendyks said."It can be a difficult perspective for some of us to really see this for what it is, which is a safety issue, not just see it as something you got to tough out."