Eskasoni imposes curfew, erects barricades to prevent spread of COVID-19

A state of emergency imposed on residents of the Eskasoni First Nation by the band council is even stricter than the one imposed by the Nova Scotia government on Sunday.

One of the conditions is that residents must remain in their homes from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Eskasoni has also set up barricades at the three entrances into the community, and residents are only permitted to leave for urgent appointments, such as medical or banking.

Non-residents are screened by private security guards at the barricades and allowed to enter for work or to make essential deliveries.

Chief Leroy Denny said the restrictions are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as many people in the community of 4,500 have chronic health conditions and are considered at high risk of developing serious complications from the virus.

He said at last count, 28 households were in self-isolation, following travel outside Canada or elsewhere in the country.

'Close-knit community'

"This is a very close-knit community, big families, very active," said Denny. "If there's a community spread, it would be very difficult for us."

As of Wednesday, there are 68 cases of COVID-19 in the province.

It's unclear who's policing the curfew in Eskasoni, or what the penalties are for failing to obey it.

Denny said the RCMP are helping with enforcement, but the police force will not confirm that.

Spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said in an email the force is "working with the community to address their concerns," but would not provide specifics on what they are doing.

Tom Ayers/CBC

Resident Clifton Cremo said there's generally been a good response to the state of emergency.

"People seem glad that the chief and council are taking it seriously," he said.

Cremo said he didn't know if people are obeying the nightly curfew.

"I've been inside," he said.

Community is 'buying into this'

Denny said people are complying with the restrictions.

"Community members are buying into this, they're respecting it," he said. "We urge people not to leave their homes. Whatever they need in town, we have here. Pretty much everything in Sydney is closed anyway."

Denny said exceptions would be made for people living in neighbouring communities who want to pick up supplies or for those who want to drive through Eskasoni. A provincial highway, Route 216, runs through the First Nation.

He said short-term passes would be issued at the barricades and a "follow-me" truck would escort people through the community.

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    CBC

    Could coronavirus strike out baseball in Quebec?

    Bram Lackman-Mincoff, 14, has tried playing other sports like hockey, but four years ago he discovered baseball was his game.He plays in the NDG house league and couldn't wait to get on the diamond and start the 2020 season."Normally around this time, there is a lot of anticipation and I'm like, 'oh my God I'm so excited for another year,'" Lackman-Mincoff said.Thursday was supposed to be Major League Baseball's opening day — and that's usually a signal to amateur players in Quebec that their season is right around the corner.But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majors are on hold and baseball in the province is suspended until at least May.Lackman-Mincoff worries there may not be a season at all."In the past years, a lot of my friends from school were on my team, and with school on hold too, I probably won't be seeing my friends for a while — so that's upsetting," he said.To get his fix, Lackman-Mincoff has been playing catch with his brother in his driveway or heading to a nearby park to swing his bat."It does make me kind of feel bad because I'm practising and getting better but I'm not going to be able to use this practice," he said."It's not going to pay off because we're not going to be playing, so it's kind of bittersweet."Baseball Quebec bracing for financial falloutMaxime Lamarche, the general manager of Baseball Quebec, said he's trying to put Lackman-Mincoff and the other 35,000 amateur players in the province at ease.He said he's optimistic that there will be a season of some kind this year, even if it's only a fraction of what they normally play.The alternative, a cancelled season, could be devastating financially."We're a non-profit organization, we don't run on big bank accounts," Lamarche said.He said between 70 and 75 per cent of their resources come from registration fees and without a season to sign up for, that revenue could drop to zero."We will need help from the ministry. We understand that right now we're not the priority, but if we want to get back to where we were and we want to continue our growth, we will need their help more than ever," he said.Lamarche is preparing to lay off the organization's nine full-time employees and five part-time employees.He said the shutdown will also affect all 20 of the baseball Sport-études programs in Quebec with 65 to 85 coaches under their umbrella."Right now, the schools are closed so they're not coaching, they're not doing their job so they will have to go on employment insurance also," Lamarche said.In 2008, Lamarche said Baseball Quebec counted around 17,000 players in the province. Over the last 12 years, that number has grown to 35,000 players."It won't be like that this year," Lamarche said. "I'm not worried in the long-term, but the next months? How are we going to make it?"More pain for suffering Expos fansPerry Giannias spent Thursday morning going through his Expos memorabilia in his basement."That's the only thing that keeps me sane," Giannias said.Major League Baseball's opening day has been tough for him since the Expos left town, and this year is even more difficult."We have no team to celebrate," he said. "It's been 16 years of handling it badly from an Expos point of view. But it's an extra bit of a slap in the face because we can't follow anybody else. I was really looking forward to seeing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. play."He postponed an annual celebration called Expos Fest that he organizes due to the pandemic.It's held around the same time as the Blue Jays host exhibition games at the Olympic Stadium and anticipation for it was high. The Jays were scheduled to host the Yankees, and Hall of Famers Tim Raines and Andre Dawson were expected to be in town for Expos Fest.But Giannias said Expos fans are a resilient bunch."They've been awesome. Nobody has asked for a refund. They're just waiting for the date to be rescheduled. We have the best supporters."Giannias also believes that the overall goal of bringing a professional team back to the city will continue to move forward regardless of what happens with this baseball season.He's even optimistic that Expos Fest could be better off if it's rescheduled for this summer.  "Maybe we can make a whole weekend out of it and have even more fun than we would have had in March," Giannias said.

  • Shuttered by coronavirus emergency, B.C. fitness businesses go online
    News
    CBC

    Shuttered by coronavirus emergency, B.C. fitness businesses go online

    The studios and gyms may have been shuttered over coronavirus fears, but fitness businesses in B.C. are still breaking a sweat to keep clients fit online.When Precision Athletics in Vancouver was closed by provincial order, trainers Teri-Lynn Nelson and David Sims needed a way to make ends meet.So they're offering online classes like boot camp, CrossFit and personal training streamed on the Zoom app using Nelson's small apartment as a fitness studio."We're just trying to do what we do, just in a different way now," Nelson said. "It's been a nice feeling."Nelson and Sims charge $10 per live class through their website, Thundernlightning.ca, for people across North America and beyond cooped up at home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19."If you have about the space of a yoga mat that's all you really need," Sims said."If you're able to reach your arms overhead, that's definitely all the space you're going to need."Other fitness businesses are embracing the world of online exercise to keep instructors employed and to help pay the leases still owed on their empty, offline studios.Potted plants for weightsThe provincial emergency is the second time Tight Club Athletics in Vancouver has been shut down, owner Keighty Gallagher said.Earlier this year, a flood had her fitness studio closed down for 10 days, she said. "This whole closure thing is no big deal. We know how to do this."Gallagher and her trainers have been offering online classes, charging six dollars per class. The trainers get 75 per cent of the money while the studio keeps the rest."We saw hundreds of people tuning in and actually staying for the entire session," Gallagher said. "So we knew that there was something there."The success of the online classes, Gallagher said, have shown her there's a desire for physical movement and to connect with people through exercise.Going online hasn't been without hitches: technology can present hiccups and without proper exercise equipment at home, trainers and clients have to to make do."I saw [a client] instead of using weights, they used little plant pots," she said.'I have a business to worry about'The first three months of 2020 have thrown a few curveballs to Barbie Bent.First, her wedding in Italy had to be postponed until 2021 when much of that country was quarantined. Now, her chain of fitness studios in Vancouver and Victoria, Lagree West, is closed because of the pandemic."I could care less about my wedding. I have a business to worry about," Bent said.A top concern is making sure her trainers have income as the situation drags on. That's why she's setting up online classes through video streaming.It's been tricky because her studios teach Lagree, a fitness method reminiscent of Pilates with more intensity. It requires specialized workout machines not found in many homes and adapting to that is still a work in progress.That's not the only hard-to-find equipment, she said."A webcam is in the same state as hand sanitizer or toilet paper," she said. "Pretty much sold out everywhere."Bent said she must make money during this time to pay her studios' leases. She's hoping her landlords will show a little flexibility by offering rent reductions or deferrals. "No one wins if all the businesses go under," she said.

  • Head of 811 says anyone referred for a COVID-19 assessment will be tested
    News
    CBC

    Head of 811 says anyone referred for a COVID-19 assessment will be tested

    The head of 811 in Nova Scotia says everyone who is referred to a COVID-19 assessment site will now be tested for the virus."Anyone who is sent by 811 will be screened regardless of the secondary screening," said Dr. Todd Howlett, medical director of 811 for Nova Scotia. "So we hope to correct the frustration that we're seeing in the media."Howlett said the 811 service is evolving rapidly to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. Response to frustrationCBC News reported on a complaint from Toni Losey of Dartmouth, who broke her self-isolation after a referral by 811 to one of the province's COVID-19 testing sites. When she arrived, she was told she didn't qualify for a swab. Howlett said there are many explanations for the apparent contradiction. "One of the questions might be, 'Are you having a fever?' and the person might not have a thermometer at home. So they have a presumed fever, are sent to a site, and the site checks the temperature and says, 'You don't have a fever, so we're not going to swab you,' and then send them home." Howlett said he's sympathetic to how that must feel. "You can imagine how frustrating that is, right?"He said the new policy of swabbing everyone who is referred for a COVID-19 test will eliminate these issues. Nurses answer the callHowlett said 811 has doubled its staff and expanded its office space to handle a call volume four times higher than normal. "I can't say enough good things about the staff there," Howlett said."They've been working around the clock — some of the most tired people I've seen, and working heroically."  Howlett said he's been moved by how many nurses are volunteering to work under such difficult conditions. "One of the bright lights of this story is there's been a huge number of nurses that have reached out to 811 to offer their services and we're onboarding them very quickly," he said. Opportunity for medical studentsHowlett said third-year and fourth-year medical students are also being trained to screen patients calling 811. They'll also assess provincial health-care staff who report possible exposure to COVID-19. Michael Mackley, the co-president of third-year medical students at Dalhousie University, said his classmates responded immediately. "We had over 100 students reply within hours of the ask," he said. Mackley said it's good to be able to contribute after a week at home following the cancellations of classes. "I hate to call it exciting, because obviously it's quite tragic what the country is going through right now," he said. "But certainly we're very grateful that we get to be able to play a role in some way."He said medical students may eventually receive academic credit for their 811 experience, but that's not important right now. "I think people are looking forward to helping and also learning," he said. "This is a new experience for everyone."MORE TOP STORIES

  • Website connects laid-off workers with overburdened food manufacturers
    News
    CBC

    Website connects laid-off workers with overburdened food manufacturers

    As New Brunswick food manufacturers scramble to keep up with surging demand with reduced staff, a Fredericton company is trying to bridge the gap while helping laid-off employees find work. The Ginger Agency, a digital marketing firm, has launched foodworksatlantic.ca, a new website that connects food-service workers affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 with companies in need of experienced sets of hands. "Everybody knows somebody that's been impacted by this, so we're hoping there's a lot of potential good to do here," said Andrew Bedford, the agency's founder and CEO. The one-page website, a partnership between the company and Sussex bakery Mrs. Dunster's, explains the program and asks interested individuals from Atlantic Canada to fill out a form to be added to a database of workers. Employers can also sign up at the site.There's no charge to either side."We kind of want to set an example, and all the businesses out there that have certain skills that can help, let's all put our heads together and figure out what we can do to help," Bedford said.The Ginger Agency team — working remotely — quickly created the site late last week. It went live Saturday afternoon, and Bedford said 20 workers and two businesses completed forms on the first day alone.As of Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 40 jobs to fill.The food service industry saw widespread layoffs as a result of government restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops and similar outlets had to limit business to delivery and take-out or close altogether. At the same time, manufacturers and grocers saw a spike in demand with many consumers keen to stock their cupboards once a state of emergency was declared in the province on March 19.Manufacturer sent scramblingSales at Kredl's Corner Market in Hampton tripled overnight, according to owner Blair Hyslop, who along with his wife, Rosalyn, also own Mrs. Dunster's among other stores and bakeries.He said it's been a trying time.They lost about a quarter of their 250 workers. Some employees went home because they or a family member had a compromised immune system, others had to take care of children with daycares closed, and some didn't come in out of fear for their wellbeing, Hyslop said.The businesses scrambled to set up protective measures, like Plexiglas at the cash and hand-washing stations. They enhanced safety protocols in production, like segregating the commercial kitchen at Kredl's which serves local hospitals and nursing homes.And then there was the supply of food itself.Hyslop said Kredl's is a seasonal business that scales back in the winter to align with the regional growing calendar. In a normal year, they would build their production capacity in time for mid to late May."Basically, we had to do all that work that would normally take us six to eight weeks to do inside of 48 hours," he said, lauding regional food producers for answering the call to ensure the demand was met. Hyslop also praised his own team. In one day this week, workers baked 25,000 loaves of bread that were delivered to 600 customers across the three Maritime provinces and Maine. That's up from roughly 2,500 loaves a day."We're having to change in every one of [our] locations how we make things and how we pack things and we need to do it in a way that's responsible and safe from a food safety perspective," he said. "There's nothing in our business that is the same today as it was 10 days ago."'Why don't we just create a public service campaign'The idea for foodworksatlantic.ca came from a conversation between Hyslop and Bedford, as the former asked about an online store to arrange deliveries so people, seniors in particular, could stay home. The site has since been created — Kredl's now delivers within a 50-kilometre radius of its Hampton store — but that conversation shifted into concerns for the "ever-increasingly critical food supply" to hospitals, nursing homes and grocery stores, Bedford said."Should they face labour shortages, that could create real issues across the board," he said."The conversation led to, well you know if we can use like a digital-lead generation strategy to connect employers and potential employees for one company why don't we just create a public service campaign out of it and open up everybody across the Atlantic Canada."

  • Amid a critical shortage, pandemic ventilator inventor makes his design open source
    News
    CBC

    Amid a critical shortage, pandemic ventilator inventor makes his design open source

    The London, Ont. man who came up with a potential low-cost solution to Ontario's critical shortage of ventilators is making his design for a pandemic ventilator freely available to anyone through an open source website.Retired respiratory therapist John Strupat said he made the decision after failing to get any kind of serious consideration to make the life-saving device from federal governments in Canada or the United States."It's been two weeks," he said. "The pace is too slow. The [infection] numbers aren't even plateauing and I don't know what else to try." Strupat is making his design open source at a critical time, as hospitals brace for a potential surge of Canadian COVID-19 cases and with it a cruel reckoning: there may be not enough ventilators to go around if the infection rate spirals out of control like it has in Italy or Spain. 'They're all going to have PTSD from this'Since CBC News first reported Strupat's story two weeks ago, he's been inundated by a deluge of emails and phone calls, many of them from increasingly anxious healthcare workers battling the illness on the front lines.  Many of them have told Strupat that as waves of the infection build, they could grow into a tsunami large enough to overwhelm the healthcare system. "They're managing right now, that's the word they use. They're very nervous it will be coming." "You can imagine the decisions they're going to have to make soon, if there is more people than equipment," he said. "I certainly wouldn't want to be in their shoes.""They're all going to have PTSD from this." We don't have enough ventilators to copeIf coronavirus were to go full throttle here like it has in Italy or Spain, Canada wouldn't have enough ventilators to cope. In Ontario, there are roughly 12 ventilators per 100,000 people, one of the lowest rates in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadian Medical Association President Dr. Sandy Buchman has already told the nation's doctors to prepare for the possibility that, if Canada found itself in as dire a situation as Italy, many people over 65 would not be allowed to be ventilated. Dozens of people who fall into that category also have written to Strupat, asking whether they can have his design to build their own ventilator, or in some cases buy his prototype outright so they can bring it to hospital in case they get infected. "How scary is that? Most of those come from the U.S. because they look at healthcare a little differently than us."Design free to 'anyone from anywhere'Emails and phone calls such as those are the biggest impetus for Strupat to make his design freely available. "Anyone from anywhere can look at the design and decide for themselves if they want to manufacture it or share ideas on developing this for their own country," he said. Strupat said while his $500 design may not offer the same standard of care as the current $25,000 designs used at hospitals, his machine would save lives, even in a blackout. "It will run three to four hours before the batteries die," he said. "If I had my choice, I'd rather be on that than nothing if it came down to it." While federal governments in Canada and the United States might not be receptive to his invention, Strupat said he'll keep trying. "I'm not giving up yet, I'm just a little frustrated."Strupat hopes with the design freely available to those with the right credentials, someone somewhere can use it and hopefully save lives. He also hopes doctors and respiratory therapists will give him their feedback on the design, so it can be improved and hopefully help even more people.

  • News
    CBC

    'Incredible effort': Halifax Transit avoids anticipated bus service delays

    After asking bus passengers to find another way to get around on Friday due to expected delays, the municipality said it had avoided issues thanks to "incredible effort" from transit workers.Halifax Regional Municipality issued a release Thursday evening stating that transit's conventional bus service would be "significantly impacted" at the start of service Friday due to staff availability. "Riders should expect route delays and/or cancellations and are asked to make alternate plans if possible," the city said.Halifax Transit was expected to share route disruptions "as timely as possible" via their website and @hfxtransit on Twitter. However, just before 10 a.m., the city announced Friday's service had remained fully operational on a reduced schedule— "due to the incredible effort from Halifax Transit maintenance workers, operators, and the operations team."HRM spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray said in an email that no service disruptions were anticipated for Friday afternoon, but the public would be notified if that changed.All ferry service continued as scheduled.Transit worker tested positive for COVID-19On Thursday, Halifax Transit confirmed one of its workers had tested positive for COVID-19. The employee worked at the Halifax Transit garage in the Burnside Industrial Park and the garage was closed for a period of time for thorough disinfection of the area.The director of Halifax Transit, Dave Reage, sent out a mass email Thursday saying public health officials indicated there is no risk to transit riders or the general public.In a statement, HRM said Public Health advised the garage could remain operational and staff who have not been contacted could report to work.  The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has been expressing its concern for bus drivers during the outbreak of the virus and officials are trying to get more information on the positive test.Ken Wilson, ATU president, said Friday morning he had "no indication" that drivers were refusing to work.He suggested the more likely reason for the potential service disruptions was that buses at the Burnside garage hadn't yet been cleaned.MORE TOP STORIES

  • COVID confusion: B.C. lags behind other jurisdictions in setting post spring break education plans
    News
    CBC

    COVID confusion: B.C. lags behind other jurisdictions in setting post spring break education plans

    With the end of spring break looming on Monday, B.C. still hasn't revealed how students will continue their education as they and their parents struggle to deal with COVID-19 school shutdowns.On March 17, the B.C. government announced the suspension of in-class instruction in a bid to halt the spread of the virus. It's asking parents to check its website for updates on how public education will continue next week.The designated "frequently asked questions" page on the site says school districts have been asked to put learning opportunities in place for students "as soon as practically possible, no later than mid-April."And "principal updates" being sent to some parents state that while home learning plans continue to be developed, teachers will be contacting children by "April 3 or sooner."In contrast, Alberta and Washington state are far ahead of B.C.— each announcing clear educational plans and guidelines on March 20 and 23 respectively.Concerned B.C. parents say our province could take a lesson from our neighbours."I worry about parents panicking with little information to go on," said Krista Sigurdson of Vancouver.Sigurdson, 40, has two young boys — a six-year-old in Grade 1, a 10-year-old in Grade 5."And I worry about what a slow roll-out is going to mean," she says. "Any mention of a date in April ... is very late."'Taking a measured approach'B.C.'s Ministry of Education says, in effect, it's working on it.And it says plans have yet to be finalized because school districts have been on spring break."(They) will be engaged in planning as soon as they return from their scheduled breaks — though many school districts have already begun," the ministry wrote in an email to CBC News.The Vancouver School Board says it's "taking a measured approach" and "working hard to plan for students' needs," noting "we have taken the time necessary to be thoughtful in our decisions,"— and it asks for patience.A message sent to school-based staff on Wednesday stated principals and vice-principals would have an online meeting Thursday to continue planning for March 30, with a staff update to be sent out Friday.Krista Sigurdson says that's not good enough."This sort of idea that there's been people on vacation is not entirely genuine because people could see what's happening," she says, "so to be honest that explanation is hard to wrap my head around."Alberta ahead of the gameCompare B.C.'s approach to that of our provincial neighbour.In Alberta, the education ministry clearly set out a game plan 10 days before most students there were set to resume their education.It spelled out specific goals: Teachers will be required to assign a set number of hours of work per student each week.Kindergarten to Grade 6 students will be given an average of five hours each week and teachers "must work with students and parents to deliver these materials."Grades 7 to 9 will be assigned 10 hours of work per week and Grades 10 to 12 will receive approximately 18 hours of work."Learning continues to be teacher-directed", said Colin Aitchinson, a spokesperson for Alberta's minister of education. "This can include the development of paper course packages, telephone check-ins or online learning."Washington's 'flexible instruction'Washington state has issued similar guidelines.Teachers there have been told they must "set goals using knowledge of each student, deliver "flexible instruction," including printed materials, phone contacts, email, technology-based virtual instruction or a combination" to meet diverse student needs.And teachers must also "engage families" and provide translations as necessary, since parents are considered "critical partners."Washington state was one of the initial COVID-19 hotspots in North America, with a rash of deaths in a Puget Sound care home.As a result, the state took the lead on how to provide schooling during the pandemic crisis.'Guardrails' set-up for U.S. educatorsThe strategy was co-authored by Dr. Michaela Miller, the state's deputy superintendent of public instruction.Miller says "guardrails" were needed so Washington school districts knew early on how to proceed.She's careful not to criticize B.C.'s slower response."My hat's off to everybody that is really grappling with these issues at a state level right now or a provincial level," she said.'Sense of distrust'Krista Sigurdson is a little less forgiving.While Alberta and Washington have clearly put the onus on teachers to contact students and formulate remote education plans, she says B.C. has been keeping parents in the dark."I'm concerned about my family having to accomplish some sort of home schooling ... that isn't tailored to their particular needs," she said.And that uncertainty has eroded her confidence in B.C. school officials."This sort of sense of distrust with powers that be, it's is very very, very unfortunate," she said. CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

  • News
    CBC

    Inquest into death of inmate at Windsor, Ont. jail delayed until September

    An inquest into the death of an inmate who took her life in May 2017 while in custody at the Southwest Detention Centre has been delayed as Ontario works to limit the spread of COVID-19.In a media release issued on Thursday, the Ontario's chief coroner Dr. David Cameron announced the postponement of inquests into the deaths of 27 people across the province previously scheduled between March 30 and June 29.Among the postponed inquests is that of Delilah Blair, a former inmate at the jail in Windsor, Ont. who took her life on May 22, 2017, originally scheduled for April 20. Blair's family was informed that she hanged herself in her cell using a bed sheet. Blair was the first person to die in the South West Detention Centre since it opened in 2014. Selina McIntyre, Blair's mother, said her family received the news between three and four weeks ago, adding that the coroner's office asked if they could postpone until sometime in September, due to additional material that needed to be reviewed. "It was a blow to the family," she said. "It was just the point of waiting this long and hoping for it to be finished, but with the packages that they had received, the more briefs that they had to go through, it's a large amount."McIntyre said that the family "was pretty good" with the delay after they learned that the coroner's office needed more time to prepare for the inquest. "It's been a long process and hopefully [it] will be concluded in September and [we] get the answers we need," she said.

  • 'It's a basic need': Laptop drive aims to connect marginalized Edmontonians during pandemic
    News
    CBC

    'It's a basic need': Laptop drive aims to connect marginalized Edmontonians during pandemic

    The gratitude of a nine-year-old boy who received a used laptop is inspiring youth worker Vedaste Ndamiye to increase internet access for marginalized families isolated by the pandemic."You could see the emotion in his eyes," said Ndamiye, who works with  C5 North East Community Hub, a gathering spot for youth, newer immigrants, single mothers, seniors and Indigenous families until it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "(He said) 'wow I'm so happy now I'm going to be able to see my friends again. When are we going to open? This was like my second home'."C5 is increasingly shifting operations online to create virtual connections that respect rules of physical distance.But many C5 clients who can't afford computers, laptops, tablets or Wi-Fi access, remain isolated."This is not a luxury, it's a basic need," Ndamiye said. "Because everybody has to have this to be able to connect to the world, know what's happening and connect with other people and attend school."If you do not have a computer you are totally disconnected."  It's the reason C5 and the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) have launched a laptop drive to put hardware into the hands of those without it.Donated laptops and tablets will help clients from five agencies — including EMCN and the Terra Centre — access programs, keep up on school work and stay in touch with family and friends.Once donors fill out a form on the C5 website, volunteers will arrange pickup, sanitize the hardware and ensure it's ready for use. Equipment will be distributed among their 30,000 clients.The technology will allow users to stay up to date on the latest information and enhance well-being by fostering virtual connections for isolated young mothers, members of cultural or religious groups and those with relatives overseas. For C5 youth, it means being able to connect on Zoom daily to read together, do crafts, hang out with friends and check-in with a youth worker."Most kids are not going to just tell you what's going on," Saad said, emphasizing the importance of face-to-face contact. "You're reading all sorts of things about them — their body language, how they're looking at you ... and then you're asking the questions that will begin to get you to what's really going on."Back-to-school, digitallyIt's the kind of contact youth are missing out on as schools remain closed indefinitely. Edmonton school boards are developing alternative programming as spring break comes to an end.Along with distance learning, much of the instruction will be delivered online making internet access imperative. Staff at Edmonton Public Schools are contacting families to assess access levels. Resources such as printed out workbooks will also be used."We encourage families to speak to their child's principal should they have any concerns about access to devices and/or Wi-Fi," spokesperson Carrie Rosa said in an email. Edmonton Catholic is establishing remote learning classrooms."Each school will know which students and families don't have access to technology so will work with those families to establish remote learning," Edmonton Catholic spokesperson Lori Nagy said.Meanwhile at EMCN, online English classes start April 6 for about 900 people, which is bound to create challenges, executive director Ricki Justice said.Parents and kids will all need online access in households that often have just one cellphone."So everyone will be fighting over whatever device they may have at home, if any," Justice said.Lack of access to Wi-FiBut the barriers extend beyond hardware as organizers look for ways to make Wi-Fi accessible.Saad is talking to telephone companies with plans to approach Capital Region Housing as organizers float multiple ideas including asking Edmontonians to consider sharing internet connections with neighbours who aren't online.Ensuring everyone knows how to use the technology is also a priority as agencies make sure older members are connected, including one member who received a laptop this week."[Ndamiye] talked him through how to use it, what to do  — he's so excited," Saad said.

  • H1N1 hit northern Manitoba First Nations hard — some worry COVID-19 will do the same
    News
    CBC

    H1N1 hit northern Manitoba First Nations hard — some worry COVID-19 will do the same

    Just over a decade ago, hundreds of people started to become ill with flu-like symptoms in Manitoba's Island Lake region.It was 2009, and H1N1 influenza had begun to spread. It would take a devastating toll on remote First Nations in the area, including St. Theresa Point. The First Nation was hit hard. Hundreds became ill and some were admitted to hospital in Winnipeg, about 460 kilometres to the south, in critical condition. Babies became sick. One woman who was pregnant had a miscarriage after getting the virus.Eleven people in Manitoba died from H1N1. At least three of those deaths were on the Garden Hill First Nation, where a fourth death was also suspected to be connected to the virus.Today, in nearby St. Theresa Point — where homes are crowded and there is a lack of access to running water — leaders are worried about COVID-19."Of course we're concerned. What's going to happen if there's an outbreak in our community?" St. Theresa Point Chief Marie Wood said.While frequent hand-washing is one of the key recommendations during the outbreak, about half of the 4,500 people living on the reserve don't have easy access to clean water to do so, Wood said.When the community's leadership started telling residents over the radio to wash their hands for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday, they started getting calls from concerned band members, she said.Some residents have access to tap water, but others rely on holding tanks with limited supplies."We just try to calm them down and tell them just put the water in the basin and wash your hands with soap, and maybe that will help."She worries that anyone in the community who contracts the coronavirus wouldn't be able to quarantine easily, and could rapidly spread it."We're being told that all you need to do is self-isolate and if there's somebody that has symptoms, sniffles or temperature or coughing, they have to self-isolate," she said."It's very hard to do that with overcrowding in our community. We have people that have 20 people in one three-bedroom house."St. Theresa Point is trying to get ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, and not see a repeat of 2009. Health Canada has already sent a three-bedroom house to the reserve, which will be used to isolate and test people who are ill, Wood said.There are new rules that will limit wakes for people who die in the community to family members, and attendance at funerals will be limited to 50 people.Hand sanitizer is being sent to the community and the First Nation has closed off most access to the reserve. As of midnight Wednesday, only essential workers and people bringing supplies will be allowed in.Wood said her community has been asking for a hospital to better serve residents in the Island Lake area, but instead will have to rely on the nursing station, which is staffed on weekdays by two fly-in doctors."They'll be overwhelmed if there's an outbreak."States of emergencyIndigenous Services Canada said that as of March 20, 62 Manitoba First Nations had declared local states of emergency. Many have set up roadblocks to keep visitors out, including Norway House Cree Nation, which is requiring anyone who has left the territory and returned to go into self-isolation.Norway House Chief Larson Anderson also fears the rapid spread of COVID-19 due to overcrowding, and is calling on the federal government to provide better homes in his community."If the pandemic hits and the houses are overcrowded and [in] bad conditions, then we don't know what the impact is going to be, but it's not going to be pretty," he said."If it doesn't hit us and we do get houses anyway, we're going to have a healthier society."About half of homes in Norway House are often left without water for one to 10 days, because of overcrowding and tanks that quickly run dry, Anderson said._______________________________________________________________________Latest local news:_______________________________________________________________________Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas is urging all First Nations people to take COVID-19 seriously."I want to commend the leadership, but some of the feedback is that the urgency of the issue and matters is not being listened to or adhered to," he said."We need to get that message out to all of our community members that they all individually need to play a role as well, to help all of us … curb the spread of this COVID virus."Back in St. Theresa Point, Wood is getting ready for the arrival of hand sanitizer and explaining the importance of social distancing to people in her First Nation."We want to protect the community at large."

  • 2 more recreational trails close in CBRM due to coronavirus
    News
    CBC

    2 more recreational trails close in CBRM due to coronavirus

    The list of trails where people can go for a walk in Cape Breton Regional Municipality just got smaller.Provincial and municipal parks and trails are closed under the provincial state of emergency and now two recreational associations have closed the Baille Ard Trail in Sydney and the Coxheath Hills Wilderness Trail outside Sydney.Laurie Murcheson, a director with the Coxheath Hills Wilderness Recreation Association, said there is too much snow on the paths and in the woods, which is making it difficult for users to remain two metres apart."We had, as an association, pretty significant concerns about our ability to follow directives from both the federal and provincial government with regard to social or physical distancing," he said.The closure is only temporary, Murcheson said.Coxheath Hills secretary Lisa Patterson said it's unclear when the trails could reopen."I think it's something we'd have to assess once the snow melts and see how much room there is for people to get by each other," she said.Patterson also said most users have to drive to get to the Coxheath trail and that goes against the provincial directive for people to stay home as much as possible.No one from the Baille Ard Trail Recreation Association was available for comment on Thursday.However, in a Facebook post jointly announcing the trail closures, group administrator Wayne McKay said the decision is in line with the new provincial rules."Remember that, at this time, social-distancing is not merely a social nicety, it is a mandated necessity," he said.CBRM maintains a coronavirus page on its website with a variety of information for residents and businesses, including a list of walking tracks and paths that are open to the public, as long as social distance is maintained.As of Thursday, there were 73 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the province.MORE TOP STORIES

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    HuffPost Canada

    Boris Johnson Tests Positive For COVID-19

    The British prime minister says he's self-isolating with mild symptoms.

  • No days off for Oceanex sailors tasked with maintaining supply chain to N.L.
    News
    CBC

    No days off for Oceanex sailors tasked with maintaining supply chain to N.L.

    Sailors on board three Oceanex freighters bringing goods into Newfoundland and Labrador are some of the only people allowed to leave and enter the province, but there are restrictions for them.They are no longer allowed to leave the ship when they arrive at ports in St. John's, Halifax and Montreal, and shift changes have been cancelled for the next two weeks.On the route between St. John's and Halifax, third officer Tyler Stapleton doesn't mind the extra hours."There's sacrifices we make, and sacrifices that other people make, but we're all in this together and eventually we'll get through it," Stapleton told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.Oceanex owner Sid Hynes told CBC News earlier this week that there was no reason for people to panic-shop — supply lines are still open and ships are arriving in St. John's as scheduled.They are carrying everything from cars to groceries and hardware items — "everything you need to run a province," Stapleton said.Oceanex ships 75 per cent of all goods to St. John's and about half the goods imported to the entire island.While it's the same schedule they always run, Stapleton said it feels different with the current state of the province."Right now it seems more important," he said. "There's so many people behind the scenes as well. We're running this operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week before this pandemic even started. This is a regular operation for us."Stapleton said people need to think about everyone involved in the supply chain — from the producers, to the truckers, sailors, and those who stock shelves. "It's a very long, long chain and every link is just as important as the next."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • China's Didi Chuxing restarts evening Hitch service
    News
    Reuters

    China's Didi Chuxing restarts evening Hitch service

    Chinese ride hailing giant Didi Chuxing said on Friday it would restart its evening Hitch service in some cities, with improved safety features and more rigorous driver and passenger verification procedures. Drivers and passengers who meet the requirements could use the service between 20:00 to 23:00, Didi said in a post on Weibo. Didi, which is backed by Japan's SoftBank, launched delivery services in 21 Chinese cities this month, in a move it hopes will provide its drivers with more income.