COVID-19 in Canada: 'I just give my head a shake,' Ontario Premier Ford blasts Toronto party held in 100-person storage unit

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Possible break from in-class learning in Ontario

At a press conference on Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford commented on education ministers Stephen Lecce saying that he is working with health officials on a possible change to the education system that may see students out of the classroom for a period of time, including the possibility of an extended winter break, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Ford maintained that the school system is “working well” amid the pandemic.

“Let’s not confirm that until the minister sits down with the chief medical officer,” the premier said. “I don’t want to jump the gun here.”

Ford also had stern words for the group that threw a 100 person party at a commercial storage unit in the Etobicoke area of Toronto. A 27-year-old woman has been fined $750 for the party, which did not comply with the 10 person limit for indoor gatherings, under the Reopening of Ontario Act.

“This is a new one,” the premier said. “Someone in that group is probably positive and they’re spreading it around.”

“I just give my head a shake when I hear these things, 100 people in a storage unit, really? Nothing ceases to amaze me now with the behaviour of some people, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Ford also said he will be looking into the wait times for COVID-19 test results in the province, revealing that it took his wife a week to get her results, needed to see her mother in long-term care.

“A week’s unacceptable,” he said, adding that he wants the data on how long it is taking people in Ontario to get their COVID-19 test results.

‘People are safest when they stay at home in Canada’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a clear message for snowbirds who may be interested in travelling from Canada to the U.S. this winter, “avoid international travel.”

“Canada’s official travel advisory is that all Canadians should avoid international travel,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The pandemic continues to cause significant challenges around the world, including in the southern United States, and people are safest when they stay at home in Canada.”

“If people do choose to go, that is their choice, but they need to make sure that they have good health insurance, good travel insurance, also that they make sure that wherever they’re going, there is sufficient healthcare capacity that is not beginning to get overwhelmed if something goes wrong.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, stressed that Canadians need to “strictly and consistently” follow public health measures because “it’s time to plank the curve.”

“The measure of a society is in how it protects its most vulnerable,” Dr. Tam said. “Canadians are once again at a critical juncture, let’s do everything we can to protect and support others by staying physically apart but using everything we’ve learned to support each other through these times.”

Trudeau said that Christmas and other holidays are “obviously” going to be different than years past but the extent of those differences is based on what Canadians do now.

“How different and how much we’re able to do will depend on a few things, what region of the country you’re in, what people are able to do between now and the holidays in order to flatten the curve,” he said

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, identified that when initial COVID-19 projections were presented in the spring, he personally believes that the “human behavioural aspect” may have been overlooked.

“One of the things I’ve certainly learned is that maybe one thing we didn’t take into account, and it’s something we’re learning about, is sort of the human behavioural aspect and the fact that we’re all suffering from COVID fatigue,” Dr. Njoo said. “We’ve been at this for many months.”

Ontario reported more than 1,200 new COVID-19 cases

Ontario reported 1,249 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, including 569 new cases in Toronto, 256 in Peel and 94 in York Region.

The province confirmed 12 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 3,383.

There were 26,468 tests completed in the past day, with 25,435 tests currently under investigation.

In Ontario hospitals, 529 patients have COVID-19, including 127 in ICU.

There are 108 long-term care homes reporting an outbreak, with 700 COVID-19 cases in residents and 524 staff cases.

Ontario reported 133 new school-related COVID-19 cases, including 73 student cases, 23 staff cases and 37 unidentified individuals.

Nunavut to lock down due to COVID-19 surge

Nunavut is managing 60 cases of COVID-19 right now, with that number more than doubling in the past day.

“One of the cases in Whale Cove is linked to the Arviat outbreak, which led to transmission to the other seven individuals,” a statement from Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer reads. “The last week has shown us just how quickly COVID-19 spreads.”

“This rate and reach of transmission will continue to grow if we don’t each do our part. Nunavummiut need to follow the public health measures to help contain the spread of the virus.”

The significant and rapid increase in COVID-19 cases has prompted a territory-wide lockdown.

“Think of this as a circuit-breaker; a chance to reset,” a statement from Premier Joe Savikataaq reads. “No one is above the rules here.”

“Let me make this clear, so there is no misunderstanding: Do not visit. Do not socialize outside your household. And I cannot stress this enough – stay home if you feel even the smallest bit sick.”

The following measures come into effect on Wednesday:

  • All gatherings are restricted to five people and there shall be no gatherings in homes.

  • All for profit and not-for profit business must close, with the exception of Grocery stores; Fuel and motor vehicle service stations; the Canada Post corporation; and Financial Institutions

  • Restaurants may open for take-out services only

  • All schools, including Nunavut Arctic College, federal, territorial, and municipal government offices must close to all but essential workers

  • Schools will be providing remote learning options

  • Personal services like hair stylists, masseuses and the like must close

  • All sporting events and activities are suspended

  • Fitness centres, gymnasiums and pools are closed

  • Libraries, museums and galleries are closed

Visitation to elders centres and long-term care centres is on hold for at least two weeks, unless approved by the doctor on call, and health centres are closed, except for emergencies.

Manitoba’s top doctor calls out ‘irresponsible’ Black Friday sales

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health health officer, called out rumours spreading online that lab tests in the province are being declared positive without being processed.

“Certainly this is nonsense, this is not at all true,” Dr. Roussin said. “Our lab tests are processed through the PCR technology and only those reported as positive are test positive.”

He added that there have been links to messages allegedly from registered nurses in the lab, but Dr. Roussin confirmed there actually aren’t any nurses working directly in these facilities.

“There are individuals who want to convince people that COVID is not a true threat, and as much as we’d all love to be able to put our heads in the sand and ignore what’s going on, you can see from our hospitals, you can see from these deaths that I’m announcing everyday, that we just can’t ignore COVID-19,” he said.

“We all wish it wasn’t an issue but I assure you it is. We need to act now to decrease the amount of harm this virus is causing.”

Black Friday issues

Ahead of Black Friday, Dr. Roussin stressed that stores in Manitoba advertising large in-person sales, with reference to people lining up to shop, is “irresponsible.”

“We can’t accept this, we’re in code red in Winnipeg right now, we have people dying every day,” he said. “We have our healthcare workers telling us that our hospitals are reaching their limits.”

“This isn’t the time for having a large, in-person sale for non-essential goods or services.”

Looking at the holidays, Manitoba’s chief public health health officer confirmed that the province is looking at the possibility of extending the winter break from school for students, in an effort to manage possible spikes due to family gatherings, which officials are still pleading for the public to not host or attend.

“We know that over the holiday break we’re going to have, again, strong messaging that there can’t be a lot of gathering,” Dr. Roussin explained. “We know it’s going to be challenging for people and probably there will be gatherings that occur.”

“Giving possibly an extended time after that break may be able to give us an incubation period after a large amount of gathering, and maybe offset some of that.”

He said this is “on the table” but a decision has not been made yet.

These comments come as Manitoba reported 270 new cases in the province, but one is an out-of-province individual, lowering the total of new cases in Manitoba to 269. Seven new COVID-19 deaths were confirmed, including a woman in her 30s, the youngest death from the virus the province has seen.

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