With a coronavirus vaccine still months off, companies are rushing to test what may be the next best thing: drugs that deliver antibodies to fight the virus right away, without having to train the immune system to make them.Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking there’s an infection so it makes antibodies and remembers how to do that if the real bug turns up.But it can take a month or two after vaccination or infection for the most effective antibodies to form. The experimental drugs shortcut that process by giving concentrated versions of specific ones that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests.“A vaccine takes time to work, to force the development of antibodies. But when you give an antibody, you get immediate protection,” said University of North Carolina virologist Dr. Myron Cohen. “If we can generate them in large concentrations, in big vats in an antibody factory ... we can kind of bypass the immune system.”These drugs are believed to last for a month or more and could give quick, temporary immunity to people at high risk of infection, such as health workers and housemates of someone with COVID-19. If they proved effective and if a vaccine doesn't materialize or protect as hoped, the drugs might eventually be considered for wider use, perhaps for teachers or other groups.They’re also being tested as treatments, to help the immune system and prevent severe symptoms or death.“The hope there is to target people who are in the first week of their illness and that we can treat them with the antibody and prevent them from getting sick,” said Dr. Marshall Lyon, an infectious disease specialist helping to test one such drug at Emory University in Atlanta.Having such a tool “would be a really momentous thing in our fight against COVID,” Cohen said.Vaccines are seen as a key to controlling the virus, which has been confirmed to have infected more than 20 million people worldwide and killed more than 738,000. Several companies are racing to develop vaccines, but the results of the large final tests needed to evaluate them are months away. Russia on Tuesday approved a vaccine that hasn't undergone such a test, sparking international concern that it was cutting corners.The antibody drugs are “very promising” and, in contrast, could be available “fairly soon," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration official who is leading government efforts to speed COVID-19 therapies. Key studies are underway and some answers should come by early fall.One company, Eli Lilly, has already started manufacturing its antibody drug, betting that studies now underway will give positive results.“Our goal is to get something out as soon as possible” and to have hundreds of thousands of doses ready by fall, said Lilly’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Daniel Skovronsky.Another company that developed an antibody drug cocktail against Ebola — Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. — now is testing one for coronavirus.“The success with our Ebola program gives us some confidence that we can potentially do this again,” said Christos Kyratsous, a Regeneron microbiologist who helped lead that work.Regeneron’s drug uses two antibodies to enhance chances the drug will work even if the virus evolves to evade action by one.Lilly is testing two different, single-antibody drugs — one with the Canadian company AbCellera and another with a Chinese company, Junshi Biosciences. In July, Junshi said no safety concerns emerged in 40 healthy people who tried it and that larger studies were getting underway.Others working on antibody drugs include Amgen and Adaptive Biotechnologies. The Singapore biotech company Tychan Pte Ltd. also is testing an antibody drug and has similar products in development for Zika virus and yellow fever.“I’m cautiously optimistic” about the drugs, said the nation's top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. “I’m heartened by the experience that we had with Ebola,” where the drugs proved effective.What could go wrong?— The antibodies may not reach all of the places in the body where they need to act, such as deep in the lungs. All the antibody drugs are given through an IV and must make their way through the bloodstream to wherever they’re needed.— The virus might mutate to avoid the antibody — the reason Regeneron is testing a two-antibody combo that binds to the virus in different places to help prevent its escape.Skovronsky said Lilly stuck with one antibody because manufacturing capacity would essentially be cut in half to make two, and “you will have less doses available.” If a single antibody works, “we can treat twice as many people,” he said.— The antibodies might not last long enough. If they fade within a month, it’s still OK for treatment since COVID-19 illness usually resolves in that time. But for prevention, it may not be practical to give infusions more often than every month or two.A San Francisco company, Vir Biotechnology Inc., says it has engineered antibodies to last longer than they usually do to avoid this problem. GlaxoSmithKline has invested $250 million in Vir to test them.Giving a higher dose also may help. If half of antibodies disappear after a month, “if you give twice as much, you will have two months’ protection,” Lilly’s Skovronsky said.— The big fear: Antibodies may do the opposite of what’s hoped and actually enhance the virus’s ability to get into cells or stimulate the immune system in a way that makes people sicker. It’s a theoretical concern that hasn’t been seen in testing so far, but large, definitive experiments are needed to prove safety.“As best as we can tell, the antibodies are helpful,” Lyon said.___Marilynn Marchione can be followed on Twitter: @MMarchioneAP___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press
It's been suggested by health care professionals and academics that ethnicity is one of the risk factors for COVID-19. The largest outbreaks in Alberta affected primarily immigrant workers and new Canadians at meat processing facilities in High River and Brooks.Nearly half of the cases in Calgary can be found east of Deerfoot Trail, in neighbourhoods with larger immigrant populations and higher rates of poverty.In Ontario, demographic data suggests that minority groups are over-represented in reported cases of the disease. In Alberta, no such data is publicly available, at least not yet.Human rights advocates, anti-racist groups, researchers and social agencies say the data needs to be collected and shared publicly to ensure those impacted by the disease the most are getting the help they need. "It could lead to a change in health care," said Linda McKay-Panos, a leading human rights advocate in Alberta. Alberta Health says the government has instead chosen to focus on risk factors and "case-specific data by age and location" when it comes to sharing information about COVID-19. "We need to know what's going on in order to more effectively treat it," said McKay-Panos, who is the executive director of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre. In the United States, the COVID Racial Data Tracker found that Black people are dying 2.5 times the rate of white people.In Toronto, Black people make up 21 per cent of COVID-19 cases even though they only make up nine per cent of the city's population. White people accounted for 17 per cent of the cases, despite representing 48 per cent of the population. The data also showed lower income earners make up a higher share of the total number of cases in Canada's biggest city.In Alberta, it's difficult to get a clear picture of exactly who is contracting and spreading the virus. While we do know which areas are being impacted the most, we don't know anything about the people getting the disease, including race, age, gender, disabilitiy or socio-economic status. Alberta Health has divided the city into 16 local geographic areas with nearly half of the COVID-19 cases being reported east of Deerfoot Trail, in areas identified as upper northeast, lower northeast, east and southeast Calgary.The numbers show the total cases, total active cases, how many people have recovered and how many have died. Almost half of the cases in Calgary are located in those four areas on the east side.Beyond those numbers and what we know about those communities, there is no detailed demographic data to help understand why it appears that people in that part of the city seem more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than other areas."Until we have that concrete data shared across levels in a standardized format, it lends itself to conjecture," said Jason Devine with the Calgary Anti-Racist Action group. "If we're talking about how COVID is possibly and most likely unequally impacting certain communities, well that in fact affects us all because a pandemic is beyond all communities and all borders."In June, 11 of Canada's federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions, including Alberta's, called on the federal government for a national strategy for the collection of disaggregated health data, which could help identify Canadians who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.The commissions say traditional health data collection is based on a high level of aggregation and reveals limited information about the severity of the impact of the virus on vulnerable and marginalized Canadians.Those include Black Canadians, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, women, older people living alone or in institutions and "low income communities who have unequal access to health care, child care and are often underemployed."In response, the prime minister said at the time that more needs to be done to collect more detailed demographic data during the pandemic. Ontario's Human Rights Commission said that such data, including race, socio-economic status and disability, along with sex and age, is "the foundation of evidence-informed decision-making," and "demographic data collection is a best-practice."> Strong data allows health-care leaders to identify populations at heightened risk of infection or transmission. \- Ontario Human Rights Commission When asked to provide further comment on the letter or on the amount of time that has passed since the request was made to the federal government, the office of the Alberta Human Rights Commission provided a brief response to the CBC."This data will help identify inequalities and advance human rights in Canada as we navigate this unprecedented public health crisis," said a spokesperson.A leading Calgary agency that helps newcomers get settled with language training, employment and housing opportunities echoes the call for better data collection to fully understand who is most at risk of contracting the virus."I hope this kind of approach has one purpose and that would be giving our policy-makers and the public information that we really need to pay more attention to our most vulnerable population," said Fariborz Birjandian, the CEO of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society.Fear of discrimination, stigma While there are calls for more information about people impacted by COVID-19, there are also warnings about how the data could lead to further discrimination and stigmatizion of certain groups.Birjandian says people have to understand the nature of the work taken on by some immigrants and temporary foreign workers already puts them at higher risk, whether it's employment as a cleaner, delivery person, long-term care facility employee or a meat-packing worker.He says it's also common for newcomers to live in smaller, more crowded conditions and to rely on public transit or carpooling. "If you just come in and say, 'yes, the immigrants, they are getting more impacted by the disease,' that is not going to help anybody," he said.McKay-Panos has the same concerns."You'd hate to see an employer say, 'well, we're not going to hire you because you have a greater chance of having COVID.'""We don't want to see the blowback. In other words, the statistics can't be used negatively. They have to be used in a way to help people so that we can all get through this and address it in a proper way," she said.Race, ethnicity part of meat packing plant studyA Calgary health researcher is leading a national study that will examine the COVID-19 outbreaks at meat processing facilities in Alberta. The outbreak in the Cargill facility at High River was the site of the largest COVID-19 cluster linked to a single facility in North America.Dr. Gabriel Fabreau, who studies refugee and immigrant health in Calgary, will lead the study into the outbreaks at Cargill near High River, JBS near Brooks and Harmony Beef in Balzac, north of Calgary.The Canadian Institutes for Health Research is funding the $365,000 study, which will look into why the outbreaks mostly affected new immigrants, refugees and temporary foreign workers and their communities."We suspect that newcomer communities were primarily affected; that needs to be quantified," he said.Fabreau says his research will examine what he calls the 'transmission chain," and why the virus spread so quickly. "Where did it start? Who got it next? Where did that go next? How did that interact with the rest of the clusters of outbreaks in our community?"Fabreau, who is an assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, says other factors will also be examined, including housing, transportation, language barriers and access to public health-care resources. Fabreau says more detailed demographic data collected during his research — and throughout the pandemic — could uncover inequities in health care. But he says it needs to go beyond race and ethnicity."We need to collect the social determinants of health more broadly. So income and education, housing, socioeconomic status," he said."Those sorts of data would really help us first understand how health is being distributed in our country, and then to see how those factors are interacting to affect people's health.""By not routinely collecting them, it makes it very difficult," said Fabreau.Data collection, sharing 'important'Alberta Health says there may be more information related to race-based reporting coming in the days and weeks ahead.A spokesperson for the department says they are looking at ways to "effectively report" demographic data on race, ethnicity and socio-economic status of patients."We hope to have more information to share soon," said Tom McMillan. For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.
Ontario public servants may not be required to wear face masks in all instances when they return to work, according to documents obtained by CBC News from the Doug Ford government.In the "Guide to Planning for the Gradual Reopening of the Workplace," dated Friday, Aug. 7, the government says masks will not be mandatory unless employees are in indoor public spaces.The guide notes that Ontario cities and regions have made masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces, while most public health units have recommended that masks should be worn in public spaces."When access to ministry/working space is controlled (security cards, locks, etc.) then it is generally not considered public space," the guide says.Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, said the guide is a work in progress. The province has not yet finalized a return to work plan for the Ontario Public Service (OPS) for employees currently working at home, she said."The attached documents are in no way final," Hilken said in an email on Tuesday. "They were prepared to begin the conversation internally as to what a return to work could look like. While initial planning is underway, no final direction has been provided to the OPS around a potential return to work for those working remotely."The documents obtained by CBC News include a safety plan template and a readiness checklist. Instructions in the safety plan template also do not insist that employees wear masks while at work.The "Personal Protective Equipment" section of the safety plan template says, "Where you cannot use engineering and administrative controls to maintain physical distance, personal protective equipment (PPE) will be needed."The plan acknowledges most public health units have advised wearing masks in public spaces, but goes on to say that where workspaces with controlled access aren't considered public spaces. Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, is in favour of masks being mandatory for Ontario public servants when they return to the office."To simply say, 'If a key card allows you entry, the mask rules no longer apply,' is troubling to me," Deonandan said on Tuesday."I think the mask prescription should be across the board in the event of an inability to socially distance."The guide says certain rooms, such as kitchens and mail rooms, will have a one-person limit.Deonandan said such restrictions will make a difference. "As long as the spacing is enforced and the mask wearing is a little more than highly encouraged, things should be okay," he added.The guide includes a section entitled "Support," which is an action plan in case of potential, suspected or positive COVID-19 cases.Deonandan said he was impressed by the section. "I looked very carefully at their procedures on what to do if someone tests positive and it's fairly robust. I'm kind of impressed by that."According to the documents, workers should continue to work from home and meet virtually where possible. Where workers have to come in, it recommends barriers, shifting schedules and using outdoor spaces.One document suggests ministries should try to finalize their protocols by mid-August.
Students in Ontario will return to school classrooms in just a few weeks, and that's prompted many questions and concerns from parents, educators and the public.It is unclear what education will really look like in the COVID-19 era — and what happens if an outbreak occurs in a school. The province has pledged to hire up to 500 extra school nurses to help prevent and deal with possible infections. Austin White is one of them, located in the Niagara area, where he'll be serving 14 different elementary schools. He says there are still unanswered questions about the return, but he's confident they'll be able to adapt, even on such a tight timeline. He spoke with the CBC's Justin Mowat about what his new role entails, how he feels about returning to a school environment amid the pandemic, and the importance of education in preventing further infections. Note: this interview has been condensed for clarity. JM: What do you know so far about what your role as a school health nurse will look like?AW: I can't speak to specifics, because we haven't been told by the government minister what the exact details of the position will look like. But I can assume what it'll look like based on my role as a school health nurse within elementary schools and the current work that I'm doing now. A large part of what we do as public health nurses is education, and providing the support necessary for schools to really address health challenges within their schools. And it's really going to continue in the next few months, especially when it comes to contact tracing and case management — it's all about education.JM: How will you be educating students about the virus, especially younger children?AW: The job of a school health nurse has always been about that education piece. And it's always been about tailoring education to age-appropriate messages for students, so really ensuring that they understand why things are being put in place. I always say you can't go into a community, or a school community and expect them to follow through with policy changes — or just changes in general — without providing that thorough education and understanding about why things are the way they are. When it comes to students, really making sure they understand that physical distancing should always be the first line of defence. But when it isn't possible, then it really comes down to hand hygiene and proper cough and mask etiquette. So making sure that, let's say for students in grade four and older, they understand why they use a mask and how to use it properly. And ensuring that they understand that it's not only to protect themselves, but to protect their friends and family, and everyone around them. JM: Do you believe these measures will be well received by children, and that they will follow the rules?AW: I think the important thing about educating younger students is that partnership between public health, the school staff and parents at home. The messages just can't come from public health and not just from schools, but it also has to come from home as well. It's very important that parents start to discuss the expectations of what school is going to look like. Students have been off for the past six months, and we don't know what kind of psychosocial effects and mental health impacts that can have on them. So it's really important that we — as public health staff and teachers, along with parents — start preparing them now. We have to start talking about what it's going to be like walking into class, tell them they're going to have to wear a mask if they're in grade four or above and that it's really important they're washing their hands. Similar to our comprehensive school health model, you really have to engage the entire school community and provide that education through a variety of different means. JM: You've been working as a contact tracer this summer, which will also take place in schools if an outbreak occurs. How does that process work?AW: Typically with any case right now when we receive a positive result, we contact the individual and we really try to understand if they're experiencing symptoms. If they are, when was their onset and what might be their infectious period? And then from there we look at who they might have been exposed to and come in contact with. It's important to make sure we do contact them, inquire about symptoms and provide them with recommendations. With contact tracing comes thorough questions of what the environment looked like, if proper PPE was used, whether physical distancing was in effect...we look at all these aspects to determine whether it's a high-risk or low-risk contact. When it is a high-risk, we recommend a 14-day self-isolation. It's really about the research that shows the virus can take up to 14 days to incubate in the body. I can only imagine that contact tracing in schools will be about a lot of education around contact tracing and case management, and they understand what it means to properly self-isolate — or self monitor, if it's a low-risk contact. JM: There's still a lot of concern from parents about their children returning to school in September. Are you at all worried?AW: Of course I have concerns, as any individual would. I'm not a parent, so I can only speak from my own experience, but I understand the concern with sending their kids back. There is always going to be a risk with sending kids back to school during a pandemic. My main concern is making sure that they have the supports necessary to ensure this is a safe transition. There are going to be challenges and there may be potential exposures. I think it really comes down to that education piece, making sure they feel equipped. We all fear what we don't know and there are so many unknowns about this situation. But as long as we're continuously working together and collaborating, and providing the necessary educational support, I think that it's really important for kids to go back to school. For their mental well being, I think it's really important for them. We have to consider the psychosocial aspects of it.JM: With such a heavy focus on preventing COVID-19 in schools, do you see other issues (mental health, sexual health) falling to the wayside?AW: Just because we're in a pandemic, it doesn't mean everything else stops. I still have concerns about all the other health issues that we typically address within school. Within our school health program, we focus on comprehensive school health. A lot of that is really engaging the schools, parents and the students themselves in identifying health needs, and coming up with tailored programs that meet those needs. Often it's issues like vaping, sexual health, mental health and physical well-being. We still have to think about those, so I'm curious to see how the next few months are going to play out. I know our team has really transitioned into providing support online. But, of course there's still a value of us in the schools and getting to know our students and their problems, and working with them to create solutions.
There is a lot riding on Quebec's back-to-school plan, the latest version of which was revealed Monday by Education Minister Jean-François Roberge. Broadly stated, it has to accomplish two things: return as many students to the classroom as possible this fall, and do this without triggering a second wave of infections that could imperil the provincial health-care system.Roberge took an initial crack at squaring this circle in June, releasing a plan that made no mention of masks and proposed keeping students in small groups to limit outbreaks.The upside of that plan was that it made clear to parents there was going to be in-class education in September, which, along with vital implications for the development of children, has significant economic and social consequences.The downside was that the plan was light on details and was quickly eclipsed by the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19.Earlier this week, after weeks of increasingly urgent questions from teachers and parents, Roberge announced major revisions to the government's strategy for mitigating the risks of returning to school.While the new plan addresses many of the major concerns of health experts, there are some holes they hope will be addressed in subsequent revisions. Landmark studyThe biggest issue about the first draft of Roberge's back-to-school plan was the absence of any mask requirements for students. Ministry officials were working from the assumption, not unreasonable at the time, that children are not potent vectors of the disease. In July, however, researchers from South Korea published an early version of a study that found children and teens aged 10 to 19 transmit the virus as much as adults do. It also found that while children under the age of 10 can spread the virus, they don't do so as much as older children.The study, which analyzed case histories of nearly 60,000 people who had been in contact with a COVID-19 patient, helped confirm numerous smaller studies that came to similar conclusions."It has really changed people's approaches, especially when it comes to wearing masks," said Dr. Earl Rubin, who heads the infectious disease unit at the Montreal Children's Hospital. The updated version of Quebec's plan, released Monday, is in line with the latest research: students in Grade 5 and up will have to wear a mask almost everywhere inside, unless they're seated at their desks.Given that infection rates are still relatively high in Quebec, some experts have suggested students should wear their masks in the classroom as well, at least for the start of the year."I think this is the time to push for maximum intervention to reduce the risk of viral transmission," said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist with the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal."Once we have a sense of how things are doing in school, then there can be some room for flexibility."The other big change from the June draft is doing away with the concept of "bubbles."Initially, it was thought keeping students in small sub-groups of six would limit the size of outbreaks. But many teachers worried bubbles would be a nightmare to enforce, and medical experts said their value was minimal. "Whether you have small bubbles or not, the entire class would be quarantined if there was a case in the classroom," said Dr. Caroline Quach, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at the Sainte-Justine children's hospital in Montreal.Instead of bubbles, students will be able to interact with anyone in their class, but not with students from other classes. Positive reception, but some fuzzinessThe reaction, so far, to Roberge's updated plan has been fairly positive from teachers, administrators and opposition politicians. "When you compare it with what was presented in the spring, this one is a lot more coherent," said Josée Scalabrini, president of the Fédération des syndicats de l'enseignement, an association of 34 teachers unions.WATCH | Quebec's education minister explains back-to-school plan:Unlike in Ontario, there has been no outcry — yet — over Quebec's intention to keep class sizes at their usual pre-pandemic levels.Public health authorities in Toronto are recommending schools there reduce class size as much as possible in order to limit transmission, especially in younger grades where masks are not mandatory. The Ontario government has refused to budge from its plan to return to full-size classes in the fall, but opposition is growing. A petition demanding smaller class sizes in elementary schools has gathered more than 200,000 signatures. Quach, who has provided advice to the Quebec government over the course of the pandemic, acknowledged that more students in a classroom means a higher risk of transmission."Yes, we could decrease the size of classes, but then you would need more teachers, which I think is not possible at this point in time," she said.Quach believes full-size classes can be relatively safe if a number conditions are met, including low community transmission and rapid testing and tracing. She also suggested that having desks in rows with students facing forward, rather than toward each other, could limit their exposure to droplets, which is thought to be the main way the virus spreads outside medical settings.Quebec's guidelines, though, make no mention of how to position desks. Once inside the classroom, students will be able to remove their masks and won't be required to distance from each other, but will have to stay two metres away from their teacher.Rubin, who also advised the government on its back-to-school plan, called the absence of guidelines on class size "confusing.""Sometimes there are 30 kids in the class," he said. "What are the physical parameters of that room that will allow 30 kids to sit, and how far apart will they be from the next student?"Rubin said it will take one to two incubation periods of the virus — the equivalent of two to four weeks — before public health officials will be able determine the effect that reopening schools will have on infection rates. Like the first school plan, he said, this latest version is also likely to change, depending on what happens in those first few weeks."The thing with [COVID-19] is what we know today may be different than tomorrow and certainly different than yesterday," Rubin said. "Things are always changing and, because of that, the recommendations will change."
As schools across Canada finalize their back-to-class plans, doctors say there are a few things educators and parents should keep in mind during COVID-19.People will form new routines that build on the advice provincial medical officers of health regularly share about handwashing, avoiding touching your face and trying to keep two metres away from others. Schools will now put students into smaller groups, check ventilation and consider use of masks.Cases of COVID-19 haven't overwhelmed health systems in Canada thanks to collective sacrifices, but cases continue to occur. CBC News is breaking down need-to-know information on the pandemic based on questions sent via email to COVID@cbc.ca. Here, physicians offer advice and answer questions on back-to-school topics such as distancing, health checks, safe nap times and when to stay home.Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious diseases physician at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said keeping school as safe as possible for kids to learn and socialize doesn't follow a set timetable.By necessity, she said, school plans can't be perfect and people won't follow all of the basics to the letter at all times."If we don't do a better job of tracking and tracing, then some of these school plans … are going to fail, and we're going to see outbreaks and clusters we can't control," she said.Layering public health measures for all Canadians on top of testing and contact tracing aims to keep outbreaks manageable. Priority 1: Keep COVID-19 outMany school boards have not yet offered details on what they'll be implementing to keep children safe and how. Until then, infectious disease and public health experts say some precautions will be the most effective.Infectious disease physicians stress prevention before control — meaning they'd like to keep the novel coronavirus out of schools altogether.That's why they, along with pediatricians and epidemiologists, repeat that people need to stay home when sick. Doing so prevents an individual's illness from sparking more.Dr. Laura Sauvé, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of British Columbia, said public health, school authorities and infectious disease specialists are collaborating closely across the country."Public health authorities are trying their best to balance multiple competing priorities keeping in mind the whole child," Sauvé said.Priority 2: Check frequently for symptomsRecognizing a sickness and acting on it is a major layer of defence to keep COVID-19 out of schools.Sauvé's son is heading into Grade 4. When he attended day camp in B.C. this summer, she said, there were either sign-in sheets or a daily email requiring parents to declare the child is not sick."It's not so much the signing. It's the fact that every day we're checking in with ourselves and saying, 'Am I sick today? Do I have any symptoms?'" she said. "And if there's any way I could have symptoms, I need to stay away and reassess. If I get worse, get a test."To emphasize the stay-home message, schools and workplaces plan to send notices home, and provincial health officers will give regular reminders, she said.Priority 3: Stay apartPublic health experts have repeatedly stressed that physical distancing is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but how that will play out in schools with small classrooms and large numbers remains to be seen.Andisha A., a Grade 11 student in Calgary, sent the this question to Ask CBC: "How can I be safe when my classroom is full, with not a lot of social distancing going around? The school board is also not forcing students to wear a mask?"WATCH | Physical spacing for students' return to school:The federal government's COVID-19 guidance for schools resource emphasizes separating people from each other through physical distancing and barriers as more protective than what individuals can do, such as covering coughs, handwashing or wearing non-medical masks.To that end, local medical officers of health in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa have called for smaller class sizes."Ottawa Public Health supports having the number of students within a classroom to be as small as possible, in order to facilitate appropriate physical distancing, and to maintain distancing and limit the mixing of cohorts in common areas such as hallways and washrooms," Dr. Brent Moloughney, the city's associate medical officer of health said in a statement on Tuesday. Provincial recommendations to school boards are also subject to change.Masks are another issue school boards are tackling differently. In Alberta, students from Grades 4 through 12 will be required to wear masks in all public spaces like hallways and can choose to wear them while seated in the class. Masks will be optional for younger students. Quebec's plans are similar. Ontario requires masks in Grades 4 to 12.Priority 4: Ventilation Lorna C. asked, "What is the plan to ensure safe air flow and humane working temperatures in elementary schools without air conditioning?"At her clinic, Sauvé said fans are generally avoided to prevent the spread of fungal spores but they are turned on since it can get as hot as 35 C inside.For schools, Sauvé said opening windows is encouraged.Provincial occupational health and safety committees have more specific recommendations on ventilation in school. Priority 5: Personal protective equipmentDr. Catherine Clase, a nephrologist at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, applauds Andisha for being proactive about staying safe at school Clase suggests fabric masks for students, which she first proposed for her kidney patients. Some school boards across Canada are making masks mandatory for secondary school students. "If [masks] are normalized in school and we have conversations and kids are not shamed for doing it wrong, I think that's going to be really important," Sauvé said. "Everything we do has to be done with the thought of kindness and support." Clase hopes people will create shareable videos to encourage proper use.Making masks attractive to children would help, and some trial and error could be in order, she said.Sauvé suspects that with encouragement and redirection, most children will be able to get used to wearing masks, which are not the "be all and end all" of protection.Monica N. asked about how often to change a mask during a six-hour day with Grade 3 students. If families have the resources, then both Clase and Sauvé suggest providing two facial coverings each day to change at lunch or if one becomes soiled."We need to be planning for at least one clean mask for every person going outside the house every morning," Clase said.Sophie D. said "physical distancing is not possible with infants, toddlers or preschoolers, especially during nap time when up to 24 children sleep on cots close together. Will masks really protect educators in this environment?"Likely, yes. "You will get protection from wearing a mask," Clase said.Sauvé said sleeping children are also not coughing and running around."Evidence suggests that toddlers would transmit less than a 20-year-old having a nap."Schools aren't the most dangerous placeDoctors and scientists also know more about the virus than when schools abruptly closed back in March, when the pandemic was taking hold in Canada.The bulk of evidence globally shows some kids will get very sick with COVID-19, but overall they get much milder disease symptoms than adults, Sauvé said."Of kids who get it, about 80 per cent get it from somebody in their household … even in settings where kids are getting back to school and back to daycare," she said.It also appears that young children transmit the virus less than older kids. There's no clear age cutoff, according to Sauvé.Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.
"Put me on a ventilator and I will be hoarse for the rest of my life," the Fleetwood Mac frontwoman wrote
Provinces are releasing their back-to-school plans for students ahead of the September 2020 return to the classroom.
Fraser Health is warning the public about a possible exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 at a "night rave" in Surrey, B.C.The health authority said the possible exposure happened at the Royal Jerk Spot Weekend Summer Fest Day and Night Rave in the Whalley neighbourhood on July 31, Aug. 1 and Aug. 2. The event took place at Royal Beauty Supply.A notice from Fraser Health said the exposure is believed to be low risk, but anyone who was at the event on those days needs to monitor themselves for symptoms.Fraser Health previously warned of a public exposure at the Hookah Lounge on King George Boulevard between midnight and 5 a.m. on Aug. 1 and 2.B.C. announced 53 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of active cases to 386. To date, there have been 3,934 confirmed cases in the province, with 195 deaths.
In a comfy suburb just outside Nashville, a young family swabs their noses twice a month in a DIY study seeking answers to some of the most vexing questions about the coronavirus.How many U.S. children and teens are infected? How many kids who are infected show no symptoms? How likely are they to spread it to other kids and adults?“The bottom line is we just don’t know yet the degree to which children can transmit the virus,” said Dr. Tina Hartert of Vanderbilt University, who is leading the government-funded study.Evidence from the U.S., China and Europe shows children are less likely to become infected with the virus than adults and also less likely to become seriously ill when they do get sick. There is also data suggesting that young children don’t spread the virus very often but that kids aged 10 and up may spread it just as easily as adults. The new study aims to find more solid proof.“If we don’t see significant transmission within households, that would be very reassuring,” Hartert said.Some 2,000 families in 11 U.S. cities are enrolled in the DIY experiment, pulled from participants in previous government research. In all, that's 6,000 people. They have no in-person contact with researchers. Testing supplies are mailed to their homes.They collect their own nasal swabs for COVID-19 tests, and less often blood and stool samples. The specimens are mailed to the study organizers. Participants get text messages asking about symptoms and reminding them to test and they fill out questionnaires.The study could help determine the safety of in-class education during the pandemic. But results aren’t expected before year’s end.For Mendy and Joe McNulty and their two youngest sons in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, nasal swabbing at home is a family affair. Testing supplies are spread out on a carefully wiped down kitchen counter, where the four gather to perform what has become a ritual. Mendy McNulty helps the boys with their swabbing.“We were excited to be able to feel like we could contribute somehow,” she said, explaining why the family chose to participate. “This virus is so unknown. Any little bit we can do felt like we were doing something to help.”It’s hard to pin down the exact number of COVID-19 cases in kids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least 175,000 cases have been confirmed in those aged 17 and under, accounting for less than 10% of all confirmed cases. But the true number is likely much higher because many kids have silent infections or only vague symptoms and don’t get tested.Data on kids and coronavirus spread is also murky. Hundreds of infections have been reported in children and staff members at U.S. day care centres, but whether kids or adults were the main spreaders isn’t known.The family study is also investigating whether children with asthma or allergies might have some protection against COVID-19. Anecdotal evidence suggests they might but ”we don’t know what the mechanism of that might be,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The institute is paying for the research.As a mom, former school teacher and scientist, Hartert is anxious to help fill in the gaps. She acknowledges it’s possible that none of the families will get infected, but given the number of COVID-19 cases around the country, she says that’s highly unlikely.Mendy McNulty says so far her family has remained healthy. She and her husband are both 39 and don’t feel overly worried about getting infected.She's interested in what happens when her kids return to school in mid-August — two classroom days a week with masks and social distancing, three days online."Schools are like little petri dishes anyway," said McNulty, also a former teacher.“I am prepared to bring everyone home” if outbreaks occur, she said.The boys — 7-year-old Andrew and 9-year-old Hudson — were excited to take part in the study, McNulty said. She helps them do the nose swabbing, and they both say it doesn’t really hurt.“Sometimes it tickles,” Andrew said. Other times, “it feels like she’s sticking it up super far.”Dr. David Kimberlin says he and other infectious disease specialists have been waiting for the kind of data the study will provide.“Generally speaking, the virus behaves differently in children than adults," said Kimberlin, a pediatrics professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Why is that? We just need to know so much more.”___Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner on Twitter: @LindseyTanner___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press
Brazil's death toll from COVID-19 passed 100,000 on Saturday and continue to climb as most Brazilian cities reopen shops and dining even though the pandemic has yet to peak. Confronting its most lethal outbreak since the Spanish flu a century ago, Brazil reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus at the end of February. Led by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has played down the gravity of the pandemic and fought lockdowns by local officials, Brazilians who protested nightly from their windows in the first months of the outbreak have met the grim milestone with a shrug.
Festivalgoers will be largely free of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions common elsewhere in the country during this year's 10-day event.
TORONTO — Canadian customers likely won't start frequenting stores for items not on their shopping list until there's a vaccine for COVID-19, Indigo Books & Music Inc. founder and chief executive said Friday."I think our own view is that customers will continue well, well into the months ahead to make shopping an activity they do when they have something specific to buy," Heather Reisman said during a conference call with analysts. The company released its first-quarter financial results after markets closed Thursday.Foot traffic is "still way down" for the book retailer, which shuttered all its stores to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and only reopened nearly all 182 of its locations by the end of its most recent quarter.The Toronto-based company's revenue for the 13 weeks ended June 27 fell to $135.1 million from $192.6 million due to store closures. It recorded a net loss of about $31.6 million or $1.15 per common share compared with a loss of about $19.1 million or 69 cents per share in the same quarter last year.Since reopening, retail store sales have tracked at about 72 per cent of sales at the same time last year, said chief financial officer Craig Loudon.However conversion and average transaction size are both "way up," noted Reisman."So, that's saying that you've got a deliberate customer and we think that that's going to remain, frankly, until there's a vaccine."In Canada, people watch the news and are afraid of the virus, she said."So, all in all, we predict that the retail consumer will remain a cautious consumer," she said.The company is working to make the shopping experience easy and safe and is planning for the important holiday shopping season although it remains to be seen how consumers behave during a usually busy period.The company accelerated efforts during the first quarter to help serve customers safely during the holiday season, including "a robust click-and-collect capability and Instacart service," said Reisman. These efforts should be implemented in the current quarter.The company's e-commerce revenue grew threefold, jumping up 214 per cent for the quarter compared with last year. That demand "has moderated, but remained strong" as stores reopened, said Loudon.Indigo's shares, which have plunged from a high of $8.06 last August, surged 19 per cent or 20 cents at $1.25 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:IDG)The Canadian Press
Canada's economy added 419,000 jobs in July and the jobless rate dropped to 10.9 per cent.Statistics Canada reported Friday that July's job gain, when added to the 953,000 in June and the 290,000 from May, still leaves Canada's economy with 1.3 million fewer jobs than it had in February, before widespread lockdowns to limit the spread of COVID-19 began. Put another way, that means the job market has returned to about 93 per cent of its previous capacity.The jobless rate fell 1.4 percentage points for the second consecutive month and is now down from the record high of 13.7 per cent it hit in May. For comparison purposes, Canada's jobless rate was 5.6 per cent in February, before this ongoing pandemic began.The data agency said 345,000 of the new jobs added in July were part-time. Only 73,000 were new full-time positions.While every province added jobs, the recovery was led by Ontario with 151,000 new jobs, followed by Quebec with 98,000, B.C. with 70,000 and Alberta with 68,000 new jobs.Every other province recorded a comparatively small gain of under 13,000 new jobs apiece.Ontario was slower than most to reopen, so the job gains are a bit behind there, too. "Since Ontario's reopening has lagged a bit, it remains the furthest from pre-crisis job levels at 91.7 per cent," Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter said."Not surprisingly, the provinces that had initially been less hard-hit by the virus have opened more quickly and are now boasting the lowest jobless rates in the country. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick all posted single-digit rates last month, along with Quebec," he said.While it's good news that the economy is adding jobs in the aggregate, the underlying data highlights some major reasons for concern, especially when demographic breakdowns are considered.Very uneven recoveryVisible minority groups appear to have been hit disproportionately hard by the economic toll of COVID-19. While Canada's overall jobless rate is 10.9 per cent, for the South Asian community it is 17.8 per cent, for the Arab community it is 17.3 per cent, and Black Canadians had a 16.8 per cent jobless rate during the month.Compared to last July, the jobless rate has increased by 9.1 percentage points for South Asians, by 8.4 percentage points for Chinese Canadians, by 6.3 percentage points for Black Canadians and by 6.2 percentage points for Filipino Canadians.Canada's Indigenous population was also effectively shut out of the job gains in July as employment was unchanged for Aboriginal people living off-reserve during the month.While there are new jobs for some, it's clear that even those lucky enough to find them can't pay the bills from them. Statistics Canada said almost one in five people in Canada's workforce were receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a program launched in April designed to support Canadians who have lost all or part of their income with up to $2,000 a month.Half of the people on CERB in July were still working, but for significantly reduced hours or income. That includes Ellen Fielding of Toronto, who taught pilates and other fitness classes at various fitness studios prior to the pandemic, but has been getting by with the help of CERB and online classes, which pay far less."Because everything has closed down my job has disappeared," she told CBC News in an interview. "I have pivoted to teaching online, but the money is nowhere near the same and it won't be."Other negative impactsFielding says she doesn't know what she'll do when those income supports run out, but she tries not to dwell on it too much because it's bad for her mental health. "The financial stress has been pretty difficult," she says.And she's not alone in thinking that. Consultancy Deloitte recently warned in a report that Canada's economy needs to brace itself for dealing with the trauma of the current pandemic, both of those who have lost jobs and those who have managed to stay employed under incredibly trying circumstances."Long-term unemployment will be with us for quite some time before it starts going back to pre-recession levels," says Matt Laberge, one of the report's authors. "There are a lot people around us that are struggling right now."The isolation of lockdowns coupled with the financial stress of lost income is going to have a negative impact on Canadians and the economy for a long time, which is why Deloitte is urging employers to come up with a plan to deal with the effects of the pandemic now and into the future."There will be human impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians," he said. "And they may be pretty sizeable."
If the stress of working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic is causing problems with your family relationships, the Canadian Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is ready to help.The group is offering three free counselling sessions for struggling front-line workers."Whether they're in the grocery store or delivery people, or people in the hospitals, whether they're cleaning or surgeons, it's added a whole other layer of anxiety," said association president Andrew Sofin."Especially in the early months where people were really not sure, how do you get it?"In the spring, said Sofin, members of the association had as many as 90 per cent of their sessions cancelled as face-to-face therapy became unsafe. As online sessions became possible, and counsellors were still waiting for regular clients to return, Sofin thought they might be able to do something productive with their free time.Worry and isolationHis call-out to members for volunteers to help front-line workers got a strong response, and a special three-session course was designed to provide people with quick and effective guidance.Sofin said new stresses on relationships can come from the anxiety front-line workers feel because they might be exposing their family members to health risks. They might also separate themselves from family, sleeping in the basement or garage, leading to feelings of isolation. Pre-existing problems can also be made worse by being forced to spend more time together."Many people have built a life where they really don't have to talk to each other," said Sofin.Stress building up between couples during the pandemic can spread through the family, he said."For those kids, I think you're going to see a spike in anxiety with some kids who were maybe experiencing some very dysfunctional family dynamics during the lockdowns," said Sofin.Talk it outIt may seem obvious, he said, but the number one piece of advice he has for working through these problems is communication.Talk to one another frankly about how you're feeling, and understand that most of what your partner is concerned about is not directed against you."We usually let out our stress and tension on those closest to us, the ones we trust to not leave," said Sofin."If people could depersonalize some of the conversations they're having it would go a long way to easing the tension and stress."More information on the association's free therapy offer is available on its website.More from CBC News
Pressure has eased on a persistent choke-point for Canadian oil after companies throttled back production due to COVID-19.
Toronto Public Health has raised a number of red flags with the province's school reopening plan, and are urging the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to keep elementary class sizes smaller than normal.Vinita Dubey, the health agency's associate medical officer of health, made the recommendations in a letter to the TDSB that was posted online by a school trustee late Thursday.Dubey urges school officials to keep two metres between students to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets, which could transmit the novel coronavirus."While some distance may be beneficial over no distance (eg. one metre compared to no distance), keeping two metres apart as much as possible is still strongly recommended by public health," Dubey writes.Without that space, there are several risks: * If a student gets COVID-19, the risk of them spreading it to others goes up — especially in JK to Grade 3, where masks aren't required. * There could be "pinch points" where students crowd together, for example lining up to go outside. * The teacher may not have enough control over a larger class to ensure students are maintaining distance.Ontario's current school reopening plan was based partly on a list of recommendations released by SickKids hospital late last month. The document, which was written in collaboration by medical experts across Ontario, calls for arranging classroom furniture to leave space between students, masking for middle and high school students, and implementing smaller class sizes.In an emailed statement to CBC News Friday evening, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said the board has been working with Toronto Public Health since the beginning of the pandemic and has incorporated many of their suggested public health measures into the return to school plans. "Recently, TPH expressed concerns specifically with regard to full-size elementary classes, which were prescribed by the Ministry of Education," Bird said. "We are working with the ministry to explore options to lower elementary class sizes. As we explore these different options, it's important to note that, depending on funding, other strategies may have to be considered, such as shortening the school day, reassigning teachers from non-classroom roles and lowering class sizes only in areas deemed at risk by Toronto Public Health.According to Bird, while school boards, including the TDSB, have received additional funding for staff, this limited funding is not enough to cover the requirements in a system the size of the TDSB, let alone the entire province.Regarding references to the TDSB using its reserves to fund additional staffing, Bird said, "some of our reserves have already been used to balance the budget, while the remaining funds have already been committed to specific future obligations."Jennifer Story, a TDSB trustee for Ward 15, Toronto-Danforth, called the situation "challenging.""The provincial government has not taken their investment into back-to-school COVID planning seriously by making sure that the resources are there for boards to do their utmost to meet public health advice and to meet public concerns," she told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Friday.Story said the TDSB doesn't have much "wiggle room" when it comes to implementing smaller class sizes on its own because it doesn't generate its own funds. "We're funded to hire a certain number of teachers and to have class sizes that the ministry determines," she said, adding "We need the Ministry of Education to hear our concerns."Government defending planAlexandra Adamo, a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce, defended the provinces plan in an email, saying it has been "informed by the best medical and scientific minds in the country."Adamo said the government is spending $75 million more on cleaning and hiring 500 public health nurses to work in schools. At a Friday morning news conference, Ford and Lecce were asked multiple times by reporters to give a yes or no answer on whether they would consider spending more to lower class sizes.Neither answered directly.Lecce said the ministry of education would be "flexible" in its response, and referred to the back-to-school plan as a "living document.""What I'm saying is the plan needs to be responsive to the risk," he said. Lecce said the ministry and TDSB were set to meet later on Friday to further discuss concerns about the reopening of schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing universities to change the way food is provided to students, and some are finding the new plans hard to swallow.University meal halls and dining areas are a shared space where students typically gather to laugh, relax and talk about their classes and plans for the weekend.But this year those spaces are going to look different, as COVID-19 restrictions put limits on the number of people allowed inside a shared space at once. St. Thomas University in Fredericton announced last week it will only offer one meal plan at a cost of $3,995, which students in residence are required to pay. Around 120 to 130 students are expected to move into residence.Physical distancing will be enforced and self-serve food stations won't be offered. Students will also have less money on their meal plan to spend at on-campus fast food stations. Normally students would receive $500, but this year they'll only receive $200 because one of the two venues is closed. St. Thomas has two dining rooms, but only one location, at Rigby Hall, will be operating. Its hours are lunch from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jeffrey Carleton, spokesperson for St. Thomas, said the university chose to refrain from offering breakfast based on students' sleep schedule. "This year with remote teaching, our classes are going to be asynchronous. So we expect that students will be getting up later in the morning, going to bed later in the evening," Carleton said. The university is also offering its single-occupancy rooms at a cheaper double-room rate to help make up the cost to students.Sarah Kohut, president of St. Thomas University Students' Union, is worried about her university's decision to scrap breakfast for students in residence. "I believe that all the changes together will likely result in students having to supplement the cost of their their meals with money out of their pocket, which isn't the most ideal situation to be in for the coming year, given the financial strain that everyone's in," she said, adding she understands the university has to make changes in light of COVID-19 restrictions. Other students are disappointed in the plan as well, she said.Kohut, who lives off campus, normally signs up for a lighter meal plan that allows her to grab something quickly if she can't make it home between classes to cook. That plan isn't offered this year.Kohut said the students' union was not consulted about the St. Thomas' plan for its dining hall. UNB offering limited food servicesDown the hill at the University of New Brunswick's Fredericton campus, students will live in dormitories with private kitchenettes to allow individuals to prepare their own meals. Food services will be limited, according to the university's website. Spokesperson Heather Campbell couldn't elaborate further on the institution's plan in time for publication.Food services will be available on the UNB Saint John campus, but Plexiglass will be installed and strict physical distancing practices and Public Health measures will be enforced. In an email, Campbell said 205 students are expected to move into Saint John residence. The Baird Dining Hall in Saint John will be open with seating for between 50 and 65 people, she said. Mount Allison brings in mini food truckStudents who live in residence at Mount Allison University must be on a meal plan, but will have the ability to take their meals to go if they don't want to eat in the dining hall. Students will also be able to attend pop-up barbecues each week and grab food from a golf cart food truck.The food truck will also be used to deliver meals to students who can't go to the dining hall because of illness.Jonathan Ferguson, president of Mount Allison Students' Union, said the students' union didn't collaborate with the university on the food truck, but he's excited about it."It's something that we've all sort of had to think a lot about, not just the food … but a lot of the services students are offered and how to work with these new restrictions and guidelines, that are meant to keep people safe, in a way that's creative and engaging and fun," Ferguson said. Like St. Thomas, meal plans will not be available to off-campus students, there will be no self-serve options and physical distancing and Public Health measures will be enforced. Jennings Dining Hall will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. An express station with ready-to-go meals will stay open until 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday. The price of the meal plan has been reduced this year from $4,981 to $4,731 since a late night meal option is no longer available.Université de Moncton couldn't comment on its plan yet.
Ontario's sprawling northern and rural school boards are working to interpret the province's back-to-school plan for smaller communities, saying they don't yet have all the answers for questions that parents are asking.Catherine Shedden, a spokeswoman for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board, said she's fielded questions from parents about COVID-19 outbreak protocols and busing students to different schools.But with a month to go before classes resume, she said those questions remain unanswered — and they keep piling up given the unprecedented nature of the situation."We keep having people say, 'Oh, did you think of this?' I'm like, 'No, we did not,'" Shedden said. "It really is an ongoing exercise." In its plan released last week, the Ministry of Education said elementary students would return to school full-time in September, with their regular class sizes. To curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, elementary students would not be allowed to mix with other classes.High schoolers in all but 24 boards are also to return to class full-time. Those 24 boards will see students attend only half the time, while doing distance learning for the other half.Masks will be mandatory for students in Grades 4 through 12 and will be encouraged for younger kids.The province is leaving it up to parents to decide on whether to send their kids to school for the term, or opt for remote learning as was done for the latter part of the last school year.Shedden said it's difficult to develop a detailed plan without further guidance from the province and public health officials, which the board is still waiting on.The board also needs to hear from parents about whether they'll be sending their kids back to class.Once that happens, she said, they'll be able to tackle one of the biggest issues: busing.Like other school boards outside big urban centres, the Trillium Lakelands District board covers a vast swath of land: roughly 11,500 square kilometres from the southern Kawartha Lakes up to Huntsville.There are 16,000 students, and of those, Sheddon said, 15,000 are bused.The board also runs buses for "co-terminus" boards — Catholic school boards that cover the same ground.That means students from different schools are sometimes on the same bus — something the board is trying to figure out as it looks to minimize contact between students in different cohorts.Things won't be much better if parents opt to drive their kids in to school, Shedden said."We don't have the infrastructure set up for lots and lots of parents coming in cars to drop kids off," she said. If kids aren't bused in, it could lead to a big lineup of cars waiting to drop off kids.More than a thousand kilometres away, the Keewatin Patricia District School Board is grappling with many of the same questions.Kim Douglas, president of the local elementary teachers' union, said she received more details about her board's plans on Thursday."When I went through that meeting, I knew it would be semi-good news," she said. "And if the government is able to provide even more funding then we'll feel even more confident, but we have no control over that."She said her board plans to stagger busing and start times to minimize contact between students from different schools.And while some teachers at her board — French teachers especially — teach in different schools throughout the day, she said the board wants to mitigate risk there, too. Those teachers will only teach in one class per school to minimize the number of students they come in contact with.The Keewatin Patricia District board is in a better position than some others because their schools are older and have larger classrooms. Many schools have small classes due to sparse populations.Douglas said she's taken comfort in the board's plan, and she hopes parents will too."There's no board in Ontario that wants to be the board that brings COVID into a community," Douglas said. "And our board certainly does not want that ever to happen. Their view is: safe re-entry for students and staff."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2020.Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Three people in three separate households at a west Ottawa shelter facility have tested positive for COVID-19, the city says.In a memo to council Wednesday, city staff said the three affected families at the Carling Family Shelter have all been moved to a "family isolation centre" and are receiving case management services from shelter staff and Ottawa Public Health (OPH).There are still 16 families at the shelter. The city says they've been instructed to self-isolate in their rooms until Aug. 18 and provided cloth masks."Now everybody is wearing a mask if they're outside of their room in any common area. The families are meant to be self-isolating in their rooms, but if they're leaving their rooms they're meant to be wearing a cloth mask," said Shelley VanBuskirk, the city's director of housing services.Families at the shelter are assigned rooms with their own washrooms, and there are shared kitchens on each the three floors, which each have capacity for 44 families.VanBuskirk said the city's mask bylaw doesn't apply to the building's interior because it's not a public space like a hotel lobby.Families have been educated on the importance, she said, of wearing a mask when keeping two metres apart is not possible.The city said it had also moved some families out of the shelter into hotels and motels at the beginning of the pandemic to allow for more distancing."Anytime you're sharing spaces in a congregate setting, you have to be very cautious and very proactive," VanBuskirk said.VanBuskirk said the city has also created a kitchen schedule to reduce crowding, while the playroom on the first floor has been closed. OPH is planning on-site testing for staff and families this Saturday, Aug. 8.The city is arranging food, medication and essentials to be delivered to the families in isolation.VanBuskirk said the families that have been relocated may move on to a different shelter once they're declared free of COVID-19. She said one of the larger families may be able to get a suite with its own cooking facilities.Kaite Burkholder-Harris, executive director of the Alliance to End Homelesness, said COVID-19 has underlined the importance of people having their own space — even with the best efforts from service providers.Burkholder-Harris said she's also concerned that, with Ontario's residential eviction ban lifted this month, more people could find themselves in a situation where they require shelter support."Home is the first defence against this virus," Burkholder-Harris said."If we continue to have a system and structure where people are reliant on congregate settings, we know that we're going to be in real danger of the virus continuing to spread."
VANCOUVER — Almost everyone boarding a bus, train or Seabus in Metro Vancouver will soon have to wear a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19.TransLink announced Thursday that starting Aug. 24, customers will be required to wear non-medical masks or face coverings while on board its vehicles.CEO Kevin Desmond said physical distancing isn't always possible on transit, especially as more riders return to the system.The news pleased provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry."I think that's excellent, that is an environment where I've said all along ... it's harder to maintain those physical distances consistently," she said."It's not an enforcement model, it's an education and supportive model and that's where we need to go."People need to remember that allowances have to be made for the small number of people who have challenges wearing masks, Henry added.TransLink said exceptions to the mandatory mask policy include people with medical conditions, those who are unable to remove a mask without help, children under five, as well as police, employees or first responders in an emergency.Those who are exempt from using a face covering can request a TransLink card confirming their status.Desmond said customer confidence is key to rebuilding ridership that plummeted in the wake of the pandemic and requiring face coverings is an important step.Officials say mask wearing is a key way to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, while contact tracing is also an important measure in the effort to limit transmission.B.C. reported 47 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and Health Minister Adrian Dix said there hasn't been a death in six days. The death toll stands at 195 people.There have been 3,881 positive cases, while 3,315 people have recovered.Henry said over 1,500 people in the province are in isolation and being monitored by public health officials because they are considered close contacts to people who have tested positive.Both Henry and Premier John Horgan also acknowledged anxiety from parents, teachers and students who are concerned about the upcoming return to full-time schooling in September.Horgan said during an earlier news conference on Thursday that he wanted parents to know the province wouldn't send kids back to school if officials thought there was an overwhelming risk.Henry said getting children back into the classroom is about much more than book learning, as school is essential for their health and emotional and social growth."For many children in this province, being at school is where they get health care. It's a safe place for them, it's a place where they can get psychological support, where they may get a meal."The Vancouver and Fraser health authorities both issued notices warning of possible COVID-19 exposures on Thursday.Vancouver Coastal Health said in a notice that a person who visited Lions Bay Beach Park north of Vancouver tested positive for COVID-19. Anyone who visited the beach on July 26, 27, 29, 30, or 31 should self-monitor for symptoms, although the health authority says the risk of exposure was low.Fraser Health warned of a public exposure at the Hookah Lounge on King George Boulevard in Surrey. Potential exposure was over two early mornings, between midnight and 5 a.m. on Aug. 1 and 2, it said in a statement.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2020.The Canadian Press
SURREY, B.C. — Sending British Columbia's students back to class in September will be "an unprecedented challenge" during a pandemic, but Premier John Horgan said he's confident children will be safe.Some parents and teachers have expressed concern about the resumption of school next month, but Horgan said Thursday the government would not endanger students."I want parents to know that we would not be putting their children at risk if we thought there was an overwhelming risk."Horgan said this is the biggest challenge the province's education system has had since the last global pandemic 100 years ago.He said he understands it's a very stressful time for parents, educators and children."But I'm as confident as I can be, based on the information I have today, that every effort to get this right is being made."Everyone is prepared to be flexible to ensure students, staff and school employees are protected from the risk of COVID-19, he said."If there is new information as the summer progresses (or) as we get into the first days or weeks of the school year, we will amend and adapt."He said every community and every classroom is different and decisions on how specific schools will operate will be left to those jurisdictions. Most students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are expected to return to full-time classes Sept. 8, with increased safety measures, including cleaning and hand-hygiene stations and masks.Children will be separated into learning groups of no more than 60 in elementary and middle school and 120 in secondary schools.The BC Teachers' Federation has said the restart plan needs more time and a lot more work if it's going to be successful.When the full reopening was announced last week, the federation said bringing all students back on the first day after the Labour Day long weekend was too soon.The BC Principals' and Vice-Principals' Association has also asked the government to consider a flexible classroom start date, depending on the readiness of each school."The adjustments to timetables and the possible move to alternate calendar models will require meticulous attention to ensure that the experience of students, educators and families is consistent," the association said in a statement Tuesday.It said the learning groups would also need more explanation to help students, staff, families and school communities understand the health and safety implications.Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during her COVID-19 update Thursday that it's necessary to get children back to school."It's essential for their emotional and social growth and well-being, as well as for their education needs."The costs of keeping our schools closed is too high, she said."We know the downside impact on some children, particularly those children who are falling behind is never made up is if schools are closed for an extended period."Horgan said he knows there's anxiety about the future, but schools needs to start so officials can make changes to keep people safe and reduce anxiety over time."It's August, we're a month away and what happens over the next 30 days is going to be critical. What happens 30 days after we open is critical as well, but we have to take that first step to get this journey started."The province has done very well slowing the spread of COVID-19 by following scientific advice and Horgan said he's confident about the time frame put in place by the education minister.The premier made the comments in Surrey, where he announced a new regional cancer centre for the city to be included in the construction of a new Surrey hospital. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2020.The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta says jury selection and jury trials will resume next month, but most won't be in courtrooms.The court says on its website that proceedings will start Sept. 8, after they were postponed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.Most courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms, including the Edmonton Law Courts and the Calgary Courts Centre, are not designed to ensure adequate physical distancing for everyone.The court says the trials will, for the most part, be held offsite.It says approximately 12 locations across Alberta may host the trials in halls, hotels and community centres.Jury summonses are currently being prepared for trials starting in September and will be issued shortly.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2020The Canadian Press